Monday, May 10, 2021

John W. Waterhouse's Greatest Hits

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was a major British successor to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.   His Wikipedia entry is here, and I recently wrote about his oil sketches and studies here.

Although he often used Pre-Raphaelite subject matter, his painting style was generally not as compulsively detailed as many of their works.  That is, although they have plenty of details, the effect he created seems more free, more natural.

Today's post present a few of his paintings that strike me as being among his best or most famous.


The Lady of Shalott - 1888
The times I visited London's Tate Britain museum, this large painting was on display.

"I am half sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott  - 1915

Destiny - 1900
Waterhouse seems to have borrowed some elements of this work for use in the previous painting.

Ophelia - 1910
Painting human skin against a green, outdoors background can be tricky, but Waterhouse succeeded here.

Pandora - 1896
Interesting contrast between the sketchy background/costume and the main subject matter.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses - 1891
Ulysses can be seen in the mirror.

Circe Invidiosa - 1892
A very striking image.  Waterhouse had the right stuff.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Early Realistic Comic Strip Drawing

This post deals with the slow introduction of realistically-depicted characters in American comic strips.

Details are in the image captions below.  Please note that I didn't undertake a hardcore scholarly study of the subject, though I did rely on a few books in my reference library to refine my memory.  Therefore, take the examples below as indicative, though not necessarily "firsts" in terms of appearance.


Happy Hooligan by Frederick Burr Opper - 6 November 1902
This important strip dates from 1900 and the character depictions are in line with the norms of the time.  More information is here.

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay - 24 June 1906
On the other hand, Little Nemo from 1905 was exceptional in terms of depiction, as can be seen in this example.  Nevertheless, it was years later before naturalistic cartoon characters became common.

Betty by Charles A. Voight - c. 1920
Voight created Betty in 1919, making the strip an early example of representational cartooning.  In the panel above, Betty is drawn in near-illustration style, whereas Lester DePester is cartoony.

Betty - 21 June 1942
Towards the end of Betty's run the drawing style became more free, more sophisticated.

Bringing up Father by George McManus - 25 September 1938 (or possibly 1932)
Begun in 1913, Bringing up Father is another example where a woman (Jigg's daughter Nora) is realistic while the other characters are drawn in cartoon style.  Interesting that in those days it was women -- not men -- who were shown more naturalistically.  Though this is from the 1930s, McManus' style differed little from the 1920s.

Connie by Frank Godwin - 14 June 1931
Wikipedia's entry says that Connie originated in 1927 -- or perhaps 1929.  The not-shown upper part of this Sunday strip has Connie only in profile, but this segment has a variety of views of her.  Unlike the early Betty and Bringing up Father, other characters are drawn more realistically than cartoony.  Godwin was a skilled illustrator, so I'm surprised that the other characters feature anatomical flaws.

Connie - 1936
During the mid-1930s Connie became a science fiction strip for a while.  Note the improvement in Godwin's drawing.

Tarzan by Hal Foster - 1929
The Tarzan comic strip dated from 1929, and above is the ninth panel.  Foster's style evolved rapidly, but it's clear that from the first, depictions were illustrations and not cartoons.

Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond - from first page, 7 January 1934
From its launch in 1934 Flash Gordon was an illustration-style Sunday comic.

What I find mildly interesting is that the shift to realism (now long gone from American comic strips) happened around the year 1930.  Some folks might relate that to the late 1929 onset of the Great Depression.  But it might have been something else.  But the appearance of such strips as Alex Raymond's  "Flash Gordon", Noel Sickles' version of Scorchy Smith, and Milton Caniff's "Terry and The Pirates" -- all started in 1934 -- might better be linked to the comparative seriousness and need for escapism of those times.

Monday, April 26, 2021

More Learning from Las Vegas

About ten years ago I wrote about some Las Vegas interiors and murals.  Recently I returned to Vegas, and while my wife was busying herself at the slots, I (who don't gamble) was taking iPhone snapshots of the architecture and décor.  Some of those, in cropped and enhanced fashion, are presented below.

Nearly 50 years ago an important book about Las Vegas architecture from a theoretical standpoint was published.  It is "Learning from Las Vegas," the title inspiring the title of this post.

The Las Vegas of 1968 when the authors visited and did their on-site research was different from today's Las Vegas in some important ways.  Nowadays many of the largest casinos offer more than gambling, restaurants and shows.  They have shopping areas and themed architecture and interiors.  Moreover, the architecture and interiors were created at great expense.

That is in contrast to nearly all the Modernist buildings we see today and that were built since World War 2.  Those structures, conforming to the architectural profession's near-universal design religion, are visually comparatively simple and usually nearly or absolutely ornamentation-free.  They are also inexpensive to build compared to Las Vegas' grand casino-hotels that include traditional paintings and ornamental sculpting.  The latter is far more costly today than it was a century ago when there were many skilled craftsmen who did such work at affordable prices.

What this means is that Las Vegas is one of the few places in America where folks can experience important new buildings featuring what was much more common before the 1930s.  The town is an oasis in more ways than one.


Some parts of The Strip are Modernist, such as the recent City Center development shown here.

Much more visually interesting is the nearby Paris casino (foreground) and hotel (background).

This entrance combines Second Empire statuary and Métro station Art Nouveau entrance details.

The MGM Grand had a lot of 1930s Moderne movie theater décor, most of which has been removed to create a sterile Modernist interior.  Above is a remaining touch of what the place was once like.

More bas-relief, this found in Caesar's Palace that features Classical Roman motifs.

Elsewhere in Caesar's.

More at Caesar's.

The New York's interior includes many touches of that city from the 1930s.  Besides street recreations there are murals such as shown here.

This is a riff on the Daily News Building.

