The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum
As I mentioned in a post in 2014, I’ve long been impressed by the mid-20th century illustrations of MacCauley “Mac” Conner, an influential artist whose work was a prime example of the Madison Avenue advertising culture showcased in the Mad Men television series. This was a period that also represented last great heyday of magazine illustration in America.

Rather going into more detail here, I’ll refer you to my original post on Mac Conner, and concentrate in this post on the exhibition of his work currently at the Delaware Art Museum.

My admiration for Conner’s work was based largely on seeing it in reproduction — for an illustrator, that’s how it’s actually meant to be seen — but seeing his original art in the show, in a large and very well organized retrospective, just knocked me out.

I was frankly even more impressed than I expected to be. Throughout the show, I was wowed by Conner’s masterful handling of gouache and his consistently daring and inventive compositions.

Conner (who is still with us at over 100 years old) is an artist who was clearly not content to sit within the limitations of his field, but always pushing at the borders (both literally and figuratively) of what could be done with the printed page.

He experimented with novel points of view, referential repetitions of colors and images within the theme of an image, suggestions of elements not present (like walls, floors and horizons), daring crops, simultaneous representations of multiple views of the same scene, jarring juxtapositions of size and distance and sharp projection of emotional content.

Concurrent with his explorations of composition (in which negative space played a huge role) was his experimentation with the use of his medium, usually gouache on illustration board, at times augmented with pastel, ink or pencil.

His style evolved from Norman Rockwell influenced realistic rendering to the almost flat modernist style that came to exemplify 1950s and 1960s magazine illustration, in which rendering, if present, was often confined to the edges of forms. He also experimented with both rough and fine lines, textural effects and color palettes from monochromatic to duotone to full color, often with clever use of a contrasting color within an almost monochromatic composition to both highlight important elements and tie the composition together.

Underlying all of his inventiveness and restless exploration was his keenly developed draftsmanship and an unfaltering grasp of perspective, anatomy, facial expression and spatial geometry.

The exhibition at The Delaware Art Museum was developed by the Museum of the City of New York, which apparently has a superb collection of Conner’s work, and is similar to some degree to previous exhibitions in New York in 2014 and at the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2016.

The Delaware Art Museum has a selection of images from the show on their website, but they are disappointingly small, though there is a brief video on the page that shows some of the images in more detail.

Also disappointing is the inexplicably small printed volume that accompanies the exhibition. I do have an understanding of the economics of printing, but why take illustrations often meant to be double page spreads in magazines that could be almost 11 x 14 and print them in a book less than half that size? (Sigh.) The book was prepared by the Museum of the City of New York to accompany a previous exhibition and is apparently no longer available except at the exhibition venues, so if you want it, pick it up at the museum.

The best image source for Conner’s work online is this article from 2014 in The Guardian, in which the images are large enough that you can begin to get a feeling for the character of Conner’s beautifully handled gouache paintings. There is an unofficial Tumblr blog but few other online resources for his work.

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner is on view at the Delaware Art Museum until September 14, 2017.

This is a tremendous show — stunning work, beautifully presented — and fans of illustration, daring composition, gouache painting (or the Mad Men TV show, for that matter) should not miss it.

 
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Treasure trove of high-res images from Nationalmuseum Stockholm

high-resolution painting images from Nationalmuseum Stockholm; Anders Zorn, Oscar Torna, Hanna Pauli, Alfred Thorne, Rembrandt van Rijn, John Bauer, Frits Thaulow, Pieter de Hooch, William Blair Bruce, Egron Lundgren, Carl Wilhelmson, Anthony van Dyck, Gustaf Rydberg, Bernardino Mei, Johan Christoffer Boklund, Laurits Andersen Ring, Jean Simeon Chardin

In a gesture to make up for the inaccessibility of much of the museum’s collections during a major renovation to the building, the Nationalmuseum Stockholm has just released 3000 high resolution public domain art images from its collection to Wikimedia Commons.

There is an article on the museum’s website here.

The images are arranged on the Wikimedia commons site in a special (hidden) category: Media contributed by Nationalmuseum Stockholm: 2016-10, that is arranged for browsing alphabetically (note the “previous page”/”next page” links at the bottom of each page of thumbnails).

I don’t see a way to search specifically within the category, but I suppose you can do a general search for an artist’s name plus “Nationalmuseum” in the Wikimedia search box. Should you want more information about any of the works or the artists, you can switch over to the Nationalmuseum’s collection search.

