Sunday, June 3, 2018

American Innocence Through the Eyes of Winslow Homer

Greetings everyone! Hoping your summer is turning out to be a pleasant one. I was looking for a printmaker whose work portrayed the joys of summer, and the joys of an idyllic period when people could walk the beach, play along the shoreline and admire the beauty mother nature continues to bless us with. To my surprise I found that Winslow Homer had created such images in his prints.Being more familiar with his other media, these images were a delight to find, so I decided to share them with all of you inked up family out there.

Homer's got a fantastic sense of light, line and composition. He captures our activities on the beach or playing in an open field. His era is late in the 19th century, when America still felt innocent of the terrors of the world. The scenes are sedate, showing a slower pace of life, and they are most welcome. Homer gives us a slice of life nearly lost. We can view these images and feel the quietude of sitting by a campfire, or digging for shells on the beach, or fishing alone on a river. We can see the intenseness of the task at present and can appreciate the ability of the subjects to focus on the project before them. The characters aren't distracted with iphones, or earbuds, or motor boats. This is an time when one can commune with Nature and being present with our friends is expected rather than fight for someone's attention to get them away from their cell phone.

Homer's prints reflect similar subjects as are found in his other works. They have the same feel, although he tended to keep these images fairly literal more than his painted media pieces which evolved into a semi-abstraction. They are clear in minute focus. The soldier sitting in the tree setting his bead on a target is a quirky composition, but we feel his intense stare. The girls walking on the beach in their swimwear are a marvel for us when compared with their scantily clad granddaughters of today. The boys on the canoe fishing and playing in the sand have a Huckleberry Finn vibe.

All in all, Homer made some mighty fine prints. Here's his biography for you to get more information about his work and influences.

Homer (1836 – 1910) was the preeminent figure in 19th c. American art. He was mostly self-taught and began his career as a commercial illustrator; eventually he developed a reputation for capturing the essence of simple 19th c. American life. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he grew up mostly in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area. Homer’s mother was an amateur artist and his first teacher. Homer's father sought fortune in the California gold rush, but when that failed, he left his family to go to Europe. After Homer graduated from high school, his father arranged for an apprenticeship for Homer with J. H. Bufford, a Boston commercial lithographer, with whom he worked for the next two years.

Homer's illustrations contributed to several magazines about life in Boston and rural New England. His early works are often defined by his use of clean lines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark and engaging figures. Prior to 1859, Homer lived in Belmont, Massachusetts in his uncle's mansion, which was the inspiration for a number of his early works.In 1859, he moved to New York City and opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building. He attended classes at the National Academy of Design until 1863. His mother tried to raise funds to send him to Europe for further study but Harper's magazine sent him to the front lines of the American Civil War, where he sketched scenes of battles and camp life.

Homer also illustrated women and the effects of the war on the home front. During this time, he also continued to sell his illustrations to periodicals. After the war, Homer turned his attention primarily to nostalgic scenes of childhood and young women.

Near the beginning of his career, Homer demonstrated a maturity, depth of perception, and mastery of technique. His realism was objective, true to nature.

Before exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer traveled to Paris, France in 1867 where he lived for a year. He practiced landscape painting while continuing to work for Harper's, depicting scenes of Parisian life.
Homer's main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more affinity with the French Barbizon school and the French artist Millet. His interest in depicting natural light parallels that of the early impressionists, as he was already a plein-air painter in America.

Throughout the 1870s, Homer continued painting mostly rural scenes of farm life, children playing, and young adults courting.
He became a member of The Tile Club, and for a short time, he designed tiles for fireplaces.
He started painting with watercolors on a regular basis in 1873 during a summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident. The impact of these works was extraordinary.

