If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Praying Hands 12

Just finished this 12th scratchboard in my series of praying hands.

Maxfield Parrish: Early 20th Century Illustrator

In keeping with the last two blogs, I thought I would continue to spotlight American illustrators. Maxfield Parrish was a popular illustrator and painter from the early part of the 20th century. His most famous painting Daybreak(first photo) is still popular to this day. He was born Frederick Parrish in Philadelphia in 1870. His father, Stephen, was also a painter and a primary influence. In 1900 Parrish contracted tuberculosis and then suffered a nervous breakdown. Around then he switched to oil painting started creating the luminous almost magical landscapes that made him popular.

Parrish attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Most of his paintings emerged from his home studio in New Hampshire. He was also an illustrator of books, magazine covers, advertisements, and painted murals.

Parrish's neo-classicist paintings have an ethereal, glowing, magical atmosphere of dawn or twilight, most well known are his idealistic images of women on the rocks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Norman Rockwell: Enlightened Illustrator of Americana

Norman Rockwell is one is the most known and beloved of American illustrators. I thought I should add him to my blog since I just added J.C. Leyendecker, an American illustrator Rockwell admired and emulated. Unlike Leyendecker, I have known about Rockwell for much longer, having appreciated his art in high school and college. I bought a huge book of Rockwell when I was 21 in the Army. Although I didn't care much for his almost kitschy, Boy Scout, idealized images of Americana, I was fascinated by his photorealistic painting techniques.

My appreciation for his artwork increased with his images for Look magazine of the Southern Freedom movement in the 60s, which broke him away from his idealized white, middle class imagery of America. Most people would not recognize the dark sepia study for the painting "Murder in Mississippi" as a Rockwell. The painting reveals a side of America that Rockwell kept well hid in his earlier paintings, even though he was more of a political liberal. His third wife Molly Punderson,a strident liberal, encouraged him to move in new directions. We recognize the Rockwell style in his painting The Problem We All Live With, but the subject, the young girl Ruby Bridges integrating a New Orleans school in 1960, was not typical Rockwell scenery. These paintings represent to me a kind of artistic conversion from an idealized white America.

J. C. Leyendecker: Early 20th century Illustrator

I recently bought a book of an artist who is not a well known name, not even to myself----J.C. Leyendecker. He was one of the top illustrators in the U.S. in the early 20th century. He was known for his illustrations for the Arrow Collar Man and the covers for the Saturday Evening Post (over 300), before Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell was a friend of Leyendecker and was a pallbearer at his funeral. Rockwell's early work reflects the artist's influence, along with his Americana images.

Charles Breach, Leyendecker's gay partner, was the original model for the Arrow Collar Man. There is a noticeable homerotic aesthetic in his artwork. His brother Frank was a great illustrator as well, but his work was overshadowed by J.C.

Leyendecker's work is recognizable for its stylized rendition of the idealized human form with angular geometric brush strokes. He helped popularize the images of Santa Claus and the New Year's baby and his style has influenced many modern illustrators.