Monday, December 28, 2020

Georgia O'Keeffe's New York Buildings Paintings

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) is probably best remembered for her nature-related paintings made in New Mexico.  But earlier in her long career she lived in New York City and made a few paintings of new skyscraper buildings.  Biographical information is here.

O'Keeffe was a modernist who stressed simplification of subject matter and design of the image.  Not "painterly," more craftsmanlike in style.  Also painted abstractions in a similar vein.

Below are three of those paintings along with photographs.


Shelton Hotel New York No. 2 - 1926
She and Alfred Stieglitz lived in a 30th floor apartment here in 1925.

Shelton Hotel 1924, by Andrew Harmon.  A fairly early example of set-back massing in conformity with recent city zoning laws.

Radiator Building at Night - 1927
Her most famous New York City painting.

American Radiator Building 1924, by John Howells and Raymond Hood.  This is also a night view from across Bryant Park.

Manhattan - 1932
A Cubist feeling here.  Buildings are splashed across the canvas in a kind of montage.  Three flowers are added for some reason.

RCA Building1933, by Raymond Hood.  This was nearing completion when the previous image was painted, so it's possible that O'Keeffe used it as inspiration for the main building in the painting.

Monday, December 21, 2020

More Edwin Blashfield Paintings

Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936) was an important American muralist in the decades around the turn of the 20th century.   His Wikupedia entry is here.

I wrote about him here, noting:

"Although his time [studying art] in France coincided with the rise of French Impressionism, his style remained traditional, but not strictly Academic. This worked well for him as a muralist, because American government-funded murals in the decades around 1900 tended to have uplifting themes often manifested by symbolic characters."

Generally speaking, in Blashfield's time a mural required a great deal of preparation.  Subject matter related to the mural's theme had to be decided by the artist and probably also the mural's sponsoring organization.  Then its composition needed to be worked out.  Ditto its color scheme.  Studies of its elements were drawn or painted.  All this preparation could easily result in a stiff looking result, no matter how skilled the artist.

Good though Blashfield was, I rate his murals less interesting than those of, say, Frank Brangwyn.  And his depiction of classical era figures in his paintings not as skilled as Lawrence Alma-Tadema's.  But few measured up to those standards.

Not all the images of paintings and murals below are signed, so I have to grit my teeth and hope the sources of images below found on the Internet correctly cited Blashfield as the artist.


Christmas Chimes

Greek Temple Maiden

Lovers in the Secret Garden

Power of the Law - 1899

The Graduate (detail)

Under the Temple Eaves

Westward - mural in the Iowa capitol building - 1905
Click on the image to greatly enlarge.  Two detail images follow.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Bob Peak's Movie Posters -- Some Context

I recently wrote about some of Bob Peak's poster art, and need to expand on the subject.  A regular reader pointed out in a comment that movie posters are large, so some of my quibbles regarding small, subsidiary images as seen on a computer screen (or, Heaven help, a smart phone) are not based on a fair way to judge.

That is correct.  And I then began to think about the nature of movie posters, something I hadn't done before, given that I am only a tepid film fan.

Most mainline movies feature actors and actresses who are known to significant numbers of the potential audience.  They are called "stars."  Therefore, to entice viewers of a new film, publicity often (usually?) features those stars.

So it is with movie posters.  In Peak's day and for three or more decades before, movie posters prominently displayed illustrations featuring the film's leading cast.  That was an important factor in the design, though not absolutely essential.  Once a theme regarding emphasis was established, the illustrator (along with the studio's marketing and publicity people) might add other visual details and certainly consider alternative poster layouts.

Below is an early Peak poster preceded by some posters for important movies in the years before in order to provide a little context for Peak's achievement.  I do not identify the illustrators of those other posters because I didn't bother to research so thoroughly.  Also bear in mind that a successful film would likely be given a number of alternative poster designs and themes, so the ones shown here are not necessarily the original or definitive versions.  But they are suggestive of the genre of the 1950s and early 1960s.


Singin' in the Rain - 1952
Kelly was the big star, O'Connor was known as a supporting actor and Reynolds was new.  Apparently more was thought needed than only Gene Kelly's face, so all three were featured.  That said, this poster didn't give much of a clue as to what the movies was about.  Perhaps that it was an MGM musical was all the publicity folks needed.

The King and I - 1956
Posters often came in different formats for the same film.  This is an extreme vertical example that used elements found in more conventionally shaped alternatives.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - 1958
The famous Elizabeth Taylor is featured to the visual exclusion of others.

Gigi - 1958
This design is more "arty" than most for those days.

North by Northwest - 1959
Probably not the original design, but this does show how a major star could be featured.  A dramatic element in the film is included.

