Friday, February 27, 2015

Molti Ritratti: Iris Tree

Iris Tree (1897-1968) came from an established English family, and was well-connected socially and with artistic groups. Her brief Wikipedia entry notes that she was "an English poet, actress and artists' model, described as a bohemian, an eccentric, a wit and an adventuress." (The entry at the time I wrote this post includes a Modigliani painting said to be of Tree. I question this because, first, all Modigliani nudes look pretty much the same, and second, the image has long hair whereas Tree had bobbed hair at that time.)

A more detailed biographical sketch is here. Below are various portraits of Iris.


Photo by Man Ray - early 1920s
Iris Tree had an interesting face that Man Ray captured nicely.

Photo: Lytton Strachey and Iris - ca. 1930
Perhaps taken at Ham Spray.  Compare Iris' figure with 1915 portraits below.

Iris and Dora Carrington - ca. 1930
Taken the same day as the photo above. The Wikipedia entry on Carrington is here.

Sculpture by Jacob Epstein
Epstein made at least three sculpture portraits of Iris.

By Vanessa Bell - 1915
Now for three portraits made in 1915 by central members of the Bloomsbury set. (Vanessa was the sister of the more famous Virginia Woolf.)

By Duncan Grant - 1915
Grant was the love of Vanessa's life and the father of her daughter, even though he was homosexual. (Bloomsbury relationships are extremely complex, and are touched on in several of the Web pages linked here.) This painting and the one above seem to have been made at the same sitting: note the setting and differing points of view.

By Roger Fry - 1915
Fry was a more marginal Bloomsbury figure, though he did have an affair with Vanessa. As with the two paintings shown above, Iris was about 18 years old when she sat.

By Adolphe Borie
I'm not sure if this was painted in America or Paris.

By Augustus John - 1920
In my judgment, John was a better artist than Bell, Duncan, Fry and Borie, so this is the best portrait of the bunch. He knew Iris since she was a girl.

Drawing by Augustus John
Another nice image by John.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Christopher Nevinson: War Pantings

Christopher Richard Wynne (C.R.W.) Nevinson (1889–1946) had a prickly personality, falling into and out of friendships with the likes of Wyndham Lewis and becoming a tad paranoid regarding Slade School instructor Henry Tonks, who didn't think much of his drawing ability. This and more is discussed in more detail in Nevinson's Wikipedia entry. For a shorter take, you might want to link to this Tate page.

At the time the Great War started, Nevinson was practicing Modernism in a Cubist-inspired manner to which was an added dash of Futurism. He volunteered for ambulance work in the French army zone of operations, returned to England for health reasons, and then went back to France as a British war artist. During this time his style evolved toward traditional realism, but not quite abandoning all of Modernism's quirks. After the war, he drifted from time to time to a Cubism-lite style  that was dropped again when he made some World War 2 paintings.

In the present post, his Great War paintings are featured.


Bursting Shell - 1915
Futurist influence is strong here. I can't tell if he is depicting an explosive shell or an illumination shell.

Pursuing a Taube - 1915
The Taube (Dove) was a type of German airplane.

La mitrailleuse - 1915
Probably Nevinson's most famous painting. It shows a French machine gun team in action.

Returning to the Trenches (study) - c.1915
This gives us a notion as to how Nevinson constructed his compositions at that time; a whoosh of Futurist movement along with Cubist segmentation.

Ypres After the First Bombardment - 1916
Although Cubist elements might be present, to me this seems Expressionist: think of the settings of the post-war (1920) German film Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari.

La patrie - 1916
"The Fatherland" depicts a French army evacuation station.

French Troops Resting - 1916

Dog Tired - 1916
Two takes on tired soldiers. The upper painting shows French soldiers apparently taking a break while either entering or leaving a combat zone. The lower image is of British soldiers behind the lines dealing with supplies (note the bales and boxes they are on and the fact that they are wearing cloth caps rather than helmets).

A Group of Soldiers - 1917
Modernism is ebbing away a little here.

A Tank - 1917
A British Mark V (Male) tank. Nevinson had it stubbier than it actually was.

Paths of Glory - 1917
This was controversial when it was new, as this Telegraph article explains. The style is more representational than that found in the previous paintings.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Leo Putz: The Golden Years

Leo Putz (1869-1940), an Austrian painter who spent most of his career in Germany, did some very interesting work during the ten years or so between 1903 and 1912. Unfortunately for his reputation here in America, his last name is a slang term of disparagement, though in German it can refer to fashion, ornamentation and such. (The German word schmuck, with a somewhat similar meaning, suffers the same fate for perhaps the same reason.)

Biographical information about Putz can be found here and here. He was highly regarded in Munich where his career was centered. His favorite subject was women. He painted his attractive wife, the artist Frieda Blell, a number of times during what I consider his peak years. Putz also made a large number of paintings of nude women, but I consider most of these less interesting, especially those done from around 1912 on. His later paintings were sketchier than his more solid earlier works, and incorporated light touches of fauvist coloring along with fading hints of his earlier flat-area style.

