Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Raeburn van Buren: Second-Echelon Cartoonist

Raeburn van Buren (1891-1987) was an illustrator / cartoonist active as a freelancer in the 1920s and 30s until he found steady work drawing the "Abbie an' Slats" comic strip in 1937. As an illustrator, he lacked the skills of the likes of Henry Patrick Raleigh or Frederic Rodrigo (F.R.) Gruger. Nevertheless, his work appeared in major publications such as the Saturday Evening Post as well as elsewhere.

His Wikipedia entry is here and another biography is here. Van Buren was actively cartooning until 1971 and lived to be 96.

I include posts about lesser artists here because, in part, their work helps to put in context that of the best artists. A feeling for their times is also enhanced by being exposed to their interpretations. Van Buren might best be characterized as a journeyman, given the large number of highly talented illustrators active in the 1920s and into the 1950s.


Football stadium scene - 1920s

Story illustration - 1928

Artist and model

"A blind date about to happen" - 1933

"Deep sea fishing"

For non- English-speaking readers, here we have a religious idol and a movie "idol."

"Is there anything else you wish?" - 1933

"Planning Their Summer"

Monday, December 29, 2014

János Vaszary: Traditionalist Gone Modern

János Vaszary (1867–1938) was a Hungarian painter who was contemporaneous with Gustav Klimt, a fellow Imperial who also could paint convincingly in many styles. That is, both began painting in an academic manner, yet switched to forms of modernism by the mid-to-late 1890s.

A brief Wikipedia entry on Vaszary in English is here. The Hungarian language entry is here, and has more detail though the computer translation to English can be hard to follow. This site includes many tiny images of Vaszary's works that can be enlarged somewhat.

My take on him is that he was very talented, but let modernist ideas get the best of him after he turned 40. The later works are both simple and sketchily done, and so aren't very interesting. In a caption below I mention the paintings I liked best.


Self Portrait - 1887

Self Portrait
The first self-portrait was made when he was about 20 years old.  I have no date for the second one, but I'll guess that he was in his 40s when this was painted.

Primate Kolos Vaszary (his uncle) - 1895
Basically traditional in style, though the brushwork is fairly free.

Golden Age - 1897-98
Some reproductions of this have a more golden coloring.  This shows that Vaszary was perfectly capable of painting in the academic style.

Woman with Black Hat - 1894
Even before painting Golden Age and his uncle, Vaszary was experimenting with modernist ideas.

Woman in Lilac Dress with Cats - 1900
This seems more like an illustration than a fine-art painting.

Woman in Front of Mirror - 1904

Fancy-dress Ball - 1907
These two paintings exhibit strong brushwork.  I find them the most interesting of the images posted here.

Kees van Dongen was an influence for a while.

At La Cigale
La Cigale was a Paris night spot that Vaszary must have frequented while in town.

Woman in profile with black hat - c. 1930
Another trace of van Dongen here.

Portrait of a Lady - c. 1925-35
I think the right arm isn't drawn correctly; in any case, it looks odd.  Here Vaszary was drifting in a representational direction.  I don't have a name for the subject, so cannot guess whether or not she wanted to be depicted mostly naturalistically or if the style was Vaszary's choice.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Norman Wilkinson: Sea, Sky and Other Stuff

Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) was a master poster artist (I wrote about that aspect of his career here). He also carved out noteworthy careers in other fields of art, especially painting marine and naval scenes. His Wikipedia entry is here and another link sketching his work is here.

Below are examples mostly of his marine and naval paintings. Unless he was commissioned to feature a particular ship, his sea paintings featured a lot of water and sky, whereas ships, land and other objects usually occupied small amounts of art canvas real estate. That seems sensible, given the visual vastness of oceans and seas -- something Wilkinson was intimately familiar with, having served in the Royal Navy.


Scene with ships
This exhibits a poster style, but I don't know if it was actually used for a poster.

Yachts off the Needles, Isle of Wight
A contrasting, more painterly style.

The 'Revenge' Leaving Plymouth to Meet the Armada - 1912
This is an illustration.

Hawker Harts of 601 Squadron - c. 1936
The sky is vast and the Harts are small.

The Pilot
Nowadays, pilot boats are usually a lot bigger and fancier than this.

Dublin and Holyhead - 1905
This is a poster illustration for the London and North Western Railway. I include it here because the style is closer to his marine paintings than the style he usually used for posters.

HMS 'Lion' Battlecruiser
This has a poster-like style.  Lion was Admiral Beatty's flagship at Dogger Bank and Jutland.  I'm guessing that this painting shows Lion on the way to her 1924 scrapping.

