Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner
Though American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is frequently thought of as a realist and as an orientalist — for the Biblically themed works based on his trips to Palestine and other locations in the middle east, I came away from the current superb show of his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, with a different feeling — essentially that he was a painter of light.

That phrase can be applied to many painters, like J.M.W. Turner, the Luminists and the Impressionists, but in Tanner’s case, I’m using the phrase in a slightly different sense.

I was passingly familiar with Tanner’s work, from books and the few pieces in the collection of the Academy, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it wasn’t until I saw the array of his work collected in this exhibition that I was struck with his thematic use of light and dark.

In composition after composition in many of his later works, in ways both subtle and dramatic, Tanner uses value contrasts to create pools of light, at times like spotlights, to focus your attention and move your eye into his canvasses.

In many cases, particularly in his portrayal of keyhole shaped doorways and arches in the middle east, he works light within dark and dark within light, even to several levels, forming visual targets, and drawing you deep into his scenes.

Tanner was noted as a pioneering African American artist, one of the most influential and the earliest to receive worldwide recognition, though he downplayed his role in that capacity and concentrated on his efforts simply as a painter.

Tanner studied for a time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was a student of Thomas Eakins, and of Eakins’s student Thomas Hovenden, but he left before graduating, seeking to establish himself as a painter, photographer and teacher in Atlanta, Georgia.

His efforts met with less success than he had hoped, and though he found favor among key patrons, his general treatment as a black artist in late 19th century America was not conducive to the kind of life as a painter he envisioned.

It was with the support of patrons that he left the U.S. to study in Europe, enrolling in the Academie Julian in Paris. His reception and treatment in Europe was so much better than in the U.S. that he would spend the rest of his career there, punctuated with occasional trips back.

His paintings were well received at the Paris Salon, and his painting The Resurrection of Lazarus, now considered his masterpiece (image above, second down), was awarded a medal and immediately purchased by the French Government.

I have always been fond of his painting of The Annunciation in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its wonderfully eerie depiction of the Angel Gabriel as column of vibrating golden light, but it wasn’t until I saw the range of paintings in this exhibition in which he played with light effects, from moons in cloudy skies to light cast against buildings to sunlight in doorways, that I really appreciated the depth of his exploration of that direction.

I also came away with a much greater appreciation of Tanner as a painter. Over the course of his career, he experimented with styles that ranged from academically polished to painterly to roughly textured topographies of paint across canvasses that played out the “paint as paint” sensibilities and color experimentation of expressionism and early modernism.

The current exhibition is notable for the number, quality and range of his works assembled, and the presence of The Resurrection of Lazarus, which is in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay and has not been exhibited in the U.S. before.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit is on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia until April 15, 2912. It then travels to the Cincinnati Art Museum where it will be on display from May 26 to September 9, 2012, and to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, from October 21, 2012 to January 13, 2013.

There is a catalog accompanying the exhibition.

In his experimentation with light, value, paint surface and visual texture, Tanner is extraordinary in his ability to be at once subtle and striking. Though I’m fascinated by those qualities of his paintings, I would think that Tanner always saw them as simply tools in his portrayal of human emotion, spiritual devotion and a celebration of the world as it revealed itself to him.


Michael Cole Manley

Michael Cole Manley
Michael Cole Manley is well known as “Mike Manley” in his role as a comic book artist and animation artist and as the editor of Draw! magazine, a how-to magazine popular in the comics art community (see my previous post on Draw!).

As a comics artist, he has worked for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and on major characters like Batman. He is currently the artist on the Judge Parker newspaper strip. He has done work for television animation for Warner Brothers, MTV and the Cartoon Network.

Manley also teaches animation, cartooning and drawing, and has in the last few years returned to the role of student himself; he is in his fourth year as a painting major at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Outside of his formal studies as a painter, Manley works plein air as well as in the studio, and he and a group of likeminded painters have formed the Dirty Palette Club, getting together for plein air excursions and group studio work outside of the school environment.

Manley’s progress as a painter is evidenced in his current one-man show at the Roger La Pelle galleries here in Philadelphia – Commuterscapes and Expectations. I was glad I had the chance to stop in for the opening and see both the show and Manley, who I have known for many years but hadn’t caught up with recently.

The show features a nice cross section of his painting subjects, landscapes, figures, interiors and more conceptual work, as well as what seems to be one of his major fascinations, cityscapes, and in particular, nocturnal cityscapes. The latter highlight his fascination with direct light sources and dramatic value contrasts.

Manley is an active blogger and maintains a blog in which he chronicles his progress as a painter and art student, as well as the Draw! blog, that focuses more on his comics and animation work, along with the official Draw! magazine blog and the Dirty Palette Club blog. He also has a dedicated website that showcases his painting.

Commuterscapes and Expectations is on view at the Roger La Pelle Galleries to April 1, 2012.


Bruce Jensen

Bruce Jensen
Presumably starting from sketchbook in which he playfully doodled out freeform alien creatures, Alien Menagerie is a blog in which illustrator Bruce Jensen is, in his words, “painting groovy things from another planet”.

Jensen’s wonderfully loopy creatures are usually painted in acrylic on watercolor paper, though at times on post-it notes, and are supplemented in the blog with pencil sketchbook drawings.

On his website, Jensen showcases some of his aliens in a section called “extracts”, as well as some more fully developed paintings of similar themes in acrylic on panel. Some of his 8×10″ acrylic on paper originals are for sale in his “shop” section.

In addition, Jensen’s website has a section of his professional illustration, with his art for the covers of many well-known science fiction novels, including his cover for Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which is where I first encountered his work.

