Monday, July 25, 2016
Sunday, July 24, 2016
6 x 6"
oil on panel
One of the star attractions in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait's 1856 painting 'A Tight Fix - Bear Hunting, Early Winter'. The scene brings to mind the movie The Revenant - a true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, who's mauled by a grizzly and abandoned by his group of fur trappers. Interesting is, although there's no direct evidence this scene is based on Hugh Glass, it is strikingly similar to scenes in the movie. The Museum of Native American History, not far from Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas has one of the only rifles known to belong to Jim Bridger, one of the fur trappers in Hugh Glass's hunting group.
The summary of Tait's painting, in the museum, describes it as 'an icon of American cultural mythology and masculinity'. When it was first shown, art critics said Tait 'botched the representation of the second hunter, making it unclear whether he's aiming at the bear - neither bear nor man is winning - so a bullet is the only solution to the 'tight fix'.
More interesting, the summary goes on describing 'critics were particularly sensitive to an impasse between white and black fighters.' Keep in mind, Tait painted this during the deadlocked war over slavery in the Kansas Territory. The books of this time were Uncle Tom's Cabin and stories of Davy Crockett where hunting animals and runaway slaves were talked about in similar terms.
Arthur Tait was born British, and moved to New York City at the age of 31. He established a hunting camp in the Adirondack Mountains - completely immersed in the frontier life and sport hunting - he produced many paintings and lithographs of related scenes that were wildly popular during his career.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
6 x 6"
oil on panel
Norman Rockwell's profound 1964 painting 'The Problem We All Live With' is on the top of my Rockwell list. It depicts 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, an African-American girl, being escorted to an all-white public school in New Orleans, by four deputy U.S. marshalls. What is so very effective is the viewer is seeing the point of view from the angry crowd, the hint being the racial slurs on the wall and the tomato splattered in between the figures.
The image was published in a 1964 issue of Look magazine - Rockwell's contract with the Saturday Evening Post ended in 1963 due to Rockwell's continued frustration with the magazine's limitations on his expressions of progressive social interests, including his personal views on civil rights and racial integration.
Norman Rockwell's granddaughter, Abigail, recently wrote a compelling article in the Huffington Post titled Would There Be Norman Rockwell Without The Saturday Evening Post? Rockwell undoubtedly evolved as an illustrator between 1916 and 1963 - becoming a storyteller with his images like no other. His career with the Post yielded 322 covers before he ended his contract.
The CNN writer, Bob Greene, wrote about that event in this article. Within that article, these words struck me "..the message of the painting is so powerful that it goes well beyond the incident it portrays. The message transcends our usual Democrats-vs.-Republicans, conservatives-vs.-liberals, left-vs.-right squabbling. Rockwell was a genius not just because of the technical skill of his artistry, but because of his eye for the telling detail. And in "The Problem We All Live With," the key detail is how he framed the four U.S. marshals who are accompanying that child to school. We do not see their faces; in the painting, the men are cropped at their shoulders.
That is the power and the story of the painting: Four men were accompanying Bridges to school, yes, but the point was, the United States of America was accompanying her. We see the men's "Deputy U.S. Marshal" armbands, and that is what matters. The painting tells us: This country may have its flaws, but when right and wrong are on the line, the nation, in the end, usually chooses to stand for right."
Monday, July 11, 2016
10 x 9"
oil on panel
Hoping this basset hound puts a smile on your face.
From the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Please click here for a larger view.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
6 x 8"
oil on panel
Jessica Penn, the sultry woman in Robert Henri's painting, was an actress and dancer in the famous Ziegfeld Follies. I love Robert Henri's work - he introduced a new way of portraiture by painting on a mostly black background where the model's face is the main focus, emerging out of the dark surroundings.
Robert Henri has an interesting bio - his last name was Cozad, his middle name was Henry. His father founded the town of Cozaddale, Ohio. In 1882, Mr. Cozad was in a dispute with a rancher over the right to pasture cattle on the Cozad family's land - he ended up shooting and killing the rancher, cleared of wrongdoing, but the town turned against him and his family. Mr. Cozad fled to Colorado with his family, changed their names to erase the incident and his sons posed as adopted children under the surname Henri.
As a young man, Robert was a student at the famed Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, went back and forth to Paris, taught at the New York School of Art - students were famous painters like Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, George Bellows to name a few. Also to note, Mary Cassatt was his distant cousin.
Robert Henri led a successful, celebrated life as a painter and died at the age of 64.
From the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a woman admires Robert Henri's portrait of 'Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes'.