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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Art in Motion

How does one achieve a sense of motion or movement in a painting. Today we look at a small watercolour I acquired last week which I think does achieve this. It is a coastal scene showing fishermen, boats, and steam drifters off a nearby coast. The roiling sea, the wind-bent trees, the billowed clouds fleeing across the sky -it all works. There truly is a feeling of motion – of turmoil – an impending storm. The colours of the sea weave together to bring forth temperamental waves and whitecaps. Look closely at the next two images and you will realise that the white tops are achieved by scratching away the colour (sgraffito) on the paper and not by adding white body colour.The overall effect truly is amazing. Up close there is, one might think, a lack of finesse but this little work is meant to be appreciated in the whole not in small sections. This wee thing is 6 1/2″ x 9 5/8″ (165mm x 245mm). I think this might be #TenbyHarbour. One artist who worked in this style was JMW Turner. If you want to see his coastal watercolours just google #JMWTurner #PortsofEngland and enjoy. The Turner watercolours are the same size as the one in my collection.

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The Other Turner

Many people will recognise the name JMW Turner but how many would know that at the same time there was another Turner. #WillianTurnerofOxford or TurnerofOxford as he is and was known so as to distinguish himself from JMW Turner.

Born William Turner (1789-1862) at Black Bourton in Oxfordshire, he was sent to live with his wealthy land owning uncle, William Turner, at the age of 14. The estate was a place to which he returned often to paint and gain inspiration.At the young age of 15, he was sent to study under #JohnVarley in London. At that time, Williams’ fellow students under Varley were William Henry Hunt and John Linnell.

William was admitted into the Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1808 and was it’s youngest member. From this highly successful beginning, it was felt that Turner began to declined in status when he moved to Oxford where he was the only artist of any major distinction for nearly 50 years.

Turner persevered as a painter and instructor and his own works are focused on landscapes. His paintings are images of real places. Places where mankind had had little effect or intrusion on. Unlike JMW, William captured serenity, peace, solitude and calm. He loved to paint clouds and many of his landscapes include vast area of sky with majestic or billowing clouds.

The painting shown, I believe was painted around 1808-1810 most likely in #WychwoodForest near Shipton-on-Cherwell where his uncle lived.

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