Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha) (update)

Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha)
In my previous post about Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha), I pointed out that I think his place in art history has been drastically undervalued.

Partly because we think of his work, and the Art Noveau movement with which he was inextricably linked, as “decorative”, “pretty” and basically lightweight, his influence and achievements, and the range of his work, go largely ignored.

Though his elegantly beautiful posters, perhaps the finest blending of artwork and graphic design ever achieved, are tremendously popular; his other work, notably the 20 dramatic and large scale paintings of The Slav Epic, which Mucha considered his greatest artistic achievement, are not widely known.

A new large scale European exhibition of Mucha’s work, from all phases of his artistic career, promises to correct that and bring more of his range and stature as an artist into light. There is a detailed description of the exhibition on Art Knowledge News.

The exhibition is currently at the Belvedere in Vienna, Austria until June 1, 2009. From there a slightly modified version travels to the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France, where it will be on display from June to September 2009, and then will be on view in Munich from September 2009 to January 2010.

For more see my previous post on Alphonse Mucha. I didn’t include many resources in that post, so I’ve listed some here.

 
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Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman
Maira Kalman is an American illustrator, designer and author, well known for her New Yorker covers and children’s book illustrations.

She was also a principal in the M&Co. design company, has done set design, fabric and product design, editorial illustration and a set of illustrations for a 2005 edition of the iconic guide to writing stye, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (images here). She also teaches graduate courses at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Kalman’s illustrations often have a deliberately childlike quality, her figures posed with disregard for the conventions of perspective, heads askew, arms akimbo, hair floating in defiance of gravity; colors filled with textures and lines, in a recapturing of that “Rules? What rules?” innocence that artists often lose with training.

From the Spring of 2006 to the spring of 2007 she wrote a monthly illustrated blog for the New York Times called The Principles of Uncertainty, which has since been collected in a book.

Kalman is back at the Times with a new illustrated blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, focusing on American Democracy and starting with a post about the recent inauguration of President Obama (from which the image above is taken).

There are also a series of interesting videos on Google Video of Kalman talking at the TED conference, discussing The Elements of Style and showing her Moleskine Sketchbook.

 
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Reconstructing Martha Washington

Martha Washington, Michael Deas, Charles Wilson Peale, James Peale
It’s President’s Day here in the U.S., and though it’s nice to contemplate the changes that will hopefully come from the presence of a new and very different president, the holiday is dedicated to past presidents, most specifically the first U.S. president, George Washington, whose birthday the holiday marks and was originally named for.

Our picture of Washington, like most figures from his time, is based on artists’ portraits; in the case of Washington, most notably the famous portraits by Gilbert Stuart.

The wives of presidents were also the subject of official portraits, which are likewise the source of our image of them. This view is always limited by the timeframe of the portraits, which were usually commissioned while the president was in office, or even posthumously, Consequently, our image of these figures is often of individuals in their advanced age, as there is often no portrait recording their appearance in their youth.

Such is the case of Martha Washington, George Washington’s wife, whose visage we know from the portraits Charles Wilson Peale (image above, lower left), and his younger brother James Peale (above, bottom center) as well as an unfinished portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

Author Patricia Brady, in the course of researching her fresh historic look at the original First Lady, Martha Washington: An American Life (more detail here), asked forensic anthropologists at the Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory, who often do computerized age progressions (for instance, to determine what kidnapped children might look like as they get older), to do a computerized age regression of Martha Washington; based on the watercolor on ivory portrait by James Peale (above, bottom, center), which her grandchildren reported was a “striking likeness”.

By comparing bone structure, facial dimensions and proportions of features, the lab was able to produce an image of her likely appearance in her twenties.

The result was then used as a basis for a new portrait by illustrator Michael J. Deas, who has painted other portraits of historical figures from U.S. history; giving us a new image of Martha Washington as a vibrant, strikingly attractive young woman on the eve of her wedding (image above, lower right, with detail at top).

This image was subsequently used as the cover of Brady’s book, and prints of the image can be ordered from Deas’ web site.

Deas has shown her in a reconstruction of her wedding dress, and in a pose that she might have been asked to take for a painter of her time.

Here we see an image of the slim, charming, and strong young woman who ran five plantations after the death of her first husband, bargained with merchants, haggled over tobacco prices and followed her new husband into battle, and of whom patriot, soldier and future first president George Washington was deeply enamored.

 
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Yoshihiro Inomoto

Yoshihiro Inomoto
Yoshihiro InomotoThe twelve year old kid that lives somewhere at the base of my brain, happily soaking up cool stuff like robots, spaceships and dinosaurs, has an undying fascination with cutaway images.

These are the drawings and paintings that show the gleaming inner workings of something, usually a delightfully complex piece of sophisticated machinery like a racing car or jet plane, in the context of the outer appearance, as though viewed with Superman’s x-ray eyes.

These images reach mind-blggling levels of complexity. There is an assumption that the modern use of computer imaging somehow solves all of that, and makes it “easy”, but that’s far from the case.

