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