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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ronald Bladen

The X, painted aluminum, 1967, edition of 3, Ronald Bladen.
When most artists think of Minimalist art, they picture huge canvases with nothing but highly simplified existential content (that is to say the work itself exists purely as content). Very few non-artists even think of such art if, indeed, they would actually consider it art in the first place. And nearly always, artists' contemplation of Minimalism extends not much beyond painting. Actually Minimalism was full-blown movement dating from the late 1960s through much of the 1970s, and it encompassed not just painting but architecture, music, poetry, graphic design and drama. It also included sculpture, and quite prominently that of the New York artist, Ronald Bladen.
 
Gallery-scale sculpture by Ronald Bladen.
Kama Sutra, 1977,
Ronald Bladen
Bladen’s signature effect is to give massive black forms an air of light, speed, and weightlessness. Sharp angles cut through the air, unzipping the space. Beams spread open. Geometric shapes intertwine but do not lock. Bladen attempted to create drama out of a minimal visual experience as demonstrated by his Kama Sutra (left) dating from 1977. Ronald Bladen has often been identified as one of the “fathers of Minimalism,” yet he came late to sculpture. During the 1950’s, prior to his turning to sculpture, Bladen created a number of paintings that in manner and form were directly related to the work of the Abstract Expres-sionists, much on the order of his Upside Down (below) dating from the late 1950s. His paint-ings involved gritty concretions protruding, sometimes as much as four inches, amid stucco or froth-like expanses. His paintings were strikingly different from his cool, reduc-tionist sculpture which followed, yet there continued to exist a soulful continuity through-out Bladen’s artistic production.
 
Upside Down, 1956-59, Ronald Bladen
Charles Ronald Wells Bladen was born in 1918, the son of British immigrants to the Canadian city of Vancouver. His father, Kenneth Bladen, was an expert in landscape gardening. His mother, Muriel Beatrice Tylecote, had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and, as an active socialist, had taken part in the suffragette movement. Both parents wholeheartedly supported their son’s artistic interests. During the 1920s, Bladen's family moved several times to various cities in the U.S. before returning to Canada in 1936 to live in Victoria British Columbia.

A budding young artist by the age of ten.
By the age of ten, Bladen was drawing intensively, making copies of works by Botticelli, Titian, Picasso, and Matisse, as well as creating imaginative freehand illustrations of Greek mythology. His talent was furthered in junior high and high school art courses, in addition to private art classes under the painter, Max Maynard. A sample of his childhood work can be seen in his watercolor self-portrait (above). It was the first and only self-portrait he ever completed. Bladen was also enthusiastic about sports, a passionate dancer, and baseball and tennis player.

Bladen worked on two scales, creating larger pieces for outdoor
installation and the same item on a smaller scale for gallery display.
Starting in 1937, Bladen began his studies at the Vancouver School of Art. Upon graduating in 1939, he moved to San Francisco to continue his studies until 1943 at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), by attending evening classes until 1945. His art studies through the war years were the result of his being declared unfit for military service in 1941, whereupon he was obliged to work as a ship’s welder at the naval dockyards in Sausalito, California. For many years, this activity enabled him to earn his living as a toolmaker. These skills and aesthetic experience were to become important later in constructing his sculptures. Bladen remained in the United States after the war. He lived in San Francisco until 1956 and then moved to New York.

An early Bladen work in progress.
Ronald Bladen had his first solo exhibition in 1946 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. About the same time he was awarded a scholarship by the San Francisco art Association whish enabled him to undertake an eight week journey to Mexico and New Orleans as well as a stay several months in New York. In 1955, Bladen separated from his wife of four years, Barbara Gross. Later he got to know the poet, Michael McClure, whereupon he moved back to San Francisco into McClure’s communal household with Joanna McClure, James and Beverly Harmon, Price Dunn, and Larry Jordan. At the same time a friendship arose with the writers, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Henry Miller, along with the painter, Al Held, who advised him to move to New York.

