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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

John Berkey Paints a Cadillac

A few years ago on this blog I wondered if John Berkey was the best illustrator of space ships. Along with science-fiction book covers, Berkey also did more conventional illustration. A skimpy Wikipedia entry is here and a website devoted to his art is here.

Not long ago I was mousing through the web and came across two studies by Berkey that were up for sale. They looked oddly familiar, and then I realized that they were preliminary art for the cover of a 1976 book I've owned for nearly 40 years. Since the cover art wasn't of a space ship, I never connected it with Berkey. But I flipped to the back flap and, sure enough, John Berkey was listed as the artist.

The subject is a 1930 or 1931 Cadillac V-16 Town Brougham by Fleetwood shown sitting in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Below are Berkey's studies along with a scan I made of the cover. To enlarge, click on the images.


This seems to be an earlier study. It's fairly sketchy.

This study is closer to the final version. The car has reversed its direction and now includes a chauffeur as well as greater detail of other elements.

Scan of the book cover.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Will Bradley: Master Poster Artist

The Art Nouveau era from roughly 1890 to near the time of the Great War was a high point for poster design, in my opinion. Laurtrec, Jules Cheret, Maxfield Parrish, Alphonse Mucha and others created designs for posters and magazine covers (a closely related field) that remain popular works of art. Perhaps the leading American poster artist in that era was Will H. Bradley (1868-1962), the subject of this post.

A brief Wikipedia entry on Bradley is here, a link with more detail and plenty of images is here, and a chronology of his life can be found here. He had a long career that involved art direction as well as creating artwork.

Bradley was essentially self-taught, learning his trade on the job. The images below are mostly or entirely from the late 1890s. If I eventually find enough interesting illustration art from later in his career, I'll post on that.


Chapbook cover - Nov. 1895
Plenty of Art Nouveau swirls here.

Inland Printer cover - February 1895
This has more of an Art & Crafts feeling.

Springfield Bicycle Club poster - 1895
Although motor cars existed in 1895, bicycling had become popular due to the invention of the bicycle chain drive.

Bradley, His Book - 1896
A faint hint of Aubrey Beardsley here.

Victor Bicycles poster - 1899

When Hearts Are Trumps
This seems strongly influenced by Beardsley.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mikhail Vrubel: Square-Brush Paintings

Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) died blind and not totally sane. Before that, he was one of the most interesting artists Russia produced as the traditionalist-academic school of painting crumbled and Modernism worked its way to ascendancy.

Vrubel had a law degree, but then studied painting at the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburg. For a few years he worked on a project in Kiev to replace 12th century murals and was able to travel to Venice, but also began to work on images of a demon based on an epic poem by Mikhail Lermontov. His first Demon painting in 1890 was noteworthy enough to launch his career. This and more biographical in formation can be found here and here.

Vrubel could vary his style, but his best-known paintings feature a good deal of square-brush work to create a fragmented, jewel-like effect around more smoothly painted faces and other features of his subjects. The best place I know of to view Vrubel's art is in Moscow's State Tretyakov Gallery a short distance south of the river bordering the Kremlin. When I was there, an entire room was devoted to Vrubel.


Head of a Woman (Emilia Prakhova) - study for "The Virgin and Child" - 1884 or 1885
Pencil and gouache. I include this to show Vrubel's approach early in his career. Later drawings were more wispy with plenty of possibly excess lines included.

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel - 1904
The artist's opera singer wife. This was painted not long before he lost his sight. Vrubel was not completely wedded to the square-brush - jeweled effects he is most famous for.

Seated Demon - 1890
As noted, he made several Demon-themed paintings, and this is the first and most famous.

Swan Princess - 1900
His wife depicted in a role she sang in a Rimsky-Korsakov opera. Another of his best-known paintings.

Fallen Demon - 1902
Vrubel continued the Demon a dozen years after the first painting.

Artist's Wife in a Stage Dress - 1898
More of a sketch than a finished work here.

Siren - 1900
Absent the woman, this would be an abstract painting.

Six-Winged Seraph - 1904
Another classic Vrubel image.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lyonel Feininger's Crystalline Images

Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) got his start as a cartoonist, even though he was given formal training in art. So it can be helpful to be a well-fed young artist rather than a starving one while working on one's skills. As this biographical sketch mentions, he finally got around to the Fine Arts trade when he was in his mid-30s.

Feininger is best known for images that were probably originally inspired by Cubism, but usually lacked the Cubist rationale that subjects were supposedly simultaneously depicted from various points of view in one image. Instead, Feininger simplified subjects using straight edges and planes, often extending edge lines across the picture plane accompanied by transitional value shading. The result was a clean, somewhat crystalline appearance that has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. Other artists picked up on this, including C.R.W. Nevinson and Ray Hill, the latter an instructor at the University of Washington when I was an art student.

Below are examples from what I consider to be Feininger's Golden Years.


Gross-Kromsdorf - 1915

Hohe Häuser IV - 1919
This seems to be about as Cubist as Feininger could manage.

Gelmeroda VIII - 1921
Even people are reduced to lines and angles.

The High Shore - 1923
A crystalized landscape.

Gaberndorf II - 1924
Another somewhat Cubist image.

Church of the Minorites II - 1926
Gothic arches are reduced to angles here.

Bird Cloud - 1926
The bird's wings seem Futurist-inspired (think: Giacomo Balla's Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio -- "Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash" - 1912).

Sail Boats - 1929

Gelmeroda XIII - 1936