Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Edward Wilkins Waite

Edward Wilkins Waite, 19th century English landscape paintings
English landscape painter Edward Wilkins Waite was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Waite focused on landscapes, most of which were painted in his and around Surrey, where he was born. His landscapes are often painted in gentle overcast light, using an appealing muted palette and with an emphasis on texture.

His compositions often present a large foreground tree on one side, balanced out by a view in deep perspective on the other, giving the viewer an invitation to move into the scene.

I enjoy the sense of tactile definition he gives to his foreground trees, which frequently grab your initial attention and provide an entry point to the painting.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tonči Zonjić

Tonci Zonjic, comics and illustration
Tonči Zonjić (pronouced TAWN-chih ZAWN-yitch, according to an article on Illustrator’s Lounge) is a contemporary Croatian comics artist and illustrator.

I make a point or mentioning that he is contemporary because of the wonderful feeling his work has for the classic comics artists of the past. His chiaroscuro ink style carries echoes of early 20th century greats like Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff, but melded with the sensibilities of modern European comics and perhaps a touch of Will Eisner.

The blend, however, is definitely Zonjić’s own, and his cinematic approach and visual storytelling skills have made him a favorite of many readers as well as admirers of comics artistry.

Zonjić signs his work “To Zo”, and you will see him under that name.

Here in the U.S. Zonjić is noted in particular for his work on Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson (Amazon link, preview pages here), which has a nice “Blackhawk” kind of vibe, and two spy thriller series with writer Nathan Edmondson, Who is Jake Ellis? (amazon link, preview pages here) and Where is Jake Ellis? (Amazon link, preview pages here).

There are lots of examples of his comics and illustration work on his website and blog.

He also has a Tumblr blog on which he produces a short feature that I particularly enjoy, called Not/But (images above, panels on colored backgrounds at bottom), in which he wryly addresses the anxieties and self-doubt that all artists face at some point.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: William Strutt pencil drawing

Young Woman Holding a Book, William Strutt, pencil drawing
Young Woman Holding a Book, William Strutt

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Art Gallery of South Australia, which also has an larger version on their site, though not as large as the other two.

Pencil and watercolor on paper. The sheet is roughly 15 x 20 in. (38 x 52 cm), but I’ve taken the liberty of cropping in on the drawing, even in the “full” version at top.

This does not look like a preliminary sketch for another work, but like a finished drawing meant to stand on its own. I love the careful, engraving-like hatching in the modeling of the face and hands, and the contrast between that and the more economical rendering of the texture of the girl’s hair and dress.

Light touches of watercolor enhance the eyes and lips and what looks to me to be a pencil with a holder in her hand — making me think it may be a sheaf of drawing paper she holds rather than a finished book. (If it were writing paper, I would expect her to be holding a pen.)

A drawing of great delicacy and refinement, yet bold in the rendering of the folds of the dress, and powerful in its statement of the appearance of the model. Whether it’s intended to be a portrait or a genre piece, I think we can assume from the character in the girl’s face and the superb level of draftsmanship, that the drawing is an accurate likeness of a real person.

A beautiful drawing in every respect.


Marcel Rieder

Marcel Rieder
In his repeated subjects, 19th century French painter Marcel Rieder became fascinated with low levels of light, both in scenes of dusk and sunset, and in intimate outdoor and interior scenes lit by lamps.

Like the “painters of Paris”, Luigi Loir, Eugéne Galien Laloue, Edward Léon Cortès and Antoine Blanchard — who found harmony in the warm and cool relationship of shop windows against blue-gray backgrounds — Reider found a similar appealing harmony in the yellow-orange glow of lamps against the cool blues and blue-grays of evening skies and the muted tones of interior walls.

Reider studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and with the classical Academic painter Alexandre Cabanel. His initial subjects were more in keeping with the literary influenced subject matter of the Symbolist painters, but he eventually moved to the inviting, softly lit subjects that would become his signature approach.

Online resources for Rieder’s work are limited, but there are enough images for you to get a feeling for his inviting pools of light and warmth.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: Pieter Claesz still life

Still Life, Pieter Claesz
Still Life, Pieter Claesz

In the collection of the Timken Museum of Art (larger version here).

