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Monday, July 31, 2017

Peder Severin Krøyer

The Hirschsprung family, 1881, by Peder Krøyer. From the left Ivar, Aage, Heinrich, Oscar, Robert, Pauline, and, Ellen.
In the United States and many other parts of the world, once the summer heat becomes unbearable, everyone heads for the beach (including artists). I suppose the widespread availability of air-conditioning has lessened this trendy trek to some degree, especially among Americans, who are notorious for taking fewer and shorter "holidays" than general population of European countries. In southeastern Ohio, the favorite vacation wet spot has long been Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I've never been there, but then again, I'm more interested in art museums and observing the sands of time than the gritty literal variety. I don't suppose I've spent more than a combined total of one week on a beach during my entire life. I do love the seashore, however, and as an artist, living by the sea would, I'm sure, be a great source of inspiration.
Beach at Skagen, Peder Severin Krøyer
The Benzon daughters,
1897, Peder Krøyer
That would seem to be the case with the Danish painter, Peder Severin Krøyer (there are various spellings of the sur-name). The man was born to an unfit mother in 1851. Though born in Stavan-ger, Norway, he was raised by his mother's sister and her husband, the Danish zoologist Henrik Nikolai Krøyer in Copenhagen; and for that reason is considered Danish. The boy began his art education at the age of nine under private tutelage then enrolled in Copen-hagen's Technical Institute the following year. In 1870, at the age of 19, Krøyer completed his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Art. In 1873 the artist was awarded the Academy's gold medal, as well as a scholarship.

Fishermen Hauling Nets, North Beach, Skagen,
1883, Peder Krøyer
Krøyer's official debut as a painter came in 1871 at the Academy's Charlottenborg Palace salon with a portrait of his friend, the painter Frans Schwartz. He exhibited regularly at Charlottenborg throughout his life. In 1874 the Danish tobacco manufacturer, Heinrich Hirschsprung, bought his first painting from Krøyer, establishing a long-standing patronage (top). Hirschsprung's collection of art forms the basis of the Hirschsprung Museum in Copenhagen. Between 1877 and 1881, Krøyer travelled extensively in Europe, meeting artists, studying art, and honing his skills. In Paris Krøyer studied under Léon Bonnat, while coming under the influence of the impressionists, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, and Manet. He continued to travel throughout his life, constantly drawing inspiration from foreign artists and cultures while the Hirschsprung family provided financial support.

Loggia in Ravello (Italy), 1890, Peder Krøyer

Skagen Painters eating
lunch at Brøndum's Hotel
in 1883, Peder Krøyer
In 1883 Krøyer returned to Denmark. He spent June–October at Skagen, at the time, a remote fishing village on the northern tip of Denmark, where Krøyer painted themes from local life and the artist community there (left). He would continue to be associated with the developing art and literary scene at Skagen for the rest of his life. Other artists at Skagen included Michael and Anna Ancher. Krøyer divided his time between rented houses in Skagen during the summer, and a winter apartment in Copenhagen where he worked on his com-missioned portraits. The figures depicted in the group portrait of Skagen painters are (from the left) Eilif Petersen, Michael Ancher (standing), Wilhelm Peters, Charles Lundh, Degn Brøndum, Johan Krouthén, Oscar Björck and Christian Krohg.

The Krøyers made a beautiful couple. Unfortunately, they were divorced in 1905. They had one daughter.
On one of his trips to Paris in 1888, Krøyer met an old acquaintance, Marie Martha Mathilde Triepcke, whom he had known in Copenhagen. They married in July, 1889 at her parents' home in Germany. Along with her new husband, Marie Krøyer, who was also a painter, likewise became associated with the Skagen community. During their marriage she was often featured in Krøyer's paintings.

Summer Evening at Skagen Beach – The Artist and his Wife, 1899, Peder Krøyer
Krøyer's eyesight began to fail him during the last ten years of his life. Gradually, he became totally blind. Yet, he painted almost to the end, in spite of his health obstacles. He joked as he painted some of his final masterpieces while half-blind, that the eyesight in his one working eye had become better with the loss of the other eye. Krøyer died in 1909 in Skagen at fifty-eight years of age following years of declining health. He had been in and out of hospitals, suffering from bouts of mental illness brought on by syphilis.