Black Tower, Ronald Bladen
In New York, Bladen continued to work mainly as a painter in the style of Abstract Expressionism with intensively colored patches of organic formations integrated into landscape-like surface forms, that were similar in color. During the 1960s, Bladen progressively restricted his painting activities, occupying himself with collages made of folded paper and his first painted plywood reliefs. As in previous years, to earn his living, as a toolmaker. In 1962, Bladen exhibited his painted plywood reliefs for the first time at the Brata Gallery and the Green Gallery in New York. The following year he made his first free-standing, colored sculptures from plywood boards with metal struts. From this time on the Bladen dedicated himself exclusively to sculpture.

Raiko, Ronald Bladen
The artist showed his first sculpture, White Z, at a 1964 exhibition at Park Place Gallery in New York. There he got to know the sculptures of Connie Reyes, who later became his companion. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. From 1956 on, Bladen enjoyed the growing attention of the New York art scene. He was subsequently best known for his austere sculptures, developed from geometric forms, at many prominent exhibitions. He was influenced by European Constructivism, American Hard-Edge Painting, and sculptors such as Isamu Noguchi and David Smith. In turn, Bladen had a stimulating effect on a circle of younger artists including Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Lawrence Weiner, who repeatedly referred to him as the ‘father figure’ of Minimal Art.

The Light Year, 1979, Ronald Bladen
Despite his international success as a sculptor, numerous prestigious awards, and his years as a highly esteemed teacher, Ronald Bladen was a heavy smoker and drinker for most of his adult life. He died of cancer in February of 1988 at the age of seventy.

































 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace is, in fact, listed as one of the queen's seven residences, though she seldom, if ever, spends the night there.
At least everyone in London
has the correct time.
I began thinking I would write about London's iconic symbol known as Big Ben, then found out the name technically referred to nothing more than a damned big bell--not very interesting. Then I decided I'd write about the tower and the enormous clock parched on top only to find out the clock had no name and the tower was actually called the Elizabeth Tower, so designated in in 2012 to com-memorate the Diamond Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Interesting, but not very. Finally, my eyes moved to the base of the tower to encompass the huge expanse of The Palace of Westminster, which is, in fact, owned my the monarchy but loaned to Parliament as a place to get together and pass laws. It didn't take long to realize that Westminster Palace (as it's interchangeably called) was, in fact, very interesting.

When we think of a "palace" we naturally conjure up an ornate royal residence where a king and queen and their family reside, tended by dozens, of servants. We think of a lot of carved stone, rooms of massive size with gardens, courts, a throne room, long, spacious corridors, a chapel, enormous dining rooms, towers, and a whole host of other royal structures. By those standards, Westminster is, indeed, quite a palace...except for one thing. It's been around five-hundred years since any king or queen slept under its roof. Today, the only high official sleeping at Westminster Palace might be a bleary-eyed Member of Parliament who has dozed off in the midst of a particularly boring speech.

The House of Commons once met for a time in the Painted Chamber (named for the murals on the walls).
The Queen of England still has a bedchamber (above) in the palace. There are, by my count, seven dining rooms of various size (but only one kitchen). The palace contains over 1,100 rooms organized symmetrically around several open courtyards. The palace has a floor area of 1,210,680 sq.ft. (112,476 m2). Part of the palace's area of 8 acres (3.24 hectares) was reclaimed from the Thames, which is the setting of its nearly 980 foot-long (300-metre) façade called the River Front. The first king of England to sleep at the palace (such as it was) would have been King Canute, around 1016. Nothing of that era survives, but the magnificent Westminster Hall comes close, having been built around 1097. Westminster Hall is something of a party room used by royalty when they want to celebrate something, such as George IV's Coronation Banquet in 1821 seen in the painting just below.

