Look || See || Feel

The Emptiness Within

Jay DeFeo
b. 1929 Hanover, NH
d. 1989 Oakland, CA

The Eyes, 1958, Graphite pencil on paper, 42 × 84 3/4 in. (106.7 × 215.3 cm).

The artist inscribed the back of this drawing with a stanza from a poem by Philip Lamantia, a fellow member of San Francisco’s Beat community: ”Tell him I have eyes only for Heaven as I look to you Queen Mirror of the Heavenly Court”.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

The Society of Illustrators Annual Student Competition 2017

A jury of professional peers including illustrators and art directors have chosen the most outstanding works created by college level illustration and animation students throughout the year. Pieces are accepted based on the quality of technique, concept and skill of medium used. After reviewing 8.082 submissions, only 220 were selected for this year’s exhibition and 25 have received financial awards.

The works were on view between May & June 2017; these images are but a fraction, just enough to get an idea. Individual styles, different types of media, several Art Schools, all sharing a common quality: it was hard to believe these works were created by students, not professionals.

Carina Chong, F is for Fox
Gouache and pencil, Pratt Institute, Instructor: Pat Cummings


Mei Kanamoto, Insignificant Others
Silkscreen on paper, Parsons School of Design, Instructors: Jordin Isip and Steven Guarnaccia 


Amanda Chung, The Fool
Mixed media, Parsons School of Design, Instructors: Jordin Isip


Kyoosang Choi, Illusion
Acrylic and oil on panel, School of Visual Arts, Instructors: Thomas Woodruff and TM Davy


 Oh, look! Steadman was here Varvara Nedilska, The Collector
Watercolour and gouache, OCAD University, Instructor: Jon Todd


Clarissa Liu, Felt Tattoo
Felt, Rhode Island School of Design, Instructor: Melissa Ferreira

Nina Charuza, Train

Acrylic, California College of the Arts, Instructor: Bob Ciano


Mack Muller, Sax man
Monoprint, Syracuse University, Instructor: James Ransome


June 3rd, 2017

That’s The Spirit…!

Of being an old soul but never wanting to grow up.

The Spirit: ”Il Duce’s Locket” page 1
May 25, 1947
Ink on paper

P’Gell, a femme fatale with an impossibly narrow waist, was among the more prominent and persistent in a series of beautiful criminals in Eisner’s long-running Spirit. P’Gell, though a deadly adversary couldn’t shake her love interest in The Spirit. He seldom returned her affectionate overtures. P’Gell was named after the Quartier Pigalle, the notorious red light district of Paris


The Spirit: ”Quirte” seven-page story
November 21, 1948
Ink on paper


The Spirit: ”John Lindsay’s Mayoral Race”, five-page story
New York Herald Tribune magazine (January 9, 1966)
Will Eisner and Chuck Kramer
Ink on paper with wash

Will Eisner had not drawn a new Spirit story since 1952 when the New York Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine contacted him in late 1965 to create a story based on the city’s mayoral election. The lettering (done on clear acetate) is missing from the original pages, but the story can be read on the smaller reproductions of the published version.


Portrait of Will Eisner by The Spirit
circa 1985
Ink on paper


Spirit Magazine #20 cover art
1979

Ink with watercolour on board


Samples of Eisner’s used pens and brushes
Jules Feiffer script for unpublished Spirit Story
1952
manuscript 


Smash Comics #8: ”Espionage”, page 3
1940
Ink on paper

This original ”Espionage” page on display is among a very small handful of Will Eisner’s surviving comic book pages from the 1930s when the Eisner & Iger Studio ”packaged” stories for client publishers. During that period (and later) publishers routinely destroyed original art after publication. Decades before organized fandom saw value in both vintage comics and art, publishers saw no reason to save such ”production” material. As a result, original art from the comic book industry’s early years is extremely rare. 


Portrait of a Nude Woman
1936

Oil on stretched canvas

A teen-aged Will Eisner painted this model while attending life drawing classes at the Art Students League in New York. Eisner’s disapproving and practical mother was shocked to learn that her young son was painting naked women and she discouraged him from pursuing art, a career she felt would be unremunerative. Eisner’s father, who when younger had aspired to be an artist, quietly gave his son encouragement. 


