Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Russell Drysdale

Copyright, Jim Lane
Coal Run Fork, 1974, Jim Lane
I've always had a liking for street scenes. Over the years I've probably painted more than a dozen of them. Some I've painted simply to capture the present for the future as in my 1974 Coal Run Fork (above), near where we lived at the time (our mobile home was just to the right of this scene). In other cases I've simply been tempted by the challenge to do it and get it right. Single-point linear perspective has always fascinated me. At other times I've painted famous streets; and once, I painted a 360-degree panorama of a town square where four streets merged where I stood (bottom). Someday it should be quite valuable as something of an oddity, once my son (and only heir) sells it for less than I've been asking for it. Street scenes are popular with the local buying crowd. Unfortunately, paying for the long hours of work in each one, isn't. The Australian painter, Russell Drysdale apparently shares my affection for such art. He's painted as many or more than I have.
West Wyalong (upper-right), 1949, Russell Drysdale
Some consider Russell Drysdale Australia's "most important" painter (whatever that means). I suppose it has to do with the number and importance of other artists he has influence, or, more likely, the manner he has captured the people and the desolation of his country's "outback" in his trademark surrealist manner. Drysdale's 1949 West Wyalong (above) is, therefore considered the country's "most important" painting. They've even planted on the street corner in West Wyalong from where it was painted, a monument to the painting (above, lower-left). I've also included a photo of the town as it looks today taken from the same spot.
Sofala, 1947, Russell Drysdale. The large brick
building on the right can be seen in both images.
In the 1947 painting, Sofala (above), we can see more easily the changes seventy years have made in the scene. However, fond as he was of street scenes, they make up only a small portion of Drysdale's lifetime work. For example, if we were to compare Drysdale to other "important" artists from other nations, we'd have to say he's something of a combination of Grant Wood, Edward Hopper, Salvador Dali, with a little of Thomas Hart Benton and film maker, Tim Burton added for seasoning. That might seem like an odd combination but, quite frankly, Russell Drysdale was an odd artist.

The man, the artist, and his art.
Russell Drysdale was born in 1912, at Bognor Regis, (a south coast resort community) in Sussex, England. His family moved to Australia, in 1923 where the young boy attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria. He (or more likely, his family) intended to take up farming but as a teenager he developed a strong interest in art. In 1935 he began studying painting in Melbourne, continuing at the Grosvenor School in London, and La Grande Chaumière in Paris during the years leading up to 1939. Though still in his mid-twenties, upon returning to Australia, he garnered the "important" label. Yet he had not settle on either a personal style or content area.

Sunday Evening, 1941, Russell Drysdale
Rocky McCormick
1962, Russell Drysdale
In returning to Melbourne, Drysdale found a strong resistance to any acceptance of newer, European art forms. He decided to move to Sydney, where he saw the art world awakening to outside influences. There he immediately found success. Painted shortly after he settled in Sydney, Sunday Evening (above) is one of Drysdale's earliest works depicting outback themes. It reveals the emergence of a style and approach to subject matter that signaled a radical break from his previous experiments as a student. In 1941 he traveled through the remoter sections of the hinterland. The Back Ver-andah (below) probably dates from this period. Drysdale was famous all his life for his portraits of native Australians as seen in his Rocky McCormick (right) dating from around 1962. His life's work contains dozens of portraits similar to this this one.
The Back Verandah, Russell Drysdale
Drysdale's reputation continued to grow throughout the 1950s and 1960s as he explored remote Australia and depicted its inhabitants. In 1954, together with Sydney Nolan and William Dobell, he was chosen to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. Drysdale married twice, and had a son, Tim, and a daughter, Lynne. Tim committed suicide in 1962 at the age of twenty one. The following year, Drysdale's wife, Bon, also killed herself. In 1964 Drysdale married Maisie Purves Smith, an old friend. In later years Drysdale was often accused of painting the same picture over and over again. He countered by saying that he was no different to a Renaissance artist, striving again and again to paint the perfect Madonna-and-Child. In 1969, Drysdale was knighted for his services to art. His later years saw a marked decrease in the quantity of his output, which had never been large to begin with. Drysdale died in Sydney in June, 1981.

