Thursday, October 31, 2019

Harold Weston, Harvard-Trained Gadabout

Harold Weston (1894-1972) led a binary life of several sorts, as can be gleaned from his Wikipedia entry.

At times he lived in isolation or near-isolation in an Adirondack cabin. Later in the French Pyrenees. And in a slummy spot near New York's Greenwich Village.

On the other hand, he was born in Philadelphia's tony Main Line, attended school in Switzerland, graduated from Harvard, and knew Eleanor Roosevelt.

As an artist, he painted in styles ranging from stark realism to abstract. And when he wasn't doing painting, he was involved with various causes and government initiatives.

The link above states that Weston was prolific. And I state that none of it was particularly appealing, perhaps because it seems derivative and heavy-handed within each genre he pursued.


Weston in the mountains
He had Polio when young and remained partly crippled (note his cane).

Weston painting United Nations construction
Nothing wrong with this project, but I'm sure photographers were hired to do the same thing.

Naqsh-e Rustam, Iran - c. 1919
Weston was attached to the British army in the middle East during the Great War. This is the most conventional painting of his that I could find.

Persian Caravan - Path Near Hamadan - 1919
About that time he shifted to a kind of cloisonné style of Modernism.

March Thaw - 1921
From his Adirondacks days.

Fixing Hair - 1923
His bride, Faith Borton, who attended Vassar College.

Sunrise over Baxter Mountain

Snow Squall - 1935

Self-Portrait - 1939
Here he tries an Expessionist  /  Neue Sachlichkeit style.

In the Studio
A later self-portrait in the same vein.

Building the United Nations #2 Ramp over F.D.R. Drive - 1950
Part of a large series of paintings of various construction stages, all with this general appearance.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr Up Close

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) was an artist whose technical capabilities I greatly respect. On the other hand, most of his paintings hold little appeal due their subject matter and somewhat static compositions.

A major exception to that criticism is his Nymphs and Satyr (1873) at the Clark art museum in Williamstown in the northwest corner of Massachusetts. If you are interested in late-19th and early 20th century painting, the Clark should be a "Must" destination.

I was last there in September and took some iPhone photos for your viewing pleasure.


Nymphs and Satyr - image from Clark site.

As seen in its gallery. A large painting: note its scale via the size and placement of the plaque as well as the floor.

Detail image.  Click on it to enlarge.  I find the expression on the face of the nymph facing the satyr especially well done.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Up Close: Sargent's Portrait of Carolus-Duran

The reputation of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) has been on the mend for several decades. I've been noticing that references to him are not apologetic, though they might have been in decades past.

The Clark art museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts had at least four of his works in the gallery reserved for the collection's prime works on my most recent visit. One of these is his 1879 portrait of his teacher Carolus-Duran. The link to the museum's commentary on it is here.

Sargent was only about 23 years old when it was painted, and he clearly must have wanted to make a good impression. But whereas Carolus-Duran tended to include a fair amount of hard-edge detailing in portraits he painted, Sargent's treatment of him is quite soft, as the photos I took indicate. Click on images to enlarge.


Clark image of the painting.

My establishment shot.

Sargent reserved most of the sharp detailing for the face.

And there are a few crisp spots on the hands and cane.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Jacques-Émile Blanche: Portraits of Women

Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942) was a painter, musician and writer whose paintings were mostly portraits of wealthy people with some connection to the arts. His English Wikipedia entry is here, his French entry is here, and a take on the considerable time he spent in England is here.

Blanche's artistic training was brief, but he had enough talent and social connections to become successful. He lacked a consistent, distinct style. I rate him a solid step below the most famous portraitists of his day.

The images below are in approximate, not necessarily exact, chronological order. I hope they provide a sense of Blanche's stylistic evolution over his career.


Donna Olga Caracciolo dei Duchi di Castelluccio (later baroness de Meyer) - 1889
The earliest dated work I could find.

Señora Eugenia Huici de Errázuriz - 1890
Patroness of the arts, she also was painted by John Singer Sargent.

Mabel Beardsley - 1895
The actress, sister of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley.

Portrait de Lucie lisant un livre
I do not know who Lucie was.

Femme lisant
Another version of the pose -- is this also Lucie?

Portrait of Colette - 1905
Colette, the famous writer.

Portrait of The Honourable Mrs Charles Russell, née Adah Williams
Here Blanche shifts to a kind of modernist-inspired style -- some suggest a Boldini influence, but I'm not so sure.

Julia Prinsep Stephen, neé Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth
Mother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. The light touch of the previous image is gone, replaced by a darker, harder appearance.

Lady Marjorie Manners - 1909.jpg
Marjorie Harriet Paget, Marchioness of Anglesey (1883-1946), oldest daughter of the Duke of Rutland. Her sister Diana married Duff Cooper and was the mother of the late author John Julius Norwich.

