Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Brownie" Mostly Worked in Black & White

I exaggerated when writing the title of this post, but not very much. Arthur William Brown (1881-1966) spent much of his career not making color oil paintings for magazine covers, but instead did interior illustrations that were usually printed in black and white in those days when color printing was expensive.

Currently, there is little biographical information about Brown on the Internet, though you might consider linking here and here. There's more about him in books dealing with illustrators such as Fred Taraba's fairly recent Masters of American Illustration.

It seems that Brownie (as he was known by his illustrator and other friends) was an early adopter of reference photographs. This was influenced by his slow, careful approach to creating what look to be quickly-done illustrations. (They appear quickly-done because he mostly worked in crayon, pencil and washes that seem less substantial than illustrations done using oil paints.)

What interests me is that he was good at capturing facial expressions and character. How much of this was the product of the photos he took and how much was conscious deviations from the photographic images? I am not aware of any surviving reference photos from the 1920s and 30s that can be compared to the finished works they were used for, so perhaps that matter can't be resolved. Given that Brownie was highly skilled, I'll assume he used his photos as the starting point and didn't copy them slavishly.

Brownie was good, successful, and popular socially. Still, I place him a fraction of a notch below the likes of F.R. Gruger and Henry Patrick Raleigh who used similar media in their illustration work.

Gallery

Brownie with his fancy new 1927 Packard. He made a lot of money in the 1920s, but was badly hit in the 1929 stock market crash.

A publicity photo of Brownie at work in the mid-1940s.

Another publicity shot. Here he and Russell Patterson are sketching Florence Kallender in tony Palm Beach Florida, 1947. Brownie was perfectly capable of sketching, but as was mentioned above, he normally used reference photos.

Greta Garbo, done in 1937.

Note Brownie's skill in depicting facial expressions.

A 1920s story illustration.

Illustration for a 1930 Saturday Evening Post story.

1937 story illustration.

A Post illustration from 1935.

By the 1940s, two-color magazine interior printing was common, so Brownie adjusted.  Some other two-color illustrations are seen above.  The first also is from the early 1940s and the next was done in 1937, as noted.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Wilfrid de Glehn: John Singer Sargent Associate

Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn (1870-1951) was a British painter with German roots (he changed the spelling of his family name from von Glehn during the Great War), who worked with John Singer Sargent and Edwin Austin Abbey (details on this are sketchy, however). He remained friends with Sargent and was depicted by him on a few occasions.

De Glehn's Wikipedia entry is here, but it is brief. Much more information can be found on this site, including some information regarding himself and Sargent (here). More information on de Glehn and his wife Jane is here.

While de Glehn can be considered an impressionist, he made many portraits that were traditional in style. His series on female nudes tended to be more sketchy, but not impressionist.

J.S. Sargent Depicts the de Glehns

Jane de Glehn (in a Corfu garden)

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy - 1907

Sketchers - 1913
The woman is thought to be Jane, but could be someone else.


Gallery: de Glehn's Works

Self-Portrait

Fishing
A website has this dated 1932, but I'd say it would be more like 1912, to judge by the clothing.

Shadows on the Wall, Cannes, France

Lynn Fontanne - 1912
Fontanne was British, but best-known on the American stage, often appearing with her husband, Alfred Lunt.

Sisters - 1923

Mrs Neville Chamberlain - 1924

Clare Collins - 1927

Jane Emmett - 1931
This is the niece of Jane Emmett, de Glehn's wife.

Louise in Stripped Dress

Resting
De Glehn painted many nudes.

Val d'Aosta scene
An example of de Glehn's landscape work.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Violet, the Artist Duchess

Marion Margaret Violet Manners (née Lindsay), Duchess of Rutland (1856-1937) was a famed Victorian beauty who was portrayed by the likes of George Frederic Watts and James Jebusa Shannon.

But Violet (as she was generally known) was able to turn the tables, so to speak, because she made many pencil portraits of people in her social circle as well as some other noteworthy Britons. Her Wikipedia entry mentions that she had no formal art training. But, given her circumstances (her paternal grandfather was the 24th Earl of Crawford), she surely was instructed in drawing and perhaps painting as part of her education. Sources indicate that she painted portraits, but I could turn up no usable examples during one of my habitually slapdash Google searches. What I did find were plenty of images of her drawings, some of which are displayed below.

Another thing I'm not sure about is whether or not she used photographs as the basis for her drawings. Regardless, she did have a knack for capturing expressions, provided the subject displayed a demeanor other than Victorian sobriety.

Gallery

Sir Rennell Rodd, C.B., Afterwards Lord Rennel of Rodd

Lady Rodd

Lord Charles Beresford, C.B.

Marquess of Salibury, K.G.

