Art of War

There is a sad beauty in these artworks drawing the tragedy of war.

Harry R. Hopps (1869-1937)
Destroy This Mad Brute-Enlist, 1917
Colour lithograph


French, early 20th century
The Great Nave: Wounded Soldiers Performing Arms Drill at the End of Their Medical Treatment, 1916
Gelatin silver print

During WWI, Paris’ magnificent Grand Palais, a Beaux-Arts structure that opened in 1900 as an exhibition hall, was repurposed as a temporary military hospital that served injured French soldiers. It held one thousand beds and had two operating rooms, as well as an extensive physical rehabilitation centre where soldiers could recover from their injuries, exercise and practice military drills before returning to the front. 


John Copley (1875-1950)
Recruits, 1915
Lithograph


Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946)
Rockets, 1917
Watercolour, gouache, graphite

Spilliaert served briefly in the Belgian civil guard after the German invasion. A pacifist by nature, he was greatly affected by the violence of war. Here, he depicts a deep blue sky illuminated by the flare of rockets, an image witnessed by both soldiers and civilians in occupied territories. The artist concentrated not on the rockets’ violent potential but on the graceful forms they generate and their resemblance to stars and comets


French, 20th century
After the Victory (Au Lendemain de la Victoire), 1918
Printed by Imprimerie Kapp
Published by Librairie Hachette & Co.
Colour lithograph

Many children lost loved ones to the war and were traumatized by the sounds and sights of combat. Ostensibly, celebrating victory, this book, like much wartime propaganda for children, reflects these dark events. Its interior presents images of rebuilding: each page shows a scene of destruction, but when a flap is raised, it shows the same site restored. 


Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)
The Parents (Die Eltern), from War (Krieg), 1921-22
Printed by Fritz Voigt, Berlin
Woodcut

Pain,” Kollwitz noted, ”is totally dark.” This raw images portrays the profound grief of parents who, like the artist, lost a child to war. Kollwitz began working in this medium after seeing an exhibition of woodcuts by Ernst Barlach and being inspired by their graphic power; the War series is considered her most important in the technique. Kollwitz spent fifteen years working on a sculpture based on this print. The Grieving Parents, located in the cemetery for German soldiers in western Belgium where her son Peter is buried, is composed of two separate sculptures, showing the parents isolated in their despair.


George Grosz (1893-1959)
Background (Hintergrund), 1928
3 out of 17 photolithographs with printed portfolio


Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)
Mothers (Muetter), from War (Krieg), 1919
Lithograph

In Mothers, women and children huddle together, their linked bodies forming a solid structure that fills the composition. Kollwitz drew herself in the centre, eyes closed and arms wrapped protectively around her two sons: Hans, the elder, and Peter, who was killed in combat at eighteen.


Images from ”World War I and the Visual Arts”, an exhibition exploring ”the myriad and often contradictory ways in which artists responded to the first modern war”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

August 6th, 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

 

The Titan’s Goblet

One of my favourite paintings, is on view @The_Met. Both mythical and realistic, surreal yet, somehow, familiar. I feel like it would take me many moon phases – or may be forever – to complete a full circle around the lush wooded rim. I feel like I’ve been there many times before; I go there often – in my dreams. Almost always in twilight, instances before it turns completely dark.

The Titan’s Goblet, 1833
Thomas Cole (1801–1848)
Oil on canvas

August 6th, 2017

Bakst-[age] @The_Met

Looking for Rei…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

It’s (almost) (always) party time in the Roaring ’20s

So, if you are going to make an entrance, make it a grand one.

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Evening dress by Callot Soeurs of Paris, 1923-26. Perl, floss, metallic thread, silk, velvet
On loan from Museum of the City of New York for the Jazz Age exhibition

2/
Mirror, ca. 1930, designed by Paul Fehér. Wrought iron, brass, silver, gold plating, glass

3/
Staircase model, France, mid-late 19th century
Carved, joined, turned, bent and planed oak

4/
Dress and Jacket with box and lid, Delphos
Designed by Mariano Fortuny with his inimitable pleating technique and natural dyeing process, this particular example of the iconic Delphos dress is in its original box, which has both the name of the buyer, Mrs. J.H. Lorentzen of Pasadena California, and the seller, Elsie McNeil. This provides a key into the importance of the American market in Fortuny’s success. The first photograph of a Delphos dress is by Alfred Steiglitz—a portrait of his sister taken in 1907. By 1912, Fortuny’s gowns were being sold in New York. Because they hug the body and were designed to be worn without a corset, in Europe the Delphos was considered a tea gown—suitable only for at-home entertaining. But American actresses and dancers like Lillian Gish and Isadora Duncan wore them in public as evening gowns. In 1927 Elsie McNeil, an American interior designer, became so enamored of Fortuny’s fabrics that she went to Italy and persuaded him to give her the exclusive rights to sell his products in the US. She became his close friend, protégé, and guardian angel—she helped him through some very difficult financial times in the 1930s and after WWII, and purchased the company after his death.