Claude Monet did at least two Impressionist paintings of Westminster Palace during a short sojourn to London. England's J.M.W. Turner depicted the catastrophic 1835 Burning of the Houses of Parliament, which had long before taken over the palace as their own.
Perhaps one of the reasons British monarchs have long been reticent to call Westminster Palace home is the tendency for the place to burn down every few centuries. The first time was in in 1512. From then on, only the houses of Parliament dared take up residence there, worried that the stone structure's timber roof allowed even small fires to quickly spread out of control. As well they should, for in 1834 and even bigger fire all but leveled the place. Only, by something approaching a miracle of primitive firefighting did Westminster hall and the detached Jewel Tower survive. Turner's painting (above) gives some indication of the scale of the conflagration.

For orientation purposes, the Thames River runs along the west front of the palace (top of diagram).
Sir Charles Barry
So complete was the devastation the government called in a 19th-century ver-sion of a wrecking crew and demolished the burned out structure. Then, following an 1841 competition, they called upon at-chitect, Sir Charles Barry (right) to design and sup-ervise the building of a totally new and larger palace in a "Vertical Gothic" style specifically designed to house the British Parliament. His plans and design bear only a passing resemblance to that which they replaced. Barry was assisted by Augustus Pugin (only 20 years old at the time), a leading authority on Gothic arch-itecture and style. He designed the interior of the Palace. Construction started in 1840 and lasted for 30 years, suffering great delays and cost overruns, as well as the death of both leading architects. Work on the interior decoration of the palace con-tinued intermittently well into the 20th-century. Major conservation work has been carried out since then to reverse the effects of London's air pollution. Extensive repairs were again needed after German bombs destroyed the House of Commons Chamber in 1941 during the Second World War.

Westminster Palace before the 1834 fire--an architectural hodge-podge of old and new construction made still more unsightly by mismatch styles and aging materials.
From the clean lines of Commons Chamber, to St Stephen’s Hall, the original site of the House of Parliament from the mid 16th-century until the Great Fire of 1834 Westminster Palace is history, art, and democratic ideals written in wood, stone, and glass displaying the unique and curious nature of the English people. Moving from the austere green of the House of Commons to the gaudy red and gold décor of the House of Lords, we catch a glimpse of a very class-conscious society, an "us" and "them" mentality where wealth and birthright outweigh the meritocracy which Americans take for granted.

The houses of the elected and the selected.
Since I've now covered the important stuff residing on the banks of the Thames, I guess I should get back to my original intention, a few words on the 315 foot tall clock tower which so perfectly represents the stubborn will of Westminster Palace and those who govern from within it's gothic confines. The tower itself was completed in 1859, though it's four-faced clock is actually five years older than that. The architect was the same Augustus Pugin who designed the interior of the palace. The real Big Ben (the bell, that is) was to have been even larger - weighing 16 tons, however the first casting 1856 cracked in use. The bell was recast into it's current 13 ton form. For a time the tower was the tallest in the world, and today remains the world's largest free-standing clock in the world.

The new Westminster Palace with its iconic
clock tower and bell, ca, 1859.













Nearby Westminster Abbey,
just across the street and round
the block from the palace.



























































 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1990s Art

The 1990s--the birth of GIF art, though the X-Men,
created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, date from the 1960s.
It seems hard to believe now, but the art of the 1990s goes back as much as 27 years ago. My, how time flies when you're having fun...or, as Kermit the Frog once said "Time's fun when you're having flies" Speaking of time, Kermit is now old enough for Social Security (62). For me, the 1990s were memorable in that it was the decade which brought us the home computer. We got our first one in 1995 (below). It was a Packard Bell Legend 814CD with a 100MHz Pentium Processor, 8MB, of memory, a 1.2GB 4x NEC CD-ROM Drive, and two Floppy Drives (5.25 disk and the "new" 3.5 disk). Notice, it did not contain a modem. Though the Internet had been around since 1969, dial-up access in the 1990s was both slow and expensive (CompuServe was five cents per minute). I think we paid about $700 for the computer, monitor, and accompanying software (about $1,100 today).

