Thursday, October 29, 2020

Rockefeller Center's "Other" Theater, Now Long Gone

I recently wrote about New York City's Ziegfeld Theater, razed in 1967.  Another historically interesting theater that failed to survive was the RKO Roxy (alias Center) Theater (1932-1954) -- Wikipedia entry here.  It was one of the early buildings in Rockefeller Center, but had to compete with the larger, more striking-looking Radio City Music Hall.  They opened during the final days of 1932 when the Great Depression was at its worst in America.  Their combined seating of around 9,500 was difficult to fill on a daily basis in those dark days.  The Music Hall with its décor and Rockettes dancers was the stronger competitor and the Center (as it was renamed in 1933) was not economically viable.  It was torn down in 1954, the only Rockefeller Center building to suffer that fate so far.

Edward Durrell Stone was the architect, and interior designs were by Eugene Schoen, who replaced Donald Deskey who had to devote his efforts to the Music Hall interior.

Below are images mostly of the RKO Roxy during development and just prior to its 29 December 1932 opening.  Many were taken by Samuel Gotscho.  The architecture and décor are fine examples of American Moderne / Art Deco.


Clay studies of the exterior, photos from June, 1931.

Interior study, May, 1931.

Exterior view, 1933.  The material at the upper right cornet of the photo is part of the Sixth Avenue Elevated line, razed in 1939.

Exterior as Center Theatre, circa 1944.  Note the large buildings in the right background, not there in 1933.

Grand Foyer, November, 1932

Grand Foyer viewed from the Mezzanine, November, 1932.

The basement Grand Lounge, late 1932.

Basement Men's Smoking Room, late 1932.

Ladies' Lounge, late 1932.

View from stage, November, 1932.

Auditorium, November, 1932.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Multi Ritratti: Tarzan

Usually my "Multi Ritratti" posts deal with portraits of subjects by several artists.  I thought it would be fun to do a variation on this -- how various illustrators portrayed the fictional character Tarzan.   Actually I did something like that related to Tarzan nine years ago, but only for three artists and using fewer images.

The Wikipedia link above said Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs described Tarzan as being " tall, athletic, handsome, and tanned, with grey eyes and long black hair. He wears almost no clothes, except for a loincloth."   And that's what illustrators had to work with.

Below are some images found on the Internet.  Click on them to enlarge.


First are two book cover illustrations by J. Allen St. John, who did the earliest Tarzan images.  This one does not show him as being a British nobleman, which he was.  Instead, Tarzan seems rather ordinary, to judge by his face.

This St. John illustration features a more believable Tarzan.

In 1929 Tarzan became a comic strip feature, Hal Foster doing most of the artwork in the early years.  His Tarzan wears leopardskin swimming trunks and has a fairly short haircut.

I think Foster did a fine job.  But deadline pressure sometimes demanded shortcuts: note Tarzan's pose in the upper left and lower right images.

Burne Horgarth took over the strip in 1937 and continued it off and on until 1950.  His Tarzan was often depicted in poses that I think are too exaggerated.  Tarzan's face is more harsh than St. John and Foster portrayed.

Again, note the Hogarth face.

Book cover art for "Tarzan the Invincible" by Neal Adams whose career was mostly in the comic book field.  Again, Tarzan seems fierce.

Robert Abbett did cover work for Burrough's John Carter of Mars books, but also a few Tarzans.  Abbett used conventional 1960s illustration style for all of these.  Here Tarzan isn't fierce and his hair is in line with Foster's depictions.

Fantasy illustrator Boris Vallejo also did book cover illustrations of Tarzan.  The hair is longer and wilder, and the head is more massive than in the images above.

Another Vallejo cover.

Finally some Tarzan depictions by the great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta.  This is cover art for "Tarzan and the Ant Men."  Here Tarzan's face is more like a normal man's, though the hair is wild.

Two interior illustrations by Frazetta for "Tarzan and the Castaways."  Note the loincloth -- no swimming trunks here.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ziegfeld Theater by Joseph Urban

One building I think should have been preserved, but wasn't, was New York City's Ziegfeld Theater (1927-1966).  Its Wikipedia entry is here.   It mentions that the architects were the great Joseph Urban (1872-1933), who I wrote about here, and Thomas W. Lamb (1871-1972), who specialized in cinemas and theaters.

