Adoration of the Shepherds, Charles Le Brun

Adoration of the Shepherds, Charles Le Brun
Charles Le Brun was a major figure in 17th Century French Painting. Here, in his Adoration of the Shepherds (also here), he displays his skill with composition, color and light, using them to gently guide our eye through several aspects of a complex scene.

The immediate focus, of course, is on the mother and child, their illuminated figures accented by the darkened silhouettes of the foreground figures. Our eye then sweeps upward with the rising smoke, through the curves of the angelic banner and out into the heavens which have opened into our scene. When we settle back into the foreground, we have a wealth of other figures, earthly and etherial, on which to focus in turn.

Le Brun’s rich blues and deep orange-reds balance and complement each other beautifully, reinforcing the path of our eye and giving the painting a lively, vibrant character overall.


Walt Kelly’s A Visit from St. Nicholas

Walt Kelly's A Visit from St. Nicholas with Pogo and Albert
The brilliant Walt Kelly, one time Disney artist and creator, artist and writer of Pogo, one of the greatest comic strips aver produced, at one point turned his hand to an interpretation (it you want to call it that) of Clement Moore’s familiar Christmas poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, which many small children know by its first line, ”Twas the night before Christmas”.

In Kelly’s delightfully loopy version, infused with a bit of political satire for its time, the poem starts:

‘Twas the night before Xmas,
When all through the moon
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a spoon;

and goes on from there to get silly.

Roger Ebert, the jolly old soul, has gifted us with a reprinting of Kelly’s comic strip with Pogo and Albert dashing through their version of the story, and has included high-resolution images (click on the ones in the column) with which we can find extra holiday cheer in Kelly’s beautiful pen and ink lines.

[Via Escape into Life]


More Haddon Sundblom Santas

Haddon Sundblom Santas
Despite the inaccurate claims made by Coca-Cola for a number of years (they have since modified their story), and some confusion from other quarters, American illustrator Haddon Sundblom did not create the look of Santa Claus as we know him.

That story is a bit less than straightforward and involves a number of other illustrators, including Thomas Nast, J.C. Leyendecker, Reginald Birch, Norman Rockwell and others (see my post on Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus).

However, Sunblom, one of the great illustrators of the early 20th Century, refined the image of the character to his most recognizable form. Sundblom’s series of Santa illustrations for Coca-Cola ads, that ran from 1931 to 1964, gave us the quintessential modern interpretation of the Jolly One.

The Coca-Cola page has a selection of some of the images and the Coca-Cola Art blog has another page here, both with links to larger versions. An even better resource is the post on Golden Age Comic Book Stories, with many of the Sunblom Santas in one place (again, click for larger images). There is also a post on KoiKoiKoi.

Leif Peng has an excellent post on Sunny’s Santa on his blog Today’s Inspiration, and has a wealth of other posts on Haddon Sundblom. (Note: some of them include Sundblom’s pin-up illustrations, which can be mildly NSFW.)

See also my previous posts on Haddon Sundbom and Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus Illustrations.

I wouldn’t mind a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking if it was painted by Haddon Sundblom.


Wikimedia Commons

James Tissot, Henryk Hector Siemiradzki, Carl Spitzweg, Aleksandr Novoskoltsev, Viincent van Gogh, Willem de Zwart, John Singer Sargent, Jules-Eugé Lenepveu, Ilya Repin, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edouard Manet, William Merritt Chase
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with WikiLeaks, but Wikimedia Commons is related to another familiar Wiki based phenomenon, Wikipedia, in that both are projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.

(A wiki, by the way, is simply a kind of website, specifically, a potentially collaborative website created with wiki software, that allows for contribution, editing and administration by people with no knowledge of HTML.)

Wikimedia Commons is the Wikimedia Foundation’s online free-use media resource, containing over 7,000,000 media files — sound, video and of course, images.

Among the images are an increasingly large number of art related images — paintings, drawings, etchings, engravings and the like. It has become one of the larger art image repositories on the web (see my posts on The Athenaeum, ArtMagick, AllPaintings, The Web Gallery of Art and The Art Renewal Center). You may have noticed links to Wikimedia Commons among the links provided with a number of my articles about artists from history.

You can use the search feature at the top of every Wikimedia Commons page to look for a specific artist, of course, but one of the nice things about the arrangement of the material is that it enables a certain kind of browsing, one conducive to discovering artists and works that may be new to you.

An initial search for “paintings“, for example, brings up a page that provides access other category listings, such as Paintings by artist, Paintings by city, country, period, medium, subject, technique, and even Paintings by museum.

One of the most productive to my mind is the “Paintings by date” category, and from that landing, “Paintings by century“.