Sorry for the tilt of this view of a huge, Lalique-like sculpture in the Palazzo section of The Venetian.

Here is the hallway approach to The Venetian's hotel lobby.  Some shops are behind the columns.

This is the expensive-shops area of the Bellagio.

Elsewhere in the Bellagio is this conservatory that features seasonally themed décor: Christmas, Autumn, Chinese New Year, etc.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Joaquín Sorolla's 1880s Paintings

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was perhaps the most outstanding Spanish painter during the years 1895-1920.  His Wikipedia entry is here.

I wrote a lengthy post dealing with my visit to the Sorolla museum in Madrid.   I also wrote about some of his early paintings.

The present post expands on the post just cited.  Below are images of his works during the 1880s decade when he was in his late teens to mid-twenties.  He was young, his mature style had yet to appear, and he needed to make paintings to satisfy student requirements or to earn some money and become established as a professional artist.

Readers might find it interesting to note the degree of skill that he had even in those early days.  They might also try looking for signs of his later style (I failed to find much).


Barcos en el puerto - 1881
He was about age 18 when this was painted.

Escena histórica - 1883
This somewhat sketchy "Historical Scene" was made when he was twenty.

El dos de Mayo de 1808 - 1884
A year later he depicted a scene from the Peninsular War.  Here his style is crisp, illustration-like.

El grito del Palleter - 1884
From the same year, but more richly done.  His treatment of clothing hints at his later work.

Café de Paris - 1885
Finally a genre scene -- what he built his career on.

Mesalina en brazos del gladiador - 1886
Classical, mythological events were popular subjects, so here he painted something that Alma-Tadema might have done.

Father Jofré Protecting a Madman - 1887
Again, a bit sketchy in places.  A small hint of his mature style.

Santa en Oración - 1888
This formal pose was unusual for Sorolla.

Los guitarristas, costumbres valcianeas - 1889
Another genre scene, this set in Valencia which was the site of many of his later works.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Molti Ritratti: Cleopatra

Many posthumous images exist of Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC - 30 BC) -- Wikipedia entry here.  A few of them are presented below.

Cleopatra is famous for her involvement with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony at the time the Roman republic was transitioning into an empire.  She is even more famous because of her suicide by an Asp biting her breast -- this being the subject of many paintings of her, breasts and drama being irresistible for many painters.

She was famous in her time for her beauty and charm that captivated Rome's mightiest men.  Yet we do not know exactly what she looked like.  The Wikipedia link above contains some images and speculation, and here is an example of further speculation.

The images below are mostly paintings by late-nineteenth century artists.  That was a period when subjects from Classical times were popular..


Coins issued by Cleopatra (via the second link above)
Most speculation centers on her nose.  It was prominent, but its shape varies from coin to coin.  Despite what some have claimed, Cleopatra was not "African," being a descendent of a Greek officer who claimed the Egyptian part of Alexander the Great's empire upon the latter's death.

Tiepolo, Giovanni-Batista - The Meeting of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra - 1749
An example of an 18th century depiction by a famous artist.  Tiepolo, as he often did, used the face of a favorite model to depict Cleopatra.  As was also common before the 19th century, he has her dressed in contemporary garments.

Clive, Henry - Cleopatra, American Weekly magazine cover illustration - 13 October 1946
This is a comparatively recent depiction.  Cleopatra's lipstick is very-1946, as is her eye and eyebrow makeup.  Female beauty standards seem to be time-dependent.

Mousset, Pierre-Joseph - La mort de Cléopâtre
An example of the Cleopatra death scene.

Cabanel, Alexandre - Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners - 1887
Cleopatra working out suicide details.

Cabanel, Alexandre - Cleopatra - c.1887
Perhaps a study for the painting in the previous image.

Gérôme, Jean-Léon - Cleopatra Before Caesar - 1866 (cropped)
Gérôme made many Orientalist paintings, so this must have been an easy variation.  His version of Caesar in the background seems odd -- especially the pose and the long neck.

Bridgman, Frederick - Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae - 1896
An example of a 19th century non-suicide view of Cleopatra.

Alma-Tadema, Lawrence - Cleopatra (cropped)
Tadama tried more than most artists to portray Classical settings as accurately as data allowed.

Waterhouse, John W. - Cleopatra - c.1887
A psychological study of the queen perhaps contemplating suicide.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Ivan Kramskoy, a Major 19th Century Russian Painter

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837-1887), commonly rendered as Kramskoy in English transliteration, was an important Russian painter during the late 1800s.   His Wikipedia entry is here.

If image collections on the Internet are any guide, much of his production was in the form of portraits that were a reliable source of income.  Subjects ranged from family members to underclass people to royalty.

His artistic generation and Russian (not French or German) training yielded a consrvative, representational style.  However, as best I can tell, he painted few if any works of classical subjects.   One image below is of a religious nature.


Portrait of an Unknown Woman - 1883
This is Kramskoy's most famous painting.  The subject seems to have been a lady of questionable repute.

Princess Ekaterina Alekseevny Vasilchikova - 1867
He was about age 30 when this was painted.

Alexander III - 1886
Kramskoy was something of a court painter.

Empress Maria Federovna - c.1886
Click on this image to enlarge.

Christ in the Desert - 1872
Not Kramskoy's usual subject matter.  Note his treatment of rocks, sand and (morning?) sky.

Mina Moiseyev (a peasant) - 1882
An example of non-royal work.

Vera Treyakova
Daughter of art patron Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898).

Admiral Login Loginovich Heyden - 1882

Moonlit Night - 1880
Another unusual subject for Kramskoy, and very well done.

Portrait of Anna von Derviz - 1881

Sophia Ianovna Kramskoya, daughter of the artist - 1882