It was not very artist friendly.
Despite a whole bucket of bugs and numerous limitations, digital art began to take hold as the decade progressed. Computers grew friendlier and more powerful by leaps and bounds. Apple prodded Microsoft to forego MS-DOS in favor of Windows, which progressed from 3.1 to Windows 95, Windows 98, and finally, in 2000, Windows ME (Millennial Edition). Some of those operating systems are still in use today. With each new permutation came radical improvements in the capabilities for producing digital art, either from photos or from the "scratch" of the artist's imagination.

Fractal Art--beautiful, but the computer does all the work.
As might be expected, older artists turned technophobic while Millennials embraced the digital revolution. Nerds ruled, and their favored art was fractal, based upon mathematic algorithms ideal for even the relative low-power processors of the day (above). Among the artist who embraced fractal art were Desmond Paul Henry, Hamid Naderi Yeganeh and musician Bruno Degazio. Fractal art is not simply computerized art, lacking in rules, unpredictable, nor something that any person with access to a computer can do well. Instead, fractal art is expressive, creative, and requires input, effort, and intelligence.

Bob Ross, the mighty painter of friendly little trees retired in 1994 after a TV run of seven years.
The Bob Ross Dress
It would be false to relegate an entire decade of art to that which accompanied the advent of low-cost computers and their software. Although painting was starting to decline as a viable form of creative communication, its multi-media challengers, TV, motion pictures, and in its nascent form, digital art, were waiting in the wings. TV had its Bob Ross and Ben Alexander, both of whom retired in 1994. CGI-technology, made its debut in films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Independence Day, and Titanic. Disney con-tributed the first totally computer animated feature length film, Toy Story in 1995. This they followed with such forgettable epics as Hercules, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and finally Fantasia 2000 (all of which lost money).

Plus dozens of sequels, prequels, and horror films
enough to fill (and sink) the Titanic.
I'm confident there must have been some, but in perusing hundreds of traditional paintings on canvas from the 1990s I didn't recognize a single one as being memorable. That means that few, if any, such work has left a lasting impression on the world of art. In a Postmodern world paintings on canvas are so, for lack of a better term, "modern." That's not to say that artists from other decades didn't continue to produce. They did, but their art had changed little, if at all, from that which the produced decades before which made them famous. So, inasmuch as my own work would seem to be as memorable as any other produced in the 1990s, I'm including Tantalizing (below) dating from 1998 as being representative of the painters art from that era.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Tantalizing, 1998, Jim Lane





























The typical American family
of the 1990s.









































 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nan Goldin

The work of Nan Goldin.
Next to national recognition and perhaps some degree of excess wealth from ones work, there's nothing most artists crave more than do be deemed influential. Whether it's influence over social thinking or merely influential as to the thinking of other artists, we like to think that our body of work can and will, somehow makes a difference. Although we enjoy the name recognition and the abundant sales figures which usually accompany some degree of fame, regardless of their media artists welcome the idea that they can change or direct the thinking of others. Today, the plethora of social media and the sophistication of film and video make achieving such a goal both easier and, ironically, more difficult. It's easier because of the effectiveness and ready availability as to the tools needed, but at the same time, the virtually unlimited freedom of expression requires some degree of self-restraint and a high degree of technical prowess along with no small amount of thematic depth. Add to that the need for newness as to words, thoughts, and deeds, and the "unlimited freedom of expression" becomes as much a burden as a gift.
 
Nan Goldin from her Conception series.
There are dozens of artists today who enjoy the designation as being influential. Whether it's television, motion pictures, or digital photography (with or without Photoshop), it's interesting that virtually none of the world's most influential artists are painters. Some might argue with that, but any list of highly influential painters living and working today would be amazingly short, not to mention quite problematical. That's not the case with photographers. Along with Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman, Kathryn Bigelow, and Sally Mann, Nan Goldin would be at or near the top of any list of the most influential women artists today.
 
