Walter Crane

Walter Crane (1845 -1915) was an English artist and illustrator who was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites. He is primarily known for his illustrations for numerous children’s books, however I believe his easel paintings should be regarded as his most significant work. Crane also worked on designs for political pamphlets and even wallpaper, ceramic tiles and other decorative art.

Walter Crane – Jugend magazine cover – 1898

Crane was a committed socialist who saw art as a tool for transforming society. Much of his noncommercial art work was devoted to illustrations for various socialist periodicals and propaganda posters. He was involved in various social causes and reform movemen

In his influential book, The Claims of Decorative Arts, Crane argued that decorative art is not a lesser form of art compared to painting or sculpture, and indeed one cannot have high art “where there is no beauty in everyday things, no sources of harmonious thought about us.” He compared the decorative arts to the soil from which flowers bloomed. Although Crane used the term decorative, I believe it would be a mistake to presume that he held a modern concept of beauty alienated from life since much of his art is narrative. He lamented that capitalism distorted man’s artistic abilities by motivating him to devote himself to material gain at the expense of beauty. He described the capitalist system as an “unwholesome stimulus” which promoted the creation of cheap and commercial art, which he called a “catch-penny abomination.”

Walter Crane – The Renaissance of Venus – 1877

Walter Crane – Horses of Neptune

Walter Crane -The Bridge of Life – 1884

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Emil Henry Wuertz: The Murmur of the Sea

Emil Henry Wuertz – The Murmur of the Sea – ca.1890

Emil Henry Wuertz was a French-American artist, little information about him is available on the web. Wuertz’s The Murmur  of the Sea was included in the book covered in the previous post,  Famous Art Reproduced. Fortunately, the book gave some biographical information, “Wuertz was born on the Rhine. He came to New York at the age of twelve, and went to school in the city. When twenty-six years old he became a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. His masters for a period of eight years were Gérôme, Mercié, Chapu, and Auguste Rodin. The statue here reproduced won a metal at the Chicago Exposition.”
The critic Michael Straus wrote the commentary in Famous Art Reproduced. Straus’ comment on Wuertz’s sculpture was,” A nude boy is seated on the shore listening dreamily to the voice of the ocean. The waves say — — — — —- —.” This quote reflects that the author appreciated the metaphysical level of the sculpture, the limits of human language C.S. Lewis discussed in his address “Transposition”. I recall when I did research for the post on the sculptor Vonnoh, there was no account of the symbolism in her work in the large volume Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women. The book only gave a detailed biography for Vonnoh with a technical account of casting bronzes. If art is only apprehended from a material aesthetic level, the greatness of the works by Michelangelo and Rodin would not be perceived. Although there is a renewed interest in the traditional art of the late 19th century, the contemporary zeitgeist is ignorant of significance of the art. Artists of the period were resisting the mechanical mystical duality brought by the industrial subversion.

Per Hasselberg

Per Hasselberg at work

Per Hasselberg (1850 -1894) was one of Sweden’s leading sculptors towards the end of the 19th century – mainly known for his sensual sculptures. Hasselberg grew up in Blekinge, but moved to Paris as a young man, where he studied under Francois Jouffroy. At the 1881 Salon in Paris Hasselberg’s Snöklockan (Spring Snowflake) was accepted. The sculpture was rewarded with anhonourable mention which lead to the sculptor’s definitive breakthrough and entry into the Swedish art scene. The Nationalmuseum ordered Snöklockan in marble, which was purchased in 1883 at a price of SEK 6,000. The choice of the title Spring Snowflake is not clear, however, unless it is given the widest meaning. It suggests something like the awakening of nature after a long winter’s sleep.