Jensen’s clients include Berkley Publishing, Bantam Spectra, Ballantine Del Rey, Penguin/Roc, Tor Books, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, among others. Jensen was for several years an art director and illustrator for the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes II, and continues to work for CBS as a designer and animator.

[Via Glendon Mellow @flyingtrilobite]


NGA Images

Unlike some museum directors who still seem to feel being miserly with images of their public domain artworks is somehow in their interest (perhaps under the assumption that allowing even a few high-res images onto the web will steal the museum’s soul and capture it inside the magic picture making box), savvy museum directors are increasingly demonstrating that providing beautiful hi-res image images on the web of the public domain artwork in their collections is not only good public policy, it’s good museum policy, increasing interest and attention to the museum and its collections.

Of course, providing high resolution images of lots of artwork in a systematic way on a museum’s website takes more than a policy change, and in large museums in particular, takes lots of work and considerable expense.

Such an effort has recently been conducted by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Rather than incorporating it into the museum’s regular website, they have created a separate website called NGA Images to allow access to their databased collection.

Access is, in government fashion, a bit round about and not as convenient as, for example, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s wonderful new website (see my post here), but the NGA Images website and its database of extraordinary artworks are a welcome addition nonetheless, and the museum and its staff are to be thanked and congratulated for a terrific resource.

The “round about” part is the condition that, though you can search the database and see reasonably large preview images without it, you have to register and log in to access the higher resolution images (this is free and simple to do).

The images may be reused by the public under their “Open Access” policy (as well they should be, since everything in the National Gallery belongs to the American public by law — see my recent rant about “public domain“).

To search the collections you can use the simple search box on all pages or the advanced search page, or you can browse through one of the themed collections that the staff has begun to provide to introduce some areas of the collection, like French Galleries, Self-Portraits, Music and Frequently Requested.

In all cases be aware that your search or collection returns are initially limited to the number of images par page chosen in the controls at the top of the page. You can also choose thumbnail size, background color and zooming and caption options.

Once in a search or collection, you can use controls under the thumbnails to view more information, add to a lightbox, download the medium-resolution version and, if logged in, download the high resolution version.

NGA Images - access high res images Unfortunately, I found the process less than intuitive and unnecessarily complex (my tax dollars at work). When signed in you should see your name at the top right of the page and not “Sign In”. Under the image thumbnails, look for the download icon with two lines, mouse over to see a tool tip that this is the link for the hi-res image. This should open a pop up with the image download options (the “Project Title” and “Usage” fields are optional. Choose a size and click to download.

The National Gallery is a world-class museum with superb treasures in its collection. In spite of issues with the process of getting to the high resolution images, the museum has added a new treasure in providing us access to them by way of this site.

(Images above, with detail crops: Rembrandt van Rijn, William Merritt Chase, Johannes Vermeer, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet)

[Via BibliOdyssey]


George Boorujy

George Boorujy
New York based artist George Boorujy creates striking images of animals, rock formations and other natural and man made objects using ink on paper.

His website, and the few interviews I’ve been able to find, don’t include much information about what kinds of inks or other details about his process, but the results are highly detailed, textural and visually forceful.

Boorujy’s work is currently on display in a show titled “Blood Memory” at the P-P-O-W gallery in New York that runs until April 14, 2012.

The gallery on his website includes detail crops, sometimes more than one, for some of the images. I’ve taken the liberty of applying an outline to the full versions of his works, that often include white or very light backgrounds, so you can more clearly see his compositions (which some of the blog articles listed below obscure by only posting detail crops).

I learned of the exhibition from the Wired Science blog, which has a nice additional gallery of his work.


Picturing Spring: An Equinox Celebration on Tor.com

Picturing Spring: An Equinox Celebration on Tor.com: Abbott Handerson Thayer, Stephen Hickman, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, N.C Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Walter Everett, Daniel Ridgeway Knight, John William Waterhouse
In what I hope will become a regular feature, Irene Gallo, art director of Tor, Forge, Starscape and Tor.com, has reprised the idea behind her post from last December, Picturing Winter, a Solstice Celebration, as Picturing Spring: An Equinox Celebration.

The basis of the original post was to ask several illustrators and art directors to suggest some favorite images of winter, created by themselves, other contemporary artists or artists from history.

The result was a treat, as I mentioned in my post about it, and though it was meant as a one-off article, Gallo decided to continue because, in her words, “…the post was too much fun to put together and I learned way too much not to try it again”.

I think her readers would agree on both counts.

This time around the subject is spring and the vernal equinox, and the result is a similarly wonderful, and enlightening, array of illustrations, concept art, museum and gallery art from both contemporary and historic sources.

Readers familiar with Lines and Colors know that I love this kind of mix of styles, genres and centuries, and I was delighted when Gallo asked me to participate in this round.

My suggestions were two images by Daniel Ridgeway Knight and one by John William Waterhouse (images above, bottom three).

The overall mix in her post is a treat, and the article includes comments by the participants and Gallo on the artists and works chosen. You may find some beautiful works and artists that are new to you.

The images in the post are linked to larger versions, and you will find it worth looking up artists with whom you’re not familiar to find more of their work.

Don’t forget to click on the names of the illustrators, gallery artists and art directors who made the suggestions to follow back to their own sites and blogs; in addition to the artists suggested, they themselves represent a “tip of the iceberg” dive into a wealth of dazzling artwork.

(Images above: Abbott Handerson Thayer, Stephen Hickman, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, N.C Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Walter Everett, Daniel Ridgeway Knight, Daniel Ridgeway Knight, John William Waterhouse)