Thursday, October 19, 2017

Up Close: Cornwell's LA Library Murals

Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) was one of the most important American illustrators from around the time of the Great War into the 1950s (short biography here). But, as I posted here, like Edwin Austin Abbey and John Singer Sargent, Cornwell was seduced by the concept that murals were the road to artistic immortality (think Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling).

So in the later 1920s Cornwell spent time studying mural painting under Frank Brangwyn. Some of this style rubbed off on his illustration work, as I pointed out here.

When the city of Los Angeles had a new Public Library built, part of the concept was to include a good deal of interior art, as mentioned here. Included was a set of murals by Cornwell. The library's web site has a page dealing with him and his murals, including mention of critical appraisals.

Not long ago I came across some photos I took of the murals back in 2010. I used some tools on my iMac to enhance what were images of dubious quality. The better results are presented below. Because I fiddled with brightness, contrast, sharpness and the colors themselves, I suggest you pay more attention to Cornwell's compositions and drawing than to colors.


This is the setting I had to work with ... murals mounted high with bright sunlight nearby.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Henry Salem Hubbell: From Giverny to Miami Beach

Henry Salem Hubbell (1870-1949) is considered an American Impressionist even though many of his works were conventional in style -- especially portraits that necessarily had to satisfy their subjects. Although his reputation might be rising, as this lengthy article about him contends, he remains so obscure that Wikipedia has not received an entry on him as of the time this post was drafted (early June, 2017). A shorter take on Hubbell can be found here.

He had ability, and studied at Chicago's Art Institute and Paris' Académie Julian under Bouguereau, as well as under Whistler elsewhere. Time was spent with the American contingent in Giverny, where Monet was based. After returning to the USA, Hubbell practiced his trade in the Northeast, but eventually settled in Miami Beach, Florida -- an unlikely place for an artist in his day.

Like many artists he made much of his living doing portraits, but his favorite subject matter was attractive, elegant young women in genteel settings.


The Orange Robe - 1908

Tea Time

By the Fireside - 1909

Ladies having tea

Luminous Reflection
Interesting thinly painted background contrasted with heavy brushwork on the costumes, but not the faces.

Girl in a Green Dress
This looks like a Giverny-era work in the spirit of Richard E. Miller and Frederick Frieseke.

Seated woman
From the subject's dress and hair, this might have been painted in 1920 (plus or minus five years).

Franklin D. Roosevelt - 1935
Hubbell painted more than one portrait of Roosevelt. Comparing the coloring of the face and hand, I question the quality of this image found on the web.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

More Early Duchamp Paintings

Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) did a lot of damage to western culture and art. Or so I think. But if it hadn't been Duchamp, someone (or, more likely, several someones) would have done the same thing not long later. Biographical information on him can be found here.

Duchamp had a comparatively brief career as a painter before drifting over to other activities including his passion for chess. His most famous painting, "Nude Descending a Staircase" was a mix of Cubism and Futurism. I mention it and an early, more naturalistic painting here.

I revisited the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida in May and found the portrait of his sister-in-law that I featured in the link above, and also found several other early Duchamp paintings. As often happens when photographing paintings in museums, images of two of those paintings were too blurred to post here. The others are presented below. Click on them to enlarge.

The point I make with these images is that while the early Duchamp painted in a modernist vein, it was a conservative variety of modernism.


Sur la Falaise - 1905
Duchamp was about 18 years old when he did this landscape.

Portrait d'Yvonne Duchamp-Villon, née Bon - 1907
An establishment photo I took in 2012 that also can be found in my older Duchamp post.

Detail. He was about 20 when he did this. Although it is signed, the sketchy treatment of Yvonne's hand gives the painting an unfinished appearance. The rationalization for this probably would have something to do with the idea that the hand was an irrelevant detail.

An even closer view. I find it interesting that Duchamp essentially washes out the subject's mouth and to a lesser extent her eyes while emphasizing (comparatively) her nose. Note the limited color palette. Altogether, a nice pierce of work for one that age.

Maison Paysanne, Yport - 1907
A peasant's cottage painted the same year, but in quite a different style.

Detail of the above, showing how thickly Duchamp painted here.  Or perhaps this was an over-painting of a previous work that used thick paints: I'm not expert enough to be sure which possibility is correct.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lucien Simon of the Bande Noire and Brittany

Lucien Joseph Simon (1861-1945) was not born in Brittany, though his artistic career was centered there. He was born into an upper-middle class family in the Saint-Sulpice quarter of the 6th arrondissement, probably not far from my favorite Paris hotel.

