Monday, February 19, 2018

Tom Purvis' Austin Reed Posters

Tom Purvis (1888-1959) was a leading British poster artist during the 1920s and 1930s, especially after his style evolved into simplified shapes with areas of flat color and no outlining.

Purvis' Wikipedia entry is here, but as of the time this post was drafted (late December 2017), it was not very informative. More biographical information can be found here, but you will need to scroll down to find it.

Although he worked for a number of clients, he is best known for his railroad posters and those for Austin Reed, a clothier. Both Austin Reed and Purvis were at their peak when the posters shown below were created. Purvis moved on to portrait work and religious painting in the years following World War 2. Austin Reed went bankrupt in 2016 and its remains were acquired by Edinburgh Woolen Mill. As I write this, there are no Austin Reed stores in London.


For most of its existence, Austin Reed's flagship store was located at the lower end of Regent Street, not far from Piccadilly Circus.

Judging by the woman's hairdo and dress, this poster was painted no earlier that the very late 1930s.

This poster is from around 1935.

This is from 1932.

An earlier poster. The woman's costume is from the mid-to-late 1920s. Note the different Purvis technique.

Fenchurch Street is in the City. That was more convenient for City workers, avoiding a trek to Regent Street in the West End.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates Background Detailing

American newspaper comic strips were greatly reduced in size decades ago and their content was reduced to various kinds of humor. Gone were the plot-continuity strips occupying a half or even a full page such as were found in 1930s Sunday papers.

One such strip was Terry and the Pirates, an adventure series taking place in China. When World War 2 came along, it evolved into a military-themed strip. By late 1946 Milton Caniff, its creator, had tired of the distribution syndicate's control and moved on to create an Air Force themed adventure strip.

Due to its popularity, Terry was continued by another artist, George S. Wunder (1912-1987) -- Wikipedia entry here. Wunder has been criticized, with some justification, for his treatment of faces. But what interests me here is the degree of background detailing found in his version of Terry, a carryover from strips of the 1930s and still common into the 1950s. That is, Wunder ranked up there with other cartoonists whose strips still went well beyond containing mostly faces and dialog balloons.

Background settings require a lot of extra work for the cartoonist who was under pressure to maintain about a six-week backlog to allow for production and distribution to newspapers carrying the strip (and for times when the artist was ill or otherwise not productive). The link to Wunder mentions that he took on an assistant in 1962, implying he did it all before that time (and stating that he continued to do the Sunday strips alone). A rational division of labor would be for the main artist to deal with the characters and leave backgrounds and other detailing to assistants.

Below are some examples of Wunder's Terry and the Pirates from his first five years on the job. Click on the images to enlarge.


October 27, 1947
A daily panel featuring Terry, Pat Ryan, Hotshot Charlie and slang-talking Chopstick Joe who is always on the lookout for making money.

June 22, 1947
Now for some Sunday strips...

July 13, 1947

May 1, 1949

July 31, 1949

September 22, 1951
This seems to be original art -- note how the title and artist's name are attached to provide consistent branding over time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dennis Miller Bunker: Died Far Too Young

The painting above is "Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot" by John Singer Sargent (1888). Dennis Miller Bunker (1861-1890) lived just 29 years, but showed considerable promise, as Sargent seemed to have realized.

Some biographical information is here, and some of Bunker's thoughts regarding being an artist can be found here.

Bunker was a solid traditional/representational painter who spent a year or two in France when French Impressionism was gaining acceptance and Post-Impressionism was getting underway (Manet died in 1883 and Seurat was about to paint his masterpiece, "Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte"). He made some oil sketches that seem to lie in the gray zone between being simply sketches and being a sort of Impressionism -- it's difficult to tell. But he largely continued on a traditional path after returning to America. There is no way of telling what he might have painted had he lived into the era of modernist "isms."


The Shed, Cold Spring Harbor - 1880
Painted when Bunker was about 19.

Beached - c. 1882
Another fairly elaborate sketch -- note that here and in the previous work he signed with only his initials.

Lacroix, St-Ouen, Oise - 1883

Brittany Town, Morning, Larmor - 1884
Some French plein air type scenes.

Tree - 1884
This painting is also signed using initials.

Anne Page - 1887
A portrait reminiscent of Whistler's work.

Second Portrait of a Woman - undated

The Mirror - 1890 - (Julia "Dudie" Blair)
A late work. I wrote about her here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Railway Posters by Frank Newbould

Frank Newbould (1887-1951) was an almost exact contemporary of fellow poster artist, the better-known Tom Purvis. Both did a good deal of poster art for British railway companies in the 1930s, especially the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). Also, by 1930 both were using a style featuring many broad areas of flat colors where outlining was scarce or entirely absent. Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to say who practiced that style first (I suspect Purvis), though it became associated with the LNER due to its extensive use.

Not a lot of biographical information on Newbould is on the Internet, so this Wikipedia entry will have to do for now.

Newbould's work was strong, but I rate him not as good as Purvis or Fred Taylor, another railway poster man. Below are his posters for domestic sites. He also did Continental scenes that I might deal with later.


A nice, strong poster for the spa town not far from York.

A silkscreen look, even though this was probably a lithograph.

Another nice design, this for an East Anglia port town.

Post for a Scottish destination.

On the North Sea coast, a few miles north of the mouth of the Tyne.

A more extremely simplified design, this for the Great Western Railway.

Yorkshire coastal town about 15 miles south of Scarborough.

This poster and the one above have a different typographical theme than the others.  My guess is that they date from shortly before British railroads were nationalized in 1948.

