Category Archives: Composition

Charles Tunnicliffe 1901 – 1979

The fourth in a seasonal series of short entries featuring snow.
Today’s subject is Charles Tunnicliffe; Etcher, engraver and painter, whose principal subject was bird life and the natural countryside.

thumbnail of Company of Whitethroats
Company of Whitethroats” ( Please click these images to enlarge them ).

Charles Tunnicliffe RA OBE
1901 – 1979

Charles Tunnicliffe was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Known primarily for his depiction of birds and other wildlife, notably illustrations for Tarka the Otter. He is widely regarded as the greatest UK wildlife artist in modern times.

After studying at the Macclesfield and Manchester Schools of Art he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London, gaining his teaching diploma and a further scholarship to study in the RCA’s new Etching and Engraving School. He stayed on in London to develop a career as an etcher and engraver, producing some of his finest etchings during this time. In 1928 he returned to Macclesfield, earning a living mainly from commercial artwork, much of it for the farming industry.

He was elected A.R.E. in 1929 and R.E. in 1934.

He was a regular contributor to the Royal Academy and was elected as an associate in 1944, becoming a Royal Academician in 1954.Sir Kyffin Williams encouraged Charles to show his personal reference collection of measured drawings at the R.A. in 1974 – the exhibition was a great success.

Tunnicliffe moved from Cheshire to Anglesey in 1947 where he lived until his death in 1979. He believed strongly in observing and sketching direct from nature, especially around Cob Lake, the Cefni Estuary, South Stack Cliffs, Llyn Coron, Aberfraw, Cemlyn, then when back at Shorelands spending many hours creating a superb set of sketchbooks full of accurate and colourful ‘memory drawings’.

These sketchbooks are works of art in themselves and are now kept as part of the Tunnicliffe Collection at Oriel Ynys Môn, along with his measured drawings and other examples of his work – including original wood engraving blocks, etchings, watercolours, oil paintings, pencil drawings, scraperboards and book illustrations.

The RSPB awarded him its Gold Medal in 1975 and he was also honoured with an OBE in 1978.

His work hangs in numerous public galleries, while in Macclesfield’s West Bank Museum a room has been dedicated to his work. A Charles Tunnicliffe Society exists to maintain his legacy

(via Gateway Gallery)

Tunnicliffe engraving
Tunnicliffe engraving, with his wife Winifred looking on.

thumbnail of Grey Partridges
Grey Partridges
Another chilly scene, that also shows Tunnicliffe’s mastery of pattern and layout design.

thumbnail of Ladybird Books
“Ladybird” Books

Tunnicliffe illustrated many of the Ladybird series of childrens books, which sold in millions.

Here are some links to sites with numerous pictures by Tunnicliffe:
1) http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=639
2) http://artmight.com/gallery/search/%28keyword%29/Charles+Tunnicliffe
and 3) The Charles Tunnicliffe society website:

http://www.thecharlestunnicliffesociety.co.uk/siteindex.html

A well meaning website that reflects many aspects of Tunnicliffe’s output, but small, postage stamp size images, daft (but futile) impediments to right clicking and yellow backgrounds. Yes. An artist’s homage site with YELLOW backgrounds.
What I find especially galling, given Tunnicliffe’s mastery of so many graphic arts, is the use of COMIC SANS for all the text. Pur-lease!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Transformations Through Light – Photos by Helmar Lerski

There’s an interesting reference resource for all you CGI modellers and lighting artists looking for new ways to build on the standard three lamps setup. Take some time to study an exhibition of eighty-eight photographs by Helmar Lerski (1871–1956) currently showing at the Ubu Gallery in New York and running until the 25th of June, 2010.

The show is called “Transformations Through Light”, and it demonstrates Lerski’s skill at moulding his model’s features into dramatic volumes; a skill he learned and practiced as a cinematographer in the avant-garde German cinema of the nineteen twenties and thirties.

