Monday, March 31, 2014

Terence Cuneo's Railroad Paintings

I was never a railroad buff. Perhaps should have been, given that my grandfather and uncle on my father's side were railroad men. Maybe that is why, when I think of Terence Cuneo (1907-1996), a famous British illustrator and painter in his day, what comes to mind are his wartime, aircraft and automobile works rather than the railway paintings that seem to be what he is best remembered for. That memory was manifested in a statue of him placed in London's Waterloo Station a few years ago.

No doubt some -- or even many -- readers are train fans. So with that in mind, I'm presenting examples of Cuneo's railway art. Some are simply portraits of famous locomotives, other works deal with various aspects of train travel.

Information on Cuneo can be found on his Wikipedia entry, this post on Lines and Colors blog, and his daughter's comments here.

Gallery

Flying Scotsman - 1984
Golden Arrow - 1984
Royal Scot - 1984
Some portraits of famous locomotives of times past.

Clapham Junction - 1961

Giants Refreshed: Pacifica in the Doncaster Locomotive Works - 1947

The Day Begins - 1946

Bon Voyage: Joining Steam Ships at Calais - 1952

Waterloo Station - 1967
This is a huge painting that can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York, England.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Eric Sloane: Illustrator of Rural America

Eric Sloane, born Everard Jean Hinrichs (1905-1985) was a prolific and popular illustrator and writer of books dealing with rural life, largely in New England and the northeastern United States. I was well aware of his publications when I lived in Upstate New York and he was still active.

His Wikipedia entry explains why he used a pseudonym to launch his career. Some other sites with biographical information regarding Sloane are here and here.

Sloane's illustrations are rather tightly drawn or painted, probably because he thought it necessary to document how the components of the structures he was depicting were assembled. He was more lyrical when it came to the buildings' settings -- particularly skies and other atmospherics.

Sloane spent time in Taos, New Mexico as well as in the Northeast, but the images presented below deal with the latter, because that region was his main focus.

Gallery

Page from one of his books illustrating mid-1800s construction methods

View of an abandoned barn

"End of Summer"

"Late Summer"

"February Morning"

"Skating by the Bridge"

"Autumn in New England"

"Autumn Clouds"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Peter Ellenshaw Matte Art

Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007) is considered a major master of the specialized art of matte painting. A left-handed artist, he was born in England and worked in the matte trade there until he was 40, when he moved to the United States and spent much of his later career at Disney.

Ellenshaw's brief Wikipedia entry is here. The Ellenshaw family website is here (Peter wasn't the only Ellenshaw matte artist). A good source for information about matte art is "NZ Pete," whose site is here; I grabbed several of the images below from Pete.

Gallery

Loch Brin, County Kerry
I don't know if this painting was done for Ellenshaw's personal enjoyment or whether it was related to a movie project. In either case, it shows him as a landscape artist.

"Island at the Top of the World" - concept art - 1974
Besides mattes, Ellenshaw was sometimes involved with concept art for film projects.

"Mary Poppins" - London panorama composite - 1964
"Mary Poppins" was a major project for Ellenshaw. Being an Englishman, creating a London panorama was probably easier than it might have been for an American.

"Mary Poppins" - St. Paul's neighborhood - 1964

"Spartacus" - composite of Roman Forum - 1960
Live action was located where the crowds are seen; the rest was largely or entirely painted.

"Spartacus" - details of Forum matte - 1960
The black area at the bottom of the upper detail image is part of the area reserved for live action. Note how freely Ellenshaw painted some of the indidental buildings.

"The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin" - 1967
Disney called upon Ellenshaw to paint clusters of sailing ship masts on more than one occasion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

James Montgomery Flagg, Illustrator

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) was one of America's most popular illustrators from early in the twentieth century through the 1930s, and to a lesser extent beyond, as his sketchy style fell out of synch with illustration fashion.

A brief Wikipedia biography is here, but more useful sources are here (for details) and here, where you can scroll to view examples of his work.

I am ambivalent regarding Flagg's art. That might be because it's a little too loose and too stylized for me. Let me elaborate. The looseness could drift towards a lack of control. As for stylization, his faces sometimes came off more Flagg-like than how peoples actually appeared. I'll point out examples below. On the other hand, he was quite capable of "nailing it," and I'll point that out too.

Gallery

Army recruiting poster - 1917
This is by far Flagg's most famous work: iconic to this day.

Illustration for Judge magazine cover, 31 March 1917
Flagg could paint in oils, but that was done mostly when he wasn't illustrating.

Pen and ink illustration
Much of Flagg's illustration work was for magazine interiors, rather than covers. Before the 1920s, he often used pen-and-ink, as did many other illustrators at that time. (This illustration seems to be from the 30s, however, so he continued to use a pen when he could get away with it.)