Mlle Georgette Camille - 1925
A poet.

Virginia Woolf - 1927
The writer, daughter of Julia Prinsep Stephen, shown above. This is the most modernist-looking portrait of the set, but not of the fashionable 1920s-1930s simplified style.

Seated woman
Also from the 1920s, a nice study of a flapper.

Victoria Trefusis
Like Blanche, of the demi-monde. Perhaps painted around 1930.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Up Close: Sargent's Fumée d'ambre gris

Fumée d'ambre gris 1880, is one of John Singer Sargent's most interesting paintings.

It and some outstanding works by Sargent and others can be seen at the Clark art museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts at the northwest corner of the state.

Here is what the Clark website has to say about the painting.

Below are some photos I took in September using my iPhone. The room where Fumée and the other stars of the collection are displayed was too dark for my regular camera to take photos without the (prohibited) flash.

Click on images to enlarge.


Image of the painting found on the Internet.

As seen in the museum. The size of the plaque at the right offers a sense of the scale of the painting.

Zooming in a little.

Closer ...

Showing the woman's face and arms. This area of the painting is not large -- a little more than a foot (30 cm) wide.

The source of the fumes. Note the extreme-perspective treatment of the rug pattern and floor tiles: not something he simply dashed off.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Scorchy Smith's Adventure Comic Strip Style Legacy

For several decades, American comic strips have been shrunken (compared to 1940s sizes), humor-oriented creatures. But from roughly 1930 into the 1960s there were many plot-driven strips with day-to-day continuity extending for months. The motivation of newspapers for featuring such strips was that they captured the attention of readers who became more likely to buy that particular paper on a daily basis.

Some continuity strips dealt with romance, but most were adventure oriented. There were Africa strips such as Tarzan, the Phantom, and Jungle Jim. There were science-fiction strips such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Among a number of other categories was the aviation-centered comic strip.

One such aviation strip, "Scorchy Smith," brought together some artists who evolved or practiced a distinctive, representational, chiaroscuro style of drawing for comic strips. Yes, there were other comics in the key mid-1930s to mid-'40s era that also were artistically superior. But the aviation strips are worth examination in their own right.

Although he didn't initiate Scorchy Smith, it was Noel Sickles who transformed its visual style as I posted here.

A co-worker at Associated Press and good friend of Sickles was Milton Caniff, who at about the same time began the famous "Terry and the Pirates" comic strip. Influenced by Sickles (who quit drawing Scorchy in the fall of 1936 to become an illustrator), Caniff slowly evolved the strip's style from thinly lined images into lushly brushworked, strikingly composed scenes that made him one of the most honored conic strip artists of his day. His skill at plotting and characterization added to this.

After World War 2, Caniff left Terry and the Pirates, being replaced by George Wunder, who I wrote about here.

One of the many artists who drew Scorchy Smith was Frank Robbins, active 1939-1944. In the summer of '44 Robbins launched the "Johnny Hazard" strip that in appearance and content was not far removed from Terry and the Pirates.


A Noel Sickles "Scorchy Smith" strip for 20 October, 1936 -- one of the last that Sickles drew,

"Terry and the Pirates" for 2 January, 1934, showing Caniff's original style.

Terry for 3 October, 1936: his style about the time Sickles dropped Scorchy Smith. They were headed in the same direction, but Sickles was more advanced.

18 January, 1938 -- Caniff is doing better depicting people than he did a year or so before.

Now, 1 August, 1941 we find dramatic chiaroscuro.

By 24 March, 1945 Caniff's classical style has emerged.

Here is a Scorchy strip for 15 February, 1941 drawn by Frank Robbins. He was a skilled artist, doing fine art as well as comics, and his work is comparable to Caniff's at his point.

A late Scorchy strip by Robbins (24 February, 1944). Now he seems to be lagging behind Caniff.

Lead panels from a Robbins Sunday "Johnny Hazard" from the mid-1950s. Here his work is richer, more like that a of Caniff and George Wunder who was drawing Terry by then.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Augustus Saint-Gaudens' New Hampshire Studio

I wrote about the Cornish, New Hampshire art colony home of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) in the previous post. His grounds are now held by the National Park Service. It's a little out of the way, but doable if you are also visiting the Dartmouth College area.

I'm not a sculptor, so can offer little commentary on the photos below that I took in September. Click on images to enlarge.


Here is his studio, a large building a short distance from the house. The left-hand two thirds of the building is a large studio now displaying small examples of his work. On the side opposite, facing towards the northeast are large windows, mounted high.

This part of the building seems to have been used for preliminary studies.

Panning slightly to the left of the previous image. The objects displayed might not have been typical of what was actually going on while Saint-Gaudens was working here, though I can't rule out curators having photographic evidence.

Saint-Gaudens' office nook.

Study of figure for the Sherman statue ensemble at the Plaza corner of New York City's Central Park.