New online collection from the Indianapolis Museum of Art

New online collection from Indianapolis Museum of Art: William McGregor Paxton, T.C. Steele, Willem Kalf, Robert Henri, Jacob van Ruisdael, Gilbert Stuart, Camille Pissarro, William Merritt Chase, Edmund Charles Tarbell

A number of art museums have been revitalizing their websites as they begin to realize what a powerful tool they are for public relations, as well as for their theoretical mission of education.

Not all can aspire to the gold standard set a few years ago by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but many museums are doing a creditable job of not only showcasing the museum but making large portions of their collections available online in searchable form.

While many museums are still clueless, going to the trouble to catalog their collections in online databases, and then providing less than useful images at small sizes (likely out or misguided or misinformed notions about copyright), some are doing it right.

As a case in point, Indianapolis Museum of Art — who I applauded in 2011 for presenting their excellent collection in a well organized and attractive website — has just unveiled a new show-them-how-it’s-done online collection search and browsing feature.

The initial page for the collections comes up with a simple search box. My one small complaint is that the page I find most useful to search from doesn’t come up until you’ve done a search, so I like to initially hit the search button with an empty query to get to this page.

From there, you can sort into collections on the left, as well as maker, material, object type and technique. I found the collections of American Painting, European Painting and Prints & Drawings especially fruitful. The museum’s collection is strong in American art in particular.

In Prints & Drawings, you may want to limit by material (e.g. watercolor). In all searches, you may find it helpful to use the “Has Image” filter at the top of the page.

There is also an entry point for browsing the collection.

The images are presented in zoomable versions, which can be viewed fullscreen, making the zoom feature actually useful. Those in the public domain have download arrows. You need to click on one of those silly “use” disclaimers, but I’ve gotten more tolerant of those under the heading of (“if it makes them feel better about putting large versions of public domain images online, fine”).

Many of the images are available in high resolution, allowing you actually appreciate them in a way that the tiny web images offered up by some museums don’t allow. (Most of the detail crops I’ve provided for the example images above are not even at full resolution.)

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has impressed me enough with their online presence that I have added Indianapolis to my list of places I’d like to visit, just to see this collection in person.

(Images above, with details: William McGregor Paxton, T.C. Steele, Willem Kalf, Robert Henri, Jacob van Ruisdael, Gilbert Stuart, Camille Pissarro, William Merritt Chase, Edmund Charles Tarbell)

[Via BibliOdyssey]

Adam Rex (update)

Adam Rex, childrens book illustration, Smekday, Home
Adam Rex is a children’s book illustrator and writer, who I first profiled back in 2007.

His books include the well received Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich; a more recent series called the Cold Cereal Saga, the titles from which include Champions of Breakfast and Unlucky Charms; and a 2009 title, The True Meaning of Smekday, which, after having been optioned as a movie in 2008, has just been released by Dreamworks Animation as the CGI animated feature Home.

The cover of Smekday (images above, top), features — for those who don’t happen to recognize it — a chunk of Center City Philadelphia as the focus of the invading Boov.

The Adam Rex website is somewhat more abbreviated than some might like, but still has a nice cross-section of his illustration work. His old website is still archived here.

There is also a dedicated site for The True Meaning of Smekday, though it’s also less extensive than one might like.

A number of his sketches and painted originals are on view as part of an exhibit at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA, that runs to April 19, 2015.

Alfred Wahlberg

Alfred Wahlberg, Swedish landscape painter
19th century Swedish landscape painter Alfred Wahlberg studied briefly in Stockholm and in Dusseldorf, but took influence from his exposure to modern French painting in Paris; and his work shows both the dark moodiness of the northern schools and the brighter palette of the French painters.

In much of his work, even pieces that I might assume to be older and not as much influenced by the French styles, you can see unexpectedly open, loose brush work in paintings the look more tightly rendered in smaller reproductions.