Homer became reclusive in the late 1870s, living in Gloucester. For a while, he even lived in secluded Eastern Point Lighthouse . In re-establishing his love of the sea, Homer found a rich source of themes while closely observing the fishermen, the sea, and the marine weather. After 1880, he focused mainly on working men and women.
In 1883, Homer moved to Prouts Neck, Maine (in Scarborough), and lived at his family's estate in the remodeled carriage house close to the ocean. During the rest of the mid-1880s, Homer painted the sea.

Homer had become a "Yankee Robinson Crusoe, cloistered on his art island" and "a hermit with a brush". The New York Evening Post wrote, "in a place by himself as the most original and one of the strongest of American painters."

Homer frequently visited Key West, Florida between 1888 and 1903. He also traveled to Canada and the Caribbean. He died at the age of 74 in his Prouts Neck studio, which is now a National Historic Landmark owned by the Portland Museum of Art.

Homer never taught art but his works strongly influenced later generations of painters for their direct and energetic interpretation of man's relationship with Nature. Robert Henri once called Homer's work an "integrity of nature". The innocence that his images project is appealing; a view of a simpler time, a state of being.

Homer's attitude about his working method is best captured in this quote: "Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems."

In 1962, the U.S. Post Office released a commemorative stamp honoring Winslow Homer's famous oil painting "Breezing Up", which hangs in the National Gallery in Washington DC. In 2010, The Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp featuring Homer's "Boys in a Pasture", as a part of a series entitled "American Treasures".

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Celebrated World War I Artist Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson,1889 –1946, was one of the most famous war artists of World War I. He studied at the Slade School of Art and later became affiliated with the Italian Futurist movement.

Born in Hampstead, he the only son of the war correspondent and journalist Henry Nevinson and the suffrage campaigner and writer Margaret Nevinson. He went to study at the St John's Wood School of Art and later on decided to attend the Slade School of Art.

Nevinson also studied at the Academie Julian from 1912 to 1913. In Paris, he met several artists, including Pablo Picasso, shared a studio with Amedeo Modigliani, became acquainted with Cubism and also met the Italian Futurists Marinetti and Severini. In June 1914 he published with Marinetti, a manifesto for English Futurism called Vital English Art which declared Futurism as the only way of representing the modern machine age. He identified with the futurist movement, which focused on technology, industrialization, violence, and death.

At the outbreak of World War I, Nevinson spent time in France with the FAU and the British Red Cross Society, mostly working at a disused goods shed by Dunkirk rail station known as the Shambles. It housed thousands of badly wounded troops, who had been evacuated from the Front and were practically left abandoned to fend for themselves. His works depicted soldiers suffering and dying on the battlefield. Some found his work too controversial to display.

Nevinson enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and spent the rest of 1915 working as an orderly and laborer at the Third London General Hospital in Wandsworth. He was released from service in 1916 with acute rheumatic fever.

These experiences inspired him to create a powerful series which used the influences of Futurism and Cubism. In 1917, Nevinson was appointed an official war artist by the Department of Information, where he visited the Western Front. When he returned to London, he first completed six prints on the subject of Building Aircraft for the War Propaganda Bureau portfolio of pictures. Nevinson was now focused on individuals, either as people displaying heroic qualities or as victims of warfare.

Shortly after the end of the war, Nevinson visited New York in May 1919 and spent a month there while his prints were shown to great acclaim. He claimed to have been the first artist to depict New York in a modernist style but several British avant-garde artists had painted in the city before World War I. His exaggerated claims of his war experiences, together with his temperamental personality, made him unpopular, and the result was that his post-war career suffered.

In the 1930s Nevinson painted a number of cityscapes in London, Paris and New York which were well received. His large painting of 1932 and 1933, The Twentieth Century used futurist devices to attack Fascism and Nazism.

During World War II, he worked as a stretcher-bearer in London throughout the Blitz, during which his own studio was hit by bombs. Nevinson obtained a commission from the Royal Air Force to portray airmen which allowed him to fly in their planes to develop pictures of the air war.