His compositions lent an air of grandeur to all of his subjects, even though many of them were beggars, labourers, and people found in dole (welfare) queues.

thumbnail of From The Factory
(Aus dem Werk) “From The Factory”, 1936
(Please click this image to enlarge it)

Lerski was involved concurrently in the two major, emergent mediums of his time: film and photography. Born in Alsace in the then German city of Strausburg, he became involved in the theater and, in 1896, moved to New York to pursue a career in acting, eventually working at the Irving Place Theater and later the German Pabst Theater. It was in this setting that Lerski first became aware of the unique visual effects achievable with stage lighting. Drawing from his acting experience, he began investigating photography as an artistic medium after meeting his wife, also a photographer. While photographing their colleagues, Lerski experimented with a series of portraits that severely manipulated the lighting effects. The resulting images formed a base for his later success in both commercial and art photography.

Extreme close-up of dramatically lit male model.
(Verwandlungen des Lichts) “Untitled” 1936

Extreme close-up of a boy from Yemen, dramatically lit.
(Yemenititischer Knabe) “Yemenite Boy” 1933.

Close-up of a farm labourer's hands holding the handle of a tool.
(Hände eines Landarbeiters) “Farm labourer’s hands” 1944

Extreme lighting on the face of a housekeeper, by Helmar Lerski.
(Die Hausangestellte) “The Housekeeper” 1929

This body of work upholds the artist’s declaration that “in every human being there is everything; the question is only what the light falls on.”

Among Lerski’s many models was a young Francis Bacon, who had a dramatic studio portrait taken by Helmar Lerski, “a Swiss photographer and cinematographer”. Bacon was later to tell Stephen Spender that he had been very impressed by the work of the photographer who had produced striking effects using mirrors and natural light filtered through screens, but that he could not remember the artist’s name.” (Surprise!)

Not all of Lerski’s subjects were portrayed in this stark dramatic style, he made some dreamy portraits of a fellow film maker Leni Riefenstahl, who incidentally lived to the ripe old age of 101.

thumbnail of Leni Riefenstahl
(Click for pin-up size version)

The Tate Modern has a small collection of Lerski’s work.

There’s a tiny link to a PDF of thumbnails of all the photos in the Ubu Gallery page, and here’s a direct link.

Link to The Ubu Gallery

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Two Faces of Modernism

When you look at the photographs below that show father and children walking together and playing together, it’s almost impossible for us, or them, to imagine people a few hundred kilometres away who wanted to kill them. Those complete strangers who’d never met the father or his children, were plotting to put them to death even as the shutter clicked on these simple family scenes.
(Please click on the small images below to enlarge them)

thumbnail of Imre  Kinszki and son
Imre Kinszki with his son, Gabor, around 1929. Photographer unknown.

thumbnail of Imre  Kinszki and daughter
Imre Kinszki with his daughter, Judit, around 1929. Photographer unknown.

Imre Kinszki (1901 – 1944) was a pioneer of modernist photography in Hungary, and a founder member of the group called Modern Hungarian Photographers.1
thumbnail of Judit Kinszki
Imre Kinszki: “Judit” 1934
This is Judit, Gabor’s younger sister, fast asleep. The picture of a slightly older but very much awake Judit (below), was taken in 2007.
thumbnail of Judit Kinszki, 2007
Judit Kinszki. 2007. Photographer unknown.
Judit somehow survived the wave of oppression and death unleashed on Hungary by German forces and local Fascists2 in World War 2, despite being confined to the ghetto, and then being oppressed by the forces of Communism soon after. She lived to tell the tale of her family. She even managed, as a 10 year old, to make sure her father’s portfolio survived the war. And now, as an old lady, she has related all her childhood memories to the Centropa archive.
Click here to see a short film about Judit Kinszki and her father

The last picture of Gabor Kinszki, taken by his father, Imre
Gabor Kinszki by Imre Kiszki, 19423
The boy, Gabor, was deported to Buchenwald concentration camp, aged 18. On arrival he was asked if he had a trade, so as to assess his usefulness to the forced labour regime in the camp. He made the mistake of telling them he was a student. He was immediately stripped naked, tied up and hosed with water, quickly freezing to death in that particularly harsh 1944 winter.

thumbnail of Portrait of Imre Kinszki
Portrait of Imre Kinszki Photographer and date unknown.

