Monday, September 30, 2019

New Austin Briggs Book by David Apatoff

I was on the road, doing a cross-USA road round-trip for old times sake, so I received my copy of David Apatoff's latest book later than some other folks did. (Many thanks to Manuel Auad and Bill Peckmann, loyal readers of this blog.)

Auad only has a thousand copies of each of his books printed, so get to this link quickly before the trove of Austin Briggs information and work examples is gone.

Apatoff, proprietor of the Illustration Art blog, is extremely knowledgeable regarding American illustration (along with other kinds of graphic art), and has written books about the great Bernie Fuchs, Al Parker and Robert Fawcett.

Besides Apatoff's text, there is an introduction by Briggs' son.

Briggs had an interesting career, doing illustrations for "pulp" magazines during the Great Depression and later becoming an in-demand illustrator for "slick" magazines. Actually, there were some other illustrators such as Walter Baumhofer who did the same. But Briggs did well in more than pulps and slicks: he was an important comic strip artist who spent several years manning the Flash Gordon helm. Briggs' son's introduction deals more with the Flash Gordon work than with his later career in slicks.

Until reading the book, I hadn't been aware how early Briggs got involved with Alex Raymond's 1930s strips -- Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X9. Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise, because I've wondered for a long time how Raymond could manage all that work. Turns out Briggs was there to help, even years before taking over Flash and X9. (I continue to be amazed how some backup strip artists were able to duplicate the style of the primary artist. In the case of shadowing Alex Raymond, this was a huge challenge that Briggs puled off very convincingly.) In a few respects this was similar to the Milton Caniff - Noel Sickles partnership going on around the same time.

Apatoff was fortunate that there exists a good deal of information regarding Briggs including his own writings and family remembrances. Therefore, unlike some other biographies of illustrators in my library, he has a good deal to say. Besides biographical information, Apatoff adds several pages analyzing Briggs' growth as an artist along with his impact on the illustration field during the late 1950s and into the '60s.

This book is a worthy addition to my library.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Molti Ritratti: Colette

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) is best known for her writing, but she also had a stage career when young. Her Wikipedia entry is here.

Unlike most of these "Molti Ritratti" posts, the subject sat for few formal portraits. What we mostly have are some informal paintings along with some sketches of her.

Regardless, how she was portrayed is emblematic of her times and career.


Photo - 1906
Taken during her stage performance days.

By Fernand Humbert - c. 1896

By Jacques-Émille Blanche - c. 1905
The only formal, society-type portrait by a major artist that I could find.

By Henri Hensel - 1911
A mess, but hey!! it's Modern.

By René Carrere - 1918
Modernist feeling, but quite representational.

By André Favory - 1924
This is the last dated image I found on the Web.

By Shoshana Kertesz
Probably painted during the 1920s.

By André Dignimont
A very French sketchy take on her.

By Emilie Charmy

By Marcel Vertès

By Jean Cocteau
He was a jack of many artistic trades.

Monday, September 23, 2019

CSI: The Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat

Jacques-Louis David - La mort de Marat - 1793

I label this post as being political art. I might have almost equally called it historical art. That's because the paintings shown here deal with a political assassination -- yet the majority of the images were created several decades later, not in the full heat of political passion. (Well, one of them has retrospective passion. And I note that the Revolution was still a point on contention in France even 200 years after it happened.)

The subjects are Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), a man with a scientific background who mostly sided with the more bloodthirsty idealists of French Revolutionary times. His assassin, Charlotte Corday (1768-1793), was aligned with the more moderate Girondins, but felt compelled to eliminate Marat.

By far the most famous painting dealing with event was by David, shown at the top of this post. Other, little-known works, are below, in the Gallery.


Jean-Jacques Hauer - Meurtre de Marat, le 13 juillet 1793, par Charlotte Corday - 1793-94
This is the other near-contemporary painting. Unlike David's, it portrays both participants. It is the only one that clearly depicts the bathtub Marat used to ease the discomfort of his rare skin disease.

Paul-Jacques-Aime Baudry - L'Assassinat de Marat - 1861
Painted during the Second Empire when Marat was in disfavor. Here Corday is the main subject.

Santiago Rebbull - La muerte de Marat - 1875
This is by a Mexican painter and strikes me as being politically neutral: Marat is in agony and Corday seems to think he deserves it.

Jean-Joseph Weerts - Marat assassiné - 1880
Painted nearly 90 years after the event, Weerts' image is pro Marat and the Revolution.

Jules-Charles Aviat - Charlotte Corday et Marat (Etude préparatoire pour le tableau du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen) - 1880
Although signed, this painting has Marat sketched in, the primary subject being Charlotte Corday.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Charles M. Russell, Painter of Old Montana

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was born in Missouri, left at age 16, and spent most of his adult life in or near Great Falls, Montana. He was a self-taught painter and illustrator who depicted Montana scenes literally thousands of times during his career. He and Frederic Remington (an Easterner who attended Yale and had some art training) are generally regarded as the premiere artists of the northern plains frontier genre. Background on Russell is here.

I'm speculating, but from what I've read so far on the internet, it seems likely that Russell was little exposed to the mainstream artistic fashions of his day. He essentially was an illustrator/reporter, taking care to depict his subjects as accurately as he could. What's important is that he also had a good eye for color and the atmosphere of his settings. In short, he was an untutored "natural."


Indian on Horseback - 1898
Note the treatment of the background: sophisticated for a supposed amateur.

Seein' Santa - 1910
Russell havin' a little fun.

When Shadows Hint Death
It might have taken you a minute to notice the shadows on the opposite hillside.