Wash or watercolor illustration - 1930s
By the 1920s and 30s, he had largely switched to water media. The girl is nicely done, but the Rolls-Royce in the background is far too sketchily done (inaccurately drawn) to suit me.

In Liberty Magazine - 27 October 1934
But here Flagg shines. Not the whole illustration, but with the seated women. Especially the expression on her face.

Sketch of actress Jean Harlow
This is an example of Flagg-style taking over bits of portraiture. Yes, it looks like Harlow. And yes, there's no mistaking who drew her.

"Lost Horizon" poster - 1937
More Flagg intrusion, especially his treatment of the subjects' noses and the general sketchiness that detracts from what many people expect from a movie poster. Flagg's treatment of Ronald Colman's right shoulder is just plain wrong.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Test of Time: PoMo vs. Velvet Elvis

Just an idle thought, here. Nothing profound, as usual. I was thinking about something I wrote about in my e-book Art Adrift, and this odd idea popped into my head. Let me explain it.

An Art Adrift contention is that much modern and probably even more postmodern art lacks staying power. That's because, especially for the postmodern case, subject matter and presentation fashions are too rooted in the current scene, and universals of humanity tend to be ignored. Ironic takes on cultural references replace emotions such as joy, sorrow, wistfulness and such. Centuries, or even decades from now, how many viewers of paintings will have any idea what such paintings are about, especially if images are considerably distorted from everyday reality? We can relate to paintings by Rembrandt, but will folks 400 years from now (to use a similar time scale) be able to relate to one of Willem DeKooning's messy paintings of women?

Now for my (insightful? crazy? silly?) thought. A couple of hundred years from now, would a painting of Elvis Presley on black velvet be better appreciated than postmodern paintings of certain types? Consider the following:

Gallery


Two Elvis Presley paintings on black velvet
I found these images near the top of a Google seach.

"And Then And Then And Then And Then And Then" - by Takashi Murakami

"Postmodern Sisyphus" by Ana Maria Edulescu

Political portrait of Obama by Samoa

Clearly Elvis is a 20th century cultural icon / artifact / whatever. Few in the distant future are likely to know about him. But he is a fellow human, and a viewer of even an on-velvet Elvis might well be interested in viewing it for its human aspects. The Murakami painting might be recognized as some kind of cartoon, and the painting of a man wearing a hat could well be dismissed as not interesting or informative. As for the artist Samoa's painting showing Barack Obama, it is highly likely that it will simply be a puzzlement, its (poorly drawn) subject and accompanying iconography without meaning.

To be clear: I don't contend that Elvis paintings are or will be necessarily considered great art; but I suggest they'll be easier to relate to than much postmodernism.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jupp Wiertz Poster Art

A lot of artistic talent and effort went into poster design and illustration during the first several decades of the twentieth century, especially in Europe. I have already written about German artists Ludwig Hohlwein and Werner Axster-Heudtlass. The present post deals with Jupp Wiertz (1888-1939), another capable German illustrator. Unfortunately, I could find little about him in English, but his Wikipedia entry in German is fairly substantial.

Wiertz was versatile, as the images below indicate.

Gallery





The first posters shown above seem to have been done in the 1920s and even before. By the 1930s, he was illustrating travel posters such as this one featuring Aachen. Note the touches of color at the street cafe and market, contrasting with the drab background elements -- a clever touch.

A rather extensive collection of elements here. The background is clearly New York City, but the presence of silhouetted palm trees puzzles me: a reference of California? Brazil, even? The ocean liner, airplane and Zeppelin obviously are travel means, and the silhouettes evoke Germany.

This is nicely dramatic, a Berlin view of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ged├Ąchtniskirche on the Kurf├╝rstendamm with its busy traffic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Giuseppe Amisani: Portrait Art


The portrait above of actress Maria Melato was by Giuseppe Amasani (1879-1941), an Italian artist who specialized in portraying women. He studied at a technical school, switched to art, briefly abandoned the field, attained some success, then traveled a good deal during the 1920s (Egypt, Brazil) before returning to Italy. That's what I glean from Wikipedia entries in Dutch and Portuguese -- entries in English and (surprisingly) Italian are little more than placeholding stubs.

Amasani's style does not neatly fit major categories. He painted realistically in terms of drawing, his colors were sometimes exaggerated as best I can tell from Internet images, and his brushwork was almost always visible, but ranged from relatively subdued to strong.

Market interest in his paintings seems limited, for now. Apparently one can buy a Amasani at auction for only a few thousand dollars.

Here are more examples of his work.

Gallery

Portrait sketch

Ritratto di Emanuele Greppi
Amisanti also portrayed men.

Vera Vergani

Ritratto di Lyda Borelli
Lyda Borelli - 1912
Actress Borelli posed for Amisanti several times.

Riri
Riri col giubbetto rosa
  The biographies linked above do not say who Riri was. A wife?

Ballo nella taverna
This seems to be from the 1930s.