Ben-Hur - 1959
This was not the first Ben-Hur film, as it and another were based on a well-known book.  Perhaps for that reason, stars were not featured in the illustration -- only the famous chariot race in the main image.

Lawrence of Arabia - 1962
Several important actors were in this film, and they are in the small images.  As with Ben-Hur, the name "Lawrence of Arabia" was known to the general public and therefore featured.

Cleopatra - 1963
Three famous stars, so all get the same visual billing.

My Fair Lady - 1964 (French poster)
Peak was an excellent, style-setting illustrator at this time.  But he too followed (had to?) the convention os featuring the main stars while including visual bits from the film.

My Fair Lady - 1964 (art)
Peak's art that was used in various ways to publicize the movie.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Leopold Seyffert's Women

Leopold Gould Seyffert (1887-1956) -- Wikipedia entry here -- earned his keep by painting portraits.   Some of these are shown in my previous post about him.

Many of those portraits were  of important men.  But he also painted women, some were commissioned work and others were for himself or for sale as something nice to hang on a wall.

A number of the latter two categories featured his longtime red-haired model Grace "Bobbi" Vernon (née Grace Heinzerling) who also modeled for Arthur Carles and eventually became Seyffer's second wife.  She and other woman are featured in the images below.  Warning: a few images might be in the unsafe-for-work viewing zone.


Photo of Seyffert painting Helen Wills Moody

Helen Wills Moody - c. 1933
Another portrait of Moody -- it was used as cover art for the Saturday Evening Post magazine.

Duane Van Vechten - 1924

Helen Pleckner Hackett

Joan Monroe Armour Wendell - 1941

Katherine Abbott Bigelow - 1932

Elizabeth Arden

The Emerald Gown - Helen Adele Fleck, the artist's first wife

The Blue-Green Hat - 1920
Now for three views of Bobbi.

Model in Flowered Kimono - 1923
Despite the dates shown -- from Web sources -- this and the painting above might have been made around the same time, given the similarity of poses.

The Lacquer Screen - 1917 - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts collection
This won the Temple Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1918.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Some Bob Peak Movie Poster Art

Robert M. (Bob) Peak (1927-1992), along with Bernie Fuchs, was a major creative force in American illustration beginning in the late 1950s.  His Wikipedia entrey is here.

I recently wrote about his non- movie poster work here.  That post included a quotation from illustration maven David Apatoff, who thought Peak's movie work became somewhat stale over time.  I tend to agree, though his poster art is often striking and usually very well made.

Note that movie poster art can be a difficult job for an illustrator because of the collaborative nature of movie production and marketing.  Many hoops for an artist to jump through, many people to please.  I suppose Peak encountered a bit less of this once he had firmly gained credibility.  Even so, the content of his posters was probably influenced to some degree by Hollywood marketing folks.  Therefore some slack should be cut regarding his poster art.

Below is a sampling of that work in no particular order.


Too elaborate for my taste -- Why were so many minor images needed?

Apocalypse Now

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Closer to Peak's regular illustration style.

Modesty Blaise
An example of cookie-cutter cliché poster design.

My Fair Lady
More interesting, but again many sub-images.  At least they are very small.

Later on, Peak began incorporating airbrush.

The Missouri Breaks
The upper part of this (possible concept) illustration appeared in posters.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce
Interesting design incorporating montage elements.

Monday, November 30, 2020

The Versatile Philadelphian: Earl Horter

Earl Horter (1881-1940) was an illustrtor, art director, oil and watercolor painter, etcher and probably worked in other media as well.  He also was able to create a large eclectic, personal art collection that he was forced to gradually sell off during the Great Depression due to decreased income and the need to pay divorce settlement requirements (he married four times).

A quick Google search revealed little biographical information about him, though this site is fairly useful.

Besides working in many media, Horter used a variety of styles over the years, as can be seen in the images below.  So even though he was very competent, his work is not distinctly "his" due to all that variety.  That said, it should be noted that his subject matter was largely architectural or townscapes.  Almost no images featuring people could be found on the Internet.


Packard poster from around 1914.   The setting is Paris' Avenue de l'Opéra constricted to suit the dimensions of the poster.

New York's Woolworth Building Under Construction, c. 1912.

Traymore Hotel, Atlantic City, c. 1915.

Two scenes of Toledo, Spain from about 1924.  Here we see a touch of Cubist influence.

Ditto for this Delaware River Scene.

Chrysler Building Under Construction - c.1931.

City scene, also a whiff of Cubism.

Gloucester, Massachusetts scene, 1932.  Here a touch of modernist simplification, common at the time.

The Old Barn, 1939. A conventional watercolor, but limited colors.

Still Life, also from 1939, but in a Cubist style.