Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year 2009!

J. C. Leyendecker New Years babies from Saturday Evening Post
Another post of New Year’s babies from the illustrator who originated the concept of representing the new year as a baby, J.C. Leyendecker; and some of his numerous Saturday Evening Post covers which captured the essence of the year into the theme surrounding the baby.

There is (finally!) a new book of Leyendecker’s work, J.C. Leyendecker by Laurence S. Cutler and Judy Goffman Cutler. Though I haven’t gotten my copy of it yet, reviews are good.

Have a great new year, and may it be filled with lots of great art!


Guy Rose (update)

Guy Orlando Rose
When I wrote about Guy Rose back in 2007 there were only a few resources online, since then, however, much to my delight, The Athenaeum has posted has posted over 120 good-sized images of his beautiful paintings.

Guy Orlando Rose is considered one of the foremost of the painters known as “California Impressionists”. I put that term in quotes because, like the “Pennsylvania Impressionists” and “American Impressionists” in general, I think the term has been applied after the fact, and I doubt the painters ever referred to themselves that way.

The images posted on The Athenaeum are from the painter’s time in Giverny, where he learned about French Impressionism firsthand, as well as from California and its striking coastline.

The more I see of Rose’s work, the higher my opinion of him.

William Laskin

William Laskin
Inlay is a decorative process in which small pieces of material with differing colors are laid into carved channels in the surface of an object to create a pattern or image.

Inlays are often applied to decorative boxes or other small objects using wood veneer. It is also a common practice to use other materials, notably shells, particularly when inlay is applied to wooden musical instruments.

Inlays are often applied in to small areas of the fingerboards of guitars, giving them that extra appeal of decoration and craftsmanship.

William Laskin is a Canadian luthier (maker of stringed instruments), specializing in guitars, who goes well beyond the typical small decorative patterns normally applied to guitars several ways.

One is in the composition of his materials, which range into 9 different species of shell, 15 varieties of stone, 4 kinds of ivory and bone, and 3 types of metal.

Another is the location and extent of his inlays. While it is not uncommon for inlays to appear on the rosette surrounding the sound hole, or on the headstock, the shaped block at the top of a guitar’s neck which holds the tuning nuts, those applications are normally small, with headstock decoration usually consisting of the maker’s logo.

Laskin, on the other hand frequently takes the entire headstock or large portions of the fingerboard as his canvas, and the fact that he treats it as a canvas is the most unusual and interesting aspect of his inlay work.

Using a process called engraved inlay, Laskin hand cuts shaped channels into the ebony fingerboard or ebony headstock veneer that he uses on his guitars, and applies his carefully chosen inlay materials to create what he terms “narrative” inlay, essentially realistic pictures.

The result is a series of striking images, created with the different colors and surface characteristics of the inlay materials as his palette.

Laskin often sketches his subjects from live models, and does extensive research and preliminary drawings before beginning the intense, extremely time consuming process of engraving the design and forming and setting the inlay pieces.

There is a gallery of inlays on his site (click on the thumbnails for larger images), with a description of the process. There is a video on his site called The Guitar is My Canvas, but I was unable to see it as it requires RealPlayer.

Laskin resists the temptation to repeat a successful design, and each inlay image is unique. His range of subjects includes musicians, animals, film noir scenes and artists, like the portrait of Dalí above, as well as references to art styles like the design inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, also shown above.

Makes me wish I played seriously enough to afford one.

[Via Neatorama, via Sparkbox]

The 2009 Eustace Tilley Contest

Eustace Tilley Contest
As I promised in my post about The Many Faces of Eustace Tilley last January, I’m letting you know about the 2009 Eustace Tilley Contest in time to participate if you’re inclined.

Eustace Tilley is the name given to the foppish character drawn by art director Rea Irvin for the first cover of The New Yorker in 1925 (image above, top left). The character has returned for a reprise on the anniversary issue each year and has essentially become the magazine’s mascot.