Per Hasselberg ~ Snöklockan ~ 1885

Per Hasselberg ~ Snöklockan (detail) 1885

Per Hasselberg ~ Snöklockan and Tjusningen

Per Hasselberg ~ Tjusningen ~ 1880

Per Hasselberg – Tjusningen (detail) 1880

Per Hasselberg ~ The Frog ~ 1891

Per Hasselberg ~ The Frog (detail) 1891

Per Hasselberg ~ Sleeping Nymph ~ 1892

Per Hasselberg ~ Coco ~ 1890

Per Hasselberg ~ Farfadern ~1886

Raphael Collin: Daphnis and Chloe

Raphael Collin (1850-1916) was a talented French academic artist who is best known for his paintings of Arcadia. Collins became close friends with Jules Bastien-Lepage when he met him at school in Verdun. Collin studied in Paris at the atelier of Bouguereau and then joined Lepage at Alexandre Cabanel’s atelier. Collin helped introduce academic methods to Japan, Kuroda Seiki and Kume Keiichiro studied in his studio, who subsequently assumed  professorships at the Tokyo Fine Art School. At the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889 he was awarded the Grand Prix. I admire Collin’s work for how he combined the sensitivity of Bouguereau’s figures with the rustic landscapes similar to Lepage. For the most part, I find landscapes without figures to be ineffective as escape imagery. Figures within Arcadian landscapes are symbolic of the harmony which has been lost by modernization.

Raphael Collins – Youth – ca.1890

I found this black and white reproduction of Collin’s Youth in the Famous Art Reproduced book I discussed in the previous post. Web searches for the painting did not find a color image, except for Collin’s preparation study for the painting. As I did research, I noticed there were several paintings of youthful couples. Later I found that Collin had illustrated a book of the ancient Greek story Daphnis and Chloe in 1890. Many of Collin’s paintings were translated into illustrations for the book. One of the illustrations in the book is identical to the painting youth. It is difficult to know the circumstances of the publication since some of the paintings were finished much earlier than the publication.

Raphael Collin – Daphnis and Chloe – 1877

Raphael Collin – Daphnis and Chloe – 1877 (detail)

Raphael Collin – A Greeting Gift

Raphael Collin – Adolescence

Raphael Collin – The Blue Kimono

Raphael Collin – Daphis and Chloe title page – 1890

Raphael Collin – Daphnis and Chloe illustration – 1890

Raphael Collin – Daphnis and Chloe illustration – 1890

Raphael Collin – Daphnis And Chloe: Making An Offering To Pan illustration – 1890

Famous Art

Famous Art Reproduced 1904

A few years ago, I found a very old book printed in 1904  titled Famous Art Reproduced. I think of the book as an important historical document of what the actually state culture was a hundred years ago. Often I feel like the protagonist of 1984, Winston Smith, digging to discover the actual past. The first thing I noticed was that there were no Impressionists paintings in the book; there was few landscapes. Most of the paintings covered are
either portraits or figurative paintings of some kind. This means that the account in art history of a century ago in books is to a great extent a construct of modernist ideology,
not an accurate account of the state of culture of the past.

Alfred-Pierre Agache – Vanity

Many of the paintings covered in the book can’t be found with a web search from the title. It may be that some of the pieces are now lost and the images in this book are all that remains of their existence. For example, the first image in the book, Alfred-Pierre Agache’s Vanity, I found an other version of the painting which did not include the man which seems to be a study for the more elaborate painting reproduced in the book. I was struck by how modern the woman is in appearance, but the title Vanity is obviously critical of such modernity.

Eugen von Blass – The Good Brother

It seems that the second image in the book, Eugen von Blaas’ The Good Brother, was intended as contrast to the first. The prevalence of intimate paintings of children in the book reflects that the old values still had a great influence. Art was not limited to impersonal experience of form texture and color, it was still about people. Several of Bouguereau’s paintings are included with commentaries expressing great regard for his art.

Carl Marr – The Flagellants

The first time I heard the word bourgeois was in an art history book that claimed that modern art was a negation of bourgeois values. Since the bourgeois were conservatives who supported artists like Bouguereau, I assumed they were the good guys. But  H.R. Rookmaakers’  Modern Art and the Death of Culture made me realize that things are not so simple. Many of the paintings in the book are huge historical paintings of religious subjects. Carl Marr’s The Flagellants is a good example. Rookmaaker brought attention to the fact that the context of many religious works painted by academy artists of the 19th century was significantly different from the sacred paintings of the past. New methods of historiography were developed in the 19th century; a preoccupation with measurements, dates and geography. Rather than depict meaningful biblical subjects, many of the academic artists set out for precise reconstructions of history. Rookmaaker wrote, “if we paint events’ as they would have been seen’, they may well be interesting as history, but lose their true content, for there is no sense of being things of importance for all history and for all mankind.”