Monday, February 5, 2018

N.C. Wyeth Does Modernism, Meets George Washington

It isn't unheard-of for a popular culture figure to disparage the works that brought fame and prosperity and to try doing something supposedly "higher." Examples include portrait artist John Singer Sargent and illustrator Dean Cornwell taking up mural painting. Or Arthur Conan Doyle trying to unharness himself from his famed creation Sherlock Holmes.

So it was with master illustrator N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882-1945), Wikipedia entry here. As the link mentions, by the time he was well-established as an illustrator, he began to hate being a slave to that trade and began to create Fine Arts paintings. Prudently, he maintained his illustration career to preserve hearth, home, and lifestyle.

In September I re-visited the Brandywine River Museum of Art that features the works of the Wyeth family. On display were several of N.C.'s paintings done in the fashionable 1920s-1930s semi-Modernist vein. I also bought this catalog for a 1995 exhibit dealing with that subject.

According to it, Wyeth felt liberated and highly creative when doing such paintings, derivative though they actually were. And in my judgment, they were generally inferior to his illustration work. This post features a painting titled "In a Dream I Met General Washington" (1930). I might deal with other such works in future posts.


The museum's image of the painting.

A detail photo that I took. This and the following images of mine can be greatly enlarged by clicking on them.
Here we see Wyeth, wearing his usual knee-britches, paintbrushes in one hand, palette in the other, facing the great man.

Landscape towards the upper-right corner. Thinly-painted for the most part. The stylized, rounded hills and tree forms were an emerging Regionalist cliché, as Grant Wood was doing the same sort of thing in 1930.

Here Wyeth tosses in a battle scene.

And includes his young son Andrew Wyeth sketching.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Penrhyn Stanlaws: Mega-Cover Girls

Earnest Stanley Adamson, or perhaps Arthur Earnest Penrhyn Stanley Adamson (his name seems to have varied over time) used the name Penrhyn Stanlaws professionally. He was born in Dundee Scotland in 1877 and died in Los Angeles in 1957. Otherwise, he lived in London, Paris, Chicago and New York. Plus, he was a member of Princeton University's class of 1901. Besides illustration, he wrote plays and directed silent movies in Hollywood.

Unlike many artists covered in this blog, there is much biographical information on Stanlaws on the Internet in the form of a two-part report found here and here.

Stanlaws' illustration career essentially involved making cover art featuring beautiful women for leading general-interest magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post as well as some movie fan magazines. Examples are shown below.


Ainslee's Magazine cover - January 1914

Hearst's Magazine cover - January 1918
The United States was in the Great War at this time, so war-related magazine covers were common. The subject of this is wearing an Italian Bersaglieri feathered hat.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 20 February 1926

Saturday Evening Post cover - 24 March 1928

Saturday Evening Post cover - 17 August 1929

New Movie Magazine cover - February 1932

Saturday Evening Post cover - 19 August 1933

Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 February 1934
Here he uses a Coles Phillips background/subject integration touch.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Picasso's Analytical Cubism: Identify the Subjects

In the second link below it is mentioned that neither Pablo Picasso nor Georges Braque, the inventors of Cubism, wrote a manifesto explaining and justifying what they had done (unlike other modernist artists and movements). However, others filled this void. A fairly standard classification of types of Cubism calls the period roughly 1910-1912 "Analytical Cubism," wherein the artists used multiple points of view to depict a subject more completely on a flat surface than could traditional single-viewpoint paintings.

A fairly detailed explanation can be found here, and a sophistry-filled one is here.

Not long ago I posted here about cubist portraits and how various artists followed Analytical Cubism to various degrees. The present post looks at that breed of Cubism from a slightly different angle. (Hmm -- I seem to be getting swept up into this multiple perspectives notion.)

My contention is that hard-core Analytical Cubism paintings are constructed (presumably against the artist's intent to more fully reveal the subject) so as to make it impossible (or nearly so) for a naïve viewer to identify the painting's subject. That is, the artist presumably knew what steps he was taking to disassemble the subject into parts seen from different perspectives along with what steps he used to rearrange those parts on the canvas. But that naïve viewer would have little or nothing available to allow him to visually reverse that process.

Which leads to a brief discussion of titles of paintings. Purely abstract paintings don't really need titles because they are fundamentally simply decorations. As for representational art, titles can be avoided for still life paintings. Landscape paintings are something of a gray area. They don't absolutely need titles because a viewer can simply think "Oh, what a lovely mountain scene" or whatever the subject. But it can be useful for some viewers to have a title to identify, in this case, what mountain is depicted. Portraits are similar in that in some respects the viewer doesn't need to know the name of the subject, particularly if the subject was simply a model somewhat arbitrarily chosen by the artist. But where the subject has any degree of notoriety or fame, a title is probably necessary for distant future viewers somewhat ignorant of the milieu at the time the work was painted. (How many people today could recognize an image of Robespierre on sight, famous though he once was.) Similar things might be said regarding historical or religious scenes: to the extent viewers are ignorant of the subject, titles are necessary.

Due to the process of making an Analytical Cubist painting and the difficulty of discerning the subject unaided, titles are essential to provide the viewer with a clue as to how to reverse-engineer the painting. I am not sure how many viewers actually do try to figure out where all those fragments came from, and from which viewpoint. Generally speaking, for practical purposes Analytical Cubist works come very close to being abstract decorations.

Now for some fun. Below are several such paintings by Picasso. I didn't provide title captions. Can you correctly guess that subjects of those paintings that are not familiar to you? I'll post the titles in a comment later in the day this appears, so you'll know.