Enjoy the following images that show how much potential Kinszki had as a young photographer.
Think also of what that talent might have become, had his life not been so arbitrarily snuffed out.

thumbnail of Man with bicycle next to a staircase
View from above. Man with bicycle next to a staircase Unknown date.

thumbnail of Building Workers
Building Workers 1932

thumbnail of Children Walking
Children Walking Unknown date.

thumbnail of City Heaven
City Heaven Unknown date.

thumbnail of Shadows
Shadows Unknown date.

This next one is amazing. Consider the planning needed to pull off a shot like this…
thumbnail of Night Phantoms
Night Phantoms 1938

Please click the image below to reveal the other face of Modernism mentioned in the title of this post. You will see him with his dealer, admiring a looted work of art.
thumbnail of Art appreciation class

This last picture brings this post to an end. In my view it’s the best of Kinszki’s legacy; his masterpiece, if you like.
You’ll have to invest it with your own metaphors and projections. Given the history of Imre Kinszki and the events in Hungary around the time of his death, that shouldn’t be difficult to do.

thumbnail of Bridge and Fog
Bridge and Fog 1930 (Be sure to enlarge this picture by clicking on it).

It’s the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Elizabeth Bridge) across the River Danube, that links the towns of Buda and Pest. (I’ve done some de-spotting and de-scratching on this image, but no tonal adjustments.)
The photo is part of the touring show called “FOTO. Modernity in Central Europe. 1918 – 1945″ which has just ended at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and was previously shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, USA.
The catalogue for the exhibition is available here:-
Continue reading

Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. He was a peace loving Hungarian born in 1901, twenty eight years after the cities of Buda and Pest were united to form the capital of the new state of Austria-Hungary. He was one of the 65-80 thousand Christians considered to be Jewish at the time of the German occupation in 1944, who, together with the orthodox Jewry, made up nearly a quarter of the town’s population. His professed religion was Greek orthodox. In 2001, barely half a percent of the population was Jewish. []
  2. The Arrow Cross Party []
  3. This is Gabor. This is the last picture that Dad took, or to be more precise, this is the last photo we have of Gabor. You can see already that he is seriously engaged in studying. This is the children’s room, he had a school desk, which had a metal framework and it could be adjusted as he grew, you could always put the screws higher up; but here it was at its maximum height. And you can see that he had a fountain pen. The photo was taken in 1942. Dad couldn’t take any more photos after that. Because there was no sunlight, he was never at home when it was light, he could only come at night; if he had been at home when there was sunlight, he could have continued taking photos.

    In the ghetto we didn’t know anything about Auschwitz and what happened to those in forced labor service. It didn’t even occur to us that my father might not be alive. My mother and I went every day to the Keleti railroad station and went up to everybody who got off and asked them. Once my mother found a man who had been in the same group, and he remembered my father. He said that their car had been unhooked and the train went on towards Germany . They got off somewhere and went on foot towards Sachsenhausen – this was a death march. They spent the night on a German farm, in a barn on straw, and the man [who came back] said his legs had been so full of injuries that he couldn’t go on, and had decided that he would take his chances: he wormed himself into the straw. He did it, they didn’t find him, and that’s how he survived. He didn’t know about the others. We never found anyone else but this single man. So it’s clear that somewhere between this farm and Sachsenhausen everyone had been shot. But we interpreted this news in such a way that all we knew about him was that he would arrive sometime soon. We didn’t have news of my brother for a long time, then my mother found a young man who had worked with my brother. He told us that when they arrived in Buchenwald in winter, they were driven out of the wagon, and asked them what kind of qualifications they had. My brother told them that he was a student. This young man told us that the Germans immediately tied him up, it was a December morning, and they hosed him down with water just to watch him freeze to death. Those who didn’t have a trade were stripped of their clothes and hosed with cold water until they froze. I think that at that moment something broke in my mother. She was always waiting for my father, she refused to declare him dead even though she would have been eligible for a widow’s pension. But she waited for my father until the day she died. She couldn’t wait for my brother, because she had to believe what she had heard. Why would that young man have said otherwise? []

________________________________________________________

Trailer for “The Tale of Despereaux”

Odd, isn’t it, how the marketing of a film involves both the precise identification and targeting of likely audiences, while at the same time trying to maximise its appeal to the broadest possible market. Focusing and defocusing in one go. How wide of the mark this effort can sometimes be.

