Master Drawings @ The Morgan Library

We were back at The Morgan to see the magnificent Old Masters’ drawings from the Thaw Collection, that were displayed at the time.

These are some highlights, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Odalisque with Slave, 1839
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and Jean-Charles Thévenin (1819-1869)
Black chalk and graphite, black and brown wash with white and grey opaque watercolour


Reading, ca. 1860
Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)
Pen and black ink and grey wash with black fabricated chalk over charcoal


Woman Churning Butter, ca. 1855-58
Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Black Conté crayon


Leave It All to Providence, from the Black Border Album, 1816-20
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)
Black ink and grey wash


Portrait of Arthur Rimbaud, 1872
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)
Watercolour and white opaque watercolour over black chalk on light brown paperboard


The Spider, 1902
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Charcoal and black pastel


The Fool, 1877
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Charcoal with black chalk and fixative on light brown paper


Artist in the making


Nurse with a Child’s Carriage
Georges Seurat(1859–1891)
Conté crayon on Ingres paper


Vincent van Gogh
Letter to Émile Bernard, 7 June 1888

Energized by his visit to the seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, van Gogh wrote enthusiastically to Bernard about his explorations of complementary colours (“No blue without yellow and without orange“) and his consideration of black and white as colours. He included several sketches to explain his ideas and enclosed a sheet containing drawings of canvasses in progress.


Vincent van Gogh
Letter to Paul Gauguin, 17 October 1888

Writing to Gauguin, who was to arrive later that month, van Gogh extolled the attractions of Arles and chronicled his progress on one of his masterpieces from the period, Bedroom at Arles (1888; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), even including a sketch.


Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, 1936
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pen and black ink and wash


Caricature of a Sleeping Man, ca. 1755-60
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770)
Pen and black ink and wash


Young Woman Wearing a Chemise, ca. 1718
Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Black, red and white chalk


Interior of a Library, ca. 1780-85
Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799)
Pen and black and brown ink and washes over graphite with black chalk


November 18th, 2017

 

 

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

In 2017, MoMA – jointly with Columbia University – acquired the vast archives of Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most prolific architects of the 20th century. To mark that acquisition, as well as the 150th anniversary of his birth on June 8, 1867, MoMA presented Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, an exhibition that comprised some 450 works made from the 1890s through the 1950s and included architectural drawings, models, building fragments, films, print media, furniture, tableware, textiles, paintings, photographs, and scrapbooks. According to its curator, Barry Bergdoll, the show was meant “to announce that Frank Lloyd Wright is open to new interpretations” and that “the archive is here and it’s open.”

Having had a closer look on Mr. Wright’s incredibly detailed, delicate, at once artistically accomplished and architecturally precise designs, I can attest to the show’s success in opening the work of one of America’s – and the world’s – greatest architects, to new interpretations. At least to my, not-so-expert, eyes.  Goron Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium, Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland
Project, 1924-25 // Pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper

This project is often seen as a forerunner of the Guggenheim Museum, built two decades later.


Fallingwater (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, Pennsylvania 1934-37
Pencil and coloured pencil on paper

The bold design of a house over a waterfall for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann put Wright back in the public eye at a moment when he was increasingly anxious that his fame had faded. This drawing landed Wright on the cover of Time magazine in 1938 – he was only the third architect ever to receive that honour – and was also displayed that same year in an exhibition at MoMA devoted solely to his unprecedented house design.


Moore House, Oak Park, Illinois, 1895
Ink on paper


Madison Civic Center (Monona Terrace), Madison, Wisconsin
Project, 1938-59 // Ink and pencil on paper mounted on plywood

Even  as Wright reimagined Chicago as a city dominated by a few super-tall skyscrapers but otherwise given over to a prairie landscape, he also designed urban projects – many of the megastructures, such as this one for Monona Terrace, which integrated transportation and infrastructure with public and commercial programmes – with the intention of revitalizing urban cores and engaging the preexisting city and its surroundings. This project was realized decades after Wright’s death.


The Mile-High Illinois, Chicago
Project, 1956 // Pencil, coloured pencil and gold ink on tracing paper

In this perspective drawing, Wright inserts his imagined mile-high skyscraper into the lakefront area of Chicago, which he transforms into a green landscape, rendering obsolete many of the city’s older, densely packed towers. The Mile-High becomes a singular object, in dialogue only with another Wright proposal: a tower called the Golden Beacon, visible in the background.