The two faces of Nan Goldin
Nancy Goldin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1953. She grew up in the Boston suburb of Lexington, in a middle-class Jewish family. Goldin’s father worked in broadcasting. She graduated from high school at the age of fourteen then promptly left home in a rebellious effort to distance herself from her mother. A short time later, Nan's sister, who was only eleven at the time, committed suicide. Struggling from such a horrific loss, Goldin began using drugs to try and cope. She enrolled at the Satya Community School in Lincoln, Massachusetts where a teacher, introduced her to the camera in 1968. Goldin was, by then, fifteen years old.
 
Nan Goldin's early work, during the 1980s and after served
to help bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic to national prominence.


David H. Looking Down,
Nan Goldin
Nan Goldin found meaning in her life through her camera and the cherished relationships with those she photographed. She also found the camera to be a useful political tool, in order to inform the public about important issues silenced in America. Goldin is a photographer best-known for her work featuring LGBT-related themes. She has been heavily in-fluenced by such artists as Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini, and Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, and August Sander. Nan Goldin became famous in the 1990s with a slideshow called "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency." Her pictures involve a circle of friends from the New York drug and drag queen scene to which the artist herself belonged. She documented an intimate sub-culture of moments in the bathroom, in bed, in the shower, having sex, and drug use. Goldin’s photographs oscillate between tender, fragile dreams of happiness, and existential gulfs. Nan Goldin is a survivor, but more than that, her visual journal, despite its dark atmosphere, is a tribute to the basic human need to survive.
 
Nan Goldin's photo series were often a matter of life and death.

































Sunday, July 16, 2017

James Muir Auld

Landscape, 1939, James Muir Auld
There's probably not an artist among us who hasn't almost won an award in some art competition. There are those who would contend that coming in second automatically makes one a loser. Others would counter that not competing...not making an attempt is the mark of a loser. Likewise, any artist who has competed for a prize likely has a story about a biased judge, a poorly hung painting, or some other circumstance which precluded their taking home a blue ribbon (or tall trophy). For instance, I once had a painting which came in second place. The winning entry was a quilt. Now I ask you, is that fair? Okay, it was a very nice quilt, but still, why should I, as a painter, have to compete against an artist with needle and thread? The reason for this artistic injustice had to do with the fact that the organizers of the show failed to sponsor a "soft art" (for lack of a better term) category; and the judge was so impressed by the quilter's skill and imagination, he insisted upon giving her an award. So he lumped her quilt in with the painting category. It took me a while to live down having come in second to a quilt.
 
Auld's Archibald entry is at lower-left.
Although there were no quilts involve, I'm sure the Australian painter, James Muir Auld, knew something of the same disappointment I encounter some forty years later. First a little background. Since 1921, the most prestigious prize an Australian portrait artist can win is the fabled Archibald Prize, awarded each year by Australia's Art Gallery of New South Wales for the best portrait by an Australian artist of an outstanding citizen of that country. In 1929, James Muir Auld took a look in a mirror and decided he fit both requirements. He submitted a self-portrait. Though the entry no doubt raised a few eyebrows (no artist had ever done that before) the judges not only accepted his dual premise, but also made Auld a finalist in the competition. That, alone, was a considerable achievement. He was awarded second place.
 
Portrait of Kitty, James Muir Auld.
(I think this is the artist's wife, Maggie Kate.)
No doubt disappointed, James Auld never entered the competition again even as he saw other artist submit, and win the competition in the years that followed. Henry Hanke won the Archibald prize five years later in 1934 with a self-portrait as did Normand Baker, Ivor Hele, Brett Whiteley, Wendy Sharpe, Euan McLeod, John Olsen, Del Kathryn Barton, and, as recently as 2012, Tim Storrier. In any case, Auld continued to paint portraits (even coming in second boosts an artist's career). He also embraced impressionist landscapes (top) and genre scenes such as The Broken Vase (below).
 