What interests me most is his use of large, flat brush strokes. This is a mannered style that works best, I think, in small doses. Perhaps that is why Putz drifted away from it. Nevertheless, when I think of Leo Putz, his square-brush style comes to mind first.


Drawing of woman's head - 1899

Gasthaus in Schenna - 1900
These first two images show Putz' degree of skill depicting representational subjects before he shifted to a more mannered style.

Porträt Veronika Kirmair im Schleissheimer Garten - 1903
An early square-brush effort.

Hinter den Kulissen - 1905
"Behind the Scenes" is the English version of the title.  Nice job on facial expressions.  Note that Putz abandons or minimizes flat-brushing on faces that require a softened approach.

Sommerträume - 1907
"Summer Dreams" is a large painting that's particularly striking when viewed in person.

Spiegelbild - 1908

Am Ufer - 1909
Two paintings featuring Frieda Blell.

Cara Sophia Köhler - 1911
By now, Putz is abandoning his classical style.

Blond und Brünett - ca. 1913
Another example of his new stylistc direction.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Samuel Melton Fisher: Painter Without a Past

Samuel Melton Fisher (1860-1939) was born in London. That's about all I could discover about him via three or four Google screens. Surprising, in a way, because he did paint at least one personage and his paintings often displayed a nice, soft, slightly flattened touch.


Festa: a Venetian Café - 1889

A moonlight Sonata, Venice

Flower Makers - 1896

Asleep - 1902

The Chess Players - 1903

Mabel Carlisle, Wife of High Edwardes, 6th Baron Kensington - 1919

Winifred - 1924

Field Marshal Lord Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe - ca. 1925

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Abbott Handerson Thayer's Angelic Paintings

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) was a symbolist of sorts, being intensely religious in a strongly non-church way. He was highly opinionated regarding on a number of matters, and as he aged he had psychological difficulties. All this is far too much for me to detail here, so be sure to link here and here for plenty of information about him.

Thayer's paintings that I've viewed in person are roughly painted in most areas, but seen at a distance or in reproduction they work well. Moreover, thanks in part to his personal kind of symbolism, they are unique and, to me, they fascinate.

According to the second link above, Thayer added angel wings to a number of his paintings, but not to depict his subjects (often his daughters) as actual angels. Read the link for an explanation, but for shorthand reasons, the word "Angel" is used below for image captions, and is the title found on the Internet. Today's post features his angel-wing paintings.


Angel - 1889

Winged Figure - 1889

An Angel - 1893

For Robert Louis Stevenson memorial - 1903

Winged Figure Seated upon a Rock - 1903
Almost the same as the previous painting.

Angel - 1903

The Angel - 1903
This seems to be either a study or an incomplete painting.

Study of an Angel
Or maybe an unfinished work.

Winged Figure - 1904

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tom Lovell: Illustrator, Personified

Tom Lovell (1909-1997), like many illustrators of his generation, eventually left the trade to become a Fine Arts painter -- in his case, doing western scenes from his Santa Fe, New Mexico base. But during his active years, roughly 1930-70, he forged a splendid career.

Lovell's Wikipedia entry is here, his Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame page is here, and two blog posts worth viewing are here and here.

He began by illustrating for "pulp" (cheap) magazines while still at Syracuse University in upstate New York. From pulps, he soon moved up to the prestigious and better-paying "slick" magazines and remained there for the rest of his illustration career.

Lovell characterized himself as a visual story teller (his pulp period was good training for that, he allowed) and researcher. Regarding the latter point, he felt that his duty was to get details right, and this required a good deal of preparation because many of his subjects were historical. Motivation for this almost surely was the fact that illustrations with incorrect details are criticism-fodder for sharp-eyed readers.

One observer has commented that Lovell's style didn't change much over his career. This seems to be generally true, though he clearly adjusted it to the requirements of the subject. On the other hand, Lovell's style was not as distinctive as those of some other top-notch illustrators. That is, a typical Lovell illustration is clearly very competently done, yet it can be difficult to instantly identify it as his work without searching for his signature.


Baloonists in trouble

Disposing of the body

Frightened woman

Houdini jumping off the Wheeling, West Virginia bridge

Painting the Orient
A Marine Corps sergeant on Asiatic duties in the 1930s, I think. Painted by Lovell when he was in the Corps during World War 2.

"Saratoga Trunk" illustration

Surrender at Appomattox
That's Robert E. Lee, at the left, surrendering his army to Ulysses Grant (at the table to the right), effectively ending the American Civil War.

Woman's Home Companion story illustration - May 1942

Couple lounging

It's raining

On the rocks

Stranded family