Plan for Greater Baghdad
Project, 1957 // Ink, pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper

In 1957, Wright, along with a number of ”starchitects” including Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, was commissioned to design a signature building in Baghdad as part of an Iraqi government programme to bring Western architecture to the capital city. Although asked only to design an opera house, Wright expanded the programme into an entire cultural centre – including a university, two museums, a zoo and various recreational facilities – and moved the site to an island in the Tigris River. Wright’s project, like most of the others, was cancelled after the revolution of 1958.


Butterfly Wing Bridge, San Francisco
Project, 1949-53 // Ink, pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1943-59
Gouache on paper mounted on board


American System-Built Houses for the Richards Company
Project 1915-17


Bogk House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 1916-17
Watercolour, gouache, gold paint and graphite on paper mounted on Japanese paper

The two winged figures depicted in this sculptural frieze for the Bogk House recall, in their blocky, geometric forms, Mayan and Aztec motifs, while their wings resemble the eagle imagery prominent in the Pueblo Eagle Dance. The Eagle Dance was one of the most popular ceremonial dances performed at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, which Wright attended and where he encountered theories positing that contemporary American Indians were descendants of a venerable, ancient American civilization.


Lake Tahoe Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Project, 1923-24 // Pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper


Eugene Masselink (1910-1962)
Pattern studies // Pencil and coloured pencil on paper

Various cacti, rock formations and lichen are distilled into their essential organizing forms in these applied pattern studies, demonstrating the generative relationship between nature and architecture in Wright’s practice. According to Wright, the cellular structure of desert plants, for example, offered lessons in economical construction. Believing the artist should approximate nature through a process of conventionalization or abstraction – seeking underlying geometries rather than outward forms – Wright incorporated such pattern studies into his educational approach at the Taliesin Fellowship. Eugene Masselink, one of Wright’s most talented apprentices, drew these examples.

Frank Lloyd Wright and his assistant Eugene Masselink installing the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect at The Museum of Modern Art, November 13, 1940-January 5, 1941. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York
Photo: Soichi Sunami


Preliminary scheme for Imperial Hotel, Tokyo 1913-23
Ink and pencil on drafting cloth

The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo took over a decade to build and exerted a profound influence on both Wright’s designs and the architecture of a modernizing Japan.

Having survived the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923 and the American bombing of the city during World War II, it was finally demolished in 1968 to be replaced with a modern hotel tower.

Portions of the Imperial Hotel, including the grand entrance/lobby and the reflecting pool, were saved and painstakingly relocated to the Meiji Mura Museum, an open-air architectural theme park in Inuyama that contains more than 60 historic, culturally significant buildings from Japan and beyond. [source]


March Balloons, 1955
Drawing based on a cover design for Liberty magazine, c. 1926


From Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, an exhibition that ran through October 1st, 2017 at MoMA.

September 25th, 2017

Fighting War with Art || Arthur Szyk: A Soldier in Art

The work of a Polish artist on show at the New-York Historical Society?  That seemed strange at first, but a quick read of the introduction shed light on the artist’s relation with the United States and his deep admiration of, and dedication to American democratic values – those same values that are under thread today, shaking American society to its core.

Arthur Szyk fought the demons of WWII in his own creative way, by focusing on political cartooning and producing works that were published as magazine covers, reproduced as posters, and exhibited in art galleries. Among the many admirers of his work during this period was Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote in her newspaper column My Day: “In its way [Szyk’s work] fights the war against Hitlerism as truly as any of us who cannot actually be on the fighting fronts today.” [source]

Arthur Szyk was so dedicated to American democratic values that he actually became an American citizen in 1948. These are some of the artworks he made during his years in New York City.  FDR’s Soldier in Art, 1944
Pencil, watercolour, pen and ink on paper

Szyk’s lively portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) conveyed the artist’s reverence for the US and its principles of freedom and justice, and his belief that the president would lead the Allies – United States, Great Britain and Russia – in defeating the Axis powers. He dedicated the portrait to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1946 following the president’s death. Mrs. Roosevelt admired Szyk and mentioned his artistic crusade in her newspaper columns on several occasions.