Trail of the Iron Horse - 1924
Auctioned for $1.9 million in 2014.

A rare example of atypical subject matter.

When Law Dulls the Edge of Chance - 1915
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police get their man.

When the Land Belonged to God
Formerly on display in the Montana capitol building.

Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole - 1912
On display in the Montana capitol building.

Monday, September 16, 2019

André Favory, Reformed Cubist

André Favory (1889-1937) was active from around 1910 to about 1930. His French Wikipedia entry is here -- there is no English version.

It mentions: "Élève de l'Académie Julian, et fortement influencé par Paul Cézanne, Favory peint dans un style cubiste pendant les premières années de sa carrière."

There are many images of Favory's paintings of nude women on the internet, most in poses not suitable for office viewing. The rest do not fully confirm the assertion above that he was strongly influenced by Cézanne and Cubism, though some Cézanne-like passages and watered-down Cubism can be found in paintings made before he served in the Great War.

The entry adds: "Atteint d'une maladie grave et invalidante, il doit cesser de peindre au début des années 1930, et meurt en 1937." The nature of his debilitating illness is not mentioned.

Favory was generally a strong painter, but not innovative during a time when being a pathmaker was a major ticket to artistic fame. Examples of his work are below, but not the strongly-painted, indelicately posed nudes.


View of Nevers - 1912
This is most Cubist work I noticed.

landscape - c. 1914
Some suggestions of Cubism are in this pre-war painting.

Paysage Provençal
I don't have a date for this, but again there's a dash of Cubism and possibly Cézanne in the faceting.

Paysage méditerranéen - 1925
A solid postwar piece, though the lower left corner needed some re-thinking.

Portrait de femme ou le modèle
Favory tended to slightly simplify forms in line with 1920-1940 stylistic fashions.

Portrait d'une élégante - c.1925
The size relationship of the head to the rest of the body seems a bit off, though I suppose "artistic license" might be claimed.

Nudes in a landscape
Some nudes here, but nothing like what you can find by Googling or even going to the link above.

Autoportrait à la femme blonde - 1924

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Jim Holdaway: Modesty Blaise Illustrator

Jim Holdaway (1927–1970) died of a heart attack a few months shy of his 43rd birthday. Like some other talented artists who died young, he had already become famous. This for comic strip fans due to his work during the early years of "Modesty Blaise." Some background information is here and here.

The strip was launched in London's Evening Standard newspaper. Since London papers were national in scope, syndication opportunities in the United Kingdom were limited and that was a constraint on British strips -- potential income streams were limited compared to those in the continent-wide American newspaper scene.

Nevertheless, Modesty Blaise caught on, largely due to Holdaway's art, and it was syndicated in many parts of the Commonwealth as well as in the USA.

Holdaway combined skilled representational drawing with the ability to compose a variety of dramatic viewpoints even in one three-panel strip. His basic approach was to include strongly shaped areas of pure black with thin pen or brush lines. He also made use of cross-hatching and sometimes even downplayed the black if that suited the scene he was depicting.

Below are some sample strips grabbed from various Web sites intended to give you a sense of what he accomplished. Click on them to enlarge.


Especially note the middle panel's detailing.  Yes, the sidewalk's perspective is exaggerated, but the Rolls-Royce is convincingly done.

This strip is sparing in black areas, but Holdaway added some cross-hatching to liven things. He was very good at indicating folds in clothings.

I include this to show he was good at doing ships of various kinds.

Making Modest Blaise convincing, Holdaway made sure to draw cars such as the Citroën DS-19 and Mercedes 300 accurately.

These panels show Holdaway's talent for dramatic use of scene illumination.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Vittorio Matteo Corcos, “peintre des jolies femmes”

Sogni (Dreams) - 1896

Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859-1933) is perhaps best known for the above painting that can be viewed at Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna.

Briefly, Corcos trained in Florence and Naples, spent time in Paris where he was friends with Giuseppe De Nittis, Giovanni Boldini along with many well-known French painters of the day. Then he returned to Italy where he spent the rest of his career. His English Wikipedia entry is here, but the French version has more detail. More about him can be found here.

Corcos' style was strongly representational, at times verging on photographic -- especially for the contrived scenes featuring pretty young ladies that probably provided a good income. His style did not change much over time, so the images below are arranged thematically.


Young Lady with Dog - c. 1895
The painting atop this post apparently was regarded as risqué for reasons not discernible today. But the idealized scene here is much moreso.

The Wounded Puppy
A fairly typical "paintre des jolies femmes" production.

La morfinomane - 1899
On the other hand, some artists in the late 1800s such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas painted absinthe drinkers, while Corcos and others featured drug addicts.

Magdalen - 1896
Another of Corcos' edgy scenes.

Dis-moi toute! - 1883
"Tell me everything!" says one young lady to the other as the steamship sails away.

Woman Wearing Straw Hat
A jolie femme portrait.

Ritratto della moglie Emma - 1889
Portrait of the artist's wife.

Ritratto Giuseppe Garibaldi - 1882
The man instrumental in creating modern Italy.

Ritratto Silvestro Lega - 1889
A fellow Italian painter. His painting style in these portraitist dramatically different from his jolie femme style.

Ritratto di donna - c. 1925
This was painted during the 1920s and seems very slightly simplified, a barely perceptible nod to the modernist fashion of the times.

Ritratto Maria José di Savoia Principesa del Piemonte - 19331
Maria, a Belgian princess, was the wife (of sorts) of Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria di Savoia, who briefly reined in 1946 as Umberto II, the last king of Italy. This is the latest Corcos painting I noticed while image-searching.