Some of Krøyer's best works
(which I didn't have room for anywhere else).

Skagen Beach, 1892, Peder Severin Krøyer.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Charles Addams

Charles Addams' Family--not everyone's cup of arsenic.
Although I love them dearly, the art of the cartoonist seems to be one which I tend to slight in my writing. It's awfully easy to not take cartoonists seriously as fine artists. Actually most such creative geniuses are more on the order of comedy writers than what we tend to think of as artist. Likewise, most such artists are not all that famous for their draughtsmanship (Trudeau, Milton Caniff, and a few others being exceptions). For the cartoonist, the idea (or "gag") is most important, the art is secondary, sometimes all but superfluous. The late, great, Charles Schulz was barely adequate as an artist. And yet, Schulz, for example, was one of the most successful cartoonist to ever draw a round head. Though less known, and certainly cut from a different cloth, a close rival in that regard, and a somewhat better draughtsman (in his own way), was Charles Addams.

The Addams Family was sort of an adult version of Peanuts.
If Charles Schulz wrote about life, especially that of being a kid, it would be fair to say Charles Addams wrote about death, especially that of the macabre kid. Schulz's subtle sense of humor was light and bright. That of Addams was dark and dismal. Charles Schulz lived until the year 2000 (age 78). Charles Addams died in 1988 at the age of seventy-six. Born in 1912 in Westfield, New Jersey, as a boy, Addams was known as "something of a rascal around the neighborhood." His favorite pastimes including breaking into abandoned houses and playing in cemeteries. He also like to draw with, as one friend put it, "...a happy vengeance."

The caricature of Addams was by Al Hirschfeld done during WW II.
Addams attended Colgate University in 1929 and 1930, followed by two more years at the University of Pennsylvania, where a fine-arts building on campus is named for him. In front of the building are sculptural silhouettes of Addams Family characters. College Hall, the oldest building on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, is said to have been the inspiration for the Adams Family mansion (below). Addams also studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City.

The haunted architecture of the macabre.
One of eighteen books
Addams wrote or illustrated.
Charles Addams got his start in art (if you could call it that) when he joined the layout department of True Detective magazine in 1932. There it was his job top retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine's stories to remove the blood from them. Addams noted that a lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were. Addams' first drawing, a sketch of a window washer, ran in The New Yorker that same year. Thereafter, his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine with his first in the series that came to be called The Addams Family starting in 1938.

Post-marital revenge?
When the war came Addams served at the Signal Corps Photographic Center in New York, where he made animated training films for the Army. In late 1942, he met his first wife, Barbara Jean Day, who it's said bore a strong resem-blance to Morticia Addams. Addams married his second wife, Barbara Barb, in 1954. A practicing lawyer, she combined Morticia-like looks with diabolical legal scheming, by which she wound up controlling The Addams Family television and film franchises. The couple divorced in 1956. The Addams Family television series didn't last much longer than his marriages. It ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966. David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist. All Addams had to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals.

The TV series ran during the period when the medium was transitioning
from black and white to color.
Addams eventually married his third and final wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller, best known as "Tee," in a pet cemetery. In 1985, they moved to Sagaponack, New York, where they named their estate "The Swamp." Addams died of a heart attack in September, 1988. As he had requested, a wake was held rather than a funeral. It's said Charles Addams wished to be remembered as a "good cartoonist". He was cremated, and his ashes buried in the pet cemetery of "The Swamp."

