Monday, December 30, 2013

Franciszek Żmurko, Painter of Women

I surely saw some paintings by Franciszek Żmurko (1859-1910) several years ago when visiting the National Gallery in Warsaw. But with so many unfamiliar names of painters to assimilate, it was difficult for me to keep track of the interesting ones. Yes, I must have taken some notes on my gallery map, but that was tossed aside a long time ago.

That means Żmurko is known to me mostly by images found on the Internet. There is a fairly large number of those, which makes it surprising that there is so little in the way of biographical information about the man. His Wikipedia entry in English is here. It's skimpy, but the entry in Polish is almost as brief. Nothing is mentioned in English about his personal life or why he died at the comparatively young age of 51.

Żmurko was born in the Russian Empire and spent much of his career there, mostly in Warsaw. But he was trained largely in the Austrian Empire (Kraków and Vienna) and in Munich. The result was an ability to paint in the "finished" academic style, though he also did more freely painted works. He was prolific, and most of the images found on the Web are of attractive women. I find the paintings and their subjects impressive.


Self-Portrait - 1895

Zuzanna i starcy (Susanna and the Elders) - 1879
One of Żmurko's early (and apparently unfinished) paintings. If the date is correct, he showed plenty of potential at age 20.

Z rozhazu padyszacha (At Padishah's Order) - 1881
He included some Orientalist subjects, popular during the late 19th century.

Widzenie Fausta (Faust's Dream)
I wonder if the actual painting is as spectacular as this small image found on the Web.

In Delightful Dream

Kobieta z wachlarzem
Notes about this painting in my National Gallery guide suggest that the subject was someone he encountered while visiting Florence.

Portret kobiety z Wachlarzem i papieros
If this digital image is any guide, the original painting has a nice mix of detailed and free brushwork.

Seated woman
Another seemingly unfinished painting -- parts are sketchy and it is unsigned. From its looks, it might be a late painting.

Girl wearing brown hat

Polackt kobiety - 1910
This was painted the year he died. The subject appears to be the same as in the image immediately above it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Moïse Kisling: Silplified Solidity

Moïse (Mojżesz) Kisling (1891-1953) was born in Kraków, Austro-Hungarian Empire, but moved to France in 1910 and remained there for the rest of his life aside from a period of time in the U.S.A. around the time of World War 2. Kisling because a French citizen due to his serving in the Foreign Legion during the Great War and being wounded. These and other facts can be found in this fairly brief Wikipedia entry.

Although Kisling maintained a base in Paris, he spent much of his time in the Riviera. He was sociable, with many friends in the School of Paris collection of artists as well as other modernists. His sociability was perhaps outshone by his wife, Renée (1896-1960), daughter of career cavalry officer Jules-Chalres-Émile Gros. She was not pretty by most standards, but compensated via her personality.

As for his art, Kisling didn't exactly plunge into modernism. Instead, his paintings depicted real people and objects, but in the simplified yet rounded, solid style that was widely used during the 1920s and 30s. To that degree, Kisling was comparatively conservative. Moreover, his style did not evolve much during those years, finally changing a little by the 1940s as can be seen below.


Portrait of André Salmon - 1912

Paysage de Provence - c.1919

Kiki de Montparnasse - 1925

Renée Kisling - 1928

Nu alongée sur l'herbe - c.1930

Portrait of a Young Woman

Self-Portrait - 1937

Nu assis - 1942

Sylvia Mann - 1943

Photo of Kisling with model - c.1935

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cliff Sterrett's Expressionist Comics Settings

Cliff Sterrett (1883-1964) was one of those "lowly" comic strip artists whose work is worthy of attention from art historians and practitioners.

His Wikipedia entry is here, but is skimpy regarding his personal life after getting into cartooning and sketchy about his signature strip, "Polly and Her Pals," that ran 1912-1958. However, it has its own entry here. An appreciation of his work that contains a number of Sunday panels is here.

The various links above assert that Sterrett's work was influential among members of the comic strip artist fraternity. This had to do with the bold design of his panels and the Expressionist-Deco character of setting and background details. For example, he often included somewhat sinister clumps of skewed, gabled houses that remind one of the sets used in the 1920 German expressionist movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Polly was one of the first of the young women comic strips that thrived in the 1920s and later, but it seems that her father eventually became the lead character even thought the strip's title remained unchanged. Below are examples of Sterrett's work. Click to enlarge.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Mark Sullivan, One of the Last Matte Painters

Many movies will include matte shots, where part of what is viewed on the screen is filmed action and other parts are images that fill in architectural details or create a different outdoor setting. Matte work is done because it is usually much less expensive to hire some artists than it is to construct a huge movie set or find an exactly right landscape. What has changed over the last few decades is that nearly all matte work done today is via digital imaging rather than oil or acrylic paints, as was done previously.

