Americans in Paris

Americans In Paris
Say what you will, but as far as I’m concerned, Paris is the capital of the world.

Well, if we have any pride in ourselves as human beings, it should be. There may be other cities that could lay claim to that title on the basis of commerce, power, wealth or sheer size, but Paris, if aliens were to come down and ask, represents what a beautiful, entrancing, inspirational, livable, colorful and spectacularly glorious city we humans can make if we set our minds to it and back it up with our finest craftsmen, architects, designers and artists.

Little wonder it has been attracting the attention of artists for generations, particularly American artists in the latter half of the 19th Century, who flocked there for inspiration, instruction and to connect with the planet’s glowing center of art and culture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (a city that is no slouch when it comes to culture but, sorry, isn’t in the same league with Paris), is hosting an absolutely wonderful exhibit of some of the American painters who went to Paris at that time to study and exhibit, in other words, some of the best American painters ever. This list includes many of the painters I particularly admire because they fit into the area of “realism under the influence of Impressionism” that I really enjoy.

The show is called Americans in Paris and is a spectacularly high-level show, featuring great works by John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, James McNeil Whistler, Celia Beaux, John Henry Twatchman, Charles Courtney Curran, J. Alden Weir, Robert Vonnoh, John White Alexander, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, William Metcalf, Charles Sprague Pearce, Charles Edmund Tarbell and more.


(Image above, clockwise from top-left: Sargent, Alexander, Curran, Pearce, Hassam, Whistler.)

The exhibit not only features these great artists, but many are represented by some of their best works, including several paintings that I have wanted to see in person for years, like Sargent’s stunning group portrait of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit and Fishing for Oysters at Cancale (the small version), Alexander’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil (that I show here), Hassam’s Grand Prix Day and unexpected delights like Charles Curran’s Afternoon in the Cluny Garden, Paris, Harry van der Weyden’s Morning Labor on the Seine and several amazing little paintings by Charles Sprague Pearce.

The show runs from yesterday, October 24th, 2006, to January 28, 2007. I plan to see it again if I can. Short of traveling to Paris (sigh), it’s as close as I can get in terms of inspiration for this American.

[Addendum, 2012: Americans in Paris archive at the Met is now here.]


Dave Malan

Dave Malan
Dave Malan is an illustrator and gallery artist based in Salt lake City, where he works for Disney Games. The work displayed on his site and blog, however, is mostly his personal and gallery work, which ranges from straightforward portraiture to highly finished oils in a style that leans to caricature-like exaggeration.

The paintings on his site are mostly portraits, often of family members, painted in a frank “direct observer” kind of approach, at times incorporating a landscape or interior background. The illustrations are caricature style paintings that have a fun rendered cartoon feeling to them. The drawings, in pencil or NuPastel, are a bit of a mix, but tend toward straightforward portraiture.

His blog, Brilliant Anyway, features his work in a more casual format, includes work he doesn’t consider finished or refined enough to post on the main site, comments on the images and the process behind them and additional drawings. He also has some excellent links to the web presence for artists that he admires, his taste in which would be of interest to readers of lines and colors.

Malan seems to be fascinated in particular with faces, whether portraits or caricature, and often posts sketches from his sketchbook of people from the news or popular entertainment.

Malan is a contributor the Avalance Software Blog, a group blog where artists for the company (which is in some way affiliated with Disney) post artwork, often in response to a topic suggested by one of them.

Dave Malan is married to illustrator Natalie Malan.


Jean-Honoré Fragonard

FragonardI’m in New York for a few days (hence no post yesterday), and I had a chance to see a number of shows. One is a small but beautiful show of French Rococo drawings at the newly renovated and expanded Morgan Library and Museum, “Fragonard and the French Tradition“, with drawings by Fragonard, his mentors Francois Boucher and Charles-Joseph Natoire, and contemporaries Hubert Robert, Jean-Babtiste Greuze and Jacques-Louis David.

The exhibit is drawn (if you’ll excuse the expression) from the Morgan’s own superb collection. The show is small, but beautiful.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French Rococo painter whose playful, sensual and often erotic canvasses, along with those of Boucher, exemplify the voluptuously romantic visions of the period.

