Portraits of Eminent Painters

Every once in a while, I come across a book that I think is special. Today , we look at a book published in 1739. Although the book is not in great shape. It is intact. It contains the an account of 102 painters lives and an added historical/chronological list of prominent painters for over 500 years. Although the histories and lives are interesting, it is the 102 engraved images of the artist’s that I find beautiful. Published in 1739, this book uses the original etched plates etched plates. Most of these were engraved around 1630, some even earlier.I display only a few of the portraits of some of the better known artists which you might recognise. Wonderfully engraved by some very famous artists too. I don’t think I need to say much about the quality of the works. They are consistently fine and being 281 years old have stood the test of time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I.

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Travels with Art

I thought this week we would go for a ramble through the countryside using some pieces from my collection. Often, when I travel I like to take the road less traveled and by doing so I experience the ‘real/authentic life’ of an area. In an earlier time, taking the back roads, one came across scenes like the this. Here, children amuse themselves as the farmer and his wife deal with the harsh realities of farming in such a rugged land. The beauty of such landscapes is little compensation if one cannot feed ones family. But here, I think we see a successful attempt at family and farm. Earlier times saw children sent outside to care for each other and often only came in for meals or when called. A hearty imagination and creativity were a requirement to avoid boredom. Life was not easy. It was often a struggle – against the land, the weather and things beyond ones control but struggle on they did. Nowadays, we look on scenes like these and see an idyllic life but I think the reality was very different. Here on the back roads there is beauty to be found but often that is just the glossy cover to a deep and epic struggle to survive. A fight to provide more for your children. A better life. One in which they might have more time to revel in the beauty that surrounds them. Even today, we strive to provide our children with a better life – with more than we had when growing up. That is not a bad thing but just maybe we also need to stop, take a deep breath, and look around us to see the beauty in the place where we are. When I was younger, I was told that being around young children would keep me young. I am a grandfather and I can tell you that that is not true. I know I am getting older – my body reminds me often enough – but the thing that my granddaughter gives to me is not stamina or youth but she has reignited in me the joy, the wonder and awe in almost anything and everything which she sees so easily and I over time had become oblivious to. There is joy and beauty to be found even in the struggles of life.

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Russian and Eastern European Art

As I have stated before, I often buy pieces because I like them. That should be a main reason for anyone buying art. This being said, we will look at a number of pieces from #Russia and Eastern Europe. I will keep my comments to a minimum since I do not read or speak Russian so cannot tell you anything about these pieces other than to describe them.

We begin with three engravings. The first is of #StBasilCathedral on the Red Square in Moscow. The next two are landscapes. The first with a farm stead and cow and the second with shepherd and flock. All three are titled and signed by the artist. The next pair are watercolours, once again signed and titled. The first being St Basil Cathedral again. One of a set of six which I have by the same artist. The second is a view of the #Atlantes holding the ceiling of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. I attach a picture of the writing on the verso.

To finish, we have two drawings. One a portrait the other a city scene.

All of these are fine pieces of art each with their own specific reasons. Any Russian linguists – I would be thankful for an interpretation of any and all of the titles and signatures so that I might update this chapter. Thank you.

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Li Keran, a new way

Today, we visit a Chinese artist, who is lauded as one of the greatest and most influential of the 20th century. His name – #LiKeran (1907-1989). A gifted and artistic child, Li’s talents extended from painting, to calligraphy, to music. He studied both traditional Chinese and Western art techniques. While at Shanghai Art College, he became inspired in the blending of eastern and western techniques to create a new form of expression in painting. From 1934, Li began to develop his work using ink and wash. He painted water buffalo and cowboys. Using his new ‘splashed ink’ technique, he was able to give new life to these traditional subjects. The appreciation of his work grew leading to an invitation (1946) via Xu Beihong to join the faculty at the Beijing National Art College. There he was mentored by Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong. Neither traditionalist nor reformist, Li is rather a painter remembered as a pioneer. A man who led the way in combining traditional and modern techniques into a new expression. The watercolour in my collection is signed ‘Keran’ and has one artist seal. It shows a young herdsman riding a water buffalo with another nearby. It displays his wonderful technique of shading using ink and wash.

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Gordon Frederick Browne illustrator

Is it possible to be too successful as an artist. #GordonFrederickBrowne (1875-1932) was a prolific artist and illustrator of children’s books. He was exacting in his craftsmanship and strived for accuracy in his work in all details. He was so busy that success passed him by. His output was enormous – six or seven books a year as well a huge number of illustrations for magazines.

His father, #HablotKnightBrowne, also an illustrator of books is far better known. His father’s pseudonym was ‘Phiz’ and under this name he illustrated a number of books by author, Charles Dickens. It is estimated that Browne produced some 3,660 images during his working life. Browne amassed a huge collection of artefacts to assist in his accurate depiction of items. He concentrated on the text of the work he was working on. Identifying and focusing on the details being illustrated.

I have three pen and ink drawings by Gordon Frederick Browne in my collection. He signed his work GB. With such a vast output, I have yet to find to which story these drawings refer but I will keep looking.

Fame passed him by because he would work for everyone and anyone – even very poor quality publications. Had he focused on the more popular magazines or certain authors, he would likely be remembered today as a very fine illustrator. Even so, I think a lot of people have seen his work when they were young and not realised his vast artistic output.