It seems that Simon was well known and well regarded in his day, and I am ashamed that he escaped my painter radar for so long. Another item I missed was that he was part of a small movement called le Bande noir (Black Band), a group also unknown to me.

A brief English Wikipedia entry on Simon is here, and a much longer one in French (that your computer should be able to translate) is here.

It seems that Simon acquired his interest in Brittany via his wife, also an artist, who had Breton roots.

Below are examples of Simon's work in approximate chronological order.


Jeunes Bigoudènes assises vues de dos - c. 1898

Procession in Penmarch - 1901

Fin de repas à Kergaït - 1901

La mascarade - 1904

Le balcon de theatre

Le goûter - c. 1906

Place au Beurre, Quimper

Visit of Aman-Jean to Sémaphore - 1917
Sémaphore was the Simon house in Brittany, and Edmond Aman-Jean was an artist and contemporary of Simon.

The Music Lesson

Après la guerre - c. 1919

Famille à Sémaphore - 1923

Atelier aux champs, la gare de Chaville - 1930

Thursday, October 5, 2017

More In the beginning: Salvador Dalí

I previously wrote about early paintings by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) here. I visited the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida again this May and noticed that on display were a number of paintings from his pre-Surrealist career.

I took digital snapshots of many of them for the purpose of this post, which is to further document his beginner's path. As usual, photos taken in museums vary in quality form mediocre to absolutely rotten trash, so take the images below as rough indicators of the actual works. You can click on them to enlarge.

What I found interesting are two things. First, apparently Dalí kept most of what he painted, not throwing away early items as many artists would be tempted to do. Second, I was impressed by how many different modernist styles he tried from his early teens into his early twenties before settling on the carefully rendered depiction style he is known for in his paintings. Many artists took a longer time to settle on their main style and tried fewer alternatives in the process.


Vista de Cadaqués con la sombra del Monte Paní - 1917
Dalí was about 13 years old when he painted this oil-on-burlap scene.

Huerto de Es Llaner, Cadaqués - 1918-19
It's a little hard to see it at this resolution (try enlarging), but this small work is very thickly painted. He was 14 or 15 when he did this.

Autorritrato (Figueres) - 1921
Age 17. Perhaps more fantasy that an accurate portrayal.

El camino de Port Lligat con vistas sobre el Cap de Creus - 1922-23
At age 18 or 19 he tried this more traditional/impressionist approach.

Cadaqués - 1923
Now Dalí is around 19 and picks up on the retreat from Cubism to somewhat classical elements of early 1920s modernism.

Retrato di mi hermina - 1923
From about the same time he did this interesting playing-card format portrait of his sister. The museum has it hung with the more modernist end at the top. I am not sure of Dalí's intensions in this regard.

Retrato di mi hermina (flipped, detail)
Detail of the more traditional style segment.

Tieta, ritrato de mi tia, Cadaqués - 1923-24
Same vintage, but now Postimpressionist Divisionism. His aunt's face is mostly a color blob.

Naturaleza muerto: Sandía - 1924
At age 20 we have this Cubist-inspired still life.

Estudio de un desnudo feminino - 1925
Now about 21 years old, Dalí is experimenting with another variety of brushwork.

Cesta de pan 1926
Finally, about 22 years of age, we find him approaching the expected Dalí style in this painting of bread in a breadbasket. All this was a fast, wild, art-style ride.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Henry Young Alison: One-Eyed Scottish Painter

Henry Young Alison (1889-1972) both lost an eye and was captured by the Germans during the Great War. By the late 1920s he was an instructor at the Glasgow School of Art and for a brief period was its interim Director. That information, plus a bit more, can be found on this page of the school's web site. There might be more information regarding Alison, but it didn't turn up during my brief Google search.

He painted many landscapes, but I'll feature works below showing people, as I consider that a stronger test of an artist's abilities.

As you will see, Alison was no Modernist, at least not well into the 1930s. His paintings of people are strongly done, solid works.


Cliffs and Rocks
An example of his landscape painting to show that even in this genre he could paint strongly.

Elspeth Galloway - 1914

Highland Chief

Elizabeth Payton

Self-Portrait - 1920s

Lilly Jamieson - c. 1931

Youth - c. 1936
Here Alison combines landscape and portrayal.