Fragonard’s drawings, most often executed in brown inks and wash, are wonderful in their ability to appear richly detailed while, in fact, having a remarkable economy of line and texture. Foliage that might be represented by hundreds of curved strokes in the drawings of other artists, even in the case of that sublime master of quick suggestion, Rembrandt, are created by Fragonard in a flurried illusion of wonderful scribbles that somehow convince your eye that you are, indeed, looking a leaves and branches.

The luxurious color and detail in his paintings are a fascinating contrast to the directness and quick suggestion of his drawings. If you go to the Morgan show and want to see that contrast, go uptown to the Frick Collection to see their wonderful examples of his paintings from the series titled “The Progress of Love”.


Zita the Space Girl

Zita the Space Girl is a series of charming short webcomics by Ben Hatke.

Hatke draws Zita with a simple, somewhat cartoony outline style reminiscent of early 20th Century newspaper comics, and occasional elaborations with atmospheric color.

The home page of the site serves as a news and updates page. The Comics section has the strips posted in chronological order from the bottom up.

The bad news is that Zita is updated very infrequently (although not as infrequently as, *Ahem!*, certain other webcomics are updated). The good news is that Hatke is working on new Zita material for print.

Hatke has been a contributor to the Flight comics anthologies (see previews here and here) and is working on a Zita strip for inclusion in #4. There is a nice write-up on the Flight blog that goes into more detail including the origins of the character and initial designs.


Daryl Mandryk

Daryl Mandryk
I don’t know why, exactly, but it seems like most adolescent boys, including the ones that remain in charge of some part of us as adults, love a good monster. A lot of girls like monsters too, of course, but it seems much more ingrained in boys.

Perhaps it’s some primal urge to slay the demons threatening our family/village/tribe/species that compels our fascination with monsters, or maybe it’s just the gee-whiz wow cool factor. Regardless, most of us, even as “responsible adults” have to admit that we like to see a good monster now and then.

Daryl Mandryk paints good monsters, as well as nasty zombies, giant ice warriors, menacing mecha, rampaging bots, evil aliens and all manner of deliciously threatening beasties. All of which, of course, make for the ideal stock in trade of today’s gaming market.

Mandryk is a concept artist for the gaming industry, and has worked on games like Def Jam Fight, SSX on Tour, Need for Speed Underground 2, and Def Jam Vendetta for EA Games. He is currently a senior concept artist for Propaganda Games where he is working on a new game listed under the working title of Turok, which I hope means it is a version of those great old Turok, Son of Stone Indians and Dinosaurs comic books.

Mandryk has also done illustrations for fantasy and gaming publications and his work was the subject of a recent feature article and tutorial in Imagine FX Magazine.

Mandryk started out working with 3-D modeling, but has shifted into direct digital painting in Painter and Photoshop, as well as working in traditional media.

The galleries on his site are arranged by date, and include sections of older work, sketches and figure drawings from life. The highlights, though, are the nicely scary monsters, demons, and otherworldly nasties that crawl out of his electronic paintbrush.


Arthur Radenbaugh

Arthur Radenbaugh
Are we there yet? Is this the future?

Apparently not, judging by the lack of seed-shaped aerodynamic three-wheeled cars and art deco skyscrapers (Chrysler Building notwithstanding), but the future as depicted by futurist illustrator Arthur Radenbaugh in the 1930’s would have been very cool indeed.

Radenbaugh did his futuristic renderings of cars for Motor magazine, and his advertising and editorial illustrations for magazines like Esquire, Fortune and Advertising Agency with an eye to the future, and rendered them with a futuristic tool, the airbrush, which was coming into broader use at the time.

The ability of the airbrush to lay down remarkably smooth, even tones and gradations (today being replaced by digital tools that do the same thing more easily), made it the tool of choice for rendering a future that would obviously be seemlessly smooth, shiny and sleekly modern (just like today!)

There is a virtual exhibition of Radenbaugh’s work, Radenbaugh, The Future We Were Promised online as part of The Palace of Culture Museum.

Hey, I still want to know why we don’t all have a gyrocopter in our driveway. Must not be the future yet.