The Broken Vase, James Muir Auld.
Auld exhibited frequently with the Society of Artists, Sydney, of which he was a member. In the 1920s he joined the well-known commercial art firm, Smith & Julius, where he illustrated several books. In 1931 he moved to Thirlmere, south-west of Sydney, where he spent the rest of his life alone—eschewing even a radio in his small cottage. However, it was there he painted the best of his landscapes, achieving a deep penetration into the mysteries of light and shade. He was awarded the 1935 Wynne Prize for Winter Morning (below), a study of trees and sky which had a stimulating sense of wind, and flying clouds illustrating the artist's partial adoption of the palette knife. Auld had three one-man exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, in 1928, 1936 and 1938, and had also exhibited in London and Paris. He was a foundation member of the Australian Academy of Art in 1938.

Winter Morning, 1935, James Muir Auld
(Remember, the seasons are reversed in Australia.)
Auld died of tuberculosis in June of 1942. His estate was valued at £52 (less than $200). Today Auld's paintings are numbered in the collections of museums in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Armidale and Manly. Auld's painting Manly (below) is representative of the artist's affection for seascapes.

Manly, James Muir Auld














The Cameo, James Muir Auld













































Saturday, July 15, 2017

Paul Gosselin

Untitled, Paul Gosselin
I've long held that the best artists are the most versatile artists. That is to say, they can and do paint a broad variety of subject content, and do so pretty much equally well in each area. It's a goal toward which I've long striven, and I like to think with some degree of success (I'll probably strain my shoulder patting myself on the back). You'd need to check the broad sampling of my work at www.jimlanart.com to be the judge of that. Coming from me, such a verdict would be somewhat biased.
 
21st-century as compared to the 16th-century
There are, of course, a number of artists more versatile than I. One of them is the Belgian painter, Paul Gosselin. When I started looking at his work I was mystified as to what era he belonged. And inasmuch as he is a living artist, born in 1961, there was not a tremendous volume of biographical material on him. I was seeing art that at times looked as if it came from the 15th-century Northern Renaissance as in Gosselin's Tower of Babel (above) as compared to that of Pieter Bruegel just below it.
 
Skaters on the River Leie, Paul Gosselin
Yet Gosselin's Skaters on the River Leie (above) would suggest a painting from the Dutch "Golden Age" of the 17th-century; yet, I found a cartoon (bottom) mercilessly lampooning Napoleon Bonaparte, which would place Gosselin in 18th-century France. One of my favorites, a woodland pastoral scene (top) appeared to be from the late-19th-century. But then, judged by his expressionist self-portraits, would place him in the early years of the 20th century. I think you can see my point; the man's versatility extends well beyond content to that of styles.
 
Gosselin's painting styles span several centuries.
Still-life with Flowers,
Paul Gosselin
Paul Gosselin was born in 1961 (56 years ago) in the Belgian city of Menen. Gosselin's versatility includes not just historic styles but a number of media as well--oils, acrylics, watercolor, drawing, pastels portraits, along with animals, city views, landscapes, still lifes, genre scenes, mythological and religious com-positions. It's virtually impossible to classify Gosselin by style; he encom-passes so many--Realism, Impression-ism, Expressionism, Pointillism, Symbol-ism, and Oriental styles. Trained at the Academy of Kortrijk, Gosselin is regarded as one of Belgium's best artists, pro-ducing technically brilliant paintings. A member of the Royal Guild of St. Luke of Kortrijk, he has works in museums in Amsterdam, Brussel, Kortrijk, Menen, Yp-res, and St-Ydesbald.