Fitting Out RMS 'Queen Mary' at Clydebank - 1936

HM Troopship 'Queen Mary' at Anchor in the Second World War
Thanks to her high speed, the Queen Mary was in little danger of being torpedoed by a German submarine.  Her companion Queen Elizabeth went straight to troopship duties before ever carrying commercial passengers.

Action off the River Plate, 13 December 1939, Pursuit of the 'Graf Spee'
The commerce-raider Graff Spee was a heavily armed large cruiser (and not really a "pocket battleship," as she was called at the time).  She was finally hunted down by three British cruisers and damaged to the point where her captain had her scuttled.

Japan Signs Her Own Death Warrant, Attack on Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941

Coronation Review, 15 June 1953
I'm sorry to say that the next coronation review probably won't be as impressive as this one was.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dan Content: A Dean Cornwell Disciple

Dan Content (1902-1990) was born in New York City and grew up there. His art training took place there too, at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and the Art Students League in Manhattan. Some additional polish was added via studying for a while under Dean Cornwell (links here and here), whose thick brushwork style Content used during the 1920s and into the 1930s.

There are few resources regarding Content on the Internet, perhaps the best of the lot being here. As it notes, he eased out of illustration into art direction, including a stint at Benton & Bowles, a major advertising agency at the time. This was probably a good career move, given the slow decline in high-paying illustration jobs. As an art director, Content got a steady paycheck and didn't have to worry about altering his painting style to keep up with changing illustration fashions.

Content did good, solid work, but remains somewhat obscure perhaps due to his stylistic similarity to much better-known Cornwell.



Burial Detail

McCall's illustration for Sabatini's "An Act of Faith" - September 1928

Illustration for Sabatini's "The Nuptials of Corbigny" - 1927

Illustration for "Robin Hood" - 1928
A complete set of images for this project can be found here.

Story illustration

Story Illustration

Illustration for "The Song Without Words" - Ladies' Home Journal - March 1937

Monday, December 22, 2014

Zinaida Serebriakova's Sweet Smiles

Zinaida Yevgenyevna Serebriakova, née Lanceray or Lancere, (1884-1967) generally worked in oils and pastels creating pleasant portraits and scenes. No politics to speak of. Ditto irony. And mega-ditto profundity. In other words, there is a lot to like in her oeuvre.

Her fairly detailed Wikipedia entry is here. More biographical information is here, and an article discussing the many paintings she made of female nudes is here.

Serebriakova, before her marriage, had a good deal of art training that built upon her family's artistic background. Even though modernism in general and the various Parisian "isms" that were popping up in the early 1900s were known to her, she accepted little of their stylistic offerings.

One thing about her paintings that I found interesting and charming was a sweet little smile she placed on many of her subjects. I'm pretty sure that she had such a smile herself, but find it a bit curious that so many others had the same.


Self Portrait: At the Dressing Table - 1909
This was the painting that launched her career.

Self Portrait - c. 1911

Bather - 1911
Thought to be a self-portrait.

Boris Serebryakov - 1908
Her husband, who died in 1919. This left her with four children, only two of whom were able to leave Russia and join her in Paris after the Communist takeover. He is not wearing a sweet smile in this painting.

Harvest - 1915
Even some Russian peasants are smiling almost sweetly.

N. Geydenreyh in Blue - 1923
She was a ballerina.

Sandra Loris-Melikov - 1925

Z.N. Martynovskaya - 1961
A late painting, but the characteristic smile still appears.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Molti Ritratti: Queen Alexandra

Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), wife of King Edward VII and therefore Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, was the subject of many photographs, but surprisingly few painted portraits. A substantial Wikipedia biography is here.

Thanks to Queen Victoria's longevity, Alexandra was Princess of Wales for nearly 38 years. And because Edward was only 68 when he died, she was queen for little more than nine years. A small flurry of portrait activity followed her coronation.

Back in those times, and to a considerable degree today, commissioned portraits of royalty feature formal poses and conservative representation. So it was with Alexandra. Photographic and painted portraits of her with few exceptions showed her face-on or with her head only slightly turned, usually favoring her left side.

Artistically, portraits of Alexandra offer little interest. Nevertheless, I hope that showing some here will provide some context to paintings of similar vintage that I post about.


Photo - 1889
To set the scene.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1864
Winterhalter was no stranger to portraying royalty.  This painting, in the Royal Collection, was painted soon after her marriage.  A curiosity is his treatment of the royal nose, which looks rather lumpy here.  Yet photographs show Alexandra with a nose of regular shape.  It's hard to image that Winterhalter made a mistake, but absent more information, that seems to be the case.

Photo showing left profile
This photo was taken years after Winterhalter's portrait.  Here Alexandra sports a nose with a straight bridge.

By unidentified artist

By Luke Fildes - 1893

By Luke Fildes - coronation portrait

By John Longstaff - 1904
Longstaff was an Australian artist.

By François Flameng - 1908