Gavril Pavlovich Kondratenko 1854 – 1924

The fifth of a series of snow themed posts, for this season of the year.

Winter Morning
Winter Morning 1901 (Click all these images to enlarge them please.)

Landscape with pagoda
Landscape With Pagoda

Gavriil Kondratenko was born in 1854.

Studied at The Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Fine Arts from K.Gun and M. (Mikhail Konstantinovich) Klodt.

Author of the numerous Russian landscapes of the Caucasus, the Crimea and the other Russian governments.

Took part at the exhibitions of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts. Was the member of the Society after A.Kuinji and took part at the numerous exhibitions of this group. Was also the member of the Saint Petersburg Society of Painters and the Fellowship of Russian Illustrators.

The paintings of Gavriil Kondratenko are contained in The State Tretyakov Gallery and The State Russian Museum as well as in numerous museums and private collections.

It’s difficult to find many links to Kondratenko’s work, other than dozens of replica painting workshops that sell knock-off versions of his paintings.

I found a link to the Sphinx Fine Art gallery that has a little article about him, and a picture (Landscape at Dusk) that is painted from almost the same angle as the snow scene at the top of this post, but painted in Summer. Here’s the link.


Victor Westerholm

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“Midwinter Sun” by Victor Westerholm (1860-1919)
( Click for big, as usual. )

This is the second in a seasonal series of paintings featuring snow.

Westerholm’s bio reads:

born at Turku, Finland on January 4, 1860 and died in Turku on 19 November, 1919.

He first studied under Eugen Dücker in Düsseldorf. He then became a student of Jules Joseph Lefebvre at the Académie Julian in Paris.

He taught at the school of the Society of Art in Turku and was the director of an art museum in Helsinki.

He often painted winter landscapes and sunsets in the archipelago of Åland, where he had his summer residence.

In 1886, he invited several artists to his summer home, “Tomtebo” in Önningeby, Åland, thus beginning the famous artists colony there.

We have a picture of him at his easel:
photo of Westerholm at his easel.

There’s a contemporary appraisal of his work in an old issue of “The Studio”, written by Count Louis Sparre, that you can read here.

There isn’t a large number of Westerholm’s works floating around the web, which probably indicates that much of it is still in private hands, and rarely comes up for auction.

Ferret out what you can, and post your finds into the comment box below.


John Young-Hunter

A couple of years back I posted a series of winter themed paintings in the run-up to Christmas. ( Go back to the post about Arkhip Kuinji, on the 17th December 2007 ).

Those posts were short and sweet, and featured painters whose work I had recently stumbled upon. The only thing that united them was that they all painted snow scenes at one time or another in their careers.

I have to admire anyone who paints in sub-zero temperatures. I find it hard enough to take photos in the snow, especially if I’m trying to fiddle with the camera controls. My own efforts at painting watercolours in sub zero (substitute petroleum for water) made me feel a bit sick.

So I take my hat off to the artists who will be showing their works here over the next ten days. I hope you enjoy them, and that you are inspired to go and look for more work by these doughty draftsmen. And women.

thumbnail of Kitzbuhl in the snow

(Click to enlarge, please.)

Shortly after John Young-Hunter’s visit, this Austrian village was almost completely destroyed by an avalanche. One of the more unusual hazards of painting in the snow.

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(Click to enlarge, please.)

John Young-Hunter (American, 1875 – 1955)

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, John Young-Hunter was a portrait, figure, and landscape painter with a highly aristocratic upbringing in England and a career that reached to the American East and Southwest.

He was raised with privilege and extravagance among the cultural elite of London, and close family friends included John Singer-Sargent and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

John received much recognition for his portrait painting in England, and his paintings were exhibited in the National Tate Gallery in London and the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. From 1900 to 1913, he exhibited at the Royal Academy.

In 1913, he traveled to the United States, pursuing his fascination with American Indians whom he had seen in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show performances in London.

In 1917, he first visited Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. Cutting his connections to the European art world, he settled in Taos in 1942 and became a part of the colony of artists around Mabel Dodge Luhan.