And lest we forget that the era of computer based illustration is actually still quite young, we can look at one of the masters of cutaway illustration, Yoshihiro Inomoto, who has been doing unbelievably intricate renderings of the hyper-complex geometry and shining metal surfaces of the interior parts of cars, internal combustion engines, motorcycles and other objects of mechano-lust, since the early 1950’s, using traditional illustration techniques of pencil drawings, ink and airbrushed final renderings.

Inomoto left high school early, pursuing his own path through classes in illustration and design, went to work for companies like Mazda and Nissan; and eventually became a freelance technical illustrator. His cutaways start with a traditional pencil sketch, which he refines with the use of tracing paper to re-position and combine different components, to create a detailed drawing that is then transferred to illustration board for final rendering.

Though many manufacturers utilize 3-D models to create technical renderings these days, a number of current technical illustrators, many of them deeply influenced by Inomoto, specialize in 2-D illustrations, even if drawn with a computer stylus and drawing tablet rather than pencils and paint.

There’s just something about the feeling of an illustration, even one as complex and technical as these get, that can’t be easily replicated in CGI modeling.

In recent years Inomoto has learned the modern Illustrator and Photoshop techniques being employed by his juniors, but still prefers traditional methods.

Techincal Illustrator Kevin Hulsey has a section his site of Masters of the Cutaway, that prominently features a page on Inomoto.

[Via Digg]

 
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Edmond Aman-Jean

Edmond Aman-Jean
Edmond Aman-Jean was a French Symbolist painter who was friends with Georges Seurat, the famed neo-impressionist (pointillist) painter, and shared a studio with him for a number of years.

Aman-Jean and Seurat both studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with Henri Lehmann, an academic painter whose traditions they both eventually moved away from.

Though he never followed his friend’s forays into fields of painstakingly dabbed broken color, he did experiment with a bright palette and painterly brush handling. His subject matter, often young women, frequently in profile, arrayed in languid, even melancholy, poses, put him more in line with the Pre-Raphaelite painters than the Impressionists or their followers.

Aman-Jean became friends with prominent Symbolist poets and joined in their somewhat darker version of romanticism.

 
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Allpaintings Art Portal

Allpaintings Art Portal, Caravaggio, Frits Thaulow, Theodore Robinson, George Inness, Gustav Caillebotte, John William Waterhouse
One of the best things about the internet is its exponential rate of growth. If there’s something you can’t find today, wait a few years (or months, or days) and it just may pop up. “All things”, to paraphrase the zen-like passage from the Bible, “come to he who waits.”

When I started writing Lines and Colors back in 2005, my very first post was about the Art Renewal Center, a sprawling art image resource dedicated to representational art. Since then I’ve discovered many other art image portals, like terrific Web Gallery of Art (see my post here), and The Athenaeum, which has recently been one of my favorites; as well as several others that I frequently link to in my posts about well represented artists from the past.

Sites like ARC, the WGA and the Athenaeum are constantly adding to and improving their image catalogs, but occasionally I’ll be surprised to find a new (at least to me) major trove of online art.

A case in point is the Allpaintings Art Portal, which I wasn’t aware of until a few months ago (at allpaintings.org, allpaintings.com is just a squatted domain). Im not certain how long the site has been established, but it boasts over 33,000 images (though some of them contemporary, in a “Users Gallery”), as well as a blog and Art News listing.

The works are arranged in general stylistic categories with oddly varying degrees of specificity, like Baroque, Impressionism, Hudson River School, Barbizon School, Symbolism and Realism, with subsections for individual artists.

The image “thumbnails”, actually quite large, are presented as square crops and alphabetically arranged, oddly enough, by the artists’ given names rather than by surname.

While not “complete” in any sense of the word, or even “as complete” as some of the art image sites that have been established for many years, the site nonetheless contains an impressive number of images, carefully selected and nicely presented; with well balanced color and good quality of reproduction.

The best thing about the Allpaintings Art Portal, though, is the size of the images. While many of the other art portals have very large images for some works, the Allpaintings site seems to be taking pains to post large images whenever possible, some of them are among the highest resolution images of paintings you’ll find in art portal sites.

Once you’ve drilled down through an artist to an individual painting. look for the link above it to “View larger Image” (the image itself at that point is often linked to a detail crop, or a series of them, click on the text link for the full large image).

The selection of images is impressive as well. Though fewer artists may be represented than other portal sites, the selection of images for an individual artist may include images not found in the others, such as one of the best resources for the pre-tonalist work of George Inness (my post here), good selections of American Impressionist Theodore Robinson and undersung French Impressionist Gustav Caillebotte (my post here), a section dedicated the Pre-Raphaelites (my post here) and related painters, including John William Waterhouse (my post here), a wonderful selection of very high resolution detail crops from Caravaggio’s paintings, and probably the best resource anywhere for one of my (undeservedly obscure) favorites, Frits Thaulow (Hooray! — my post here); just to name a few.

(Image above: Caravaggio, Frits Thaulow, Theodore Robinson, George Inness, Gustav Caillebotte, John William Waterhouse)

As usual in this kind of situation, I’ll issue my Major Time Sink Warning. There are enough beautiful images here to keep you avoiding work for weeks on end.

Enjoy.

 
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