Thursday, October 20, 2016

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport : Some 1965 Photos

There is little lack of photographs of the TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen at JFK Airport in New York City, but I'll add to that pile in this post.

For some background on the terminal, its Wikipedia entry is here.

It was an astonishing building when it opened in May of 1962, and remains so. TWA was staggering by the 1980s however, entering its first bankruptcy in 1991 and ten years later its remains were acquired by American Airlines. The terminal has had an equally uneven existence, and the plan is to transform it into a hotel -- the structure being the hotel's public areas (as best I can tell).

With one exception, the photos below were taken by me in June of 1965. They originally were slides that I scanned, cropped in many cases, and most had their color adjusted. They are not great photographic art, but might give you the flavor of the place when it was still fairly new.


View of the TWA terminal when nearly completed.

The approach was through a parking lot that is long gone.

Heading towards the entrance from the passenger drop-off zone.

The clock says it's nearly 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The tube-like shape in the background is a passageway to the airplanes.

View from the upper level.

A conversation nook.

The restaurant-bar.  The tail of a KLM airliner is seen at the extreme left.

Another view from the second level. It's now exactly 6 p.m.

Flight information board.  The parking lot can be seen in the background.

The building is visually entertaining because all those sweeping shapes have to come together here and there to create interesting details such as this.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Terence Cuneo Sampler

Terence Cuneo (1907-1996) was a prominent British illustrator who specialized in mechanical objects, yet was quite capable of depicting people -- something some tech artists have trouble with. On the other hand, there are a number of artists who are good at people but have serious trouble with things such as cars and airplanes. So Cuneo, himself the son of a successful illustrator, was something of an all-rounder. His limitation was that he was a run-of-the-mill storyteller in the illustration sense. That is, he could depict scenes of fierce action, but they usually were a kind of snapshot without much of a plot or backstory. To some degree that might have been what his clients wanted, so I can't quite be categorical regarding this.

Cuneo's Wikipedia entry is here, and here is a link to my post about his railroad illustrations.

This post shows examples of Cuneo's work over the range of his typical subjects.


Railroad illustration: "Crossing the Forth"

The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, 27 May 1942.

Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953. This image from the internet seems to be slightly cropped at the sides and bottom.

The Festival of Britain was an exposition held in 1951, and The Illustrated London News was a major publication at the time. Note Cuneo's signature in the pennant at the lower right. London fans will note that the Festival grounds are between the County Hall building and the power station that is now the Tate Modern art gallery. The large, flat-domed building is inland from the location of the present London Eye ferris wheel. This illustration combines architecture and human figures, the latter painted in part with flat brush strokes, something we will also see below.

"The First Air Post" painted in 1978 shows that Cuneo was comfortable dealing with aircraft.

This is a Bristol Beaufighter having a torpedo loaded. I consider Cuneo generally better than Frank Wootton when depicting aircraft, and Wootton was hardly a slouch (though he could be sloppy getting correct proportions).

Bristol Aircraft Company assembly line, 1944, showing Beaufighters.

Another assembly line painting (and he did at least one other!), this of Ford in 1947.

Probably brochure illustrations for the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 234 or 236, painted 1955 or thereabouts. Cuneo was good at cars.

Coastal battery scene. I don't know when this was painted, but the period it depicts is probably 1940 when the British were preparing to repel a possible German invasion.

Detail of a painting showing the Kidney Ridge or Snipe Action in North Africa. Note Cuneo's brushwork: simple, but quite effective.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Some Stubby Postwar New York "Skyscrapers"

When Wall Street crashed in October 1929 marking the start of the Great Depression, a large amount of office space in New York City was either under construction or in such advanced a planning stage that construction happened anyway.

Depression-driven drastic scaling back of business activity combined with floor after floor of new office space reaching completion in the early 1930s resulted in a glut on the real estate leasing market. Famous sites such as the Empire State Building remained partly empty for years after they were built.

World War 2 prosperity and the fact that depressed times failed to recur saw more and more space being rented after the war.  The market soon reached the point that new office building construction could resume.