Late Train
New York City lithograph series
1988
Ink with watercolour on board


Turf War
New York City lithograph series
1988
Ink with watercolour on board


A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories: ”The Super”, ten-page excerpt
1978
Ink on vellum, adhered to board


Images from WILL EISNER: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017, a retrospective comprising over 150 pieces of artwork, graphic novel sequences, original pages of The Spirit and Mr. Eisner’s personal items. The exhibition was curated by Denis Kitchen and John Lind and ran between March & June 2017 at the Society of Illustrators. It was the largest Eisner exhibition ever in the United States and made me very happy indeed.

June 3rd, 2017

Travelling on Memorial Day weekend…?

Roy Lichtenstein
Study for No Thank You!, 1964

That’s what I should have said. Probably. But I figured, if I avoided the rush on Thursday or – worse – Friday afternoon, I could just about manage to make it to destination unscathed. So, the next few weeks I hope to be bewitched, bedazzled and bewildered by the wonders of nature in Yellowstone, the savoury landscape of the Salt Flats in Utah, the coolest urbanity of Portland in Oregon and Seattle in Washington. Now, how about: travelling on Memorial Day weekend – Yes, please…!

The Morgan Library & Museum

May 7th, 2017

A tale of many faces (… and a frog)

Hendrick Goltzius, Netherlandish, 1558-1617
Self-Portrait, ca. 1590-91

Black, red and white chalk with watercolours


Jan de Bray, Dutch, ca. 1627-1697
Portrait of a Boy, in Half Length, ca. 1660

Black, red and while chalk 


Albrecht Dürer, German, 1471-1528
Portrait of a Young Woman with Braided Hair, 1515

Black chalk and charcoal


Attributed to Anthony van Dyck, Flemish, 1599-1641
The Fall of the Rebel Angels, ca. 1617-18

Black and white chalk, with pen and black and dark brown ink and black wash, incised for transfer

The exquisite drawing of the Archangel Michael battling Satan and the rebel angels was made after a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, now lost, and served as the model for an engraving by Lucas Vorsterman the Elder. 


Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577-1640
Robin, the Dwarf of the Earl of Arundel, 1620

Red and black chalk, with pen and brown ink, and traces of white chalk


Anthony van Dyck, Flemish, 1599-1641
Profile of a Young Woman with Her Left Arm Extended, A Study for Moses and the Brazen Serpent, ca. 1618-20

Black and white chalk on grayish brown paper 

Van Dyck adopted from Rubens the practice of making life drawings as a final preparation for key figures in his paintings at this early moment of his career. His style was so close to that of Rubens that this drawing was long believed to be by Rubens himself. 


Antoine Coypel, French, 1661-1722
Young Woman, 1690s

Black, red and white chalk, peach and pink pastel with touches of blue pastel, on brown paper

Unlike most eighteen-century studies made from a live model, the sitter depicted here looks directly at the viewer with a bold frankness. 


Attributed to Nicolò dell’Abate, Italian, 1509/12-1571
Frog Man, ca. 1560

Pen and brown ink and wash on tan paper, cut to the outline of the figure and laid down

The drawing is an example of the marvels of invention that characterized theatre at the Renaissance court. The Frog Man is a frog catcher, a man dressed up with a frog’s head mask and clothing of lily pads who would lure frogs into his net with the sounds of his pipes. He is analogous to Papageno, the well-known bird catcher of Mozart’s Magic Flute of a later century. 


From Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin”, an exhibition that ran through May 14, 2017.

The Morgan Library & Museum

May 7th, 2017

A brilliant mind

Drawing by Bill Sienkiewicz

“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

In Memoriam: Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

The Woodner Collections: Master Drawings from Seven Centuries

Sheer delight continued with the discovery of these masterpieces dating from the 14th to the 20th century.