Most of the images are at least 3,000 to 4,000 pixels wide, certainly large enough to see paint texture and individual brushstrokes in many of the paintings.

Browsing tip: If you click on the image thumbnails on Wikimedia Commons, they will open in a kind of viewer; however, if you click on the text title, you’ll open the image detail page with options to view or download the image at various sizes.

If you want the largest image without the largest file size, note that the last images in the list of available image sizes are TIFF files that are large in file size. You will usually see the next-to last image in the list of sizes is a JPEG image that is the same dimensions as the TIFF, but much smaller in file size. Though JPEG is a “lossy” format (throwing away image data to achieve higher compression) the compression levels are low enough that you won’t see much, if any, difference.

Not only are there beautiful works in this lot from the museum’s deep collection of Swedish and Norwegian artists, like Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson, Carl Fredrik Hill, John Bauer and Frits Thaulow; there are works by greats from elsewhere in Europe, like Rembrandt, François Boucher, Francesco Guardi, Gustave Courbet, Jan Lievens, Pieter de Hooch, Auguste Renoir, Jean Siméon Chardin and many others.

What a great resource.

You may have to dig a bit to find the kind of works you’re most interested in, but if you’re inclined to browse and linger through high-res art images the way I am, I’ll issue my customary time-sink warning, so you don’t inadvertantly wake up with half a day gone.

The release of the images coincides with a new exhibition at the museum that promises to be terrific, featuring more than 160 works of Scandinavian 19th century painting from the collection. Turn-of-the-Century Gems will be on view at the Nationalmuseum Stockholm from 23 June to 24 August, 2017.

(Images above: Anders Zorn, Oscar Törnå, Hanna Pauli, Alfred Thörne, Rembrandt van Rijn, John Bauer, Frits Thaulow, Pieter de Hooch, William Blair Bruce, Egron Lundgren, Carl Wilhelmson, Anthony van Dyck, Gustaf Rydberg, Bernardino Mei, Johan Christoffer Boklund, Laurits Andersen Ring, Jean Siméon Chardin)

 
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Art Museum Day 2017

Art Museum Day 2017
Tomorrow, Thursday May 18, 2017, is Art Museum Day here in the U.S.

Organized by the Association of Art Museum Directors, it’s an event in which participating museums open their doors for free and often feature events, tours and museum shop discounts.

Unlike the broader Museum Day, organized by the Smithsonian and generally held in September, this event has no requirement for advance tickets or limitations on the number of museums you can visit on the day.

This page devoted to Art Museum Day, though it may not be obvious at first, offers a list of participating museums, arranged by state.

The images above are of some of the participating museums here in the Philadelphia area: the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Brandywine River Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum of American Art and the Barnes Foundation.

 
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10 years of Lines and Colors

10 years of Lines and Colors
Today marks the 10th anniversary of my first post on Lines and Colors, on August 22, 2005.

My initial intention for the blog — which you can read more about here — is still basically the same: to introduce my readers to wonderful art and artists that they may not be familiar with, or to point out something of interest about more well-known artists.

The artwork I feature is in a broad variety of genres, but tied together by two common factors — I personally like it, and it’s more or less within the traditions of representational realism. Other than that, as I’ve always said in the blog’s capsule description, if it has lines and/or colors, it’s fair game.

You can see some of the range of genres in the “Categories” listing in the left hand column, and below that, in the “Archives”, you can still read all of the posts I’ve added over the past ten years. (Well, almost all — I still need to restore about 10 posts from July of 2013 that were “misplaced” when I moved the blog from one server to another — it’s constantly a work in progress.)

My most popular single post to date, at least in terms of response and comments, has been “How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web“.

The images I’ve selected above are meant as a small sampling of what you may find in the archives.

It has always been my hope that those interested in a particular genre of art — like traditional painting, plein air, art history, comics, concept art, fantasy art or illustration — would be drawn to Lines and Colors to pursue their area of interest, and through it discover wonderful art in other genres that they may not have sought out or encountered otherwise. I see that aspect of what I’m doing as an attempt to gently counter the ever-increasing fragmentation of art interests on the web.

In the 10 years since writing my first article for Lines and Colors, the resources for art images on the internet have expanded dramatically, most notably in the form of major museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian and the Rijksmuseum, posting high-resolution images from their collections online; the appearance of remarkable resources like the Google Art Project; and new online destinations for illustration, comics and concept art.

