Eye Candy for Today: Near Sydenham Hill, Camille Pissarro

Near Sydenham Hill, Camille Pissarro

Near Sydenham Hill, Camille Pissarro (details)

Near Sydenham Hill, Camille Pissarro; oil on canvas, roughy 17 x 21 inches (43 x 53 cm). Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Kimbell Art Museum.

Camille Pissarro is one of my favorites among the original French Impressionist painters.

I love the sense of atmospheric distance in this painting of the countryside near London, where — following Monet’s lead — the artist moved his family to escape the violence of the Prussian siege of Paris in 1870.

The foreground trees are so roughly indicated they appear to act primarily as a framing device. My eye is immediately drawn to the row of houses in the middleground, and then to the church beyond, all of them seemingly rough smudges of color on close inspection, but resolving to a naturalistic scene from sufficient distance.

A closer look also reveals a lone figure in the left middleground. I didn’t realize until reading the museum’s description of the painting that the white plume in the right middleground is the smoke of a passing train.


Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

I initially encountered the work of Austin Briggs (see my previous post) in his role as a comics artist — working as an assistant to the great Alex Raymond, and eventually ghosting Raymond’s Flash Gordon newspaper strip, and taking over in a credited role on Secret Agent X-9.

Briggs’ work in comics was a sideline, however; he was primarily known as one of the great American illustrators of the 20th century. He started in advertising illustration, but moved into editorial illustration, which is where he made his mark, providing illustrations to prestigious magazines like Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Briggs was a relentless experimenter; he was always pushing the boundaries of his approach to illustration, and expanding the language and range of that art form in the process.

I was delighted to receive a review copy of a new book from Auad Publishing that showcases the work of Austin Briggs from all phases of his career.

Austin Briggs: The Consumate Illustrator is an absolutely beautiful volume; nicely sized at 9×12″ it features 160 pages crammed with Briggs’ illustrations in both color and black and white. Briggs exceled in both areas, his black and white and tone drawings are remarkably economical given their power and expressive nature. His color work is simultaneously bold and subtle.

The range of his work, its dynamism and nuance is captured beautifully in this volume from Auad. They already have a reputation for presenting the work of great illustrators with high production values and great attention to detail and selection, and this book continues in that fine tradition.

The book includes a knowledgable and fascinating text by David Apatoff, that drew on an interview Apatoff was able to conduct with Briggs’ son, Austin Briggs Jr., who also contributed the forward.

Apatoff has two posts about the book on his own, always excellent blog, Illustration Art: here and here.

I had seen some of Briggs’ work in pieces here and there, but to see a collection like this upped my impression of his accomplishments even further. I recommend the book highly and suggest that if you’re interested, you should order sooner rather than later. Auad Publishing limits their print runs and does not do reprints.

Austin Briggs: The Consumate Illustrator is available direct from Auad Publishing for $34.95 plus $5 domestic shipping.

There is a small set of preview images on the Auad site if you click on the book cover image. I’ve added general links to Austin Briggs material below. You can find more if you do an image search for Austin Briggs.


John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal at the Morgan Library

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

John Singer Sargent is known for his bravura society portraits in oil, as well as his masterful watercolors. The latter were painted largely for his own pleasure as he traveled. The former, which were his stock in trade, came to weary him late in his career, and at one point he simply stopped doing formal portraits in oil.

He continued creating portraits, however, but in the form of charcoal drawings. These are wonderfully economical, deceptively simple but insightful and evocative of personality. They are also beautiful examples of the power of charcoal and of chiaroscuro.

The Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which has a history of presenting wonderful shows of drawings, has mounted a show of Sargent’s charcoal portraits drawings in cooperation with the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal, will be on display at the Morgan Library until January 12, 2020. The exhibition will then move to the National Portrait Gallery, where it will be on display from February 28 to May 31, 2020.

The Morgan Library has a small set of preview images, which I’ve used for my examples, above, and I’ve linked to another source on Wikimedia Commons, though the quality of the reproductions there varies.

There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition. For those on a budget, there is an unrelated Dover paperback of Sargent Portrait Drawings.

See also my previous post on John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings.


Hans Guerin

Hans Guerin paintings

Hans Guerin is a painter based in Maryland whose subjects include figures, portraits and still life.

Among them, what I find most compelling are his still life paintings that follow the play of light across the richly colored, textural surfaces of pumpkins and other gourds.

You can find a number of his paintings on his website, which is shared with his wife, painter Beth de Loiselle Guerin.


Eye Candy for Today: John Martin’s The Great Day of His Wrath

The Great Day of His Wrath, John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath, John Martin (details)

The Great Day of His Wrath, John Martin

Oil on canvas, roughly 77 x 120 inches (197 x 303 cm); link is to zoomable image on the Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Tate.

This large painting by the 19th century painter John Martin — who was known for his depictions of monumental and cataclysmic events — is part of a tryptic sometimes known as the “Judgement Series”, along with The Last Judgement and The Plains of Heaven.

It might just as well be interpreted to depict nature’s wrath on a day that sees millions striking for action on climate change, and young people taking the role of the “adults in the room” — reminding us of the folly of turning a blind eye the contribution of human activity to this emergency for the sake of corporate profit.


Louis Béroud

Louis Beroud

Louis Beroud

Louis Béroud was a French painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was known for his views of Paris — often of strikingly complex architectural subjects — and views of ornate interiors, in particular interior views of the Louvre museum.

Béroud was registered as a copyist at the Louvre and did several paintings of other copyists at work, as well as his fanciful interpretation of a painter surprised as his subject comes alive.

It was while painting his copy of Da Vinci’s La Gioconda (The Mona Lisa, image of Béroud’s copy above, bottom) that he came in to the museum one morning to find Da Vinci’s painting gone.

After inquiring of the staff if the painting was out for photography, it was discovered that it had been stolen.

(Yes, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. It was subsequently found and restored to its place, but not without some interesting speculation as to the nature of the crime.)