He presented a painting to Winston Churchill, which still hangs in Downing Street. Shortly afterwards he suffered a stroke which paralyzed his right hand, caused a speech impediment and left him wheelchair-bound. Nevinson eventually taught himself to paint with his left hand. He died at the age of fifty-seven.

1939 Associate of the Royal Academy
1938 Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Velvety Prints of Grace Thurston Arnold Albee

Grace Thurston Arnold Albee (1890 –1985) was an American printmaker, born in Rhode Island. She is recognized as an important American Regionalist printmaker of the twentieth century.

She won two scholarships to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design. She married in 1913 and made art while living in Paris with her husband, muralist Percy F. Albee, and their five sons between World Wars I and II. While there she associated with artists, including Norman Rockwell and Paul Bornet.

As one of the most productive periods of her career, Albee perfected her art and gained entry into the French salons, exhibited her works at independent French galleries and at art shows back in the United States. All of these venues gave her significant positive reviews from both French and American art critics.

Albee developed a passion for depicting urban and natural environments when she lived in France. Her work was received well; exhibited at several Paris Salons and had her first one-woman exhibition at the American Library in Paris in 1932.

She and her family returned to the United States in 1933 and lived in New York City. In 1937, they moved to Pennsylvania where her subjects switched to rural themes. These images of rural life are considered her best known works.

From 1933 onward, Albee was able to dedicate herself to full-time printmaking and her art began to command serious national attention. Her work from this point forward demonstrates confidence as a professional artist. Her prints also became increasingly recognized in the American art community with the best printmakers in the field.

Back in the United States she began to gain significant recognition into museum collections. Albee became known for imagery about the effects of human habitation in the country and city. She became a keen observer of the world around her, and her career was shaped by outside forces affecting the American art scene, viewed through her personal life. Her images often narrate a story.

During her sixty-year working life, she created more than two hundred and fifty prints. She won numerous awards and honors, and worked actively into her 90s.

1942 National Academy of Design Associate member in 1942, full member in 1946.
The second woman in the history of the Academy to receive the Associate distinction in the class of Graphic Arts,
The first female graphic artist ever to attain full Academician membership.
Upon her death at the age of ninety-five, she had accumulated over fifty awards.

Public Collections:
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Georgia Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
The Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Agnes Miller Parker: A Delight to Behold

Agnes Miller Parker (1895–1980) was a printmaker and illustrator whose work is not as well-known amongst admirers of 20th century UK printmakers. While her colleagues, such as Gwen Raverat, Robert Gibbings, and Paul Nash, have all received critical admiration Miller Parker is just now receiving her due.

She was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1911 to 1917, and briefly taught at the school.

In 1918 she married the painter, William McCance; and spent most of her career in London and southern Britain. She was one of four engravers who worked at the Gregynog Press in the early 1930s. Miller Parker's technique created a light not seen before in printmaking and she successfully introduced a new element into the medium, and few printmakers have been able to emulate it.

In 1955 she moved to Glasgow. She then lived at Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. She died in 1980 at Greenock.

Her first prints, made in 1926, reflect her interests in cubism and the short-lived movement called Vorticism, active in London in the 1920s. She learned the print medium from her colleagues, Gertrude Hermes and Blair Hughes-Stanton.
Miller Parker turned away from the private press movement towards the commercial publishers, and it was here that she was to produce some of her most distinguished books.

The main body of her work consists of prints for book illustrations, demonstrating fine drawing skills and her love of black and white design. She illustrated the following books:
The Fables of Aesop (1931)
Through the Woods by H. E. Bates(1936)
The Open Air by Richard Jefferies (edited by Samuel J. Looker, 1949)
Various titles for the Limited Editions Club of New York
and editions of the works of Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy.

Miller Parker's body of work show her love of nature through her curving sinuous lines and elegant combination of textures and flow of composition. It is a pleasure to find this printmaker's work is seeing a resurgence of attention. Check her out and see if you can collect some prints before they become too hard to find.