We’re running short of Jews!…, 1943
Ink and graphite on paper

The drawing responded to an announcement made by the World Jewish Congress in November 1942 that confirmed the Nazis’ plan to annihilate Europe’s Jewish population. Szyk later dedicated the drawing to his mother, who died at the Chelmno extermination camp near the Łódź ghetto.


De Profundis. Cain, where is Abel thy Brother?, 1943
Ink and graphite on board


Palestine Restricted, 1944
Pen, ink and pencil on paper

Palestine Restricted furthered Szyk’s condemnation of the White Paper by likening it to a fierce vulture descending on masses of dead and dying men, women and children. The notation, March 31, 1944, marks the date when the British further tightened Jewish immigration, requiring the consent of Palestinian Arabs.


To be shot, as Dangerous Enemies of the Third Reich!, 1943
Ink and graphite on card

Szyk’s biting depiction of Heinrich Himmler declaring innocent Jewish children as enemies of the Third Reich emphasized the senselessness of Nazi anti-Semitism.


Modern Moses, 1944
Pen, ink and pencil on paper


Untitled (The Silent Partner), September 1941
Watercolour, gouache, ink and graphite on paper

Szyk anticipated the US entry into WWII and Hitler’s eventual downfall in this depiction of a decorated figure of Death observing a dangerous poker game between Hitler and ”Ivan”, a pre-Soviet Union Russian leader. Gambling with the fate of the world, Hitler’s cards represent his alliance with Italy, Japan and Vichy France. Ivan’s hand includes the US and Great Britain. Seven puppets, the collaborating leaders of Hungary, Finland, Japan, Italy, Vichy France and Spain, hang from Hitler’s belt. The painting appeared on the cover of Collier’s on November 1, 1941, one month before the US entered the war.


Murder Incorporated: Hirohito, Hitlerhito, Benito, December 1941
Watercolour and gouache on paper


Offset lithograph. Here, Szyk characterizes Mussolini, Hirohito and Hitler as venereal diseases, offering perfect incentive to stay healthy and fight in the war effort.


More than 40 artworks by illustrator and miniaturist Arthur Szyk (1894–1951), were on view at the New-York Historical Society between September 2017 and January 2018.

New-York Historical Society

September 23rd, 2017

The Fantastic World of Virgil Finlay

In five scratchboard illustrations and one gouache.

In his 35-year career, Virgil Finlay produced over 2,600 illustrations, a remarkable achievement considering his labor-intensive and time-consuming drawing style.

”Instead of the typical pen and ink or carbon pencil drawings produced by most pulp illustrators, Finlay used a unique technique combining scratchboard—in which a clay-covered board is coated with black ink and the artist scratches away white lines from the black using a sharp blade—with intricate pen cross-hatching and an astonishingly painstaking method of creating tones called stipple.

Contrasted with hatching, or crossed lines, stippling is a time-consuming process in which tones are created with hundreds of tiny individual dots, carefully placed and dripped off the end of an ultra-fine dip pen, one dot at time.” [source]Face in the Abyss
Gouache on illustration board
Appeared on the cover of Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine for ”Face in the Abyss” by A. Merritt, Frank A. Munsey Co., October 1940

”He came out of his coma. We left a sketch pad and pencils by the bed. He did a drawing, he went back into the coma, and died.”– Lail Finlay, Virgil Finlay’s daughter

Three Against the Stars
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Interior illustration in Fantastic Novels Magazine for ”Three Against the Stars”, by Eric North, New Publications, Inc., May 1950


The Lovers
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Appeared in Startling Stories magazine for ”The Lovers” by Philip José Farmer, Better Publications, August 1952

For the first time in science fiction history an Earth man and an alien woman have a sexual love affair in Philip José Farmer’s ”The Lovers”. This was quite groundbreaking yet controversial in 1950s American pop culture; however, it would seem quite tame compared to today’s science fiction books and films.


Woman reclining in lunar landscape, c. 1955
Scratchboard, pen and ink


Conquest of the Moon Pool
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Interior illustration in Fantastic Novels magazine for ”Conquest of the Moon Pool” by A. Merritt, New Publications, September 1948

From ”Conquest of the Moon Pool”:
”… and suddenly there before us stood two figures! One was a girl – a girl whose eyes were golden… whose softly curved lips were red as the royal coral and whose golden-brown hair reached to her knees! And the second was a gigantic frog – a woman frog… six feet high if an inch and with one webbed paw of its short, powerfully muscled forelegs resting upon the white should of the golden-eyed girl!”