Franciszek Zmurko – Evening Song

The disposition of Franciszek Zmurko’s Evening Song is very different from the “historiography” of Marr’s painting. Zmurko presents a mythological scene with a poetic sense of representation. The difference between the two paintings is the difference between Lord of the Rings and a book report on Thomas Jefferson. The open sky and the balance of the composition gives the sense that each of the figures have significant part to play. Tranquil imagery of this kind evokes (at least for me) the longing for the far-off land C.S. Lewis described.

Auguste Trupheme – The Singing Lesson

The collective of boys in Auguste Trupheme’s The Singing Lesson are grounded in the cluttered material reality of a class room. Music is not given the open space to resonate as in Zmurko’s Evening Song. The painting is not a historical subject but Trupheme illustrated the scene with same disenchanting preoccupation with detail. The painting brings to mind an observation of Lewis, “He lives in the crowd; caucus has replaced friendship.” Rookmaaker pointed out that there was not much difference between many of the Salon artists and the Impressionists, both shared a basic outlook on reality that was positivist, painting what the eye could see. So both the “historiography” realists and the Impressionists actually reflected the same utilitarian view. In contrast, art from the earliest times was more than what the eye could see, it held a position with religion to give humanity a place universe, a view of what ought to be. Of course there was strong counter movement amongst artists in the 19th century to symbolize something beyond banal positivism but this longing was scrutinized by rational society. Today, the scrutiny manifests itself in the transgressions of postmodernism.

Henry Oliver Walker

Henry Walker ~ A Morning Vision ~ 1895

Many paintings by Henry Oliver Walker (1843 –1929) were included in the last post of the Library of Congress but Walker’s work outside of the library is just as beautiful. Walker’s paintings reflect how influential European traditional art was on the American artists active in the late 19th century. The influence of traditional culture is apparent in the illustrations and advertising in American publications at the turn of the century.

Henry O. Walker ~ Musa Regina ~ 1905

Henry Walker ~ The New Moon

Henry Walker ~ Eros and Musa

Henry Walker ~ Contemplative Nude by a Stream

The Murals of The Library of Congress and the Enviroment of Fascism

Henry Oliver Walker ~ Lyric Poetry ~ 1896

The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. The Beaux-Arts style building is decorated with the works of more than fifty American painters and sculptors. The murals of the building seem to be influence by the atheistic of the French Symbolist painter Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) The work of Henry Oliver Walker (1843-1929) is predominant in the building. Walker was part of the Cornish Arts Colony in New Hampshire which included Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), it seems that the younger artist was influenced by Walker.

Henry Oliver Walker ~ Endymion ~ 1897

For many, it is difficult to imagine how paintings of nude women and children would be permitted in a government building. The fact that prelapsarian images are not supported by institutions today is due to the growth of fascism. Wilhelm Reich recognized that fascism was not limited to “political parties” which had formed in Germany and Italy, rather it was the organized political expression of the psychological structure of modern man’s character. Reich defined fascism as “the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life.” Since the suppression of life affirming character occurs during childhood, it is not too surprising that art which affirms the fullness of being is perceived as a preoccupation of pedophilia. This view is due to the liquidation of all values outside of rationality of machine civilization. The pose of the figure in Walker’s painting Endymion is a quote from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.

Charles Sprague Pearce ~ The Family and Education ~ 1897

Henry O. Walker ~ Boy at Winander ~ 1897

Walter McEwen ~ Bellerophon ~ 1897

Abbott Thayer: Angels

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Angel ~ 1889

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849 – 1921) was an American artist. Thayer is often claimed to have been a naturalist but this classification is misleading. He is best known for his angel paintings which reflect the spirit of the Pre-Raphealites. Granted, his spontaneity and improvisation of his artistic methods was very different than the technique of Pre-Raphealites. He began to paint winged in the late 1880s to express the transcendent qualities he saw in the female subject, he said:

“Doubtless my lifelong passion for birds has helped to incline me to work wings into my pictures; but primarily I have put on wings probably more to symbolize an exalted atmosphere (above the realm of genre painting) where one need not explain the action of the figures.”