Dark humor and irony were Addams' trademarks.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Alaskan Art

Halibut Cove Artists Colony, (not very) near Cordova, Alaska.
About this time fifty years ago, I was finishing up my second year of duty in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. It's strange, after fifty years, the things that have left an impression on me. I remember the mountains and landscape of course, and the "big city" of Anchorage (below), but I was not yet much of an artist so it was more the little things I recall...the very little things...the mosquitos.
Anchorage Skyline, 2013, Scott Clendaniel.
(The air force base was on the far side from this view)
Handmade sealskin seals--the largest
one is about three inches tall.
The military sprayed their installations for mosquitoes (thanks God). The Alaskans simply coped, and magnified them somewhat. The ranged in size from about an inch to virtually invisible; and quite frankly, it was the latter which were the most bothersome. Alaska is big all over, and what isn't, gets exaggerated by the nat-ives to match the scale of everything else. You should see the "moose-quitos" (below, left), which they sell to gullible tourists (like me)--so named because they're made from shellacked moose poop. As for other souvenirs, the only ones I brought home were on a slightly more elevated plane, the tiny sealskin seals seen above-right. Thankfully, they're not larger than life.
When it comes to making the most of the three-month
summer tourist season, Alaskans are nothing if not creative.
I don't think it would be going to far to say that I "became" an artist while in Alaska. What the hell, there was nothing else to do on those 18-hour-long winter nights. I painted my first "professional" portraits there. What I didn't paint was the stunning landscape. That had to wait until I got back to Ohio and was in college. Mount Eyak (below) dates from 1973, and is the only Alaskan landscape I've ever done (better late than never).
Copyright, Jim Lane
Mount Eyak, 1973, Jim Lane
When it comes to Alaskan artists, there are three types, the indigenous Alaskan tribal artists; long-term resident artists originally from the "lower forty-eight;" and artists like myself-- tourists and military personnel who are just passing through, who snap a few pictures, then do their painting back home. Painting on location is something few Alaskan tourists would ever consider (the mosquitos, remember?).

The best way to see the most...
The Alaska Railroad, Meghan Taylor.
Decorative "art" as a concept did not traditionally exist among indigenous Alaskan natives. Objects were utilitarian, although decorated in ways that conveyed images of spiritual or physical activity. It wasn't until Europeans and Asians first made contact with coastal Alaskans in the 17th-century that non-utilitarian art objects began to be traded in exchange for metal implements, cloth, and foodstuffs such as tea, flour, or sugar. Many objects traded were only valued for their functionality, such as clothing woven of grass, harpoon tips carved from the ivory walrus tusks; rainproof outerwear sewn from membranes in the intestines of seals; and animal skins valued for their warmth and durability. Gradually, these items were refined to be more decorative, as a way to increase their trading value.

Even today, as in the past, virtually all authentic native
art is made for export or for the tourist trade.
While the art forms were, and still are, as different as the cultures of the Native peoples who make them, nearly all such works evoke a common reference to living in harmony with nature and all its many creatures. No part of a hunted animal, whether fished or trapped, could be wasted. It would not be uncommon to see boots or "mukluks" made of bearded seal skin for soles, salmon skin for the outer layer, and straps of caribou or deerskin, dyed with berries.

A Tlingit totem pole, (detail),
Ketchikan, Alaska
There is a continuous blurring of the dis-tinctions between "traditional" versus "con-temporary" Alaskan art. Next to the ubi-quitous tribal totem poles just outside, inside Alaskan art galleries, a visiting art lover would find wall-size paintings, three-dimensional mobiles, life-size bronze cast-ings, and marble sculp-tures. Displayed nearby there would be bears carved from walrus tusks, along with fine jewelry etched of copper and silvers. Women buyers could admire Nephrite jade and musk ox horn polished into bracelets, or bentwood boxes carved from coastal white cedar trees. in leaving, tourists pass baskets of infinite shapes and designs, made from birch bark, woven spruce root, beach grasses or the baleen from a bowhead whale, all intricately woven and shaped into vessels of all sizes (below).

Alaskan Native basketry.
And finally, there's the westernized Alaskan art which celebrates the landscape, and often uses it as a background for an even stronger infatuation with Alaskan wildlife. Much, if not most, of such art is the work of artist who have only recently or temporarily adopted the state simply for the purpose of trying to capture the state's native beauty. Often you can spot such art by its photographic approach to the landscape or by title. For instance, only an artist from Florida would name her Alaskan landscape simply Alaska (bottom).

