Monday, December 27, 2021

Depicting Hercule Poirot -- by Robert Fawcett and Others

Hercule Poirot, Wikipedia entry here, is probably the most famous fictional detetive aside from Sherlock Holmes.

Because they are fictional characters, their actual appearance can be interpreted by actors and illustrators. However, in Poirot's case, author Agatha Christie many times wrote that he had an "egg-shaped head" and had fabulous mustaches, though as best I know she didn't actually provide a description of them.

Since this is an art-related blog, today's post presents some interpretations of Poirot by various illustrators.


"Egg-shaped head" implies baldness.  This book cover illustration by an artist unknown to me follows Christie's guidelines.  Aside from one exception below, I made no effort to track down book illustrators' names.

Here we find an elaborate mustache, but the head isn't very egg-shaped nor is it bald.

Again, not very bald.  In the early stories Christie held that Poirot was fairly old, but portrayals by actors and artists have him middle-aged.

This artist gave him an exaggeratedly egg-shaped head.

This seems fairly close to what Christie specified.

An American paperback book cover.

The illustrator was Mara McAfee (1929-1984), biography here.  This predates the British television series, but his attire is similar to what it favored.

Robert Fawcett (1903–1967), Wikipedia entry here, was an important illustrator in his day.  This image and the following are from Poirot stories appearing in Collier's Magazine in the mid-1950s.

Fawcett's Poirot is thin-faced and not bald.  The mustaches are extensive.

David Suchet (1946 - ... here) has pretty much nailed down Hercule Poirot's appearance for now and quite likely for many years to come.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The American Hotel Bar, Amsterdam

Amsterdam is not as noted for Art Nouveau architecture and décor as some other European cities such as Brussels, Riga, and Prague. Yet it does have fine examples. One is the American Hotel and its bar and café.

I was last there in 2013 and took a few photos of it. Perhaps things have changed since then, or maybe not. Regarless, I hope you enjoy the images below. Click on them to enlarge.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Thomas Hart Benton's "City Activities with Dancehall" and More

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Wikipedia entry here, is classed as a Regionalist artist.   Regionalists were basically a small group of American painters active in the 1930s.  Their typical subject matter was rural activities.  In the case of today's subject, the setting is New York City, but the focus is on working class people.

"City Activities with Dancehall" was one of a 1930-31 set of murals with the general title "America Today" commissioned for architect Joseph Urban's The New School for Social Research building in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.  The murals were later restored and moved to an insurance company's building, finally being donated to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are on view.

It's the nature of murals that they be visually "busy" -- lots of details -- and that is true for the America Today set.  In addition, Benton's style featured people in twisted, exaggerated poses, adding to the visual interest, though seeming cartoon-like to some observers.

Being strongly interested in the 1920s and 1930s decades, I was pleased to see the Met's display the last time I visited New York.

The Gallery below deals with "City Activities with Dancehall" along with some details from "City Activities with Subway."


City Activities with Dancehall
The entire mural.

View of most of the left side.  Wall Street, a Depression-era speakeasy/dancehall and a movie theatre are some of the subjects.

View of most of the right side.  The woman in red at the far left is Benton's wife.  Benton himself is at the far right wearing a green shirt.

Slightly wider view.

This woman is Elizabeth England, later the wife of Charles Pollock, Jackson Pollock's older brother.  The Pollock brothers studied under Benton.  She also appears in the movie audience wearing a red hat.

Benton claimed that many of the people depicted were based on portrait sketches he had made for this project and in preceding years.  This one is of Alvin Johnson who was a founder of The New School.  On the mural he is shown by Benton, clinking glasses in a casual toast to the project.

"City Activities with Subway" detail

The man seated wearing a light blue suit is Max Eastman, well known in New York intellectual circles.