Last year The New Yorker began a contest in which entrants create their own version of an alternate or updated Eustace, and the winners are featured in a slide show on the magazine’s web site (some of last year’s entries shown above as well as in my previous post). Last year they were also featured in the print version of the magazine, but they don’t mention that on this year’s page about the contest, so I think it’s just online this time.

The contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada (with the exception of Quebec). To enter, you sign up, confirm your registration and then upload your image(s) as a jpg, png or non-animated gif file, ideally 465×633 (must be in vertical orientation).

You can submit multiple entries (up to three, I think). The entries must be received by midnight Eastern Time on January 15, 2009, and the winners will be announced on February 2, 2009.

There’s no particular prize other than inclusion in the slide show of the 12 winners, which will be chosen by the New Yorker’s art editor, François Mouly; and, of course, the fun of creating your own variation of the character.

You can see the submissions to date for the 2009 contest here, the winners of the 2008 contest here, and a Flickr gallery of all 170 entries from the 2008 contest here.

You can also see a gallery of some of the variations on Tilley that the magazine has commissioned as covers from various artists, including Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Roz Chast, Robert Crumb, Anita Kunz, Carter Goodrich and others; and an article about the history of the character by Louis Menand, Mystery Man: The many faces of Eustace Tilley.

I’ll write another article when the contest results are posted in February and we can all see the new round of thoroughly modern Tilleys.

[Via Kottke]

The Nativity by Petrus Christus

The Nativity by Petrus Christus
This depiction of the Nativity by Petrus Christus (large version here) strikes me as one of the more interesting and unusual interpretations of the event.

We view the scene through a framing trompe l’oeil arch, likely inspired by the influence of Rogier van der Wyden’s similar compositions, such as his Miraflores Altarpiece (and interesting to compare to this “framed” walk-through composition by Antonello da Messina). The arch portrays a series of Biblical events, including stories from Genesis, and places the current event in the context of fall and redemption.

The figures, including four seemingly disinterested onlookers behind the ruined stable wall, are dressed in contemporary Flemish costume, and are viewed against a Flemish town, albeit with domed structures from Bethlehem and set amid rolling hills that might be neither location.

The event is attended by four angels, presented about one third human size, with strikingly bird-like wings, and dressed as sub-ministers of a 15th Century Northern European Mass.

The baby Jesus lies doll-like on the ground in the folds of Mary’s garments, central to everyone’s gaze, but otherwise not emphasized by the composition.

It’s interesting to compare the painting with Christus’ earlier versions of the Nativity and Annunciation here, here and here.

Petrus Christus was associated with early oil painting master Jan van Eyck, and may have succeeded him as master of his studio when he died in 1441. There is discussion, however, about whether he was actually Van Eyck’s student, as he shows as much influence from painters like Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden.

This painting of the Nativity is in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington.

Old Kris by N.C. Wyeth

Old Kris by N.C. Wyeth
This year’s post about Santa Claus (or suitable Santa Equivalent) is Old Kris by the great American illustrator N.C. Wyeth (more on N.C. Wyeth in a future post).

I had the pleasure of seeing this painting in person recently, as it is in the permanent collection of the Brandywine River Museum and currently on display as part of their Scenes of the Season exhibit (runs until January 11, 2009).

Here we have Wyeth basically doing his take, as did Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom and a host of others, on a version of Santa Claus as most emphatically refined by J.C. Leyendecker; though the characterization of the Jolly One in slightly different form goes back to Thomas Nast and beyond (see my post on Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus.

Wyeth’s wonderfully textured characterization of Kris Kringle, with his star and moon studded sack, slightly trimmer waistline and nice details like the mouse perched on the grandfather clock, was a cover for Country Gentleman November 1, 1925 (Country Gentleman was published by Curtis Publishing, publisher of the Saturday Evening Post.)

Perhaps his slightly trimmer waistline and tighter belt makes him a Santa for our times.