Beautiful painting...terrible title.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The White House Art Collection

Presidents past, present, and future come together in the
same office for a photo-op.
England has their crown jewels, worn only rarely, if at all, and given the number of Royal Palaces, the little kingdom boasts, probably the largest collection of painted wall coverings in the world. Although President Donald Trump has yet to start wearing a crown, he does have a very respectable art collection at his disposal in case he chooses to redecorate the Executive Mansion (as it was originally know). And if that proves to be inadequate, few American art museums would dare turn down a request to loan the White House any item to which the President takes a liking. The Obamas, in fact, took advantage of this fact in requesting numerous items of Modern Art the likes of which one might never imagined as gracing such hallowed walls.
President Trump and his idol, President Andrew Jackson
by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl.
One of the first items of business, even before inauguration, is, as one might stay, "measuring for new drapes in the Oval Office." President Trump resurrect on an old gold set from the Clinton days while the "new" sunburst carpet he chose was from the Reagan Administration. New presidents may also choose from the White House collection their favorite works of art. President Trump adopted a portrait of Andrew Jackson by Ralph Whiteside Earl as his thematic idol (above). It replaced two landscapes Obama had relished.
The Churchill bust was a gift of great symbolism from England after the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001.
The Oval Office also boasts several bronze busts of great world leaders. President trump chose to keep the heads of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., while adding that of Winston Churchill (moved from just across the hall in the Roosevelt Room). Also gracing the Oval Office is the wise old visage of President Abraham Lincoln painted in 1916 by George Henry Story (below). These were all holdovers from the Obama décor. Also, for several years now, Frederic Remington's bronze Bronco Rider (bottom) has come to evoke the rough and tumble nerve center of political intrigue for which the President's office is known.
Abraham Lincoln, 1916, George Story

Another Trump favorite, the portrait
of Theodore Roosevelt, has I believe,
found a new place of prominence
in the State Dining Room.
There are limits to how far any president (or his wife) may go in redecorating the White House. The family living quarters are there's to make their own so long as any changes are reversible. On the other hand, the "state" rooms on the main floor are all but sacrosanct. Any changes there must be approved by the White House Historical Society. There have been rumors that President Trump has added a big-screen TV to the family dining room and purchased, on his own, a new chandelier for the blue room, neither of which I have been able to confirm. Very often changes on the main floor involve little more than minor refurbishing due to age or moving from one room to another the paintings on the walls. President Trump has given the impression in interviews that he plans to make few changes. However, he may have made this declaration without consulting his wife.

The White House has been compared to living in a fishbowl and by Barack Obama, "very plush prison." One might also compare it to living in an art museum.
Leaving aside the ever-growing col-lection of official presidential portraits, and those of First Ladies, the main focus of the White House permanent art collection is on American painters. A perennial favorite is Mary Cassatt's Young Mother and Two Children (above)which hangs in a second floor sitting room. Childe Hassam's The Avenue in the Rain (not shown) is another long-time favorite. Also included are works by Georgia O'Keeffe (not shown), George P.A. Healy, William Harnett, David Martin and Francis Bicknell Carpenter (seen above). However, undoubtedly one of the most valuable paintings in the White House collection is not by an American painter, but the Frenchman Claude Monet and his Morning on the Seine, Good Weather (below), dating from 1897.

Morning on the Seine, Good Weather, 1897, Claude Monet.
Bronco Rider, Frederic Remington


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Revolt of Cairo, 21 October 1798, 1810, Anne Louis Girodet.
I'm always a little surprised and dismayed when I come upon the work of an artist I should know, but have, in fact, never heard of. Very often the works of these artists are really quite good, not necessary top notch, but sufficiently adept to make me wonder why he or she is not better known today. In the case of one French painter from the nascent Romantic era of the early 19th-century the, most likely reason immediately pops up like a jack-in-the-box...the name: Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson. My, the French certainly do loved their hyphenated names.