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William Taylor Longmire artist

We visit the Lake District to consider the work of #WilliamTaylorLongmire (1841-1914). He was born in #Troutbeck near Ambleside and he was expected to carry on his fathers trade as a farmer and butcher. After the family move to Stavely, William was prompted, by the local vicar, to take up and then study drawing. As a young lad of just 10 years, he suffered an accident. A fall into the lake led to complications resulting in the total loss of hearing. Longmire is most widely known for his paintings of the Lake District mostly in watercolour but he did paint in oils also. By the age of 30, this mostly self-taught painter had set up his own studio in Ambleside.

I have two of Longmire paintings in my collection. The first of an unknown lake ( I think Grasmere) painted in 1891. It has lived a hard life, like many of his works today, it has faded and stained due to being hung in a sunny front room. The second work is of #Buttermere and was executed in 1878.Here, we see a picture in far better condition. From these two works, one comes to understand why Longmire was a well appreciated artist. They are colourful and atmospheric, displaying both the beauty and harshness which the local residents experienced in everyday life. I have been to Ambleside and the Lake District. Things have moved on but the area retains it’s beauty.

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Sir Hubert Von Herkomer artist

Today, we visit an artist who was a successful portrait painter but is known for his early works picturing the life of the poor. #HubertvonHerkomer (1849-1914) was born into a poor family in Waal, Bavaria. His father was a very fine wood carver and his mother a music teacher. They moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a handful of years but returned to Europe to live in Southampton, England. In 1869, Herkomer began exhibiting at the Royal Academy. In the following four years, he went from selling his artworks for two guineas to selling for five hundred pounds.For a number of years, he was an illustrator for The Graphic a London based paper. With his success secure, Herkomer broadened his artistic fields by dabbling in other fields of interest. Proficient in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving, mezzotinting, and works in enamel he was also a film producer, a playwright and a composer of some quality.

The engraving shown here is titled ‘A Study’. It is, I believe of his third wife, Margaret. It is signed and dated (1891) in the plate. A fine work by a very fine artist.

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Robin Craig Guthrie artist

When I try to draw something, there is often too much stuff on the page. The focus of today’s chapter is a drawing which certainly does not have ‘too much’. The artist #RobinCraigGuthrie (1902-1971) was born in Harding, Sussex. His father, James, was a writer,artist and printer – founder of the Pear Tree Press.

Guthrie’s studies brought him to the Slade School of Art where he studied under Philip Wilson Steer and Henry Tonks. He was a superb draughtsman which can best be seen in his portraiture. He drew and painted landscapes and portraits and even illustrated books including his fathers A Wild Garden (1924). He exhibited through the New English Art Club, Royal Academy, Goupil Gallery, Leicester Gallery, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Tate Gallery and many more. For two years Guthrie took the post of director at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston in the USA. During WWII, he was given a commission as an artist to record the workings of the Army cookery School and the activities at the Auxiliary Territorial Service training bases. After the war Guthrie tutored at a number of schools and illustrated several books. His works are held by The Tate, British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery and many others both public and private.

The drawing with wash which is shown here does not have superfluous renderings. A minimal amount of lines and a touch of wash is all that is used in this life drawing. How easy, he makes it look. So little to express so much. That is talent.

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Ada Louise Powell artist

We visit with an artist not known for watercolours but as a designer of pottery for Wedgwood. #AdaLouisePowell (nee Lessore) was born in 1882. She was the daughter of an artist and studied embroidery, calligraphy, and illuminating. She and her husband, Alfred Powell, became celebrated designers for Wedgwood. They not only painted thousands of pieces for #Wedgwood, they also trained many apprentice painters to produce the works they designed. Indeed Ada came from good artistic stock. Her father was #JulesFrederickLessore and her grandfather was #ÉmileLessore – a designer and painter for Wedgwood during e 1860’s. Her sister Thérèse was a very fine painter in oils and watercolours ( in some ways this work identifies better with Thérèse than Louise) and was married to #WalterSickert (of Camden Town Group fame). Her brother Frederick Lessore was a sculptor and founder of the Beaux Arts Gallery in London.

The image we look at is part of #CanterburyCathedralcrypt and in particular the #ChapeloftheHolyInnocents. The watercolour is not signed on the face but reads ‘Canterbury’ ‘Louise Powell’ on the verso. The age of the paper tells me it comes from the early 1900’s. So, I cannot definitely attribute this painting to Louise Powell but she certainly was a fine enough artist to have produced this work.

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Blue and White

#BlueandWhite is a combination of colours which has been possibly the most sought after for centuries. The wonderful artistry in using cobalt blue found in #Chineseporcelain has made it a collectible quantity from the 1300’s and even earlier. I came across a bowl this past week which exemplifies the artistry and resulting beauty of this art. The bowl bears a #Chenghua mark (1465-1487) within a double circle on it’s base but this bowl was most likely made during the #Kangxi period (1662-1722) some 200 years later than its’ date mark. Real Chenghua porcelain is very, very rare and stunningly expensive. The decoration which is continuous around the bowl is more suitable to the later time. The scene shows a female servant bringing tea to a scholar/musician who sits by a table upon which a guqin lies as two other ladies look on. A guqin is a seven stringed instrument (although they have been known to have anywhere from 5 to 10 strings) which is plucked and known for its’ subtlety and refinement. Not a loud instrument – much more intimate/personal covering a four octave range.

Double circles adorn the foot of the bowl as well as the outer and inner rim of the bowl. The decoration continues in the bowl itself with a scene within another double ring. Here we see a rabbit sitting beneath a tree with clouds in the sky, a fence behind and rough terrain with tall grasses.

You will also notice that this bowl has been damaged. Finely mended but not restored to original. Beauty in brokenness.

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