Monday, November 28, 2016

Edward Okuń , Polish Nouveau-Symbolist

Around the time I visited Poland's National Museum, a few paintings by Edward Okuń (1872–1945) were in the same room as many of those by the more famous Symbolist Jacek Malczewski. But the gallery guidebook stressed that in portraits, his style tended to be Art Nouveau. His Wikipedia entry does not categorize him.

Okuń came from what the entry calls an aristocratic family, and he had an inheritance that probably left him free to pursue art pretty much as he desired. He began his training in Czarist Warsaw and them moved on to Munich and Paris. During the first two decades of the 20th century he was in Italy, thereby avoiding the Great War battles in Poland and only returned to Warsaw after the 1920-21 Soviet-Polish war. He continued to visit Italy and painted there. Okuń was not able to escape World War 2 and was in Warsaw during the 1944 uprising and German retaliation.


Portrait of the Artist's Wife - 1904

Philistines - 1904

View Through Window - 1905

The Winner - 1910

Self-Portrait - 1913

Musica Sacra - 1915

The War and Us - 1923

Naples Bay and Vesuvio - 1937

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Last Look at the Waldorf Before Renovation

New York City's famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel (1931 version) is set to be closed early in 2017 for renovation and partial conversion to condominiums. That's what this Wikipedia entry mentions as of the time this post is being drafted (5 October 2016).

My wife and I decided to stay at the Waldorf to experience it before its closure. She had stayed there as a college student on her way to a European tour and I spent a few nights there in the late 1970s while on a business trip.

Below are some photos I took of present details. I suppose most of these will be preserved, but don't know for sure.


An architectural rendering of the hotel from before it was built. It's on display on the lobby floor. Some reflections are on its protective glass, so the image is slightly degraded.

The Park Avenue entrance.

A closer look at the exterior ornamentation.

View towards Park Avenue from inside that entrance.

Panning to the left of the previous image, we find this.

Foyer view opposite from the previous photo.

Opposite the entrance is this hallway and elevator lobby leading to the main lobby.

Inside the main lobby. The elaborate clock was from the original Waldorf-Astoria located on the present site of the Empire State Building.

Two views of Peacock Alley, located on the north side of the main lobby. It's a bar and restaurant, but the original was a passage in the old Waldorf-Astoria where elegant ladies could and would promenade.

Door grillwork on the lobby level.

Tower elevator door decorations.

This was our room in the Towers. I include this photo because, unlike the public areas pictured above, this is likely to disappear during the renovation.

As you probably noticed, the Waldorf-Astoria is an example of Art Deco architecture and ornamentation. Very little of the geometric kind of Art Deco here, but more of the "organic" style seen in the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (Wikipedia entry here), which had its roots in Art Nouveau.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Retro World of Pierre de Mougins

There are plenty of images on the internet of Pierre de Mougins' paintings, but almost nothing in the way of biographical information. This link will have to do.

Mougins was born in 1966 in Antony, France (a little ways west of Orly airport), claims to be self-taught and inspired by the likes of de Chirico and 1920s painters. He has lived in Berlin in recent years where he has begun painting on stones.

The paintings that interest me the most have an Art Deco look to them. There is something about the passage of time that allows us to create an image (not necessarily accurate) in our minds that is a distillation of a past era. Which is part of what Mougins does, though he can't completely escape influences from his own times.


De fête au café

Au Lapin Agile
The Lapin Agile was an artists' hangout on Montmartre around the turn of the 20th century. It still exists.


How Long is Now

Rue de la soie

Jazz club

La grande parade

Well, that's my guess as to the title. It could be reference to a French drink or possibly to 1930s cabaret singer Suzy Solidor, who the blonde strongly resembles.

Riviera scene



In the Auction Room

Thursday, November 17, 2016

William Arthur Breakspeare, Victorian Painter

William Arthur Breakspeare (1855-1914) was from Birmingham, getting much of his art training there. He spent a brief period in Paris, and lived in London starting in 1881 while retaining ties to Birmingham. His Wikipedia entry contains those and a few other details. There is little else about him on the Internet.

Breakspeare could paint competently and was able to made a career as an artist in Victorian and Edwardian times. His subjects tended to be 17th century scenes, pianos and pretty women. And his interpretations of these were conventional most of the time. As is the case for many lesser-known artists, he occasionally could make paintings worth noting.

Here are examples of Breakspeare's paintings.


The Contract
In theory, this might be an illustration or otherwise a reference to literature or an historical event because there is little intrinsic meaning in the depiction.

The Eve of Battle
The same applies here.  There is little in the way of the drama or tension I would expect in a real-world pre-battle situation.  In this painting, the men at the table seem quite calm and satisfied.  The cavalier at the right has a look of concern, but serves no dramatic purpose unless the painting is an illustration of an historical or literary source.

If Music be the Food of Love
Breakspeare usually included pianos where music was part of the action.  Here the man seems to be playing an organ.

Distant Thoughts
More of a sketch than a finished work, but interesting in that regard.

One of his better-known works.  Pretty fancy girl for a harvester.

The Alluring Student
Hmm.  A piano also beckons.

The Reluctant Pianist
This looks like the same piano and bench, but away from the window.

Blue Eyes
She is the same woman wearing the same dress as in the previous painting.

The End of the Evening
Finally, a scene that's not Victorian.  Very Edwardian in spirit, I'd say.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Austin Briggs, an Illustrator Who Could Really Draw

Austin Briggs (1908-1973) never settled into a distinctive style, shifting over time according to his personal artistic development and the influence of changing illustration fashions and client expectations. What was consistent was his great skill in drawing people.

A short Wikipedia biography is here and a fairly brief biography on the Norman Rockwell Museum site is here. A more detailed biography can be found here. Commentary on his methods is here. Some statements by Briggs himself are here and here. David Apatoff writes about Briggs' sketchbooks here.

Briggs was a top-notch illustrator. I hope a book about him and his art is in the works somewhere.


Flash Gordon - Sunday spread - 21 December 1947
Briggs drew the daily Flash Gordon comic strip and later took over the traditional Sunday version from its creator, Alex Raymond. Raymond was the best at drawing it, but Briggs was not far behind.

American Airlines ad - Saturday Evening Post - 15 January 1949

American Airlines ad art

Plymouth ad art - late 1940s
This was an odd advertising campaign for a low-priced car because a Plymouth does not appear. Some luxury can brands had used this strategy, however, apparently somewhat successfully.

Illustration - c. 1957

Ad art - 1951
I'm not sure if this is for Buick or American Airlines. And it might not be for an advertisement. I am clueless regarding this.

Briggs illustrated for American Airlines and General Motors. The DC-6 in the background is positioned similarly to such planes in a series of American Airlines ads, but it lacks the complete AA paint scheme. The Buick is clearly a Buick, not the sort of anonymous car design illustrators placed in settings unrelated to a specific automobile brand. The Buick also seems to have a New York license plate, something unusual in car ad illustrations.

Nero Wolfe story illustration

Archie Goodwin depicted in a Nero Wolfe story illustration - Saturday Evening Post - 21 June 1958

Service with a Smile - Douglas Aircraft ad art
From the days when smoking was allowed on flights.