This first wave of postwar buildings was an odd-looking lot. For one thing, they were short by New York standard -- 21 to 25 above-ground floors. And their shapes determined by zoning regulations were not graceful, especially when compared to the Art Deco style skyscrapers of the late 1920s and early 30s.


Look Building, 488 Madison Avenue (at 51st Street) - 1950
Designed by Emery Roth & Sons, 25 floors. This is perhaps the best known of that era's office construction. The building was named for its major tenant, Look Magazine, a photography-centered publication that competed against the better-known, more successful, Life Magazine. A noteworthy tenant was industrial designer Raymond Loewy. A recent tenant is the Municipal Art Society. The building attained landmark status in 2010, as this New York Times article reports.

Universal Pictures Building, 445 Park Avenue (between 56th & 57th streets) - 1947
Kahn & Jacobs architects, 22 floors. This is perhaps the first of the postwar breed. Setbacks begin above the tenth floor. The exterior features curtain walls and strip windows.

505 Park Avenue (at 59th Street) - 1949
Emery Roth & Sons architects, 21 floors. Again strip windows, but the corner facing the intersection is rounded off -- an echo of certain 1930s Moderne designs. The Look Building continued and elaborated on this motif.

260 Madison Avenue (by 38th Street) - 1953
Sylvan Bien architect, 21 floors. The trendsetting 1952 Lever House by Gordon Bunshaft (Park Avenue between 53rd & 54th streets, 24floors) was in place before 260 was completed, and Bien did borrow the sort of cladding used by Bunshaft. On the other hand, the wedding cake setback scheme of the buildings shown above was continued.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gerald Murphy's Precision Modernism

Gerald Clery Murphy (1888-1964) went to Yale and was a member of some of the best clubs -- DKE ("Deke") and Scull and Bones. His father owned New York's posh Mark Cross store, and Murphy himself later was its president. He and his wife Sara famously led an extravagant expatriate life in France during the 1920s.

During that time, Murphy became a serious amateur artist. Amateur, in the sense that he made few finished paintings while not having to depend on making art to earn a living. Nevertheless, his carefully structured, hard-edge, modernist-inspired works were nearly all of very high quality for his genre.

The Wikipedia entry about the Murphys is here, and more can be found here.

Images of most of Murphy's paintings are below. Some are lost or destroyed, so only black-and-white photos of them remain. I consider "Boatdeck," "Razor," and "Watch" to be his best.


Turbines - 1922 (lost)

Boatdeck - 1923 (lost)

Boatdeck as displayed at the Salon des Independents - 1924

Razor - 1924

Watch -1925

Bibliotheque - 1926-27

Cocktail - 1927

Portrait - 1928 (lost)

Wasp and Pear - 1929

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Up Close: Some Sargent Brushwork

John Singer Sargent's reputation continues to rise.

For example, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a room with several fine examples of his portraiture, as the above photo I took in September shows.

One of his paintings on display is the dual-portrait of Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes and Edith Minturn Stokes. The museum has this to say about it.

And this is what they actually looked like around 1897 when Sargent painted them. Both were age 30 and married when they were 28.

Here is the establishment photo I took. For once its colors aren't grossly far from those in the photo the museum took of it, shown above. However, my photo is slightly skewed towards the red. Getting accurate results when photographing in museums is a matter of luck, I've found. The source of trouble is the artificial lighting.

My close-up of Edith. Sargent slightly exaggerated the height of his two subjects in the same manner fashion illustrators ply their trade.  He does capture the uneven setting of her mouth, but the eyes seem a bit odd and the light and shading of her nose also seem a little off. Viewed from a normal distance, these quirks matter little. You can see that Sargent touched up the background in places close to her head.  Also, her collar does not wrap around her neck, but he apparently didn't think it worth the trouble to tidy up that defect.

