Sunday, April 29, 2012

Antiques Fair 2012

Sonia Delalunay 1946

I can't tell if the Chicago Antiques Fair is getting worse, or if I'm getting harder to please, but this year's edition was a big disappointment.

I couldn't even find any Tang Dynasty sculpture that I liked.

But the above small work on paper was a like a breath of fresh air.

Louis Oscar Griffith (1875–1956)

Since this Midwestern painter was a member of my art club, I've followed Griffith in these antique fairs for many years.

Louis Oscar Griffith

This painting actually did have this weird greenish color which is not especially pleasant

But unlike most of the other figures paintings in the fair, it felt like an artist exploring the world instead of trying to produce a marketable item.

James Pecanka (1890-1964)

Here's another Chicago painter who also seemed to be exploring the world as he saw it and could recreate it.

He worked as a sign painter and then a commercial artist.

Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson, 1927

I really like this NYC portrait painter who would have painted Daisy and Gatsby if they weren't just fictional characters.

20th C. American professional portrait painters like him have been badly neglected by American art museums
Whitney Hoyt

Not much is known about this painter of moody cityscapes, so he must not have had much of an art career.

I like those black rectangles that appear at various depths into the picture plane, there's something so ominous about them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More from the Krannert Museum

Old Kingdom

There's something wrong with this poor guy's chin, but otherwise this is pretty lively.

Robert Gwathmey (1903-1988)

Looks a bit stagely, as if it were a backdrop in a production of Porgy and Bess.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1681)
"Christ after the flagellation"

According to the Krannert's website: "The understated manner in which Murillo treats this potentially dramatic scene is sometimes taken by critics as sentimentality."

But this scene feels far less sentimental than the other Murillos that I've seen.

I wouldn't mind meditating on this scene every day.

Alexander Helwig Wyant (1836-1892)

Reminding me of some Midwestern, pre-Impressionist landscapes - with a strong sense of a rugged land.

Some interesting reflections on this artist can be found here

Theodule Augustin Ribot (1823 - 1891)

I really like these domestic views before the invention of the electric light, where even a pan of fried eggs feels like a profound, deeply mysterious event.

Here's a detail of another painting of his that recently sold at auction for under $10,000.

Which looks like a bargain to me.

Eugène Boudin (12 July 1824 – 8 August 1898)
"The Cove", 1871

Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966)

I discovered Pushman at the Union League Club about 15 years ago and have loved him ever since.

His work belongs in the Art Institute, but he won't get there until it abandons its ideological committment to Modernism.

Nobody captures the spiritual quality of Chinese sculpture as well as Pushman.

My camera gave me two views of this painting - each with a different color scheme - and I can't remember which one is more accurate.

Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962)

I suppose Wiggins traded in nostalgia, and I can't help buying into it.

This is how the big city felt to me on those wintry afternoons so very long ago.

Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874 – 1939)
"Girl with Earrings" 1917

I first discovered this painter at the Terra Museum (back before the widow Terra shut it down) He specialized in the sunlit, shadow dappled nude.

I love to enter his paintings, although, unlike the French Impressionists whom he admired, he never quite got around to treating all of his human features as forms.

George Inness (1825-1894)
"The Approaching Storm", 1893

Noticing that this was painted a year before he died, there was indeed an approaching storm.

And I like this painting much more than the fragmentary Inness which the Krannert was featuring beside some of its other fragments from other museums.

Finally, we have this fine Madonna, on long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum (which has so many of them)

If only everything in the basements of major museums were also scattered around small, local museums like the Krannert.

(more to follow)

Variations on a theme

Here's another treasure from the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, attributed to the workshop of Neroccio di Bartolomeo de' Landi (1447–1500)about whom some interesting text can be found here

And here are some other variations attributed to the same artist, though they all  feel quite  different to me.   I wouldn't be surprised if each was actually painted by a different artist.

