Thursday, November 16, 2017

Up Close: Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) was an illustrator and painter of blue-collar life who himself attended the very best schools (Lawrenceville and Yale). I wrote about him here, in a post subtitled "Yalie Gone Slumming."

The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida has a large Marsh painting in its collection titled "Wonderland Circus, Sideshow Coney Island," a 1930 work of tempera on canvas stretched on masonite. I visited the museum in May and took some photos of the painting, two of which are shown below. The original of the lowest image is fairly large, so click on it to enlarge and view details of Marsh's style.

Regarding style, aside from supports and media, his paintings and illustrations are similar in general appearance.


The painting via the museum's web site.

A closer view. Marsh's signature and date are at the bottom.

The blue-eyed blonde staring at you, the viewer, strikes me as being the focus of the painting. She is holding hands with a stereotypical swarthy Italian, an occasional real-life happening that Marsh must have hoped would set-off WASPy viewers in his day.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Joseph Clement Coll: Color Illustrations

Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921) died age 40 of an appendicitis. I recently posted about him here and mentioned that his pen-and-ink+brush style would have become unfashionable during the 1920s decade and wondered if he would have been able to adjust his style to the new times.

The present post presents examples of Coll's work in color including some illustrations where linework is largely abandoned while colored ink washes or watercolors are used to model his subject matter. This suggests that he could have maintained his career, though perhaps at the price of losing some individuality compared to other illustrators using the same media.

Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. offers some background on Coll here.


This is an example of Coll's regular pen-and-ink style.

Above are three covers of a Sunday supplement magazine distributed to various American newspapers. They are promoting a serialized Arthur Conan Doyle book.

Artwork for the first cover shown above. Note that in this instance Coll was not using line plus color fills, but instead is using color to help model surfaces of the subject matter.

Detail of "Astro the Seer and Valeska." Another example where linework is minimized.

Probably an interior illustration for Sir Nigel. This uses line and color fill.

No information about this detail of a study. This demonstrates that Coll wouldn't have had much trouble migrating to 1920s illustration style fashions had he lived longer.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Up Close: Robert Henri's Salome

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an important American painter and teacher in the decades around the turn of the 20th century (Wikipedia entry here).

Among his works were two versions of the Biblical character Salome, the dancer. I wrote about various interpretations of her here.

According to this and other sources, Henri got caught up with something of a Salome craze. The link states: "Robert Henri was a cognoscenti of modern music, dance, and theater. When New York audiences were scandalized by Richard Strauss’s 1907 opera ‘Salome’, based upon Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name, the opera performance inspired the intrepid artist to invite Mademoiselle Voclexca to perform the notorious ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in his studio."

I Googled on Mademoiselle Voclexca, but turned up nothing of interest. Clearly, it's a stage name, and her being active a century or more ago, references are probably buried in decaying newspaper file morgues or yellowing theatre programs.

I visited the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida in early May and took a few photos of their version of Salome that offer closeup views of Henri's brushwork. Click on the images for enlargements showing details of Henri's style.


The Salome at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts. It seems sketchier than the Ringling version.

The Ringling Salome -- image found on the internet.

My photo showing the upper part of her body and costume.

Mademoiselle Voclexca's face.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Joseph Clement Coll: Ink, Pen, and a Bit of Brush

Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921) died at too young an age, of appendicitis. A cynic might call that tragic event "a smart career move" because Coll's pen-and-ink+brush style would rapidly fall out of illustration fashion during the 1920s. On the other hand, he did produce some illustrations in other media that were competently done. That competence plus his sense of portraying dramatic action might have stood him well had he lived longer.

His brief Wikipedia entry is here. A more personal appraisal by Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. is here, and a Muddy Colors post about him by Greg Ruth is here.

Coll produced a huge amount of illustrations during his comparatively short career, so there naturally was variation in quality. Below I present a collection of what I consider his better work. Most of his illustrations were vignettes or non-framed full-page illustrations with plenty of white space. When he did framed illustrations or illustrations of night scenes, the results were usually murky looking -- an effect hard to avoid given his preferred medium.


Strong composition.

A confrontation with Fu Manchu.

Fu Manchu again.

Another striking composition.

A "King of the Khyber Rifles" illustration from 1916 (Kelly collection) that's so cluttered and murky that some of the action is lost.

A "framed" illustration, also from the Kelly collection, where the penwork works against the subject matter again.

Here we find penwork augmented by spots of bold brushwork.

Another example of Coll's brushwork-plus-line. There might be some water-thinned ink or ink washes here too, but one would have to view the original art to be sure.