Now if somebody had said to me a few months ago: “Here’s a story of an unconventional mouse who’s either too stupid or too brave to react instinctively to cats and the rest of the hostile elements in the world” I’d have thought “ORLY?” So what?” Another movie, another trope.

However, If they said: “Hey, Guess what! Someone has managed to grasp all the unresolved* dynamics of late 17th Century Dutch classicism and plug them into modern day CGI animation”, I’d be all ears. And eyes.

Look at these stills from the Despereaux trailer, then compare and contrast…..

thumbnail of The tiny mouse with the gigantic ears
(Click these images to enlarge them, please)

My guess is that the credited production designer, Evgeni Tomov, (Triplettes de Belleville) has had a big influence on the look and feel of this modern take of a classical fairy tale. That’s what production designers do, after all.

There’s often turmoil and conflict in the pre-production stages of an animated feature, and I don’t doubt for a moment that The Tale Of Despereaux has been exempt from the usual artist-versus-committee versus money men infighting that so often generates a hobbled and compromised artistic vision.

My own whiskers go all a-twitch when I see the cheese in this shot below. This is cartoon cheese! There are very few, possibly only four cheeses in the non cartoon world that naturally generate holes in their structure. One of them stopped doing so about 15 years ago, for reasons that are still not wholly (sorry) understood:- Emmental, and the other three are Jarlsberg (whose roots only date back to the 1850’s), Maasdam (created in 1984), and Leerdammer (invented in 1976). The bacterium Propionibacteria shermanii is mostly responsible for the holes. Apparently, ( and turn away if you are a bit squeamish) one ton of Jarlsberg cheese is consumed every hour, (guess where).

It makes you wonder if the director, Rob Stevenhagen, (a notorious Dutchman) , might not have swung a bit of nationalist influence in the crucial cheese hole production meeting discussions.

thumbnail of The cheese with the implausibly large holes

What’s for sure is that (cheesy issues aside) that there is a very strong visual influence from the Dutch classicists of the epoch 1650 – 1700. It’s all a bit golden if you ask me.

thumbnail of Despereaux's parents

thumbnail of Despereaux's parents again

thumbnail of The gorgeous Princess Pea
Voiced by some 18 year old.

thumbnail of Brothel scene  1658

This last picture is inserted here to try and justify one of the main arguments of this blog; I.E. That cinema has now picked up the unfinished business that painting was about to deliver in the period just before the arrival of photography. That was the moment when several centuries of hand made cultural excellence were wantonly shoved aside in favour of machine made representation. Now, ironically, the machine made image has made a 180 degree turn, and now feeds off the creative fruits left dangling a century ago.

Test the validity of this idea by looking at this picture by Frans van Mieris the Elder. He painted it in 1658. Then decide if his aim was uncannily similar to a modern day render wrangler working at Framestore CFC. (the company who made Despereaux) To quote: ”

This smooth, precise manner of painting was Van Mieris´s trademark. He was one of the so-called Leiden fijnschilders (`fine painters´). This small panel, painted early in his career, is one of his largest and most detailed works. The various materials and fabrics have been rendered with a realism that is well-nigh unbelievable. Not a single brushstroke can be discerned with the naked eye.

One big difference: Note the behaviour of the two dogs in the lower right of the canvas. There’s none of that in Despereaux.

*(They couldn’t do focus pulls, much as they wanted to).

Lighting Up Dark Chocolate

I was doing a bit of research into colour the other day, and I headed over to the splendid archive of American Cinematographer.

I found the information I was looking for spread across two of the (free to access) archive issues. The Color-Space Conundrum 1, and The Color-Space Conundrum 2. What really caught my eye, however, was a 2005 article about the lighting and shooting difficulties in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The lighting was designed by Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC, in his third collaboration with the director Tim Burton.