Beham, Sebald, 1500 – 1550, Cimon and Pero (1540), pen and black ink with charcoal heightened with white on heavy laid paper

The story of Cimon and Pero was told by the first-century historian Valerius Maximus in his Memorable Deeds and Sayings. Imprisoned without food or water, the aged Cimon was saved from death by the visits of his daughter Pero, a young mother who nourished him with breast milk. Pero’s selfless act, which came to be known as ”Roman charity”, was regarded as a model of filial piety.

Niccolò dell’Abbate, 1509 or 1512-1571, The Rape of Ganymede (c. 1545), pen and ink with wash and watercolour over traces of chalk, heightened with white on paper washed light brown

Ganymede was a handsome shepherd who was carried off by Zeus (shown here in the form of an eagle) to become cupbearer to the Gods. The youth is usually shown nude or in classical dress, but here he wears the elegant costume of a sixteenth-century courtier.


Federico Barocci, probably 1535-1612, Head of a Bearded Man (1579/1582), chalks on blue paper
Luca Signorelli, 1445/1450 – 1523, Bust of a Youth Looking Upward (c. 1500), chalk, partially indented with a stylus
Andrea del Sarto, 1486-1530, Head of Saint John the Baptist (c. 1523), chalk
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1725-1805, Bust of an Old Man, probably 1763, chalks with stumping, wetting and erasure

After completing a painting, Greuze often made finished drawings of the heads of some of the individual figures. These ”têtes d’expression” (expressive heads) were intended to be sold and appreciated as independent works of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1780-1867, Mademoiselle Mary de Borderieux (?), 1857, graphite and watercolour with white highlights
Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, Self-Portrait, c. 1855, chalk
Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881 – 1973, Two Fashionable Women, 1900, charcoal
Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825, Satan Defying the Powers of Heaven, late 1790s, graphite, chalk and wash

National Gallery of Art

”Washington, DC—Ian Woodner assembled an extraordinary collection of over 1,000 old master and modern drawings, making him one of the 20th century’s most important collectors. More than 150 works from his collection now reside at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. While Ian Woodner gave some works himself in the 1980s, the majority have been donated by his daughters, Dian and Andrea. His daughters have also made other gifts and have pledged works from their personal collections. The Woodner Collections: Master Drawings from Seven Centuries brings together for the first time the best of Ian Woodner’s collection with some of the works given and promised by Dian and Andrea Woodner. […] 

Some 100 drawings dating from the 14th to the 20th century are presented in an exhibition of masterworks donated by one of the great connoisseurs of the 20th century, Ian Woodner, and his daughters, Dian and Andrea. The Woodner Collections includes drawings executed by outstanding draftsmen such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, and Pablo Picasso, among many others.”

They were on view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art through July 16, 2017.

April 25th, 2017

The Urban Scene: 1920-1950

What a sheer delight, to walk in the National Gallery of Art and discover these rather brilliant prints depicting urban scenes from the Jazz Age and beyond!

Martin Lewis, Building a Babylon, Tudor City, N.Y.C., 1929, etching and drypoint
Stow Wengenroth, Quiet Hour, (New York), 1947, lithograph
Robert Riggs, Germantown & Chelten, (Philadelphia), c. 1950, lithograph
John Taylor Arms, West Forty-Second Street, Night, (New York), 1922, aquatint and etching on yellow laid paper
Isac Friedlander, 3 A.M., (New York), 1934, etching
Howard Norton Cook, Looking up Broadway, 1937, lithograph
Martin Lewis, Quarter of Nine – Saturday’s Children, (New York), 1929, drypoint
Clare Leighton, Breadline, New York, 1931, wood engraving
Armin Landeck, View of New York, 1932, lithograph

National Gallery of Art

”Washington, DC—American artists of the early 20th century sought to interpret the beauty, power, and anxiety of the modern age in diverse ways. Through depictions of bustling city crowds and breathtaking metropolitan vistas, 25 black-and-white prints on view in The Urban Scene: 1920–1950 will explore the spectacle of urban modernity. Prints by recognized artists such as Louis Lozowick (1892–1973) and Reginald Marsh (1898–1954), as well as lesser-known artists including Mabel Dwight (1875–1955), Gerald Geerlings (1897–1998), Victoria Hutson Huntley (1900–1971), Martin Lewis (1881–1962), and Stow Wengenroth (1906–1978), are included in this exhibition.”