A fine example of Coll's brush+line.

I wonder if some of this was scratchboard. It's framed, but not as heavy as in some examples above. At the top of the image appear to be U.S. Cavalry troopers, and the female might be Victory. Perhaps the 1916 Mexican incursion rather than the Great War.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Reynolds-Stephens and the Thread of Life

William Ernest Reynolds-Stephens (1862-1943), that is, Sir William Reynolds-Stephens was both a painter and sculptor. And despite having been knighted, seems virtually unknown nowadays. For example, aside from one web site that requires registration to view, biographical information on the internet is sketchy as of the time this post was drafted (mid-June, 2017). There also are very few examples of his paintings to be found.

What I do know is that he was born in Detroit to British parents, soon moved to Canada and then on to England. He was trained as an engineer, but took up art in his early twenties, studying in England and Germany. By the time he was 40 he had essentially transitioned from painting to sculpture, and it seems that, to the extent he is known today (in England, anyway), it is for that phase of his career. And that's pretty much it, aside from this contemporary appreciation.

Given what I wrote above, how did I manage to "discover" Reynolds-Stephens? Well, I saw one of his paintings, "Roman Courtship" (ca. 1900) at the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida in May. Here is what a museum docent has to say about it.

And I took photos, a few of which are displayed below (click on them to enlarge).

I found the painting to be strikingly composed and well-executed.  However, lacking a classical education, the symbolism escaped me at the time. Symbolism aside, it can be appreciated on its merits as well as being a fine example of late-Victorian painting.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Artists Versus the Landscape

I think I've mentioned that there are cases where the appearance of a landscape is so powerful that differences in artists' styles can get largely washed away. That is the case for many parts of California. Some artists currently active are making paintings that have their character similar to those of the California Impressionists of the early decades of the 20th century.

Then there are painters who impose their style on whatever landscape comes before them. This can be a bit difficult in a California environment, because California's visual character can get diminished in the process.

What got me to thinking about this again was a visit to Seattle's Woodside / Braseth Gallery where an opening party was being held for landscape artist Lisa Gilley. She represents the case of an artist imposing style upon subject matter. Her paintings are strongly done, oil-on-board. I note that the settings she chooses to depict have clear skies and little or no forestation. That is, even though she lives in western Washington, there was no painting showing lots of fir trees and gray, misty skies. Her style cannot easily accommodate that.


Franz Bischoff - Evening Glory: Santa Barbara Mountains
First, some examples of California Impressionism.

Edgar Payne - Canyon Mission Viejo, Capistrano
Payne's coloring is not quite the same as Bischoff's, but the influence of Southern California mountains strongly affects both works.

Edgar Payne - Sierra Lake and Peaks
Here Payne deals with the rugged part of the Sierras.

William Wendt - Where nature's God hath Wrought - 1925
Wendt's take on California mountains showing bare rock.

Now for some Lisa Gilley paintings. This one's subject is the Chugash Range in Alaska.

A Grand Canyon scene.

Joseph Canyon,in Oregon

Yakima River, in Washington. In all four cases, her landscapes seem more designed than depicted.

Gilley's paintings are somewhat in the spirit of Lawren Harris, leader of the Group of Seven painters in Canada. This is a painting of Mt. Lefroy (1930), one of many in which he imposed his own style and concepts on nature.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

In the Beginning: William Cumming

William Cumming (1917-2000) was a Seattle area artist who knew the nationally acclaimed "Northwest Mystics" Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and the rest, but was not considered part of that group at the time. When I was in high school and college, Bill Cumming was mentioned so rarely by my mentor circles that I wasn't aware of him. Nowadays, his local reputation is much higher. My take on Cumming can be found here.

Recently I was at an opening at the Woodside / Braseth Gallery where, in addition to the featured painter, there was displayed a rediscovered WPA-era mural that Cumming painted in 1941 for the Burlington High School, some 60 miles north of Seattle.

Background regarding the mural can be found here and here.

I am not a fan of Cumming's art, though I respect him for not falling fully into the clutches of abstraction, as so many of his generation did. And even though the second mural-related link suggests the mural might be worth a six-digit sum (were it salable), it does not impress me.

What interests me about it is that it shows some Cumming traits that he still practiced almost 60 years later. One is the lumpy depiction of human forms. Another is Cumming's reluctance to include his subject's faces.

Here is the mural. Note that only one complete face is shown. Detail views are below.

This is a painting made in 1998, also displayed at the gallery. It is an example of the artist's late style.