Originally, my posts were short, and the images single and small, and I actually worried that I would run out of “favorite artists” to write about. Today, after more than 3,400 posts (not quite a post a day for ten years, but pretty close), I have an ever-growing list of potential topics to get to — that may actually be longer than the list of already written ones.

There’s more to come!

-Charley

 
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New online collection from the Indianapolis Museum of Art

New online collection from Indianapolis Museum of Art: William McGregor Paxton, T.C. Steele, Willem Kalf, Robert Henri, Jacob van Ruisdael, Gilbert Stuart, Camille Pissarro, William Merritt Chase, Edmund Charles Tarbell

A number of art museums have been revitalizing their websites as they begin to realize what a powerful tool they are for public relations, as well as for their theoretical mission of education.

Not all can aspire to the gold standard set a few years ago by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but many museums are doing a creditable job of not only showcasing the museum but making large portions of their collections available online in searchable form.

While many museums are still clueless, going to the trouble to catalog their collections in online databases, and then providing less than useful images at small sizes (likely out or misguided or misinformed notions about copyright), some are doing it right.

As a case in point, Indianapolis Museum of Art — who I applauded in 2011 for presenting their excellent collection in a well organized and attractive website — has just unveiled a new show-them-how-it’s-done online collection search and browsing feature.

The initial page for the collections comes up with a simple search box. My one small complaint is that the page I find most useful to search from doesn’t come up until you’ve done a search, so I like to initially hit the search button with an empty query to get to this page.

From there, you can sort into collections on the left, as well as maker, material, object type and technique. I found the collections of American Painting, European Painting and Prints & Drawings especially fruitful. The museum’s collection is strong in American art in particular.

In Prints & Drawings, you may want to limit by material (e.g. watercolor). In all searches, you may find it helpful to use the “Has Image” filter at the top of the page.

There is also an entry point for browsing the collection.

The images are presented in zoomable versions, which can be viewed fullscreen, making the zoom feature actually useful. Those in the public domain have download arrows. You need to click on one of those silly “use” disclaimers, but I’ve gotten more tolerant of those under the heading of (“if it makes them feel better about putting large versions of public domain images online, fine”).

Many of the images are available in high resolution, allowing you actually appreciate them in a way that the tiny web images offered up by some museums don’t allow. (Most of the detail crops I’ve provided for the example images above are not even at full resolution.)

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has impressed me enough with their online presence that I have added Indianapolis to my list of places I’d like to visit, just to see this collection in person.

(Images above, with details: William McGregor Paxton, T.C. Steele, Willem Kalf, Robert Henri, Jacob van Ruisdael, Gilbert Stuart, Camille Pissarro, William Merritt Chase, Edmund Charles Tarbell)

[Via BibliOdyssey]

 
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Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art: Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Norman Rockwell, Charles Dana Gibson, Edward Henry Potthast, Harrison Cady, Frank Frazetta, George Herriman, John Berkey, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, William de Leftwich Dodge, Walt Kelly, Jean Moebius Giraud, Winsor McCay, Dough Chiang
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is a new museum, scheduled to open in Chicago in 2018, that will house a collection of art owned by film director George Lucas.

The collection and the museum are dedicated to art that, like film, is narrative in some way, telling stories whether overtly or by suggestion. This includes a number of works from history that would be considered museum paintings, as well as illustration, comics and concept art.

The museum has a website with a bit on information about the proposed museum building and the collection. The site features work from the collection in various categories. If you click through the initial images of individual works, there are nice sized enlargements.

Most of the art is to be found in the sub-sections under “Narrative Art“, but there is also artwork under the sections for “Digital Art” and “Art of Cinema (mostly under “Set Design“).

There are some great pieces here by a terrific range of painters, illustrators, comics artists and concept artists (though fewer of the latter than might be expected.)

The physical museum itself is apparently the focus of some controversy in Chicago, in regard to both its design and location, but I can’t fault Lucas for his taste in art.

(Images above, with links to my posts: Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Norman Rockwell, Charles Dana Gibson, Edward Henry Potthast, Harrison Cady, Frank Frazetta, George Herriman, John Berkey, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, William de Leftwich Dodge, Walt Kelly, Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Winsor McCay, Dough Chiang)

 
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