This is Peggy Reynolds, shown standing holding a subway car strap.  Benton used her head from the drawing, but the rest of the figure  was from another sketch.  She was a burlesque star at the time.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Molti Ritratti - Júlia Peraire

Subjects of my Molti Ritratti posts are famous, or at least well-known, people.  But today's post is different.   Featured is Júlia Peraire i Ricarte (1888-1941), model, mistress and wife of Ramon Casas (1866-1932), an important Barcelona-based artist.  Her Catalunian Wikipedia entry is here, and translation is available.

Casas' Wikipedia entry mentions that he came from a wealthy family.  But she did not, and his family did not approve of him marrying her, which he did not do until 1922.  Their relationship began in 1906 when he saw her selling flowers and lottery tickets outside a Plaça de Catalunya cafe.

She served as model for a number of advertising images, many drawings, and paintings.  Examples are presented below.


Flora - 1906
As mentioned, she had been a flower seller.

Julia en grana - 1906

Sargantain - 1907
For some reason, this is said to be Casas' best-known painting of her.

Júlia - drawing c.1907

Jocs Florals poster - 1908
An example of her in Casas' commercial work.

Júlia en blau - 1908

Júlia - c.1908
Undated, but probably painted about the same time as the previous painting.

Júlia - c.1908

Cordobesa - 1913
She was born in Barcelona, but here Casas depicts her in Cordova costume.

Julia in Red and Green - 1915

Júlia - 1925
She was about 37 years old when this was painted: still an attractive woman.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Some Cruise Ship Art

Paintings or reproductions are commonly found in hotel rooms or similar accommodations such as cruise ship cabins.

Recently (October-November 2021) I found myself on a fancy cruise ship on the Mediterranean.  It had art almost everyplace.  Even each of the cabins seemed to have different works, and not just the same reproductions in the same spots.

The cruise ship was no art museum, and there surely was a painting acquisition budget.  A result was that nearly all this original art was of mediocre quality (according to my biased perspective).

Some iPhone snapshots I hurriedly made the day before the cruise ended are displayed below.  I didn't bother with abstract paintings, focusing on some that were somewhat representational.  Since the ship was built and fitted out in Europe, European paintings seem to be what was purchased.


La Visita by Arcadio Cancio - 2002
Quite Picasso-like.

"In the Circus" by Uver Solís - 1953
I'm not sure how to categorize this.

"Piano Woman" by Hiremio Santa Olaya García - 2011

There were a few strongly naturalistic paintings such as this one.  It had no title posted, nor the name of the painter.

Not badly done, though the brushwork on the woman's arms is unfortunate.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Mark English does Bernie Fuchs

Mark English (1933–2019) was an outstanding illustrator of the 1960s generation that included such greats as Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak.  For an overview of his career and analyses of his work, I suggest you link to David Apatoff posts here and here.

I find English difficult to pin down due to his use of several distinctive styles.  A few examples are shown below.

But my main purpose here is to present two illustrations for 1963 Buicks done in the style of Bernie Fuchs, who at that time was extremely influential.  It's likely that an art director ordered English to "do some like Fuchs."  And English, a skilled illustrator still fairly early in his career who had a household to support, did.

Click on images to enlarge.


Albert Einstein

A "clinch"


Eddie Bauer catalog cover art

Viviane Woodard advertisement
English's signature is below the yellow flower.   It's similar to those in the car ads below.

Automobile Advertising Illustration

1963 Buick advertisement art (part)
His signature is next to the rear tire.

1963 Buick advertisement

1963 Buick advertisement art detail via
His signature is by the lower left corner. Note the similarity of his treatment of people to Bernie Fuchs' style shown next.  Also note how small the people are compared to the car.  This reduction of peoples' sizes was common car ad practice since the 1930s and perhaps before, the idea being to make the car seem impressively large.

1960 General Motors advertisement, Bernie Fuchs illustration

Seagrams ad art, circa 1960
This shows Fuchs' treatment of people at that time in more detail. Compare to English's Buick illustrations.