5/
Mural (detail), The World of Radio, 1934
Designed by Arthur Gordon Smith, for Nadea Dragonette Loftus and Jessica Dragonette
Cotton batik

6/
Staircase model, France, late 18th century
Carved, joined, bent, planed and carved pear, wrought brass wire, turned bone

This fine triple-height staircase model is similar to one designed by Robert Adam for 20 Portman Place in London.

7/
Curved staircase model in the French style, ca. 1850
Carved, planed, turned and veneered walnut

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

July 30th, 2017

All that Jazz

Delectable, capricious and very very Stylish. American taste with a strong European touch. Flapperdom reigning supreme.

Muse With Violin Screen, 1930. Designed by Paul Fehér. Manufactured by Rose Iron Works Collections, LLC. Wrought iron, brass; silver and gold plating, featuring a stylized figure of entertainer Josephine Baker
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Daybed (USA), 1933–1935. Designed by Frederick Kiesler, commissioned for a domestic interior by textile designer Marguerita Mergentime. Birch-faced plywood, tulip poplar, nickel-plated steel
Peacock Side Chair, 1921–22. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Oak, leatherette upholstery
Gift Kodak Camera And Box. Designed by Walter Dorwin Teague. Manufactured by Eastman Kodak Company. Leather-covered metal, chrome-plated and enameled metal, glass (camera); lacquered cedar, chrome-plated and enameled metal (case)
Chanin Building Pair Of Gates (detail). Designed by René Paul Chambellan. Wrought iron, bronze
Skyscraper Bookcase Desk, ca. 1928. Designed by Paul T. Frankl. California redwood and black laquer || Armchair from the International Exposition of Art and Industry 1928. Designed by Walter von Nessen. Aluminium, brass, leather
Evening Dress And Underslip, 1926. Designed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Blue silk chiffon with applied blue ombré silk fringe
Boucheron Brooch, 1925. Diamonds, platinum, carved lapis, onyx, coral, jade
Cocktail Bar Perfume Presentation. Designed by Jean Patou. Manufactured by Brosse Glassworks. Presentation case: burlwood; four larger flacons: molded glass; seven smaller flacons: molded glass, metal.  This bar-form set held a selection of liquor bottle–like perfume bottles entitled “Bittersweet,” “Sweet,” “Dry” and “Angostura no. 1” through “Angostura no. 7” that equated the sensuality of perfume with drinking in a not-so-subtle reference to the illicit cocktail culture during American prohibition. The empty bottle entitled “My Own” was provided to encourage the owner to mix and match her own scent. In 1928 Patou installed a women-only cocktail bar in his Paris boutique for clients, many American, to enjoy while making final decisions on garments and waiting for fittings and alterations.
Actaeon, 1925. Designed by Paul Manship. Gilt bronze. This work captures a climactic moment of transformation, as Actaeon has just been hit by Diana’s arrow, which is turning him into a stag.
Chandelier, ca. 1925. Designed by William Hunt Diederich. Cut steel and wrought iron

Canapé Gondole, ca. 1925. Designed by Marcel Coard. Carved indian rosewood, indian rosewood-veneered wood, brass, and linen velvet
Temple Dress, Mer Ka Ba Collection, 2013. Designed by threeASFOUR in collaboration with Bradley Rothenberg. Laser-cut bonded silk organza, nylon power mesh underdress
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Trans… Armchair, 2007. Designed by Fernando Campana. Wicker, iron, found objects (plastic, rubber) Commissioned from the designers by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum The designers created this chair from a collection of discarded objects
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From  The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, April through August 2017.

Paired with contemporary objects of laser-cut technology: modern, streamlined and still very stylish. I just wish we had a little bit more of that Jazz in our lives.

July 30th, 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