Usually, 17th century Dutch still life paintings like this one are named by modern curators with descriptive titles that include some of the objects pictured.

The Timkin simply calls this one “Still Life”, but they mention in their description that it combines two themes that were common in still life painting at the time: smoking paraphernalia and “breakfast pieces”; the latter meaning a light meal and not necessarily breakfast.

While the fish are certainly recognizable, I don’t know what is in the dish behind them. [Addendum: Mystery solved. See this post’s comments.]

As usual, I love Claesz’s little touches of masterful painting — the reflection of the fish in the metal plate, the texture of the stoneware and the wonderfully subtle backlighting on the tipped-over tankard.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

W. Heath Robinson (update)

W. Heath Robinson, illustrations, cartoons, contraptions, watercolors
William Heath Robinson, who signed his pictures “W. Heath Robinson”, was an English illustrator, cartoonist, author and watercolorist known in particular for his wry cartoons and his series of drawings depicting unlikely and complicated contraptions for accomplishing mundane tasks.

Here in the U.S. we associate the latter with American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, but Robinson was the original, and Goldberg… well, lets just say he “borrowed” the idea from Robinson. Robinson’s elaborate nonsense machines were also the inspiration for Nick Park’s delightful Wallace and Gromit animated films.

W. Heath Robinson’s brothers, Charles Robinson and Thomas Heath Robinson were both well known illustrators, as was their father, Thomas Robinson.

W. Heath Robinson was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the “Golden Age” of illustration. He is not as well known here in the U.S. as contemporaries like J.C. Leyendecker, N.C Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Franklin Booth, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Maxfield Parrish, and Robinson doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves, even among aficionados of classic illustration.

Also, Robinson’s cartoons, as delightful as they are, often overshadow his achievements as an illustrator in pen and ink and in watercolor, and he sometimes is thought of more as a cartoonist than an illustrator. I love his cartoons, but I think it’s unfortunate that many miss out on his superb book illustration.

For me, one project of his stands out as a high point in the annals of pen and ink illustration, up there with the best of the best, and that is his illustrations for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (images above, top, bottom and several of the more complex images in between).

The project also included several color illustrations (image with the reflecting pool above), but it is the ink drawings from the book that have always captured my fascination.

Exhibition at Delaware Art Museum

As much as I have long admired them in print, I was astonished to find how beautiful the original drawings are when I had a chance to see some of them — along with a wonderful selection of Robinson’s other work — at a new exhibit that opened recently at the Delaware Art Museum.

The exhibit is a retrospective drawn from the collection of the William Heath Robinson Trust (UK), and it covers the breadth of his styles and length of his career. It is beautifully arranged and presented, and the selections of his work are superb.

Wonder and Whimsey: The Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson is on view until May 21, 2017.

I intend to go back as I have the chance.


There is not a catalog accompanying the exhibition, but there is a nice book from Dover titled Golden Age Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson that makes an acceptable substitute, and gives a nice overview of Robinson’s work. It was authored by Jeff A. Menges, who wrote the terrific book on 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age that I recently reviewed. Dover also publishes an edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Robinson’s illustrations.

There is a new book of Robinson’s clever contraption illustrations, Very Heath Robinson, coming from Sheldrake Press in the UK; I don’t yet know if it will be available in the U.S.

A general Amazon search will bring up many more titles either by or with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.

Online images & articles

As far as online resources, the selections are not as wide as I would hope. The Delaware Art Museum offers a modest gallery of a few of the images from the exhibit. The websites of William Heath Robinson Trust, Heath Robinson Museum offer image galleries, but the images are frustratingly small, and in the case of the Trust, defaced with watermarking.

The best and most extensive source I’ve found for Robinson’s images is Poul Webb’s Art & Artists, which features 20 extensive articles filled with Robinson’s cartoons and illustrations.

You can start with the first article and look for links to the others in the sidebar under November and December, 2015; or you can do a general search for W. Heath Robinson. If doing the latter, keep clicking through the “Next Posts” links at the bottom of the pages; there are 20 articles, but not presented in order when viewing that way.

I’ve linked to some additional articles, image sources and biographical information below.