Copyright, Jim Lane
McConnelsville, Ohio, Town Square, 2001, Jim Lane

The Bath, 1941, Russell Drysdale.
Bathroom art was relatively rare at the time.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


The history of doors--one door leads to another.
One of the greatest inventions of mankind, right up there with the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, electricity, the Internet, and toilet paper, was that of the wall. Where would we be without them? They keep the heat in, the cold out, shelter the weak, frustrate the strong, support the roof, and provide artists with a place to hang their paintings. However, as so often happens, this "invention" would be totally useless without the presence of another invention--doors. I'm not talking here about mere openings in a wall, as important as they might be in making the wall somewhat practical. Still more important, along the same line, is the invention of the "temporary" wall better known today as the door. Without the swinging, sliding, folding, or overhead versions of this device, few of the wall's practical applications would be of much value. Without doors, in many cases the wall would actually be a damned nuisance.
The doors of Rome, perhaps some of
the world's oldest still in use.
Without doors we'd have little in the way of the security a wall provides. Likewise, walls would provide little privacy. Interior environmental comforts would be compromised, and their absence would permit the intrusion into our living spaces of unwanted insects, hungry beasts, mice, lice, and nosy neighbors. Without doors, lethal armaments aimed at the entry portals of our homes would be as common in our living rooms as La-z-boys. Worse than that, we'd have nothing to slam when we get angry.
A five-thousand-year-old door, probably the world's oldest . Archeologists have discovered a Neolithic wooden door as old as Stonehenge at the site of s planned parking lot in Zurich, Switzerland.
Of course no one kept track of such things during the stone age, but the door may well be the second oldest invention of all time (fire probably came first). The first "door" was probably a big rock rolled into place in front of a cave entrance to ward off the aforementioned hungry beasts looking for a warm meal. That may not sound like anyone's definition of an "invention" but the moment the property owner began hacking on that rock with another rock in order to allow it to roll more easily, he (or she) became a door designer. Since that day, the designer door has often become quite the work of art.
Doors of the Florence Baptistery called the Gates of Paradise.
It's not Ghiberti, nor is it bronze,
but he would probably approve.
Doors have, in fact, a long association with art. Egyptian wall paintings depict them as a gateway to the afterlife. Perhaps their closest association with art were the highly esteemed doors of the San Giovanni Baptistery in Florence, which are all in bronze. The borders may well be the most remarkable. The modeling of the figures, birds and foliage of the south doorway is by Andrea Pisano dating from around 1330, while the east doorway is by Ghiberti. In designing the north doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti adopted the same scheme of design for the paneling and figure subjects in them Pisano. However, in the east door the panels are rectangular illustrated with innumer-able bas-relief figures, and are prob-ably the doors which Michelangelo called the Gates of Paradise (above).
NASA's Vehicle Assembly building, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
National Archive doors,
Washington, D.C.
As massive as Ghiberti's seventeen-foot-tall baptistery doors may be, they are dwarfed by those at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. (right), which are thirty-eight feet in height. They, in turn, are dwarfed by those of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (above) at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Seen in the open position, they currently hold the title of the largest doors in the world at 456 feet in height.
(Almost) all you need to
know about doors.
A little too distinctive.
Today, when we think about doors, we usually think first about those in our own home which we encounter every day. Doors employed by NASA, the National Archives, and Renaissance were designed by engine-ers with little thought as to making them in any way beautiful. Ghiberti was a designer, perhaps the first in a long line of door designers since the Ren-aissance. The doors in our home are the work of designers, with perhaps an engineer (or architect) looking over his or her shoulder to make sure the damned thing doesn't fall off its hinges the first time someone tries to open it. Ghiberti had to follow scripture. Designers today have almost total free rein. If homeowners like their door designs, they have steady employment. If not, they go to work for Lowe's trying to sell doors.

Today, homeowners look for distinctive door designs which will make their home stand apart from that of
their neighbors...but not too far apart.
Inside the home, door designers today seem to be embracing several different approaches, that of making their creations as bland and unobtrusive as possible, highlighting them, hiding them, or trying to make them virtually invisible. The door has, to a large extent, come unhinged, with builders and homeowners preferring sliding or folding doors which have the advantage of needing less space (since they don't "swing"). The bright yellow "barn" door (below) represents a trend in highlighting doors as a conversational element or focal point for the interior design.

Practical and (sort of) attractive, although some kind of housing for the sliding rail might be nice.
On the flip side, through the use of mirrors or decorative panels in place of wood with sliding doors, doors can be made to look like a simple wall design element as seen in the bedrooms below. In the case of triple-hung sliders, the opening space can also be much larger while also being more attractive the a large expanse of glorified plywood veneer.

Invisible doors?
And then there's the fine art of hiding doors...