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Boy and Angel ~ 1918

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Angel

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Caritas ~ 1895

Hugo Simberg: At the Crossroads

Hugo Simberg ~ Tampere Cathedral fresco and The Wounded Angel

I find the work of Hugo Simberg (1873-1917) fascinating and intent on making several posts to cover the range of his art. Simberg was an important figure in the symbolist movement and is regarded as the most influential Finnish painter. Simberg is best known for his unconventional allegorical paintings. Many of Simberg’s paintings depict moody boys which seems to reflect an understanding of what C.S. Lewis called the “dark ages of boyhood.” At first, the public found Simberg’s symbolic figures and narratives to be rather odd but they gradually accepted his efforts, and he was commissioned to paint the frescos for the Tampere Cathedral.

Hugo Simberg ~ The Wounded Angel ~ 1903

Simberg’s The Wound Angel is his best known work, it was voted Finland’s “national painting” in a vote held by the Ateneum art museum in 2006. Simberg himself declined to offer an interpretation of the painting, suggesting that the viewer could draw their own conclusions. I will only say that the painting may express the despair of modern youth Lewis described in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.

Hugo Simberg ~study for The Wounded Angel ~ ca.1903

The Finnish National Gallery’s Archives has a collection of nearly a thousand photographs taken by Simberg. The artist often had the family of friends model for his paintings. His photographs offer a unique insight into Simberg’s method of working. I will dedicate a post in the future to his photography.

Hugo Simberg ~ At the Crossroads ~ 1896

At the Crossroads is not as well-known as The Wounded Angel but I think the painting is just as effective. The little angel could be the same angel in both paintings. A man stands at the crossroads of life, he is persuaded by an fair angel and a juvenile devil to take opposite paths. I believe that men as children are inclined to follow the angel but unfortunately, the modern educational system is a cause of disillusionment. So the man may be duped by the dark side. I can imagine the gray little devil ridiculing the man so that he will not follow the path of the gentle angel. He would shout crude accusations, “You’re just a pathetic dirty minded sissy if you follow her! Be a real man and take the rocky path.” It seems the crude little devil of Simberg’s painting has gotten the best of contemporary society.

Edvard Munch: No Place of Rest

Edvard Munch ~ The Scream ~ 1893

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker. He is famous for his intense use of color and body attitudes to express love, sickness, and anxiety. He planned much of his work as a “frieze of life,” on the theme of “the joys and sorrows of the individual human seen close…” His exhibitions greatly influenced the German expressionist movement of the early 1900’s. His best known work is The Scream, painted in 1893.

Edvard Munch ~ Eye to Eye ~ 1894

I thought it would be appropriate to cover Munch at this time so that a few of his “frieze of life” paintings could compared to allegorical paintings of the previous post. In the past, art often expressed a spiritual longing but Munch’s art seems to reflect the state of a person who is hardly capable of joy. Humanity has a longing for a state of harmony with God, this can be expressed by what Francis Schaeffer calls integration points. For example, music can bring a quietness. While tranquil landscapes are often thought as a place of rest, it has been forgotten that sex is also a point of integration. Munch’s despair may have been from trying to make sex a final integration but lost sight of the fact that the union of a man and woman is a genuine place of rest.

Edvard Munch ~ Anxiety ~ 1894

Erich Fromm made a case in The Sane Society that the rational structures of modern society can destroy a genuine experience of self. People can be conditioned to be estranged from the deepest needs of the heart. Unfortunately, the patrons of the arts who are in high positions of industry are often the most alienated members of society. The morbidity of Munch’s paintings would appeal to the elites who had lost the capacity for happiness. The fame of Munch seems to illustrate a point made by Fromm, “As a matter of fact, his defect may be raised as a virtue by his culture.”

Edvard Munch ~ Puberty ~ 1894

Considering how academia is blind to the recognition of these issues, it was surprising to find insightful reflects on Munch’s Puberty in an art history textbook. John Canaday wrote:The flaw in Munch’s art is that this mood, being unrelieved, becomes monotonous. Adolescent is certainly a time of uncertainty and unbalance, but it is also a time of passionate curiosity and exciting discovery. Making no concessions, Munch suffers from the mistaken idea, an immature one, that pessimism and profundity are synonymous in any observation of the human condition.”