Saturday, March 18, 2017

John Lavery

John Lavery
John Lavery was an Irish painter who spent a good deal of his career living and working in London. He is known primarily for his portraits and his paintings of what he observed in England during the First World War, but I find his landscapes most appealing, especially those depicting water.

Lavery was acquainted with James McNeil Whistler, an expatriate American who was also living in London at the time, and I think you can see the influence of Whistler on Lavery’s nighttime scenes, landscapes and many of his portraits.

 
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925

101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925
Discovering art that you love by artists whose work is new to you can be a little like meeting a person to whom you’re romantically attracted — there’s an initial rush of infatuation that is so pleasurable the feeling can be addictive.

Growing up in northern Delaware (in a house a few hundred yards from the home of O.C. Darley), I developed an early appreciation for some of the great illustrators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — notably Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and other artists of the Brandywine School.

But when I started to expand my exploration of the amazing work produced in that era, and discovered the work of other American and European illustrators active at the same time, I became so dazzled and entranced that I started searching out any books I could find on these amazing artists. Each new discovery was jolt of artistic pleasure.

As I haunted used bookstores and university libraries, looking to discover more artists from this astonishingly fertile period of great illustration — rightfully known as the “Golden Age of Illustration” — I occasionally came across books that were motherloads of treasure in this respect, compendiums of artists from the era with reproductions of their work, books that were a pleasure in themselves and as well as a gateway to more discovery.

There have been several books of that sort over the years, and I’m happy to have some of them, but I’ve often had to hunt and pay more than I would like to get them. Overviews of great illustrators tend to be released and then go out of print quickly, leaving the searcher looking longingly at overpriced rare book listings.

I was delighted, then, to recently receive a review copy of a new book from Dover Publications that is exactly such a treasure.

101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925 is not a rerelease but a brand new book in the grand tradition of overviews of great illustrators, and it is one of the best of the lot.

Author Jeff A. Menges has done a superb job of choosing a fantastic array of artists, providing representative and dazzling examples of their work and presenting them with succinct, erudite commentary that introduces you to each artist and puts them in the context of their time. Every illustrator has at least two pages devoted to images of their work, in some cases four.

I addition to including favorites like Howard Pyle and N.C Wyeth, the book features a who’s who of Golden Age illustrators — Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, James Montgomery Flagg, Harvey Dunn, Charles Dana Gibson, Charles R. Knight, Edward Penfield, Frederic Remington, J. Allen St. John, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Alphonse Mucha, Jessie Wilcox Smith, J.C Leyendecker, Edwin Austin Abbey, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll and… well, I’m going to run out of room before I run out of fantastic illustrators to list.

Each article can leave you torn between reading on to the next great illustrator, or rushing out to look for more work by the fantastic artist you just discovered (or rediscovered).

This is a “gateway” book if there ever was one, a path to discovery and a beautiful joy in itself. If you have any feeling for Golden Age illustration, you will “fall in love” several times over in the course of going through its profusely illustrated pages.

Dover has done an amazing job of delivering an effective and pleasing book design and high production values that showcase over 500 images of beautiful illustration, both color and pen and ink, in a 250+ page volume — and somehow kept the price to $35.00 (not a typo — thirty five). [Note: If Dover’s ad is still running in the right column as you read this, you can use the code at the bottom of the ad to get an extra 25% off on this book along with other Dover fine art books.]

The Dover website gives more detailed information about the book, though it doesn’t offer a preview; the Amazon listing has a preview of some of the pages.

I’ll make the usual disclaimers and point out that Dover is an advertiser on Lines and Colors, and provided a free review copy, but if they hadn’t, and I found this in a book store, I would have bought it the instant I saw it and gleefully run home with it tucked under my arm like the treasure it is.

 
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ernst Fredinand Oehme

Ernst Fredinand Oehme, German Romantic landscape painter
Ernst Fredinand Oehme was a 19th century German Romantic landscape painter noted for his darkly atmospheric landscapes and paintings of architectural subjects.

Oehme studied with the highly regarded Danish painter Johan Christian Dahl, and through him met Caspar David Friedrich. The influence of both painters is evident in Oehme’s initial choices of subject matter and approach.

Later in his career, Oehme shifted his focus from the symbolism and emotional content of his early landscapes to more naturalistic subjects.

 
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: CC Curran’s Lady with a Bouquet

Lady with a Bouquet, (Snowballs), Charles Courtney Curran
Lady with a Bouquet, (Snowballs), Charles Courtney Curran

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Birmingham Museum of Art (AL) which also has a zoomable version. Oil on panel, roughly 12 x 8 in (31 x 22 cm).

American painter Charles Courtney Curran was known for his genre paintings, often of well dressed young women in idyllic surroundings.

In this small painting, Curran’s wife poses for a delicately sensitive portrait in which her shadowed face is in the same value range as the foremost of the flowers in the bouquet she examines, both illuminated from behind by gentle sunlight from a window outside our view.

I particularly admire the rather daring way Curran has silhouetted her profile against the bright passage of one of the sunlit groups of blossoms, using the value contrast to advantage as the focus of composition, while taking the risk that it might overwhelm the delicate modeling of her face.

Throughout, the brushy paint application is so loose and confident as to appear almost casual, though Curran’s superb draftsmanship and the powerful naturalism of the scene indicate that his approach was anything but casual.

 
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Yaroslav Zayablov

Yaroslav Zayablov, contemporary Russian landscape painter
Yaroslav Zayablov is a contemporary Russian landscape painter whose paintings evoke the feeling of his native countryside in a variety of seasons, weather and atmosphere.

His website has an English translated version (to which I have linked). There are three galleries: Landscape, Graphics (drawings) and Sketches. When looking through the his online galleries, once you are on a dedicated page for a given image, click on the image again for a larger view.

 
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: Jan Brueghel the Elder River Landscape

River Landscape, Jan Brueghel the Elder
River Landscape, Jan Brueghel the Elder

In the collection of the National Gallery of Art, DC, which has both zoomable and downloadable versions on their site (larger of the two downloadable versions requires a free account). There is also a zoomable version on Google Art Project and a downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons.

This work by a member of the artistic Brueghel family noted for his intricately detailed landscapes is smaller than it may seem from the reproduction — roughly 8 x 12 inches ( 21 x 32 cm) — and the character of his brushwork at this scale lends interesting textural qualities to the rendering.

Dramatic, low angled daylight cuts across the composition, revealing multiple planes of scenes in light and dark passages. The distant parts of the town and the ships far back on the river take on a ghostly, skeletal quality.

 
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