Did I mention, Girodet loved to draw and paint self-portraits?
The first and most obvious question, given the name, would be, was the painter a man or a woman? He was male, born Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy in 1767. He grew up in the town of Montargis, located about 65 miles south of Paris on the Loing River. Today, it's a town of about 14,000 (undoubtedly far less than that in the artist's time). Why the French like to hyphenate given names is beyond me. Both of the boy's parents died when he was quite young. The care of his inheritance and education fell to his guardian, a doctor of "médecin-de-mesdames" (a women's doctor) named Trioson, who later adopted him. Girodet took the surname Trioson in 1812. Actually, the doctor is believed to have been the boy's biological father. The name, de Roussy, drives from an area of northeastern France near the German border, which was likely his mother's ancestral home (which accounts for the second hyphen). For our purposes, we'll stick to his birth name--Anne-Louis Girodet.
Joseph Recognized by his Brothers, 1789, Anne-Louis Girodet
Doctor Trioson Giving a
Geography Lesson to his Son,
Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson,
As was (and still is) often the case, Girodet did not intend to become an artist. He first studied architecture then briefly tried a military career before starting drawing classes from a local artist around 1773. To his great good fortune, in 1883, his instructor encouraged Girodet to join the atelier of France's great history painter of the time, the Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David.  At the age of eighteen he was already one of David's most gifted pupils. In fact, Girodet won the Prix de Rome just six years later in 1789 for the composition Joseph Recognized by His Brothers (above) which allowed him a trip to Italy to study for the next five years. While in Rome, Girodet experienced the influence of Italian Renaissance masters Correggio and Leonardo da Vinci. Girodet's The Sleep of Endymion, (above) was painted during this period.

The Sleep of Endymion, 1793, Anne-Louis Girodet--
one of his most erotic works.
Portrait de Chateaubriand,
1808, Anne-Louis Girodet
Girodet left Rome for Naples, then later studied in Florence and Genoa before returned to France in 1795. At the Paris Salon of 1793 Girodet first exhibited his The Sleep of Endymion, which diverged from Neoclassical tradition and employed gentle nuances of illumination and color that anticipated the effects of Romantic art. This transitional style between Neo-classicism and Romanticism is seen in many of Girodet’s works, such as Ossian Meeting Shadows of French Heroes (below), from 1801, and The Burial of Atala (bottom), dating from 1808. Girodet's abandonment of the monumental style in favor of early Romantic themes, which were becoming very popular in France at the time, brought sharp criticism from his teacher, Jacques-Louis David.

Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of the Fallen French Heroes,
ca. 1801, Anne-Louis Girodet.
Charles Marie Bonaparte
(father of Napoléon),
1806, Anne Louis Girodet
Back in France, Girodet painted many portraits, including some of members of the Bonaparte family. In 1806, in competition with the Sabines of David, he exhibited his Scène of the Flood (below) which was awarded the decennial prize. In 1808 he produced the Funeral of Atala, a work which won immense popularity, by its fortunate choice of subject and its remarkable departure from the theatricality of Girodet's usual manner. He returned to his theatrical style in The Revolt of Cairo (top), from 1810. Girodet's portrait of Napoleon's father (left), from 1806, was likely the result of the grandiose Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte in Coro-nation Robes, painted sometime after 1804.

Scene of the Flood, Anne-Louis Girodet
(rather dry looking for a flood).
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley,
Deputy for Saint-Domingue,
1797, Anne-Louis Girodet
Thanks to Girodet, David, Gros, and other painters from the First Empire period, Napoleon Bonaparte (below) became the perfect embodiment of the Romantic era in French art. In 1812 Girodet inherited a fortune, and after that painted less. Increas-ingly he dedicated himself to illustrating books of Virgil, Racine, Bernardin de Saint Pierre and other authors, as well as writing poems and verses. In his forties his powers began to fail, and his habit of working at night weakened his constitution. In the Salon of 1812 Girodet exhibited only a Head of the Virgin, while in 1819 only his Pygmalion et Galatée, both of which showed a further decline of strength. Girodet died in Decem-ber 1824. At the sale of his personal effects following his death, some of his drawings realized enormous prices.