The tooth fairy door.
Hey, fairies are people too.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Malcolm Drummond

St. James Park, 1912, Malcolm Drummond.
Like "birds of a feather," artists tend to "flock together." In the past, many of these artists' groups have centered on a local tavern where gathered a number of like-minded artists to eat, drink, discuss art, and critique one another's work. Today this "togetherness" often takes place in cyberspace. I've spoken more than a few times regarding the Internet mailing list made up of a group of artists called Paint-L. This was back about 1998 to 2004 in the days before Facebook. Other than the fact we all painted, embraced the then-infantile Internet, and liked to gab, we had little else in common. For me personally, this group played a big role in my earliest efforts to write about the art and artists of the past and present (called ArtyFacts at the time). Like the artists' groups of the past we had our own tavern, the Café Guerbois, named for the Paris watering hole favored by the Impressionists from around 1866 to 1874. Ours was somewhat more imaginary than theirs, though. The British painter, Malcolm Drummond, was very much into "flocking together." He was a member of three such groups (two of which he helped found).
Walter Sickert, 1911.
Drummond was, first of all, a patron of London's famed, Fitzroy Tavern during the early 1900s (still there and still in business today). For Drummond and many other artists of the time, aside from the beer and ale, the chief attraction of the Fitzroy was Walter Sickert. Sickert taught at Westminster School of Art during the years 1907-1912 and again from 1915-1918. His students and followers began meeting first in his home-studio just across the street from the Fitzroy. They met every Saturday, shared easels, and critically studied each other's work. However, before long, they where obliged to move the "The Fitzroy Street Group" meetings to the tavern when Sickert's atelier could no long accommodate their numbers. The group also included at different times, Spencer Gore, Nan Hudson, Ethel Sands, Walter Russell.

Drummond's painting style was typical of the Post-impressionism of his era.
Malcolm Drummond was born at Boyne Hill, near Maidenhead, Berkshire, the son of Rev. Canon Arthur Hislop Drummond and Anna Harriet Dodsworth. He was educated at the Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied history. After a year, Drummond switched to art, studying first at the Slade School of Art from 1903 to 1907, then under Sickert at Westminster. The Fitzroy Group was relatively short-lived, largely replaced by Drummond's second group, the Camden Town Group from 1911 to 1913, organized mostly to put on exhibitions. There was one other difference--Sickert's group had always excluded women.

Hammersmith Bridge, 1880, Malcolm Drummond
Self-portrait, ca. 1908-11,
Malcolm Drummond
Zina Ogilvie,
Malcolm Drummond
Drummond was also a founding member of the "London Group" in 1914. He served as its treasurer in 1921 and exhibiting with the group until 1932. The two years after WW I were very productive for Drummond: he painted The Hammersmith Bridge (above) and a number of scenes in the Ham-mersmth Palais de Danse and the London Law Courts. He too taught at Westminster School of Art until he left London in 1931 to return to Berkshire following the death of his first wife Zina Lilias Ogilvie (above), who was likewise a talented artist/illustrator working under the pen name of Alexina. Zina was also a concert pianist who had performed at The Wigmore Hall and was much admired by Walter Sickert and Clive Bell. Malcolm and Zina shared a passion for art and music and worked together in Malcolm's studio as well as performing musical soires together at home, Malcolm accompanying Zina on violin. In 1937 he lost the sight of one eye, completing losing his sight by 1942. He died in 1945 at the age of sixty-five.

Still life with coffee pot,
1914, Malcolm Drummond

Interior, A Sculptor's Studio, Malcolm Drummond--a rare glimpse of how a painter (and a sculptor) thinks and works. Notice the changes from the preliminary study.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Willem Drost

Bust of Man Wearing a Large-brimmed Hat, 1655, Willem Drost
Signed and dated.
Artists! Save future generations of art historians a lot of work. Always sign and date your paintings (and other stuff) you create. Of course, in doing so you may also put them out of work but... Moreover, I'm not just talk-ing about important works such as major painting and sculptures. Very often simple drawings and sketches need attribution as well. Art experts also advise that an artist create a provenance packet, a starting point document in an envelope containing important de-tails about each major work, at-tached to the work (but not lodged between canvas and stretchers) for the benefit of future generations buying or selling your art. (Include preliminary drawings and photos too.) In doing so, you might make your descendants quite wealthy. It might make the difference between your work, sometime in the future, bringing six figures at auction, or seven. The Dutch "golden age" student of Rembrandt, Willem Drost, is a good role model.
The Polish Rider, c.1655, Rembrandt. Is it really a
Rembrandt, or a Drost...or a little of both?
It wasn't that Drost didn't sign his work. Mostly, he did. The problem is, Rembrandt often forgot to do so. And as it happens, art historian are left scratching the heads, forced to rely on minor, highly esoteric (and debatable) details in deciding, in essence, who painted what. Drost was such an apt student, as seen in his Bust of Man Wearing a Large-brimmed Hat (top), in many ways he rivaled or surpassed his master. In fact, he may have worked on some parts of Rembrandt's paintings such as The Polish Rider (above). Some have even suggested he painted the whole damned thing. Art historians hate it when faced with such controversies.