There are several web sites dealing with matte art, but the one I tend to follow is Matte Shot, hosted by a semi-anonymous New Zealand blogger and featuring matte work from pre-digital times.

A recent post features Mark Sullivan, who began his career making matte paintings in the waning days of that era and now does a good deal of digital work. His web site is here.

The Matte Shot post consists of a long interview with Sullivan and a collection of images, some of which I include below. The majority of the interview is in-group chat dealing with personalities, something of interest mostly to matte painting fans. But if you scroll down to some point in the second half, Sullivan discusses his approach to matte painting, something of interest to artists in general.

Some matte painters such as the great Albert Whitlock usually favored a freely painted, almost impressionistic style. Sullivan paints more tightly, especially in areas near where the live action will be composited. He assumes viewers will be focusing attention here, rather than on other parts of the screen where he loosens his style.

I find matte art fascinating because of its final effects that are divorced from the need to be accepted as Fine Art painting, yet remain impressive examples of craftsmanship carried out under severely constrained conditions.


Ghostbusters 2 - 1989

Hook - 1991

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989

Bugsy (1991) - El Centro Avenue matte and composite

Bugsy (1991) - Vine Street matte and composite

Rocketeer (1991) workup and final

Friday, December 20, 2013

William Margetson's Domestic Life Art

I can't tell you much about William Henry Margetson (1861-1940), an English painter, because I could not find any halfway detailed biographical information on the top few pages of a couple of Google searches of the Internet. Perhaps I didn't drill deeply enough, but what can I say? -- I'm both lazy and non-obsessive.

What I did find were a couple of squibs such as this. Plus, there was one Wikipedia entry (here), but it's in Dutch, which is near enough to English for some readers to follow.

The sources mention that while he painted some religious and allegorical works, he mostly did scenes featuring pretty women. I'll add that many such scenes were domestic -- around a household. Moreover, they tend to be nicely done.


Water Sprite
This sprite or siren falls into the allegorical category.

On the Sands - 1900
This lady is so perfect that she doesn't leave footprints.

The Amulet

Two Young Women Seated
I'm guessing from the hair styles that this was painted during the late 1920s or early 30s. Other works done in a looser style probably were made after around 1910, but that too is a guess. Beside lacking biographical information, dates of paintings also seem to be in short supply.


The Lady of the House

At the Cottage Door

Afternoon Tea

A New Day - 1930
This is both signed and dated. The strong colors of the garment and the outdoors are complemented by the much larger areas of drab colors.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Richard Eurich: Artist Without a Style

It seems like I've been writing a number of posts recently that deal with painters who never managed to attain a fairly consistent and clearly identifiable style. And so it goes with the present post, which is about Richard Eurich (1903-1992), an English artist who seems doomed to semi-obscurity for that reason.

His Wikipedia entry is here, and other biographical links are here and here.

Eurich was skilled enough to be able to paint well in almost any style. His earliest paintings are in the distorted, simplified representational mode of the interwar period. By the mid-1930s he was making some correctly proportioned representational works. He continued in this vein during World War 2, when he was a war artist specializing in naval subjects, and for several years beyond. In his later years, Eurich mostly painted rather flat scenes that included sketchy, distorted people. These might have been influenced by postwar abstract art, though he does not seem to have made any or many pure abstractions.

This book contends that Eurich "was one of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century" (back cover). Me? I'd say that he might have been one of the more versatile British painters of his generation, but I fail to detect greatness, especially among his early and late works.


Mrs. Green - 1930
Very much of its time stylistically.

Lime Regis - 1930
Again, of its time, but nicely composed.

Portrait of Mavis - 1935
Mavis Pope was Eurich's wife and also an artist. This is a representational portrait featuring a traditially painted face combined with a Manet kind of minimalist setting.

December, Work Suspended - 1940
An early wartime scene where workers were diverted from civilian to war tasks.

Survivors from a Torpedoed Ship - 1943
The toll of civilian-manned cargo ships from attack by submarines was high around the time this was painted.

Capital Ships Bombard Salerno - 1943
Here Eurich connects with his inner Turner.

The Argument - 1983
Low Tide Fun - 1991
Examples of his late work.