Here’s one of Luc Desmarchelier‘s production sketches: (Please click the small pictures to enlarge them)

thumbnail of Art Director's Sketch

And here’s how that scene looked on film:
thumbnail of Production still
(Photoshop. 2003. Movie frame.2005.)
Luc remarks: “I was amazed to see how close they stayed to the original design.”

thumbnail of Production still

Here’s the arrangement of the lights for this scene, that Rousselot worked out with Light By Numbers.
thumbnail of Lighting schema

“Rousselot had a similar respect for the fragile set when designing the lighting for the Chocolate Room with his “marvelous” gaffer, John “Biggles” Higgins.

Rousselot decided early on to keep all the lighting off the set, and to suspend the fixtures from a ceiling grid above the Cablecam installation.

According to Higgins, the massive scale of tungsten lighting fixtures included 600 space lights, 100 Pars, 56 Maxi-Brutes and 12 20K Mole Beams, all suspended from the ceiling.

The total potential power consumption provided by three generators off-stage was 4 megawatts, enough for a small city, although Higgins is quick to point out that “we never used all the lights at once.”

Each space light contained five 800-watt bulbs, and the crew wired each light with two cables, allowing for three intensities: two bulbs, three bulbs or five bulbs. This enabled Rousselot to change the overall intensity without dimming, which changes color temperature.

Half of the space lights provided an overall level for the huge stage and were fitted with black skirts to limit spill. The remaining units could be quickly lowered by cable to provide sources for a scene staged below. To provide maximum coverage, skirted and skirtless lights were alternated on the ceiling grid.”

Click the image below to see the amazing number of lights illuminating the Pinewood set.

thumbnail of Lighting schema

It’s enough to melt your chocolate bar….

Incidentally, the American Cinematographer is having a sale of back issues at the moment for only one dollar an issue, which is ludicrously cheap….

The Perils of Practising Perfect Perspective

thumbnail of Practice makes perfect
(Click to enlarge)

Of course the more perspicacious among you readers of Articles and Texticles will have immediately spotted what the artist is doing wrong in this picture.
That’s right, he’s wearing completely the wrong footwear for the job. He should be wearing very heavy boots so that he can keep his knees down, and support his drawing pad properly. Rest assured however, that he is at least using a lead pencil that won’t float away easily.

The next picture offers an explanation of what might have led to this soggy situation…
(Click it to make it bigger, please)

thumbnail of Eye level

It’s quite obvious that someone has seen the eye level marked on the wall, and confused it with a swimming pool that needed filling. It could easily happen to any of us.

The genius at work behind these wonderful illustrations is, or was, Ernest Norling (1892 – 1974), who brought a splendidly irreverent approach to the slightly plodding subject of perspective in the Walter Foster book, Perspective Drawing. (Cover below)

thumbnail of Ernest Norling's Perspective Drawing

Look through this search of Alibris listings to find a copy of the original edition, which was probably around 1960, maybe a year or two earlier. Walter Foster still sell the title, but I can’t glean from their site whether the illustrations are the originals or a later edition. Maybe you will get lucky on eBay, if you really like this wacko style.

I found these images on Chris Mullen’s wonderful site, fulltable.com (Link to article) – I’ve cleaned them up a bit to eliminate the scanner strikethrough that happens with flimsy paper.

Chris Mullen‘s notes read:

Ernest Norling (1892 -1974) was a stalwart of the New Deal Mural Projects whose two publications on Perspective are models of the way training manuals should be for artists. The illustrations and examples are innovative in that they stress modern objects and scenes. From his cover to the Foster publication, Perspective Drawing, it is sure he has a keen sense of the absurd, and few artists after Hogarth find Perpsective and its aberrations funny.

Have a look at a different approach to the business of explaining perspective drawing, this time from a whimsical British 1950’s angle –

thumbnail of Gwen White's Book of Pictorial Perspective, 1954
Gwen White, A Book of Pictorial Perspective, 1954

thumbnail of Gwen White's Book of Pictorial Perspective, 1954
Gwen White, A Book of Pictorial Perspective, 1954

You will love Chris Mullen’s website, but a little word of caution: save your visit for a quiet day. There is so much to see and discover, but it is not laid out in a way that is completely predictable, which in my view constitutes a large part of its charm.