There are some relatively large images on an ad-laced Ukrainian site at and some medium sized images on the Scandinavian auction site Bukowskis that lead to high-resolution versions for those who care to create a free account.

Wahlberg’s compositions are often theatrically lit, with late day sun cutting across the landscape or carving spotlights through breaks in clouds. Throughout are wonderful textural elements, both in the representation and in the surface of the paint.

Leah Lopez

Leah Lopez
Though she also works with figurative, landscape and cityscape subjects, still life is the primary focus of New York based artist Leah Lopez.

It was a particular quality of her still life paintings that most captured my attention. For lack of a better word, I might call it “presence”. Her still life subjects have immediacy, a painterly, tactile surface quality and a refined sense of composition. Along with her nuanced control of color and value, those qualities produce that elusive feeling of “being here” that I have difficulty describing, but find particularly appealing in still life paintings.

There are certain characteristics in her approach that, combined with the listing in her bio for study at the Art Students League in New York, incline me to guess that she has at some point studied with David Leffel and/or Sherrie McGraw, though I don’t know that for certain.

Lopez in now a teacher herself, teaching at the New York Academy of Art, Hudson River Valley Art Workshops, and at her own Leah Lopez Atelier in Manhattan. Her website includes a Studio Notes Blog, and a trailer for her first instructional video.

Her portrait and figurative subjects are often moody and theatrical, with figures emerging from deep chiaroscuro. Her landscapes and cityscapes are more direct, but also often deal in shadow.

There is an interview with Lopez on In Your Dreams, and another on John Potoschnik’s blog.

Eye Candy for Today: Childe Hassam’s Washington Arch, Spring

Washington Arch, Spring, Childe Hassam
Washington Arch, Spring, Childe Hassam

The link is to a zoomable version on the GoogleArt Project; there is a downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

What has always fascinated me about this painting — one of Hassam’s most recognizable works — is the seeming defiance of compositional norms. Hassam has taken a point of view that places the arch behind a row of trees that fill what most artists might consider its most interesting feature: the opening and framed space beyond.

Joshua Middleton (update)

Joshua Middleton, comics, covers, illustration
Joshua Middleton is an illustrator, comics artist, concept artist and art director who I first wrote about in 2006. At the time, he was primarily working in comics; since then, he has worked in film and television for clinents liks Universal, Lionsgate, Sony, Sony Pictures Animation and Warner Brothers; and as a cover artist for book publishers such as Scholastic, Abrams, Bloomsbury, Tor, Viking and Disney.

Middleton has also come full circle back to comic book publishing, becoming noted in particular for his striking cover art.

Comic book covers owe their lineage to the pulp magazine covers of the 1930s and 1940s. In those, flashy, often lurid images were used to grab your attention and get you to plop down your precious dime and pick up the magazine.

Comic book covers are basically in service of the same function: grab your attention and make you want to buy the publication. In pursuit of this, a lot of comics covers over the years have fallen into the least-common-denominator routine of being loud, brash and in-your-face. Not that there isn’t a place for that, but Middleton and some of his contemporaries have been raising the bar.

Middleton’s covers are attention grabbing to be sure, but also subtle in a way that is still unusual, with keen attention to nuanced shifts in color and value, and the use of fine, single-line weight outlines. The latter retain the graphic appeal of traditional comic art, but shift the line-to-color balance to bring the color forward, more in keeping with the styles of European and Japanese comics than mainstream American comics.

In particular, Middleton has been grabbing attention, both individually and on a larger scale, in his series of striking covers for DC Comics’ Supergirl.

Middleton brings some of that same nuanced sensibility to his book covers. Though usually more rendered than his comics covers, and often without outlines, these also pull back from over-rendering into a balance of shape and color that is particularly appealing.

Middleton’s current website serves as a blog, in which he features finished work as well as work in progress, various projects and comments on other topics. In the right-hand column you’ll find links with which you can sort for categories like “finished work” or “sketches”.