Here it’s easy to narrow down, for example into 19th century paintings. At this level, you’ll be presented with a number of thumbnails for a variety of paintings from the century, a sort of skim through some of that century’s artists, and a further breakdown into decades. Here is where I like to browse, by choosing a decade, for instance, 1880s paintings.

Though there are further breakdowns at that level, into individual years, the thumbnails for a given decade present a nicely varied selection of works to view by a variety of artists. Though hardly comprehensive, it makes for a fun way to explore and sample a selection of works by artists both familiar and not.

The images above, for example, all were represented on the 1880s paintings page as thumbnails, from the top: James Tissot, Henryk Hector Siemiradzki, Carl Spitzweg, Aleksandr Novoskoltsev, Vincent van Gogh, Willem de Zwart, John Singer Sargent, Jules-Eugé Lenepveu, Ilya Repin, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edouard Manet and William Merritt Chase.

Once on the page for an individual work you can sometimes (though not always) click through a linked mention of the artist’s name into a page of works specifically by that artist, for example, William Merritt Chase.

The possibilities for discovering artists are extensive.

I’ll give my usual Major Timesink Warning for resources this large and potentially engrossing.



Interview with Jean-Baptiste Monge

Jean-Baptiste Monge
Jennifer Oliver was kind enough to write and let me know that she has posted a two-part interview with French fantasy illustrator and concept artist Jean-Baptiste Monge (who I profiled previously here) on her blog Academy of Art Character and Creature Design Notes.

An Interview with Jean-Baptiste Monge, Part 1, and Part 2.

The blog is aimed at her students at Academy of Art University, but Oliver has generously shared the interview with the rest of us.

The interview, conducted in English, is profusely illustrated (how I love that phrase) with Monge’s beautiful, often detailed and wonderfully realized paintings, along with drawings, sketches and photographs of Monge at work (be sure to click on the images for larger versions).

Monge’s work is enchanting, in the fullest sense of that word, drawing you in with wonderfully stylized lines and forms and then charming the eye with beautiful touches and thoughtful details. He often reminds me of illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration just before and after the turn of the 20th Century, so I found the list of influences he mentions in the interview of particular interest.

He mentions a number of painters and illustrators I would have associated with him from my impression of his style, and some I didn’t expect.

Many of the artists he mentions have been the subject of previous posts on Lines and Colors, including painters and clsssic illustrators like J. W. Waterhouse, Jean-Léon Gérôme, John Bauer, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Alphonse Mucha, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Haddon Sundblom, as well as contemporary illustrators like John Howe, PJ Lynch and James Gurney (links to my posts).

Oliver lists some resources for information on Monge, including his website, a portfolio on Creative Talent Network, his LinkedIn and Facebook pages and Mr. Dumblebee.

For more see my previous post on Jean-Baptiste Monge.


Velázquez Portrait Restored, Literally and Figuratively

Velazquez, portrait of Philip IV restored
In 1973, for reasons still not clear to me, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York undertook a sweeping reassessment of many of its holdings, resulting in the downgrading of 300 old master paintings from attribution to the master to attribution to “workshop of”, “circle of” or “follower of”, removing them from the canon of those masters’ works and significantly depleting the value of the museum’s collection.

Some of those pieces have been again reassessed, both in the light of continued scholarship and as the result of subsequent cleanings and restorations. Last year the Met cleaned and restored Velázquez’s Portrait of a Man, and in the process restored it to it’s original attribution — originating from the master’s hand an not that of a subordinate. This was particularly significant as the painting is likely a self-portrait (see my post, Velázquez (Self?) Portrait Rediscovered).

This process has been repeated with a painting that was once, and is now again, one of the museum’s most important paintings by the Spanish master, who is sometimes labeled the greatest of all painters.

The full-length portrait of Philip IV of Spain is one of three the court commissioned from Velázquez after he became court painter. The painting had suffered over the years from numerous applications of varnish and misguided repainting, and was in a condition that made definitive attribution difficult.

The New York Times has a nice set of interactives on their feature, The Restoration of a Velázquez, that allows you to move a slider across the images, comparing the before and after restoration state of the painting (click between the “Restoration” and “Two Paintings Compared” tabs at the top of the feature).

I don’t know how long the NYT feature will be available before it disappears behind a registration wall. The painting’s listing on the Met’s site has both a larger version and a Zoomable feature, and still bears the “This information may change as the result of ongoing research.” tag.

We can assume (or hope) that Velázquez hasn’t indulged in flattering his subject here. The young Philip, pale, droopy eyed and red lipped, looks more like the dweeb you sat next to in chemistry than the ruler of one of the great empires of the world. But his appearance is consistent throughout paintings by Velázquez and others, and the master’s hand, revealed on the removal years of accumulated abuse, holds a steady mirror to nature.

(Image above, images of the interactive from NYT on the left, images from the Met on the right)