Thursday, May 24, 2018

Austin Cooper: Posters to Abstraction

Austin Cooper (1890-1964) was a Canadian-born British poster artist who, before he died, must have discovered that an automobile (the Austin Mini Cooper) was his namesake. Kidding aside, Cooper was one of a group of illustrators who created travel posters using a similar technique for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), especially during the 1930s.

His Wikipedia entry mentions that he moved across the Atlantic a few times but finally settled in England following his service in the Canadian army in the Great War. Besides creating posters, he managed a school of commercial art in the late 1930s, then abandoned illustration in the mid-1940s to pursue fine arts. Some of his abstract paintings are in the Tate collection.


It's not clear to me what this poster was promoting, though the smokestacks are painted Canadian Pacific colors.

One of a series with the same theme and style.

Probably from the late 1920s.

He did a few posters for Indian Railways.

For a 1931 exhibit at the V&A.

This, from 1932.

This is a highly unusual style for a LNER poster. It was done around the mid-1930s, judging by the woman's clothing.

Abstraction 200/62 - 1957-1962

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Reichsluftfahrtministerium's Career (and Mural)

A hazard of travel is getting sick. In April I was flying from London to Seattle, all the while the man in the seat behind me was coughing. Of course, a few days later I came down with a horrific cold followed by a sinus infection. And then I was off to Germany to take a tour that filled in a few gaps from previous visits.

All this is my sorry excuse for not researching something I had planned to do in Berlin, namely track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. It was the headquarters of Hermann Göring's Aviation Ministry and for some reason survived Allied bombings and Russian artillery during World War 2. That is, it's the only remaining major Nazi-era building in the city -- a real curiosity. (Background information can be found here.)

I had a free day to rattle around Berlin, visiting places I'd seen before and looking for new buildings, stores and such things that comprise a thriving city. Towards the end of the day I suddenly remembered that it would be nice to track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. Except I didn't know where it was other than it probably would have been near the Wilhelm Strasse, the avenue where ministries had tended to be since the Kaiser's day.


I thought this building might be it.  It's on Mohren Strasse just off Friedrich Strasse and a block east of Wilhelm Strasse. It does look the part, having that stripped-down classical style coupled with a kind of functionalism popular in many countries in the 1930s. But it wasn't the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, as I found out once I got home and could do some research. As I write this, I still don't know anything about it. It might be a Nazi-era structure, but in that case it should have been heavily damaged during the war. Perhaps it was a Communist-era building. If any reader knows what it is, let us know in a comment.

As I discovered once I got home, this was the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. The view is of the end facing Leipziger Strasse near the corner of Wilhelm Strasse -- the rest of it takes up most of the rest of the block. As the link above states, during DDR days it was used by several ministries and nowadays is where Germany's Finance Ministry is housed. In the arcade behind the columns is a 18 meter mural on Meissen porcelain tiles created by Max Lingner in the early 1950s. It is a Socialist Realism work of the ilk found in Russia during Josef Stalin's days. Propaganda, in other words. Below are photos I took of it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Max Slevogt, Secessionist

Max Slevogt (1868-1932) is categorized as an Impressionist, but also did some Symbolist subject paintings and other kinds of works including illustration. He became associated with the Berlin Secession, according to his Wikipedia entry. Another source filled with a confusing mix of facts, and dates is here.

These and other sources state or imply that Slevogt was a very important German painter. That is probably so, though I can't work up much enthusiasm for his manner of sketchy brushwork and therefore don't regard him highly.

Your taste may well vary, so here are images of some of his paintings in approximately chronological order to ponder.


Die blonde Theres - 1896

Totentanz (Death Dance, or Dance with Death) - 1896
The same model seems to be in both paintings.

Autumn Evening Mood, Neukastel - 1897

Feierstunde The Day's Work Done - 1900

The Dancer Marietta di Rigardo - 1904
Around this time, Slevogt's sketchy style kicks in more noticeably.

Dame im weissen Reitkleid zu Pferde (Lady in White Riding Clothes on a Horse) - 1910
This might be his wife, Antonie (Nini) Finkler.

Spring in the Palatinate - 1910

Anna Pavlova
More than a sketch, less than a painting.

Unter den Linden - 1913
Berlin's main street shortly before the Great War.

