Wednesday, April 29, 2015

David Curtis, Contre-Jour Painter

David J. Curtis (1948- ) is an English painter adept both in watercolor and oil. His background is unusual in that he led an engineering team at Hawker-Siddeley till 1988 when he began painting full-time. (Another engineer-artist that comes to mind is R.G. Smith, who painted aviation scenes with impressive atmospheric environments.) Curtis' Web site is here, and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters page dealing with him is here.

A good many works by Curtis are of the contre-jour kind, where the light source (the sun, in Curtis' images) is behind the subject. Normally, artists have the light source behind the painter or towards one side or another, illuminating the subject directly or from an angle. James Gurney discusses contre-jour painting here.

Needless to say, to be an effective contre-jour painter, one must have a very good color sense. This Curtis has. He also has a feeling for making strong, interesting compositions.


Moorings on the Chesterfield Canal

Fine Autumn Day, Clayworth Wharf

Mooring at Hayton-Chesterfield Canal

Pembrokeshire Sea Cliffs, Port St. Justinian

Rocky Cove, Lleyn Peninsula

Vintage Car Workshop

Monday, April 27, 2015

George Henry: The "Glasgow Boy" Years

George Henry (1858–1943) was a prominent member of a group of Scottish painters known as the Glasgow Boys. The "Boys" were strongly influenced by the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage whose works were exhibited in London 1878-82. Glasgow Boys paintings tended to be toned-down, featuring earth colors such as browns, ochres, faded greens and such -- in line with what northern Europe offered in dreary terms of light and foliage for a good part of the year.

Not much biographical information on Henry was on the Internet when I drafted this post, so make do with this brief Wikipedia entry. More can be found in Roger Billcliffe's book about the Glasgow Boys.

I find Henry and most other "Boys" interesting because their works show us that there was a lot more going on in the art world of the 1880s than the Impressionism and post-impressionism in France that histories of art still focus on.


Brig o' Turk - 1882

Eyemouth - 1883
Two fairly early landscapes.

Noon - 1885
One of Henry's best-known paintings.

The Hedgecutter - 1886

Autumn - 1888
The brushwork, color usage and clutter suggests the influence of E.A. Hornell, a fellow Glasgow Boy. They spent a year and a half in Japan around 1894 and jointly painted "The Druids" (see below).

Galloway Landscape - 1889
This somewhat distorted and decorative painting is considered significant by art historians and critics because of its use of modernist elements.

Barr, Ayreshire - 1891
Another painting with more modernist influence than usual for Henry. By the early 1900s he reverted to a more traditional painting style, even eliminating Glasgow Boys elements.

Poppies - 1891

Rowans - 1895
Henry and Hornell made paintings featuring young girls. Henry did this for a comparatively short time, but the latter part of Hornell's career was largely based on such subject matter.

The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe - 1890
A work jointly painted with Hornell. This painting has always fascinated me, so I visit it whenever I'm in Glasgow.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Walter Schofield: Structural Impressionist

Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944) was a Philadelphian with English roots that were deepened by his marriage to an Englishwoman. Background regarding him can be found here and here.

Regarding his training and practice, this link states: "Born in Philadelphia, Schofield attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with Thomas Anshutz, and the Académie Julian in Paris, where his teachers included William-Adolphe Bouguereau. He built lasting friendships with Ashcan School painters Robert Henri, William Glackens, and John Sloan. In 1901 he and his young family moved to England; thereafter, he spent summers in Cornwall and fall through spring in the United States." The last years of his life were spent in England, probably due to the war.

Images of Schofield paintings I found on the Internet dating from his early 40s onward strike me as being impressionistic with regard to use of color, and somewhat inconsistently at that. One image below of a painting done in his late 30s is more purely Impressionist in its colors and brushwork. From around 1910 onwards, Schofield retained a rough brushing style, but made his images more structural by adding outlining and more clearly defined color areas. The result was a solid appearance that I happen to prefer to classic Impressionism of the Monet-Passarro variety.


Sand Dunes Near Lelant, Cornwall, England - 1905

French Village - ca. 1910

Morning Tide, Coast of Cornwall - ca. 1922

The Harbor, Sunday - ca. 1929

Village in Devon - ca. 1933

Autumn in Cornwall

Godolphin Pond in the Snow - 1940

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Walter Dean Goldbeck, Who Could Have Been Really Good

The image above is called Light of New York, painted by Walter Dean Goldbeck (1882 - 1925) around 1911 for a General Electric advertisement and later used as the 1 August 1914 cover illustration for Judge magazine and later as a sheet music cover illustration. A good deal of information on it can be found here, along with a few scraps of biographical information.

Goldbeck, born in St. Louis and died at age 43 in New York City, apparently did portraiture along with commercial art and flirted with Modernism in some of his Fine Art paintings. So far, not much of his work can be found via a Google search.

The illustrations by Goldbeck that I did find varied in quality from mediocre to interestingly well-done. Too bad he died at a comparatively young age.


From "Shogan's Daughter"

Judge cover art, 8 May 1915

"Pippins" - Puck cover art - 31 October 1914

Monday, April 20, 2015

In The Beginning: John Sloan

John Sloan (1871-1951), one of the so-called "Ashcan School" painters, began his artistic career as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia and continued that trade in New York City as he pursued his goal to be a painter. (Biographical information on Sloan can be found here.) Even though he eventually mostly painted, he continued to sustain himself economically by illustrating, making etchings and teaching.