He had a home and studio on the eastern edge of town and replaced his painting of society portraits with Indian subjects, landscape, and still life. (Courtesy: AskART).


Looking Forward to Summer, already.

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Click the image to enlarge it, please.

This sumptious fruit salad was painted by Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire (French, 1845-1928)
It’s called “Still life with fruits”. You can really smell those peaches. Yum!

The French writer Marcel Proust frequently visited her popular salon / studio and claimed that she had created more roses than anyone, after God.
Proust also immortalized her as the elegant hostess Madame Verdurin in his novels (movie version: Time Regained). She illustrated his first book of short stories, Pleasures and Days (1896).


The Public Works of Art Project (PWA)

75 years ago, during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration created the Public Works of Art Project.
Artists from across the United States who participated in the programme, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934, were encouraged (and paid) to depict “the American Scene”.

There’s an exhibition currently showing at The Smithsonian American Art Museum that shows a wealth of pictures from the era, and you can see a selection of them below.

As far as I can make out, there isn’t a description anywhere on the site about how the artists themselves were selected and commissioned. Such information would provide us with a fascinating insight into the cultural imperatives of the ruling elite of the time, and how it projected political and social values to the population through art.

Roosevelt’s brief was simple:

New Deal art would be art that was: …native, human, eager and alive… that was painted for the people of this country by their own kind in their own country, and painted about things they know and look at often and have touched and loved.

The majority of the paintings and artworks were destined for exhibition in public places, after all, so it wouldn’t be too remote to suppose that there was some common attitude, or message, that the government might have wanted to convey to the populace.
Many of the painters do indeed use a sort of documentary, or reporter’s, approach to the people and events they show in their pictures and murals, which makes a common approach seem likely.

It might also be that the artists were trying to give some sort of value for money to the people who commissioned them in the PWA program, or maybe they were moved to paint the victims of the depression through fellow feeling for the poor and dispossessed.
After all, it’s not unusual for artists to be familiar with the breadline at the best of times.

My selection has been guided solely by aesthetics, rather than any themed messages the artists might have wanted to broadcast to the world.

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Paper Workers by Douglass Crockwell
(Click all these images to enlarge them)

“Douglass Crockwell spent a good part of his career creating illustrations and advertisements for the Saturday Evening Post. His paintings appeared in promotions for Friskies dog food and in a poster for the American Relief for Holland, which won him a gold medal from the Art Director’s Club in 1946. Crockwell created murals and posters for the Works Progress Administration during the Depression, and also experimented with short flip-card films that could be viewed through a mutoscope. A few years before he died, Crockwell estimated that he had drawn four hundred full-page images, of which more than three billion prints had been made” (New York Times, December 2, 1968).

Here’s how the deal worked for the artists:

Between 1934 and 1942, for an average monthly check of $53 ($23 per month in some southern states), ten thousand artists produced (in round numbers) 100,000 easel paintings, 18,000 sculptures, 13,000 prints, 4,000 murals-and innumerable posters and photographs. These statistics do not include commissions for work in twelve hundred new post offices, in courthouses, in buildings for federal departments, for state and local facilities, and parks. Work-relief organized and funded by the New Deal was important to those who got work, and both the work-relief and commissioning programs were important as well to those citizens into whose lives professional art was introduced for the first time. As early as September 1934, Roosevelt’s schoolmate and friend, the painter George Biddle, could write with considerable justice that the New Deal had made “American art conscious as never before” and made the artist as never before “conscious of the fact that he is of service to the community.”

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E Martin Hennings Homeward Bound
(Born: Penns Grove, New Jersey 1886 Died: Taos, New Mexico 1956)

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Barber Shop by Ilya Bolotowski
(Born: St. Petersburg, Russia 1907 – Died: New York, New York 1981)

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Ross Dickinson Valley Farms
(Born: Santa Ana, California 1903 Died: La Jolla, California 1978)

thumbnail of Leon Kroll - Summer, New York
Leon Kroll Summer, New York
Poor old Leon only received a measly 53 dollars a month for this type of gruelling work. (Sorry Leon; it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.)