Portrait of Dancer Antonia Mercé, Called "La Argentina" - 1926

Monday, May 14, 2018

Stanhope Forbes: Cornwall Scenes

A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach - 1885

Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857-1947) painted scenes in Brittany and elsewhere in England, but his focus was Cornwall, at Britain's western tip. A fairly lengthy Wikipedia entry for Forbes is here. I wrote about the painting shown above here. It is perhaps his best-known work and the excellent brushwork is best appreciated in person, though you normally need to visit the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery to view it.

Below are some other Cornish scenes painted by Forbes.


The Health of the Bride - 1889
This indoor Cornish painting was part of the original Tate collection.

A Cornish Village - 1903
More of a sketch than a finished work, thought Forbes signed it.

The Seine Boat - 1904
Forbes did much plein air painting, but this had to be mostly or entirely studio-made.

At the Moorage - 1906

Gala Day at Newlyn, Cornwall - 1907

The Inner Harbour, Abbey Slip - 1921
Not long ago, local folks helped keep this painting from being removed from Cornwall (some details here).

The Fisherman's Expedition - 1923

Causewayhead, Penzance - 1943
A late painting done in wartime: note several British solders along the street.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Some Pissarro Marketplace Paintings

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) often returned to the same kind of subject over his career. One of the subjects that occasionally crops up is marketplace scenes. Some are "establishment shots," where the market square is seen from a distance. Others are closeups, with sellers and buyers in the foreground and crowds in the background.

Shown below are five such "closeup" scenes. My knowledge of Pissarro is sketchy, so I relied on Internet sources for captions reporting the paintings' subject markets and dates. Assuming that information is correct, Pissarro made them from time to time over nearly a decade.


Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1882

Poultry Market - 1885

Market at Gisors (unfinished) - 1889

Market, Gisors - 1891

Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1892

Market at Gisors - 1899

Monday, May 7, 2018

Picasso From Around 1930-1940

I posted a "Towards the End" topic dealing with Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and his post-1950 paintings here. I concluded: "To my eye, there was no real stylistic progression or sense of direction over the 20 years [ca. 1950-1970] covered by the example images.... This ties into the thesis of my e-book "Art Adrift" that once the elements of modernist painting had been established by around 1920, aspiring modernists and even established ones such as Picasso had no real sense of what to do next."

My benchmark for that analysis was his Dora Maar au chat of 1941 that not many years ago was auctioned at a very high price. So my point was that he seemingly had largely run out of creative fuel by the time he was around 60 years old.

Which leads us to the present post that deals with some of his paintings from the late 1920s into the early 1940s. His stylistic changes are shown with an eye towards both his previous and future work.


Painter and His Model - 1928
Very flat, largely primary colors with black lines on a nearly-white background. These features are Piet Mondrian- like, absent the rigid geometry. The "model" at the left has three eyes arranged vertically, a fairly early example of his radical repositioning of his subjects' elements. In a sense, this is an extension of cubist practice, but without so much clutter.

Seated Woman - 1930
More flat colors, but thinner lines and attention to overlapping areas.

Crucifixion - 1930
More flatness along with not-quite-human subjects.  An exception is the tiny Dalí-like lancer on his horse at center-left.

Woman with a Flower - 1932
Picasso is concerned with patterns here as well as ways of distorting the human figure. Returning is some modeling atop otherwise flat areas.

Woman's Head - 1934
He continues his exploration of distortions and rearrangements. Fortunately for Picasso, his fame had long since reached the point where his signature on a painting would almost guarantee its sale regardless of its quality.

Minotaur with a Dead Horse in Front of a Cave Facing Girl in a Veil - 1936
He also took some time-outs to return a little closer to representation.

Dora Maar - 1937
Portrait of his mistress at the time he painted his famous "Guernica." Flat areas of 1930 vintage are gone while he continues playing with post-cubist rearranging.

Weeping Woman - 1937
Here he tries leaving a segment in monochrome where a handkerchief might be.

Woman with Cockerel - 1938
Continuing his exploration of distortion, rearrangement.

Dora Maar - 1939
A return to flatter areas and heavy lines. I wonder what Dora thought of this one.

Seated Dora Maar - 1941
Two years later, Dora is still around, and so are Picasso's late-1930s concepts.  To me it seems that he had largely run out of new stylistic ideas by that time and was settling into the long period mentioned in the link above.