Lur the Witch Woman with Her Consorts, Dwellers in the Mirage
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Appeared on the cover of Fantastic Novels for ”Dwellers in the Mirage”, written by A. Merritt, Frank A. Munsey Co., NY, April 1941

”Dwellers in the Mirage” introduction:
”The strangest adventure any man had encountered since time began faced Leif Langdon when he tumbled through that Alaskan mirage into a lost world.”

Adenturer Leif Langdon stumbles upon an uncommonly warm, hidden Arctic valley where he finds and falls in love with Evalie. Also in this valley are the Little People – elfin warriors fighting against Lur the Witch Woman and her demon riders who raid the Little People’s land for sacrifices to Kraken, their dark lord. Tapping into buried memories of another lifetime, Langdon realizes he had a past life as Kraken and as Lur’s lover. So begins Langdon’s inner struggle between his two selves.


All artwork by Virgil Finlay (1914 – 1971), photographed at the Society of Illustrators

August 15th, 2017

 

Bakst-[age] @The_Met

Looking for Rei…

1/
Costume Design by Léon Bakst for Vaslav Nijinsky in the Role of Iksender in the Ballet “La Péri” (The Flower of Immortality), 1922 (first performed in Paris, 1912). Watercolour and gold and silver paints over graphite

With his distinct Eurasian features, Nijinski effortlessly portrayed protagonists of various ethnicities, such as Iksender in La Péri, set in Iran. However he never actually performed as Iksender, because Diaghilev cancelled the entire production when Nijinski’s female counterpart could not match his talent in dance.

2/
Fantaisie sur le costume moderne‘: Two female haute couture figures, 1910. Graphite, brush and watercolour and gouache 

Although better known for his costume and stage designs for the Ballets Russes directed by Diaghilev and the performances of Ida Rubinstein, Bakst was also influential in fashion design during the early decades of the 20th century, and designed garments himself. The designs in this drawing show the bold, sensuous colour, characteristic of his style, with geometric patterns and rich textures.

3/
Costume Design for a Woman from the Village, for the Ballet ‘Daphnis and Chloé‘, performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, 1912. Watercolour and graphite

This ballet by Fokine was first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1912, as part of the repertoire of the Ballets Russes for the season. The costume designs for the ballet were inspired by Ancient Greece, and Bakst drew inspiration from ancient vases, both for the costumes and the poses and movements of dancers

4/Ida’s stylish fans in mutual admiration.

5/
Mme Ida Rubinstein1917. Watercolour, gouache, and graphite on paper, mounted on canvas

Bakst was a gifted portrait artist and captured the likeness of many of his friends and colleagues. In this almost life-size watercolour, he depicts the Russian heiress Ida Rubinstein, who danced with the Ballets Russes for two seasons after an introduction by her teacher, the choreographer Mikhail Fokine.

6/
Design for the Set of the Ballet ‘Narcisse’, premiered at the Théâtre de Monte Carlo, 1911.  Watercolour, gouache, and charcoal

Bakst designed this impressive decor for Narcisse, a one-act ballet about the Greek mythological figure Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. The story is set at the shrine of Pomona, a mythological goddess associated with the abundance of nature. The rich green landscape Bakst created echoes the sensibilities of the Art Nouveau style.

***

Images from ”Performance as Escape: Léon Bakst and the Ballets Russes”, an exhibition featuring a small selection of costume and set designs by Léon Bakst for the Ballets Russes, we happened upon on our way to The Met’s 2017 blockbuster, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.

You can see photos from that show, in nine sections, by going to the Search button at the end of the page and simply typing ”Rei Kawakubo”.

August 6th, 2017

Stop. Study Time!

Drawing, Design for Musaphonic Clock Radio in Blue, 1958. Richard Arbib (1917-1995) for General Electric Company (Schenectady, New York)
Drawing, Design for Musaphonic Clock Radio on Legs in Green, 1958. Richard Arbib (1917-1995) for General Electric Company (Schenectady, New York)
The Kem (Karl Emanuel Martin) Weber Group Sideboard and Chair, 1928-29. Sage green painted wood (sideboard); painted wood, synthetic leather (chair). AD-65 Radio designed 1932 by Wells Wintemute Coates , manufactured 1934 by E.K. Cole Ltd.
Desk, ca. 1933. Designed by Paul T. Frankl. Table Lamp, 1933. Designed by Gilbert Rohde. Poster, Philips, ca. 1928. Designed by Louis Christiaan Kalff for Philips

 

From  The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, April through August 2017

July 30th, 2017

Nude || Not || Naked

Celebrating the human body (but the artist’s daughters seem less than impressed).