Mrs E. Tennant, Afterwards Lady Glenconnor

Princess Trubetzkoy, neé Amelie Rives

The Duchess of Portland

Mr Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jefferson Machamer: Gals, Gals, Gals Cartoonist

Thomas Jefferson Machamer (1901-1960) was a popular cartoonist from the mid-1920s through the 1940s. A brief Wikipedia entry is here, and a detailed career outline and evaluation of his work is here.

Machamer had a breezy, sketchy, distinctive style of drawing in ink that served him well. The second link above opines that the humor in the situations he depicted and the wit of his captions wasn't first-rate. I'm inclined to agree; his strong suit was his drawing style. He featured attractive young women ("gals") throughout his career, and even married one (movie actress Pauline Moore). A problem I have with this is that the gals he drew tended to look very similar if one ignores their clothing and hair style/hair color. Apparently this didn't bother his many fans.

The bottom line for me is that while I have some reservations, I basically enjoy Machamer's work. Click on those images with lots of details to enlarge.

Gallery

Judge cover - 6 August 1927
Satire on 1920s fashions for guys 'n' gals.

Judge cover - 10 March 1928
Here we get closer to Machamer's signature style.

Judge interior art

Katherine Hepburn
After Hepburn burst onto the Hollywood scene, Machamer's gals' faces underwent a change.

A representative post-Hepburn cartoon by Machamer

Gags and Gals panel - late 1930s
The fellow in the top hat in the next-to-bottom strip is a self-caricature that Machamer often included in his cartoons.

Some advice on drawing cartoon gals

Workups of gals' heads

Workups of full-figure gals

Example of Machamer landscape drawing - 1949
Look carefully and you will see a gal.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Well Could Cézanne Draw?

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), who received little general recognition until the last decade of his life, is now credited as being the "bridge" to modernist "isms" of the early 1900s from Impressionism and various Postimpressionist styles. His career is summarized here.

His image to casual art fans is that of a reclusive, provincial bumpkin who somehow made good in terms of Modernist Establishment art history. There is some truth in this, but there was more to Cézanne than that. In the first place, he had a good pre-university classical education, being able to translate from the Latin, for instance. He was a close boyhood friend of Émile Zola, later the famous journalist and novelist. His artistic potential caught the eye of Camille Pissarro, a leading French Impressionist, who joined him on plein air painting expeditions.

At his core, Cézanne can be considered a theorist, especially where art was concerned. He theorized about color, perspective, brushwork, the basic nature of forms and other matters that became important to the likes of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and other modernists who claimed that he had opened their eyes in various ways.

One thing Cézanne didn't much bother with was accurate drawing, especially of people -- something he must have considered incidental to his theory-based artistic goals. Or perhaps he didn't much bother with accurate drawing because he has limited ability in that task. Let's examine some evidence.

House of the Hanged Man, Auvers-sur-Oise - 1873
Cézanne painted many landscapes and still lifes. This is one of his best and most famous plein air efforts from the early part of his career. One would have to see the original scene to properly evaluate how Cézanne interpreted it. But what we can see here is something solid and reasonably believable.

The Barque of Dante (after Delacroix) c. 1870-73
He spent a fair amount of time in the Louvre when in Paris. Here is his copy of a Delacroix. Details are mostly omitted, but the colors and shapes of the subjects in the original are fairly well captured.

Hortense Breast Feeding Paul - c. 1873
Cézanne didn't marry Hortense until 1886 when their relationship was on the skids. But he was devoted to his son, young Paul. For this painting, he did a better job of depicting people than usual.

Couple in a Garden (The Conversation) - 1872-73
At about the same time, he made this painting where the people are badly done. It is likely that Cézanne did them from imagination, because he seldom paid for models.

Jeune garçon au gilet rouge - 1888-89
Fifteen years later he still gets anatomy wrong. Note how elongated the boy's upper right arm is. Also, just where is the left arm's elbow? The ear seems too large or the face is too small. Cézanne was noted for spending much of his time observing rather than painting -- taking long intervals between brush strokes. But if he was observing so closely, how could he have messed up so badly what was right before his eyes?

Les joueurs de carte (The Card Players) - 1892-95
Cézanne gets anatomy wrong in this, one of his most famous paintings. A charitable explanation is that he had his attention focused on other aspects of the scene, and that the men are mere props or fodder for his theoretical explorations.

So it seems that Cézanne was almost incapable of painting people properly proportioned. Now let's see what happens where painting and all his theories are stripped away and the focus is on depicting human form.

Studies - 1871-76
A page of sketches. The upper female figure is convincingly done from around the waist down, and the Arab in the foreground seems solidly done. The other figures are too sketchy to evaluate.

Self-Portrait - c. 1875
Another decently done job. Not a great drawing, but a good one. However, I do wonder a little regarding the size and placement of his ear.

Madame Cézanne with Hortensias - 1885
I think this treatment of Hortense is the best Cézanne drawing I've ever encountered. It shows that, on occasion, he could do a good job of depicting people. All that he needed was a pencil instead of a paintbrush.