Monday, July 21, 2014

L Fellows: Car Tires and Men's Fashion Illustration

Laurence Fellows (1885-1964), who signed his illustrations "L. Fellows," had an important role in the commercial art of the 1920s, 30s and into the 1940s. I know this because I saw plenty of his work in Art Directors Club of New York annuals and other collections of illustrations from that era.

Only one photo of Fellows has appeared on the Internet, and I could find virtually no information regarding his personal life. On the other hand, useful information about his career and works can be found here, here and (by illustration authority Walt Reed) here.

Fellows had a clean, spare style that observers believe he picked up while studying in France. This was used from around 1915 through the 1920s, especially for a series of advertisement illustrations he made for Kelly-Springfield tires. In the early 30s Fellows took up fashion illustration for expensive lines of men's clothing. During the 1930s he adjusted his style from thin outlines and generally flat surfaces to a more traditional watercolor style in response to changing illustration fashions. Also bear in mind that the proper goal of fashion illustration is to make garments "stars" of the show; this is why texture and pattern dominate Fellows' images here. In spite of these influences, Fellows' work remained distinctive.


Kelly-Springfield tire ad illustration from around 1920 (give or take five years).

Perhaps a detail from another Kelly-Springfield ad, ca. 1926.

Couple at ship railing, 1920s.

Formal attire on an Art Deco / Moderne barstool, 1934

Couples dancing, formal attire, 1934

Greeting a woman, 1934.

College students chatting up coed in roadster, 1937.

Man not helping women exit automobile, 1936.

Polo club outdoor lounge lizards, around 1936.

Glaring shoe shine customer, 1935.

Fashionable attire and red sports car, London, 1938.

Perhaps a New York Easter Parade scene, 1941.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Museum of Flight: July 2014 Visit

Every so often I leave the realm of painting and illustration to post about architecture, design, transportation, museums and such. Today's post deals with a museum devoted to flight and, to a lesser degree, space travel.

The subject is Seattle's Museum of Flight, usually ranked as one of the better American aviation museums. It has ties to Boeing, but I offhand don't know if any are formal. Its Wikipedia entry dates its founding to 1965, but it wasn't until the mid-1980s that its permanent facilities began to be opened to the public.

Here are some photos I took on a recent visit:


The main buildings are sited next to the Boeing Field runway and near the flight path to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, so visitors experience a good deal of air traffic. Here is a view taken near the main entrance. To the right is the tail of a B-47 Cold War era bomber. The white-shrouded plane to the left is a World War 2 vintage B-29, still under restoration. In the far distance are downtown Seattle skyscrapers. The intermediate distance reveals a couple of UPS cargo planes at the far side of the runway and a large smattering of other aircraft.

Here is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner demonstration aircraft trundling down the taxiway prior to a take-off, perhaps to the Farnborough air show.

A few aircraft are positioned near the museum entrance including this B-17F and the B-47 just mentioned.

Since the opening of the Smithsonian's aviation museum on the Washington, DC's Mall, large halls with suspended aircraft have become a useful cliché for aircraft museums, including the Museum of Flight. Some of the planes seen are a DC-3 airliner (top), Lockheed Blackbird (bottom), and a replica GeeBee racer (the yellow plane near the center of the photo).

A Boeing Model 40 reproduction.

Boeing 80A-1 tri-motor transport from 1929.

Boeing Model 100 (P-12/F4B) built 1928. This aircraft was a civilian version of the Navy F4B-1 fighter that is painted to look like an Army P-12.

Interior of the "Red Barn," Boeing's factory during the 1920s.

Across a major street from the main part of the museum is the Airpark containing several larger aircraft. Seen here the tail of a Concorde supersonic airliner, the first VC-137B Air Force One (Presidential aircraft), a Boeing 727 airliner, and at the right, the first Boeing 737 airliner.

Badly in need of a paint job is the first Boeing 747 airliner. Below the cockpit windows are blurred names of the flight crew for its maiden flight, 9 February 1969 -- more then 45 years ago.

Here are a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation, the Air Force One, and the Concorde.

Inside the Personal Courage Wing that houses World War military aircraft, many of which are from the now-defund Champlin collection. I think the name is silly and perhaps politically correct: Why not simply call it something like World War Warplanes Wing, which would be truthful. But this is Seattle, after all (sigh). The lower floor deals with World War 2 and has lots of interesting stuff, jammed so closely together that it's difficult to photograph the planes. Seen here (clockwise from the bottom) are a P-51D Mustang, a Soviet Yak 9-U, a P-47D Thunderbolt and a P-38L Lightning. Mostly hidden behind the P-38 is a Goodyear FG-1D version of the Vought F4U Corsair. This aircraft was fished out of Seattle's Lake Washington years after it crashed during the war.

A replica Albatros D.Va from the Great War housed on the second floor of the wing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Herman Richir, Belgian Portrait Artist

Herman Jean Joseph Richir (1866-1942) painted subjects other than portraits, but he seems to have been best-known for the latter. Biographical information in English is skimpy on the Internet, so you might consult Wikipedia entries in French or Dutch and click on the Translate button if you are unfamiliar with the language to get a sense of his career.

Back around the 1600s, long before Belgium existed, the area produced major artists such as Peter Paul Rubens. And this continued following the 1830 creation of the current Belgian state, though by that time Paris had become the dominant European art center. Some Belgian painters moved to Paris for career reasons, while others remained and generally paid the price of international obscurity. (Exceptions include the Symbolists Fernand Khnopff and James Ensor, and the Surrealist of sorts, René Magritte.)

Richir made his career in Belgium, was not a modernist, and catered to a wealthy and even royal clientele, so he is essentially unknown to art history. This might be changing thanks to the Internet's ability via search engines to turn up works of artists who failed to make the Modernist Narrative that dominated much of the second half of the 20th century.