William Russell Flint

This is post #11 in this mini series of snow scenes.

In terms of technique, it’s the most demanding of all so far in this series. Although it’s only 10 by 13 inches ( or 25 by 33 cm ) it was made difficult by 2 factors. First, when the air temperature is close to freezing, it gets more and more difficult to lay a wash of colour, especially when painting wet – into – wet, as here. (I’ve had to substitute petrol for water in these circumstances, with success.) Secondly, according to Russell Flint’s own account (see below), he was slipping and sliding all over the place on his own pair of skis, so it was hard to stay upright and keep a steady hand on the brush.
thumbnail of The Skier, Switzerland
The Skier, Switzerland About 1927. Watercolour.
(Please click the small picture to enlarge it)

Despite all these obstacles, Russell Flint has created a dynamic composition using a very limited palette. Hats off!
The (auction) catalogue notes continue after the fold >>
Continue reading

Clark Hulings

Another contemporary painter tackles the theme of snow in this contrasty painting, called “Ten Below”. There’s something so American about the title that you might leap to the conclusion that the artist was from the USA. And you’d be absolutely right. His early years were spent in Spain, however.

thumbnail of Ten Below
Ten Below

He worked as a physicist for a while and then as an illustrator in New York before returning to his carreer as a painter, based in New Mexico.
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3- His own website.
More after the fold >>
Continue reading

Richard Müller

The symbolist painter and etcher, Richard Müller, has provided the 8th in this series of snow scenes.
It’s a painting of his from the end of the Second World War.

thumbnail of The Dead Hare
The Dead Hare
The Hare represents Europe, the Jackdaw: Germany and the Magpie is Russia.

The symbolism in the image depends on the audience having knowledge of the contextual background in order to make sense of the painting. When I first saw this picture, I had no way of decoding it. I simply reacted to the quality of the drawing and the composition.

This second image shows Muller’s symbolist work in a more strident mode. It dates from 1942, and presages the imminent threat from Russia in the east.

thumbnail of Drying The Sheets
Drying The Sheets 1942
(Click on the thumbnail to make this picture bigger, please.)

I haven’t succeeded in finding out much more about Herr Muller, but there’s a link to a small gallery here, and a potted biography after the fold. >> Continue reading

Ivan F. Choultsé

This is number seven in the seasonal series of snow scene themed posts. (Don’t try to say that with a mouthful of crackers.)

The first time I came across the work of Ivan Fedorovitch Choultsé, (1877 – 1932) I couldn’t make up my mind whether he was a colourist genius or an early incarnation of the sublimely vulgar Thomas Kinkade.

On reflection, I have to give Choultsé the benefit of the doubt, because he steers well clear of the mawkish saccharine* sentimentality of America’s “Painter of Light”, and he also seems to have been able to get out of the house (or bank, in Kinkade’s case) a bit more, and do some painting from life. I would not be at all surprised to learn that Kinkade was “influenced” by Choultsé, however.

The picture of his that genuinely stopped me in my tracks was this one:
thumbnail of Landscape in Winter
Landscape in Winter
(Click the thumbnail to make it much bigger)

Choultsé liked snow –
thumbnail of Winter morning, Engadine
Winter morning, Engadine
You have to admit that those colours are being stretched just a tad beyond the bounds of credibility. Perhaps it was an effect of the altitude…

Here he is with a non-winter subject –
thumbnail of The Parthenon After a Storm
The Parthenon After a Storm

Gooogle his name to find out about his German origins, his upbringing in Russia, and his travels as an emigré in many lands, and learn how even though he was once almost completely forgotten about, the value of his work is rising rapidly, especially with the nouveau riche oligarchy in the Russian Federation.

*=Aspartame, nowadays, but it doesn’t make such a good alliteration.

There are some potted biographies below the fold…>>> Continue reading