The style of the building is hard for me to pin down.  It was designed around the time the famous Paris Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes of 1925 was so recent that its "Art Deco" impact had yet to be strongly felt in America.  On the other hand Urban, Austrian born, was highly aware of European design trends and seems to have incorporated some of the non-geometric Parisian Deco along with his own post- Art Nouveau design sympathies.

The resulting building and its interior décor was rather busy looking, certainly by orthodox Modernist standards of European architects of the time.  For us, had it survived, the Ziegfeld Theatre would be a fascinating document of mid-1920s design by leaders in their fields.


My June, 1965 photo of the Ziegfeld Theatre, about a year before it vanished.

A dramatic architectural rendering.

Detail of the original drawing.

The Ziegfeld as it appeared in 1931.

Diagrams of the interior layout.


Balcony and some wall decoration.


Photo of a model of the proscenium.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Foujita: Cats, Women, War and Mostly Himself

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) was born in Japan, studied Western art there, and then went to Paris where he soon had a successful career, especially during the 1920s when he was a fixture in the avant-garde art scene.  This was despite that fact that his works were fairly traditional compared to the works of his friends.  What probably helped his career was his exotic origin and that he was a rather uninhibited character.  Plenty of background is here in his Wikipedia entry.  Even more information is on his French language entry.

As the title of this post notes, Foujita mostly depicted himself, young women and cats.  His oil paintings often featured a creamy white paint concoction that became a signature characteristic of his Paris work.  The cat and many of the women images were watercolor or other media on paper.

He left France for South America in the 1930s, eventually returning to Japan.  During World War 2 he was a combat artist for the Imperial Army.  Postwar, he returned to France, became a citizen and converted to Catholicism.

His works command five-digit auction prices.


Photo of Foujita by Roger-Viollet - 1926
His hair bangs and round-lens glasses were visual trademarks.

Self-Portrait in the Studio
I don't have a date for this, but think it might be a fairly early painting.

Autoportrait au Chat - 1927
Painted in France, here he features Japanese style.

Autoportrait - 1936
From his South American period.

Autoportrait - 1954
In France, age 68.

The Cat - 1926
In New York's Met collection.  Cats seem to be his best subject matter.

Café - 1918
A fairly early Paris painting.

Head of a Young Girl - 1926

Portrait du Youki - 1926
Youki (the name he bestowed on Lucie Badoul) was his third wife who later dropped him for Surrealist Robert Desnos.

Jeune femme nouant son châle - 1951

The Fall of Singapore - 1942
Combat art.  I don't know if Foujita ever went into the field -- after all, he was in his fifties by then.  In the center is a dead Japanese soldier.  That's not surprising, given the Japanese code of honorable death in combat.  Western combat artists might have thought twice before making such an inclusion.

Final Charge Against the Americans - Attu- 1943
Obviously Foutita was not present when the Americans retook that Aleutian island, so the whole scene is imaginative.  Note the World War One style helmets on the American troops.  This headgear was phased out during 1942 for the "steel pot" helmet, so it seems that Foujita's reference material was out of date.  Also note the Western style drawing and how different it is from his Paris works.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

More Edgar Payne Images

Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947), as I noted here a few years ago, is one of my favorite California Impressionist painters.  His Wikipedia entry is here.

Although he included people in the form of tiny figures in his paintings, so far as I know no close-up portrait-type images by him exist.  One of the few Payne paintings where human figures predominate is "Navajo Scouting Party" shown immediately below.

In the Gallery following the main text is another sampler of of his works (more can be seen in the link above to my previous post dealing with him).


In the Canal, Chioggia
Chioggia is a small port city at the south end of the Venetian Lagoon.

Valley of St. Gervais
Perhaps more a sketch than a finished painting, Payne used broad brushwork here.

Temple Crag
Another sketch-type work, here a California scene.

Surging Sea
Not a placid subject.  Payne either had to wait a few waves to catch dramatic ones such as this while painting, or else he invented the wave relying on memory or perhaps used a reference photo.

San Gabriel Road
Not a typical Payne scene because it's urban, in a small way.

Riders Overlooking Canyon
He probably added the figures to provide a sense of scale.

Lake Lucerne
Note the many vertical brush strokes and the layering of colors.