The Urban Scene was on view in the West Building until August 6, 2017.

April 25th, 2017

Sunday in The Met with George

But first, a peacock mosaic column, one of the two that served as a room divider in Tiffany’s Manhattan showrooms, Madison Avenue & 47th St., as shown here in a picture taken ca. 1913. 

Fresh from an inspiring performance of ”Sunday in park with George” at the Hudson Theatre the previous weekend, a ”Sunday in The Met with George” to see Seurat’s Circus Sideshow, one of only six major figure paintings he created, was the next best thing. With it, an array of works by other artists – Seurat’s contemporaries – the exhibition aimed to explore their fascination with the Sideshow as a subject.

Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) represents an ensemble of circus players lined up on a narrow stage outside a tent performing sample entertainment to entice customers to their show.

Georges de Feure. The Corvi Circus (Le Cirque Corvi), ca. 1893
Gouache, watercolour, pencil on paper

This highly finished gouache, by an artist who went on to champion Art Nouveau design, relies on simplified drawing and bold colour to give an edge to his description of performers preparing backstage at the Corvi Circus. His palette – the ambient blue of the evening set off by strident pinks, violets and yellows – uses ostensibly festive hues to spotlight the vagrant life of the saltimbanques and the existential paradoxes of the performer. 


Jules Chéret. Folies-Bergère: Corvi Circus, 1881. Colour lithograph


Georges Seurat. Two Clowns (Une Parade), ca. 1886-88. Conté crayon on paper


Georges Seurat. Study for ”Models”, 1886 – 87. Conté crayon on paper


Georges Seurat. Models (Poseuses), small version, 1887 – 88. Oil on canvas

This gemlike canvas is a small-scale version of the imposing, life-size Models (The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia) that Seurat exhibited alongside Circus Sideshow at the Salon des Indépendants in 1888. Two years after he asserted his authority as an innovative painter of modern life, with a plein-air subject in full sunlight, Seurat returned to the public stage with figure compositions that succeeded to demonstrate the versatility of his approach. He set forth a daytime, interior studio scene – graced by three nudes who channel classicizing prototypes, while skirting his earlier triumph – and a contrasting nighttime, outdoor scene that reflects a more abstract sensibility, broaching a symbolist aesthetic. Linked by formal characteristics, such as frontality and symmetry, the opposites did not attract equal attention. Models stole the limelight. 


Louis Anquetin. Avenue de Clichy (Street – Five O’ Clock in the Evening), 1887
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas

Anquetin’s view of a Paris boulevard at dusk – the blue and violet gloaming of the twilit street offset by the orange and yellow light of a butcher’s shop at left – is painted in his signature cloisonnist style, characterised by flat areas of colour outlined by emphatic contours. It was shown in the Salon des Indépendants of 1888, in direct competition with Seurat’s Circus Sideshow. Quick to recognise the rival solution to painting a nocturne of urban bustle under artificial lighting, one critic saw Anquetin’s canvas as ”designed to trouble those practicing pointillism.”


Georges Seurat. Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), 1887 – 88. Oil on canvas

From the time it debuted at the Salon des Indépendants in 1888, Circus Sideshow has intrigued and confounded its viewers. Indeed, Seurat’s closest associates were seemingly dumbstruck, largely confining their spare remarks to its novelty as a ”nocturnal effect”. (Of course, his detractors could not see past the ”multicoloured and mathematically contrasted lentils.”) The laconic artist never mentioned the picture, nor did he exhibit it again. Recent technical findings reveal that in adding the painted border, Seurat effaced his signature at lower right.

Circus Sideshow was sold from the artist’s estate in 1900. It left Paris for New York in 1929, claiming a ”place of honour” at the Museum of Modern Art’s inaugural show. Future Met donor, Stephen C. Clark acquired it three years later.


Seurat’s Circus Sideshow at The Met (February-May 2017)

March 19th, 2017