So it was that I stumbled on some Richir images and added them to my data base. Below are some of those that I found interesting. From what I can tell, not having seen any original paintings, Richir was a skilled painter who did images that satisfy my eye, at least. But like many others I write about here, what was missing was that je ne sais quoi that could have made his art distinctive.


Thé (Les peintres Juliette et Rodolphe Wytsman) - c. 1896

The Snow Fairy - 1918


Standing woman

Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians - 1930

Queen Astrid of the Belgians

Woman in blue gown

Jamilé, the Artist's Model

Monday, July 14, 2014

Morton Roberts, Isaak Brodsky and the Revolution

The distinction between historical art and political art can be fuzzy. Whether a painting or illustration falls into one category or the other is often a subjective judgment. One might think that a painting of some event from Greek or Roman times would be a history painting pure and simple. But even there, if the painting depicts one side of a conflict in a more favorable light than the other side, then a political statement of sorts is involved. This probably doesn't matter much if the subject is not related to politics or ideology at the time the painting was created. However, I'll contend (until I change my mind) that if an artist paints a scene from history in such a way that commentary is made about current (for the artist) events, then this is political art. And artistic commentaries on events or people contemporary to the artist are indeed examples of political art.

The present post deals with the era of the Russian revolution of 1917 and two artists who dealt with it.

First is Isaak Brodsky (1883-1939), mentored by the great Ilya Repin in pre-revolutionary times, who became and advocate for, and practitioner of, Socialist Realism in the USSR under Stalin's regime. His Wikipedia entry is here. Brodsky's public painting after the revolution was was largely political.

Morton Roberts (1927-1964) was a fine illustrator and painter who died far too soon. David Apatoff wrote about him here, Leif Peng presented some images here, and a biographic sketch is here. If you can find a copy, issue 22 of Illustration Magazine (Spring, 2008) has an article about Roberts. Otherwise, you can click here, and flip through that issue on-line.

Roberts illustrated Life Magazine articles on the Russian Revolution that appeared during 1959. Although the Cold War was going strong then, Roberts' illustrations strike me as being far more historical documentation than political commentary. But judge for yourself.


Brodksy: Demonstration - 1930
I don't know if Brodsky was depicting a pre- or post-revolution rally here. It seems he wasn't afraid to paint crowd scenes.

Brodsky: Lenin at a Rally of Workers - 1929
Another crowd scene. Again I don't know the date of the occasion being depicted. It, and the scene in the first image, might even have been inventions by Brodsky, showing typical events of 1917-23.

Brodsky: Day of Constitution - 1930
Crowd again.

Brodsky: Mikhail Frunze - 1929
A portrait of a revolutionary figure who met a controversial end. Click here for biographical information on Frunze.

Brodsky: The Execution of the Twenty-Six Baku Commissars - 1929
This took place during the civil war between the Reds and the Whites.

Roberts: Rasputin - 1959
Rasputin's Wikipedia entry is here.

Roberts: Assassination of Stolypin - 1959
For information on Pyotr Stolypin, click here.

Lenin Addressing Troops - 1959
This might be Lenin's famous arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Windy Gaetano Bellei

I probably didn't drill deeply enough into Google, so all that I can report now is that Gaetano Bellei (1857-1922) apparently was born and died in Modena, Italy. And he spent at least part of his career there, because some of his paintings include the name of the city along with his signature.

Bellei was a good draftsman and created many paintings featuring accurate drawing and a painting style tending fairly strongly to the hard-edge school. He seems to have been successful (though I can't be sure of this, lacking a biography), and that was because he often painted everyday scenes and characters with a sentimental twist. This approach has long been popular with a public that likes to see art that they can relate to.

Artists that cater to that public can do well financially (think Thomas Kinkade, for a recent example), but at the price of being scorned by "sophisticates." I happen to think that sophistication can be carried too far if it becomes an end in itself, which might be one reason why I title this blog Art Contrarian. Moreover, I have no problem with artists who can make a decent living from their work; becoming famous and pulling down high auction prices after one's death doesn't strike me as satisfactory. That said, even though I appreciate Bellei's technical skill, I would not have any of his paintings hanging on a wall in my place.

What caught my eye regarding Bellei was how he depicted wind in a few of his works. I include those below along with a few other paintings by him and others to provide context.


Bellei liked to paint pretty women. This one's skin is shown soft and perfect. The clothing and background are essentially hard-edge style painting, perhaps reflecting a likely academic training for the artist.

But it wasn't all pretty women. Here he has three generations of a family in a sentimental setting.

Back to pretty girls. Here are two on their way up a staircase to a masked ball. Except they are not wearing masks, having removed them temporarily so that we can better see who they are. Note that one is a blonde, the other brunette.

Now for some wind. A conventional windy scene, here.

Now a blonde and a brunette, but not necessarily the same ones we just saw at the ball.

A blonde and a brunette again, but this time it's raining, though they don't seem very wet yet.

Same thing, though the brunette now has a different skirt. Note that the setting is about the same in all three paintings (the dome in the background is a tip-off). What interests me is that Bellei includes rain with the wind, whereas almost every other painter of pretty women in stormy settings only features wind.

Boreas - John W. Waterhouse - 1902
Here I include some paintings by other artists showing wind and women, starting with this Waterhouse.

A Gust of Wind (Judith Gautier) - John Singer Sargent - 1886-87
A sketch, rather than a finished work by Sargent. The main indication of wind is Mme Gautier holding her hat down.

Gil Elvgren pinup
Golden Age Pinup artists such as the great genre master Gil Elvgren could use wind as a cause for showing off some hose and underwear.