When I began planning this post, I had hoped to find examples of his early newspaper work on the Internet. But the best I could manage was to find works from 1900-10 when his newspaper career was largely winding down. I previously wrote about Sloan here, dealing with an odd style he practiced late in his career.

All artists are not entirely consistent with regard to the quality of their work. Sloan strikes me as being more hit-and-miss than most -- mostly on the miss side. In fact, I find it puzzling that he is regarded as favorably as he seems to be. Some of that might be due to the fact that he was associated with a group of (better) artists active at a pivotal point in American art history. Perhaps his political views appeal to a number of art critics and scholars who therefore might be inclined to give his work the benefit of the doubt.

In any case, my take on Sloan is that some of his better work was done as a newspaper illustrator based on examples I've seen in print, but not on the Internet. For what it's worth, below are examples of Sloan's monochrome work from the 1900-10 decade along with a color illustration and one painting.


This is from the Society of Illustrators site that includes a good discussion of Sloan as an illustrator. It's not monochrome like the ones below. Moreover, I think it's a pretty nice example of Art Nouveau illustration. In fact, although I trust the Society of Illustrators, I somehow can't quite believe Sloan actually did this.

Drawing (crayon) - 1903

"Fun, One Cent" - 1905
I find Sloan's illustrations lacking class warfare content most interesting and perhaps even better done; those others take on the feel of political cartoons.

"Memory" - etching - 1906
Sloan and his wife Dolly at at the right.

"Sleepwalker and Hypnotist" - magazine illustration? - 1903
Looks like he dashed this one off.

Election Night - 1907
A sketch of a painting, though one of his better ones from around the same time as the illustration above.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ambrose McEvoy: Loosely-Painted Portraits

Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927) was an English painter who usually painted loosely in a sort of Post-Impressionist manner. However, he could tighten things up when called to do formal portraits of military officers and politicians.

It seems that McEvoy was well-known and respected in his comparatively short day (he died aged 48). Many of his works are in museum collections, though not necessarily on view. A biographical note can be linked here.

Although he was capable of good draftsmanship, McEvoy often wound up doing convincing faces while dithering with his brush over the remainder of the canvas. He painted in watercolor as well as oil, but the images shown below are all oil paintings.


Bessborough Street, Pimlico - 1900
I've waked along Bessborough Street a number of times. But that was a hundred years or so after this was painted. I know that some newish buildings are nearby, but can't remember whether or not I saw those pictured here.

Cottages at Aldbourne - 1915
Besides cityscapes, McEvoy painted landscapes such as this, an interesting mix of solidity and Impressionism.

Gwen John - ca. 1900
Augustus John's older sister and an artist in her own right. McEvoy and Augustus were friends and presumably he was a friend of Gwen as well.

Winston Churchill - ca. 1911-15
Painted while Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty.

Harry George Hawker
The aircraft designer who was killed in a plane crash in 1921.

Seated Nude - ca. 1920
An informal work where McEvoy was playing around with colors.

Viscountess Cranborne
Only the face and, oddly, the left shoe are well-defined here.

Miss Jeanne Courtauld - ca. 1926
For some reason this painting is in the Courtauld collection. Her left shoulder needs to stand out a trifle better to make the neck area read correctly.

James Ramsay MacDonald - 1926
Future Labour Prime Minister.

Elizabeth Johnson - ca. 1920
I perhaps like this best of McEvoy's portrait paintings. Probably something to do with the treatment of the face and his use of color. But there's something wrong with the shape of the hair and its lack of shading on the face.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Molti Ritratti: Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich

Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich can be translated as Empress Elisabeth of Austria. And to be fully pedantic, in 1867 she became empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Elisabeth (1837-1898), was the beautiful, uncomfortable, Bavarian consort to Emperor Franz Josef, and she came to a tragic end as the near-random target of an assassin, all of which is presented in detail here.

The empire vanished in the wake of the Great War, but Elisabeth (or "Sisi" as she is popularly called) remains the subject of great interest in Austrian and perhaps Hungary as well. I was in Vienna around the time of the centenary of her death, and saw plenty of souvenir images of her, including Sisi chocolates, that nearly rivaled the usual similar items for Mozart.

Although Elisabeth lived in the age of photography, her station in life made it imperative that painted portraits of her were made. Some of these are shown below.


Let's begin with photographs of the young Elisabeth to set the scene.

Photo taken on the day of her coronation as Queen of Hungary, 8 June 1867

Another photo

Now for a few paintings by unknown or lesser-known artists.

By unknown artist

By Amanda Bergstedt - 1855
When Elisabeth was about 18 years old, not long after she married Franz Josef.

By Georg Martin Ignaz Raab

By Hans Bitterlich

By Franz Schrotzberg

By Leopold Horovitz - 1899
Probably posthumous.  This, and several of the portraits below are dated the year of her death or the year after, and were likely derived from photographs in tribute to the departed empress.  Let us know in a comment if any of these "posthumous" works were actually painted from life.

Now for portraits by noted artists.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1864
An informal (private) portrait treasured by Franz Josef.  This shows her famous, (obsessively?) long hair.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

By Friedrich August Kaulbach - "Kaiserin Elisabeth auf Korfu" (klein pastell nach 1898)
A possibly posthumous pastel portrait by the noted Munich portrayer of Bismarck and others.

By Philip de Laszlo - 1898-99
Another possibly posthumous portrait, this by the important Hungarian portrait painter who later was very successful in England.

By Gyula Benczúr - 1899
Yet another likely posthumous portrait. Benczúr was a leading Hungarian artist whose worth was recognized in Bavaria and Italy as well, but not so much beyond that part of Europe.