The Vision of Daniel, Willem Drost
One factor not making life any simpler for art historian now and then is the fact that, though Willem Drost was one of Rembrandt's most gifted pupils, he was also one of the most enigmatic. We don't even know for sure the date of his birth, though he was apparently baptized on February 5, 1633. A Dutch painter, presumably born in Amsterdam, Drost was active in Italy for part of his very brief career. Several paintings now assigned to him were formerly attributed to his master, including perhaps, the celebrated Polish Rider mentioned earlier, which is considered by many to be one of Rembrandt's most poetic creations.

Bathsheba's baths.
Among Drost's undisputed works is the sensuous masterpiece Bathsheba with the Letter from King David, (above, top) dating from 1654. It now hangs in the Louvre, near Rembrandt's much more famous version (above, middle) painted in the same year and evidently inspired by it. A second version by Rembrandt also dates from 1654 (above, bottom). Personally, I like Drost's version the best. It seems so much more natural.

These were apparently all painted in the 1650s while
Drost was an eager student of Rembrandt.
Around 1650, Willem Drost became a student of Rembrandt, eventually developing a close working relationship, painting history scenes, biblical compositions, symbolic studies of a solitary figure, as well as portraits. Drost spent a long period in Rome where he became friends with Karel Lot and the well-to-do Utrecht painter, Joan vander Meer, around 1653. He was back in Amsterdam until 1655 before again traveling to Italy. It was there Willem Drost died in 1659 at the age of twenty-six. Who knows? Had he live to be as old as Rembrandt (sixty-three), he might have surpassed him in importance.

Timothy and Lois, 1650s. Is it a Drost or a Rembrandt?
You decide (answer at bottom).
Willem Drost's recognized lifetime output of artwork is very small, as compared to that of Rembrandt, who is credited with more than 2,000 paintings and etchings, the majority of which are not signed. As a result, in recent years some paintings attributed to Rembrandt have had their authenticity come under question. The importance of these Rembrandt works is such that a foundation known as the Rembrandt Research Project, was established in Amsterdam to review the attribution of all of his works. As a result, scholars have now reattributed a number of Rembrandt's paintings to his pupils and associates.

Young Woman in a Brocade Gown, 1654. Willem Drost
When the portrait of a young man on horseback titled The Polish Rider was discovered in 1897, it was attributed to Rembrandt. Acquired by New York City's Frick Collection, The Polish Rider is one of the Frick Museum's most valued treasures. For years, the painting's subject matter and purpose were questioned by many scholars. However, beginning in 1984, a movement led by Dr. Josua Bruyn of the Rembrandt Research Project, began to believe this great painting might also be the work of Willem Drost (or several others). This attributions remains controversial, but a reattribution of a group of "Rembrandt" drawings to Drost is more widely accepted. Also, Drost's 1654 painting, Portrait of a Young Woman with her Hands Folded on a Book (above), from 1654, is one of the works attributed to Rembrandt for more than three-hundred years.

Young Boy Holding a Flute, Willem Drost.
(In answer to the question posed earlier,
Timothy and Lois is also by Drost.)


Monday, March 27, 2017

Art in French

The Louvre Museum of Art, Paris, France
(with the emphasis on France).
In visiting the art museums of foreign countries, it's not necessary to speak the language, nor even understand the spoken version. However, I have found that it IS necessary, or at least highly desirable, that one be able to read the native language as it applies to art. In general, Europeans tend to be pretty good at doing all three in at least two languages. Americans however, isolated an ocean away from anything other than Spanish, are terrible in this regard. Although I usually try to write from an international point of view, in this case, and for the aforementioned reason, I'm aiming this little art language lesson specifically at Americans.