I took this photo to show how museum lighting can reveal some of the surface texture of a painting.  The facial close-up also has some reflections of museum lighting off edges of Sargent's brushwork. He seems to have used oil-rich paints, but as the image above suggests, he didn't paint thickly. It's possible that some of the effects seen here are due to varnishing brushwork, rather than the basic painting. The canvas patch on the right shows up strongly here, though it is evident in the museum photo if you look closely.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Some New York Skyscrapers

Here is Yr. Faithful Blogger on New York City's East 56th Street in early September.

I spent around ten years within striking distance of New York, but have hardly visited the place since the late 1980s. My wife wasn't a big fan, and it had lost much of its charm for me as well. As it turned out, we had a nice two-day stay -- especially because our hotel was at Park Avenue and E. 50th Street, a nicer neighborhood than, say, Times Square and the theatre district.

While poking around, I took some photos of buildings that interested me ... buildings put up since the years when I lived closer.

432 Park Avenue
The second-tallest building in the city, it contains 104 condominiums in 84 floors and was completed late 2015. Its Wikipedia entry is here.

At the time this post was drafted, the entry stated: "Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly around what is described as "the purest geometric form: the square" and inspired by a trash can designed by Josef Hoffmann..."

What foolishness. What sophistry. What a commentary on modernist aesthetic thinking.

Perhaps Viñoly was joking. Even so, the building is ugly, being poorly proportioned (much too thin for its great height) and boring to view (despite a few window pattern break zones). No wonder the Wikipedia entry states (as of this writing) that 432 has not been well received by average New Yorkers. Me? I hate it.

As for the photo, two modernist architecture classics frame the scene. The plaza and pool in the foreground are on the site of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building. The building at the left is the Lever House, the first International Style building on Park Avenue.

383 Madison Avenue
This office building opened in 2002, and more information can be found here. I include it due to its non-rectangular cross section and the detailing at its top. Not first-rate skyscraper architecture, but better than most of the new New York high-rises.

Set atop a 210-room Hilton hotel, the tower contains 92 condos. It was completed in 2014. Its Wikipedia entry is here.

I happened to catch it on a clear day where its exterior coloring created an intriguing image, as this photo suggests.  Otherwise, it's just one of those attempts at making the shape of a building a huge piece of simplified sculpture.

One WorldWide Plaza
Part of a three-building complex, the office tower was completed in 1989, as stated in its Wikipedia entry. The design harkens back to late-1920s skyscrapers. For me, that's a plus because the combination of solidity and ornamentation usually created a pleasing visual effect.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Leslie Thrasher: Not Quite a Rockwell

A while ago I posted about Liberty magazine, a second-tier American general-interest magazine published 1924-1950, mentioning that "Liberty's cover artists, while entirely competent, were seldom in the absolute front rank of their day."

One cover artist included was Leslie Thrasher (1889-1936), who entered into a man-killing contract to provide the magazine with weekly covers for a five-year period. He managed this by doing a long, continuing saga of a young family using himself as the model for the dad.

Thrasher also painted illustrations for advertisements and Saturday Evening Post covers, the Post being the leading general-interest magazine of the day. So he was no second-rate artist, even though his hurried Liberty covers seldom added to his reputation.

Some of his Post covers can be found here. Brief biographical notes are here and here. Another, probably mistaken, take on the Liberty contract by Norman Rockwell can be found here.

Below are examples of Thrasher's cover illustrations.


Saturday Evening Post cover - 8 June 1912
Thrasher was young when Post saw fit to put his work on its cover.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 12 January 1924
A Post cover from shortly before Liberty was launched.

Liberty cover - 13 December 1924
An early cover for Liberty.

Liberty cover - 27 December 1924
Two weeks later, this cover featuring a profane parrot.

Liberty cover - 27 October 1928
An example of a cover featuring a Thrasher self-portrait.

Liberty cover - 10 November 1928
That's Thrasher again, in the background struggling with a baby.

Liberty cover - 2 March 1929
Here he travels to pre-Castro Cuba.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 October 1936
Apparently some readers mistook this for a Norman Rockwell cover.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 16 January 1937
This appeared shortly after Thrasher died; it was probably in production and couldn't easily be pulled.