This one is my favorite, although it's not really a fair comparison, since this artist did not have to fit two saints into the back corners.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Thomas Schwanthaler

Here's another sculpture I found at the Krannert Art Museum
and the sculptor is completely new to me,
Thomas Schwanthaler (1634-1707.

His father, like mine, was a German Baroque woodcarver,
so even though I'm not in his long lineage
(7 generations of Schwanthalers were
making sculpture until the mid-19th Century)
I still feel some kinship
with his light hearted approach to statuary
that blossomed during the counter Reformation
in Bavaria and Austria.

St. Joseph
appears to be dancing
although possibly
he was rocking a cradle


I wish I had more, and larger
views of his angels.

Quite a tableaux.

St. Barbara bears a strong resemblance
to Meryl Streep.

This is the kind of big project
that he's famous for.

Love these angels.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lorado Taft at the Krannert Museum

Portrait of Bella Celeste Pomeroy Belden

I'm not really Lorado Taft's number one fan,
it's just that he is Chicago's number one public sculptor
so I'm repeatedly running into his pieces
and there is something charming about
the down-home innocence of his American-Classical
that won't be found in the great masters of that genre
like Daniel Chester French or Augustus St. Gaudens.

While the public figure sculpture
of our time is mostly Disney-cartoonish
and idealism of any kind
is absent from contemporary academic art.

Above is a portrait of one of his students
who ended up dropping out of art
when she got married.

Doesn't she look more a mom, anyway ?

Portait of Israel Zangwill

Zangwill was a writer
who briefly hung out with Taft's artistic circle
and is most remembered for his play,
"The Melting Pot"
that celebrates cultural assimilation.

Totally separated from the languages and customs
of my European forebears
I suppose that I should be one of his fans.

Except that something is lost
as well as gained in assimilation,
and while the loss is a fact,
the gain is only an opportunity.

The Taft material in the Krannert Museum
was all taken from what was left in his studio
when he died.

And I can see why he wanted
this dreamy though somber
idealistic head
to keep him company.

Most of Taft's work feels like
it belongs in a cemetary
which makes a lot sense
since the cemetary
was the destination
of most of the figurative sculpture
made in his time.

This is a maquette for the "Fountain of Creation"
which was never completed.

As he often did,
Taft put several figures together
into a solid mass,
but they still don't
relate to each other very well.

Here are some maquettes
for the Lincoln-Douglas debate
that Taft did in 1935,
a year before his death.

They pleasantly tell a story
but Taft did not pick up on
the formal power
of the modern figurative sculpture
of the early 20th C.

Done in the last year of his life,
this represents
"The Spirit of Art"
on behalf
of a local women's art organization.

And once again,
she looks more like a mom
than an artist.

This maquette for a war memorial
looks pretty good,
it's a shame it was never completed.

And I like that his soldiers,
unlike those of Charles Sargent Jagger
look more like boys than fighting men,
even if it's a vain hope
that combat veterans retain their innocence
of human degradation.

H. D. Tylle

H.D. Tylle, born in Beyreuth, 1955, is a painter of industrial facilities.

Who wants to look at factories?

To begin with, their owners/designers/builders do
- like the Milwaukee industrialist
who commissioned him to paint the above

These lively scenes don't really make me want to visit these places.

But I do enjoy watching him manipulate-arrange
pictorial space in a dramatic way
whether in a studio painting

or in an on-site quick sketch

And he does a nice job
with character, too well as action figures

Here's an interpretive copy he made
of a 19th C. view of a factory
from that era,
and you'll note that this kind
of Romantic narrative
is absent from Tylle's views

Here's a construction site
as painted by Erich Mercker in the 1930's

...and you'll note that the Third Reich's kind of heroicism
is also absent from Tylle's scenes

Instead, Tylle's factories
are kind of a chaotic maze

.. and have more in common
with Piranesi's Carcere.

..or with this 1970's street scene
by the Kansas City painter,
Lester Goldman

This would be nothing more
than competent illustration,
except that the colorful details
seem to be working themselves up
into a frenzy
that has nothing to do
with technology.