1/
Nude Study of an Indian Man, about 1878-79
Émile-Jules Pichot (1857-1936)
Charcoal and powdered vine charcoal with stumping and lifting

Little is known of Pichot, to whose talents as a draftsman this sheet attests. The drawing’s date, however, can be determined with some precision, for the same gaunt, bearded model (possibly a Hindu ascetic or a Sikh) appears in a drawing by Georges Seurat, a contemporary of Pichot and destined for greatness.

2/
Standing Male Nude, 1866
Gabriel Ferrier (1847-1914)
Charcoal with black chalk

This accomplished nude study executed when the artist was nineteen years old, predicted a bright future for Ferrier in the official art world. Largely forgotten today, he won the French Academy’s prestigious Rome Prize in 1872 and later received prominent commissions, including decorations for the Gare d’Orsay train station (today the Musée d”Orsay).

3/
Adolescent I, about 1891
George Minne (1866-1941)
Marble

This nude, emaciated youth defiantly exposes his body while simultaneously crossing his arms in a protective embrace, indicating shame and anguish. Minne was one of the major representatives of a circle of Symbolist artists and writers based in Ghent, Belgium.

4/
Dancer, 1912
Paolo Troubetzkoy (1866-1938)
Bronze

Countess Thamara Swirskaya (Saint Petersburg, 1890-Los Angeles, 1961), the famous Russian pianist and dancer depicted here, performed throughout Europe and the United States. J. Paul Getty, who purchased this piece in 1933, may have attended one of her shows in the U.S. She posed for this lively composition in 1909 in Paris, where Troubetzkoy, the son of a Russian prince and American mother, lived between 1905 and 1914.

5/
Double Portrait of the Artist’s Daughters, 1889
Adolf von Hildebrand (1847-1921)
Polychrome terracotta

Freestanding double-portrait busts are rare in European sculpture, and this is one of the few known examples. Hildebrand’s termination of the figures above the waist and his use of subtle colours are based on Italian Renaissance portraiture. This sensitive portrayal of the artist’s daughters, Silvia and Bertel, is remarkable among the sculptor’s normally restrained official portraits and monuments.

The Getty Center

July 18th, 2017

The [k]night is dark

The Animated Series (1992) opening storyboards, drawn by Bruce Timm and coloured by Eric Radomski.

For me, The Animated Series (1992-1995) is the definitive Batman. And the opening title sequence encapsulates the essence of Batman in way that has yet to be surpassed.

*Watch*

#current_mood
#two_days_to_Halloween
#my_batman
#it’s_my_birthday_and_I’ll_try_if_I_want_to

Warner Bros Studio Tour

July 14th, 2017

Paradise Lost | The Art of the Sublime

I was browsing through some gorgeous prints yesterday evening, courtesy of The New York Satellite Print Fair, where seventeen dealers present their fine prints and drawings during print week. From Old Masters to contemporary artists, there are some remarkable works of art to be found here and that’s only an annex to the main event – the Fine Art Print Fair – at the Javits Center in Manhattan West. Photography is completely out of place in this environment but the prints reminded me of these sublime works by William Blake, on view at the Huntington in Los Angeles.

Satan watching the endearments of Adam and Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour


Raphael Warns Adam and Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour


Rout of the Rebel Angels, 1807
Pen and watercolour


The Creation of Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour


The Temptation and Fall of Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour


The Judgement of Adam and Eve; So Judged He Man, 1807
Pen and watercolour


For William Blake, the Bible was the greatest work of poetry ever written. Only Milton’s 17th century epic poem, Paradise Lost, rivaled its importance to his art. Blake produced three separate sets of illustrations for Paradise Lost, the first a series of twelve drawings commissioned by Joseph Thomas in 1807. Henry E. Huntington purchased all of the watercolours in this original series between 1911 and 1914. 

#current_mood
#four_days_to_Halloween
#art_of_the_sublime

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017