Girodet's Napoleon was more slender and taller than
that of other artists who painted the emporer. 

The Funeral of Atala,1808, Anna-Louis Girodet, one of his most popular paintings.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ideals of Feminine Beauty

It ain't easy being beautiful...or staying beautiful.
Back in the early 1970s as I was working on my masters degree at Ohio University, I wrote a thesis tracking the development of ideals of feminine beauty through the work of three painters, Delacroix, Ingres, and Renoir. In thinking about the subject this morning it occurred to me that, given the conveniences of modern-day Internet research, I could delve more broadly into the subject, not from the limited scope of three artists but instead, looking at how art, culture, society, and specifically women themselves have come to define feminine beauty today--now as compared to then.

Women's fashions don't really change every five years,
it just seems that way. Instead, they evolve constantly.
And that's all I have to say on the subject.
There are numerous complicating aspects in such a query. Perhaps first and foremost are the myriad aspect of what women wear. That's such a massive area of interest I immediately rejected wading into such a needle and thread quagmire. I decided it would sufficient to concentrate simply on makeup, hairstyles, and the influence of the various art and social media involved. The next question was where to begin? Presumably women have at least seemed beautiful since the Garden of Eden and the first palindrome: "Madam, I'm Adam." But inasmuch as beauty has always been in the eyes of the beholder, beauty today is far from that which Adam beheld.
In the early 19th century, neoclassicism and the "natural look" inspired by the Greek and Roman statuary, flourished, as seen in the portrait of Queen Louise of Prussia by Joseph Grassi (upper-right).
It's not that women are more beautiful now than then, it just seems that there are a lot more of them, which I guess stands to reason. In any case I chose as a starting point the year 1800. It was somewhere about that time that, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, women's fabrics and clothes began to be mass produce. As a result, virtually any middleclass housewife could afford to make or buy at least one fashionable frock. And with that came fashionable hairstyles, hats, jewelry (as in cheap), and makeup for the masses. Before that, beauty bespoke wealth. From the early 19th century...not so much.

Ideals of feminine beauty differ from one race and culture
to the other but it's no less prevalent.
Portrait artists are exceedingly conscious as to the prevailing cultural ideals of feminine beauty. As a result, they've often tended to flatter their female clients, sometimes shamelessly. When it comes to women and beauty, they've even been known to be outright liars. However, with the advent of even crude portrait photography came the adage, "the camera doesn't lie." Of course, in the hands of an exceptional photographer there can still be an element of visual prevarication, except that the "shameless flattery" became more subtle and complex.

Notice the differences between artists' efforts to capture
feminine beauty and the more natural "modern" look achieved by Victorian era photographers.
If you were to guess...
It might come as a surprise to some, but those who study the many elements of women's styles and tastes can be quite accurate in pinpointing the approximate years when women's photos were prob-ably taken. The center parting, and the "turban" hairdo, seen in the photo at right, along with the dress, suggest this tiny keepsake likely dates from the 1850s. In fact, women's hairstyles down through history have sometimes changed so ab-ruptly to the point that cultural historians can pinpoint the date within a year or two. Don't expect that kind of accuracy in the case of male portraits, though.

The miracles of Hollywood makeup artists went mainstream thanks to improved printing technology, and with it, magazines aimed exclusively at female moviegoers.
The one key element in virtually every cultural, social, and historic ideal of feminine beauty is youth, as cruelly depicted in the split cartoon at the top. Large eyes, a tiny nose, perfect teeth, long lashes, a flawless complexion, distinct and distinctive eyebrows, a smooth, slender jawline, and a nice smile are all important "features" of a classically beautiful face. So critical are these attributes that they are, surprisingly, not gender specific. All or most of them are to be found in male faces, sometimes to the point of androgyny (bottom).

Thanks to Hollywood, Bollywood, and the powerful presence of today's highly pervasive social media, beauty now has a name. And, as Halle Berry and others have demonstrated, the ravages of aging can be conquered.

(They're both guys.)