Lady with Masks--Symbolism
The Juwelry Box--Orientalism


























Napoleon, Paul Gosselin






























































 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Armand Henrion

Self-portrait of a Laughing Clown and
Self-portrait of a Clown Who Cries, Armand Henrion
Just about every painter who ever lived has tried his or her hand at painting a self-portrait. And those for whom we have no record of their self-impression self-expression, probably tried doing so, hated it, and destroyed the evidence. Now, try to imagine an artist who painted virtually nothing but self-portraits. Although it may sound like I'm leading up to a discourse on Rembrandt or van Gogh, these guys would stand as rank amateurs in the shadow of the Belgian-French painter, Armand Francois Joseph Henrion. Okay, all together now, "WHO?"
Compared to his self-portraits, his posters were a mere sideline.
Self-portrait in a
Fisherman's Cap,
Armand Henrion
That's a very good question and I wish I had a good answer, but the biographical details of Armand Henrion's life as a painter, especially the early years, are sketchy at best. We know that he was born in the Belgian city of Liège in 1875. Henrion was a draughtsman, poster designer (above), and painter, of portraits, figures, genre scenes (below right), nudes, land-scapes, and animals (almost none of which survive). Armand Henrion is best known for his Pierrot portraits and Self-portraits as a clown in the Realist, Impressionist and Expressionist style. He is con-sidered a figure and portrait painter from the French School, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen of France. Henrion's self-portraits, even in whiteface, (he painted hundreds of them) are especially useful for artists today in that they amount to a virtual encyclo-pedia of human expressions and emotions (albeit somewhat exaggerated).

The Laundry, Armand Henrion
Henrion's formal education is completely un-known. He was a regular exhibitor at Salons throughout Paris and Belgium. He became know for his small portraits which captured the facial expressions of clowns laughing, singing, smoking (pipes and cigarettes) and other mime reactions. The vast majority of his clowns are self-portraits but he also painted Pierrot, a stock character of mime and Commedia dell'Arte, which was the French equivalent of the Italian Pedrolino. The noticeable feature in Henrion's Pierrot clown portraits is their naiveté. They are seen as a trusting fool, always the butt of pranks. Like Pierrot, they are portrayed as moonstruck (a lunatic), and oblivious to reality.

His face must have hurt after an hour or two of posing.
Henrion had an all-consuming fascination with the character of Pierrot. Henrion portrayed himself as this comic trickster, who traditionally did not wear a mask, but instead applied heavy white face makeup. Many artists, from Jean-Antoine Watteau to Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, and Aubrey Beardsley were also captivated by Pierrot, often considering him a kind of mirror image of themselves. Henrion's literal transformation of Pierrot into himself presents a unique twist on the legacy of this character. Henrion explored nuances of humor in his works which encompass the facial expressions conveying such qualities as the tongue-in-cheek, the retort, the comeback, the riposte, and the droll comment. Henrion's animated, gestural style in the creation of the small, jewel-like, depictions matches the feelings they convey of a light-hearted sense that life is to be enjoyed.

An Encyclopedia of facial expressions.
Pierrot was a trusted servant who played tricks on people, a clown who, unlike most Commedia dell'Arte characters, wears no mask. Instead, he supplements a layer of heavy white make-up, then wears a white costume complete with a frilly white collar and baggy pantaloons, plus a tight fitting bandana. Henrion's all-consuming fascination with portraying himself as Pierrot in many guises--the happy clown, sad clown, surprised clown, grimacing clown, angry clown, smoking clown, smug clown--is interesting conceptually. He was the portraitist who literally paints a face on himself that he later paints again on canvas as once removed. During his lifetime, Henrion found an enthusiastic patron and supporter in Leon Gerard, a Parisian gallerist. Today Henrion's paintings are much sought-after by museums and private collectors alike, both in his adopted France and abroad. Arman Henrion died in 1958 at the age of eighty-three.

Would you buy chocolates
from this clown?
 




















WW II Soldier, Armand
Henrion. Yes, he did paint
others besides himself.