Under I.M. Pei's glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre.
English is spoken here but you have to ask for it by name.
Photo copyright, Jim Lane
"Parlez vous Français?"
It would be too much to ask in such a limited space and from one who speaks and understands only English to get involved in grammar and pro-nunciation, so I've therefore concen-trated upon French (this time) and only two areas of usage, surviving in the hundreds of French museums (just in Paris alone), and under-standing some of what you see and read. Don't expect much help from the French in this regard (right); they're great at labeling everything, but only in French. Also, to possibly save a little embarrassment, I've included a few gender specific words to help get over that horrendous stumbling block. First the museum vocabulary:

           Museum French: (Musée Français)
        Art in French: (Art en Français)

         French Genders: (Les sexes Français)

I should note that teaching French without being able to speak French puts me at a distinct disadvantage. If anyone more familiar with the language than I wishes to post comments below, I'd be more than happy to make any changed suggested. There's probably some shades of meaning that I've missed. If all else fails and you find yourself lost in the Louvre, there are three magic words that might help: "Parlez vous Anglais?"

Photo copyright, Jim Lane
Just don't ask this guy for directions;
he's partially lost himself.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Helen Thomas Dranga

Portrait of a Polynesian Girl, ca 1910, Helen Thomas Dranga.
Twenty-three years ago (June, 1994), my wife and I, along with our then twelve-year-old son, celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. It was then I had my first glimpse of Hawaiian art. And it was, but a glimpse, in that at the time there was so many other thing to so and see, this first look consisted mostly of the work of contemporary painters hung for sale in some of the tourist venues we visited. In 2019, Lord willing, we'll be going back to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary (minus our son) at which time I plan to take a closer look at some of the artists I've studied since, who helped create the rich artistic heritage of our fiftieth state. One of them I plan to look at more closely is Helen Thomas Dranga.

Helen Thomas Dranga,
passport photo, 1922
Helen Dranga was not all that prolific and ranks well down the list of important island artists such as D. Howard Hitchcock, Charles W. Bartlett, and Jules Tavernier. She was, however, well educated as an artist, having studied at the Kensington Art Academy (Royal College of Art) in Lon-don, England. If that sounds strange for a Hawaiian artist, keep in mind that Helen Thomas Dranga was born Caroline Helen Thomas in Oxford, England, in 1866. Her father was a plumber, painter, and decorator (nice combin-ation). Miss Thomas moved to the United States in 1892, probably in search of a husband. Twenty-six years old at the time, she was rapidly approaching the prospect of becoming a Victorian "old maid."

The Artist's Home, Helen Thomas Dranga
It worked. She somehow found a Wisconsin merchant of Norwegian stock named Theodore Dranga. They were married in 1895. A year before the couple were actually married, they moved west to Oakland, California, where they remained for the next six years before really moving west to Hilo, Hawaii in 1900. The Drangas had two children and were to spend the rest of their lives enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery Helen painted (I'm guessing) mostly for visitors. Helen Thomas Dranga died in 1927 at the age of sixty-one.

On Waiakea River, Near Hilo, Hawaii, Helen Dranga
Helen Dranga painted numerous scenes around her home on the island of Hawaii. Her palette included the violet grays that she saw in the moisture-laden Hilo sky. She also created images of scenes on other Islands. One exceptional example is a painting On Waiakea River, Near Hilo, Hawaii (above). Later in her career, she did portraits of Hawaiian and Chinese friends as well as native Hawaiian flowers (bottom). Helen Dranga was among a number of Hawaiian resident artists in the early 1900s who wished to express in their art a sense of Island color and culture.

Kahaluu, Kaneohe, Helen Dranga
The period 1800 to 1940 was considered the ‘golden era’ of Hawaii. In 1992, paintings specifically from this era were gathered for the first time in the show "Encounters In Paradise," which was exhibited at the Honolulu Academy of the Arts. The paintings were obtained from museums and private collections, and included works by Jules Tavernier, Charles Furneaux, John Kelly, and Helen Dranga. All were a part of a general movement to capture on canvas images of Old Hawaii before it disappeared. One such example of Dranga’s work is Portrait of a Polynesian Girl (top), from 1910, which depicts a Polynesian girl dressed in white and garlanded with an orange ilima flower lei. Warm light through the foliage of pandanus leaves illuminates the ground and her figure, creating a lively pattern of light, shade, and reflection on her face.

Hawaiian Landscape, Helen Thomas Dranga
Helen Dranga’s compositions also regularly appeared as covers of Paradise of the Pacific Magazine throughout the 1920s and 1930s. These magazines themselves have become collectibles. Dranga painted the Hawaiian landscape with a remarkably sensitive touch, a trait which also marked her portraits and skyscapes. The Hawaii State Art Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Lyman House Memorial Museum (Hilo, Hawaii) are among the public collections holding works by Helen Thomas Dranga. If my feet and legs hold up, I plan to visit every one of them the next time we're in Hawaii.

This untitled work by Helen Dranga
 is one of my favorites.

Ohia Lehua Blossoms,
Helen Thomas Dranga