Monday, January 25, 2021

Danish Late-1800s Paintings by Carl Tomsen

Carl Christian Frederik Jacob Thomsen (1847-1912) seems to have been a fairly important Danish painter in his day.  His brief English language Wikipedia entry is here, but from there you can link to a much longer entry in Danish.

I know little about Danish art.  Even from the 1850-1930 period that interests me most across all nations.  The most famous circa-1900 Danish painter seems to be Thomsen's contemporary Peder Krøyer. Krøyer painted genrre scenes -- seashore settings, dinner parties and such.  Thomsen also did genre, though mostly from a different angle.

Both artists were conservative, making representational images in an era when Modernism was on the rise in France and elsewhere south of the Scandinavian countries.  Thomsen was technically skilled, but I find his work rather dull.

But then, perhaps that's what the Danish market expected of him.


En Søndag Eftermiddag - 1888
A Sunday afternoon gathering.  Nice depiction of light and shade.

The Honeymoon - 1893
Thomsen apparently chose to depict the morning after.  To my eyes, what we have here is a long-time married couple.

Arranging Daffodils - 1894
Again, nicely painted, but rather dull.  The wildest touch is the position of the lady's left leg.

A gathering -- I don't have a formal title for this
A rather fragmented grouping.

I Karnevalstiden - 1899

Portræt af kunstnerens datter Elise Thomsen - 1906
Thomsen's daughter.  She doesn't seem pretty, and the pose and lighting might be an attempt to hide that.

Portræt af ung kvinde - 1908
A fairly late work.  Not as smoothly painted as the 1890s scenes for some reason.

Moder Danmark
An etching of "Mother Denmark."

Monday, January 18, 2021

Frederick Sands Brunner, Yet Another Successful Unknown Illustrator

Frederick Sands Brunner (1886-1954) specialized in illustration art featuring pretty young women.  He had at least one Saturday Evening Post cover and two Coca-Cola images to his credit, so he indeed managed to hit the illustration Big Time.

On the other hand, he is unknown today, in that I could find no biographical information about him on casual Google and Bing internet searches.  Nor was he included in Walt Reed's "The Illustrator in America" reference book.

As best I can tell, although Brunner was quite competent, his work lacked that special touch more successful illustrator had.  His work strikes me as being similar to that of Andrew Loomis.  And Loomis was almost, but not quite in the league of Norman Rockwell, Mead Schaffer, John LaGatta and others.

Don't let me influence you.  Below is a sampling of what I mostly consider Brunner's better work for your consideration.


Taproot of Power illustration
A fairly early example, circa 1920.

Almost Quitting Time
Witty.  I like this.

Seated lady
The Internet source had much brighter colors, but my adjustment might be more realistic.

Saturday Evening Post cover art for February 16, 1935
Brunner's Big Time illustration

Clicquot Clib ad
For a now defunct beverage company.  The Eskimo lad was its trademark character.



Autumn Patterns
A 1939 illustration.

Reading Mother Goose stories

Prom Night

Monday, January 11, 2021

Solitary Skyscrapers

This architecture-related post deals with an American phenomenon of the early decades of the twentieth century.  It was solitary skyscraper buildings appearing in cities other than New York and Chicago, which were well-supplied with tall structures.

I suspect that in most cases those cities lacked the financial muscle to build many skyscrapers -- one was they best they could do for decades.  I also suspect that civic prestige was a strong factor in those skyscrapers having been built in the first place.

Below is a set of aerial photographs taken when the towers were fairly new.  The images include enough of the subjects' surroundings to indicate how distinctive these skyscrapers were in their settings.  They are arranged in the cities' alphabetical order.


Custom House Tower, Boston, completed 1915
Wikipedia entry here.

Terminal Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, completed 1930
Wikipedia entry here.

LeVeque Tower, Columbus, Ohio, completed 1927
Wikipedia entry here.

Los Angeles City, completed 1928
Wikipedia entry here.  For many years City Hall was the tallest building in town due to fear of potential earthquake damage to tall buildings there.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis, Completed 1929
Wikipedia entry here
Smith Tower, Seattle, completed 1914
Wikipedia entry here.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Barry Rowe Automobile Paintings

Barry Rowe is a prominent automobile artist.  That is, he's an artist whose main subject matter is automobiles portrayed in plausible settings.

Which is not as easy as it might seem.  In the first place, it helps greatly if the cars are depicted accurately.  Otherwise, knowledgeable potential painting buyers might not be willing to buy.  From an artistic standpoint, there is the matter of backgrounds or settings for the featured car or cars.  An easy solution would be to paint a simple, generic sort of background -- perhaps a golf course or ocean coast -- and focus effort on the subject.  But that would seldom result in an aesthetically satisfying painting.

Rowe, a largely self-taught British artist, places a great deal of effort on the settings as well as the subject cars.  How well this works is discussed in the captions below.

As for Rowe's background, this is worth reading as well as this interview.  In that interview, Rowe states:

"I take stacks of photos of old cars and lighting etc. It could be the background that starts me off or it could be the car and then I find a background. The lighting is never dead right. You have the light coming at an angle on the car and other lighting coming from the background. You have to get it altogether properly, otherwise it's not believable. I like old pictures of nice dresses and something romantic in a way that isn't there now."


Cover of the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Élégance publication.  The cars -- a Duesenberg in the foreground and a Bugatti and Bentley behind -- are realistically depicted, as is the background.  However, the people are painted in a flat, fashion illustration manner greatly contrasting with the rest of the painting.  Rowe seems to do this often with people, though I'm not sure of his intent.  But in the interview linked above he mentioned that much of his commercial art was done in an Art Deco style, so perhaps those flat depictions are a carryover from that.  For some reason.

Some of Rowe's paintings divorce the car from its setting more than it should be, as is often seen in lesser artists' works.  Perhaps a client might ask for this effect.

Here the Art Deco, fashion illustration style donates the image.  That's a French Delahaye lurking in the background.

Detail of a larger painting featuring a Bugatti.  This part of the image comes closer to Deco illustration -- even the body panels of the car reflect the type of painting of the restaurant in the background.

Here the Art Deco girl seems almost pasted on the rest of the image.  Moreover, she's a little too small compared to the car.  Odd.

A more stylistically integrated work is this view of famed Italian driver Tazio Nuvolare in an Alfa Romeo at the 1932 Targa Florio race in Sicily.

A little more poster-like is this painting of Bernd Rosemeyer driving an Auto Union racer, probably at Nurburgring.

A Le Mans race around 1930 with an Alfa Romeo in the lead.  Here the people are better integrated than in some of the images above.

The Bugatti pits at a Monaco Grand Prix.  No Art Deco humans here.

Another Bugatti race pits scene, though the 35B Bugatti driven by "W Williams" is painted British Racing Green, not French blue.  He won the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix race.

A later Monaco Grand Prix: Here is Enzo Ferarri's Alfa Romeo team preparing for the start.

Finally a photo of a painting of Louis Chiron at the 1948 Monaco Grand Prix.  The lighting at the left helps offer some information about Rowe's technique.  Click on the image to enlarge somewhat.