Moses Soyer, below, was quite happy to focus on other artists who were engaged in the PWAP.
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Moses Soyer – Artists on WPAP
Soyer relates:

During 1935 and 1936, I was employed by the WPA as a supervising artist to execute ten portable murals, the theme of which was `Children at Play.´ I was given a beautiful studio on 59th Street [in New York City] and a group of artists and models to assist me. The painting represents my assistants working on the murals after [my designs] had been traced onto canvas. . . . In the foreground my model Mary Anne is posing for Jacob Friedland, who built all the easels, props, stretched the canvases, etc. and kept us all amused and in good spirits by his stories and jokes.

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Gale Stockwell – Parkville Main Street.

Gale Stockwell was a cartoonist for his high school paper, then studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1933 he was hired by the Public Works of Art Project, which paid a small wage to many struggling artists during the Depression. He lost track of a lot of his work after giving it to the government and many years later was not only surprised to find one of his images on a jigsaw puzzle, but also discovered that this same painting was hanging at the White House! Stockwell worked in advertising until 1954, when he retired to devote all of his time to painting colorful images of Missouri towns and landscapes.

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Millard Sheets – Tenement Flats

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Saul Berman – Riverfront
This painting shows people on make work programmes clearing snow. Eight years later this New York waterfront was booming with ship building operations for World War 2.

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Unknown – Underpass, New York

thumbnail of Paul Kauver Smith - Sky Pond
Paul Kauver Smith, – Sky Pond.

From this view of the Sky Pond, we can now lift our eyes to the Passing Clouds….

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Dederic Brandes Stuber – Passing Clouds

This selection emphasises the preponderance of easel paintings produced under the PWAP. There were many other initiatives to decorate public buildings, from the Coit Tower in San Francisco, to the innumerable government owned Post Offices spread across the American nation.

If this current economic nadir should ever match the severity of the 1934 Depression, I wonder which artists might be supported by today’s governments, in order to keep the painterly arts alive?

Or would all the money be siphoned off to the same “merchant bankers” whose greed caused the problems in the first place?


£25,000 Prize Waiting – Only Figurative Painters Need Apply

The Mall Galleries, London, are waiting for the public’s vote in order to decide the winner of The Threadneedle Figurative Painting Prize.

From an initial pool of 2,700 entries, 71 pictures have now been selected for final judging, with 7 works shortlisted for the prize. The final decision rests with the public, though, who can vote for their favourite until 12:00 noon on the 3rd of September, 2008.

As a bonus, all the works chosen for the exhibition are eligible to win the £10,000 Federation of British Artists Selectors´ Choice, which means a possible pot of thirty five grand to the winner, because there’s no bar to winning both prizes.

I’ve picked a few pictures that caught my eye (below), but why not click over to the exhibition and get voting for your own favourite?

Please click these thumbnail images to enlarge them.
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Paul Brason: “Eighteen”

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Nick Pace: “Off Road SUV”

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Tai Shan Schierenberg: “Self Portrait”

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Nina Murdoch: “Untitled”

The winner of the 2008 Threadneedle Figurative Prize will be announced at an Awards ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 3 September and will be posted on their website.

The winner of the competition was Nina Murdoch, with this last image.
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Pressed Metal Paintboxes

When you were very young, did you ever yearn for a great big paintbox like this?

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The 92 cake behemoth paintbox of my dreams, by Page of London.
(Click it to see it bigger, please.)

I remember wishing for a really big paintbox while using the piddly little 12 and 18 tablet jobs that were just within range of my minuscule pocket money, and struggling to make clean mixes from the small thin tablets of grainy colour. I nearly always ended up with mud.
The paper available to me at the time had a nasty rough texture that was amazingly absorbent. The people who made it must have been trying to put young people off the idea of painting.
I think it was called sugar paper, though I can’t for the life of me imagine the link between sugar and paper, unless sugar was once sold wrapped in this nasty feeling stuff? (It was. – ed)

The smell of those paints is something I can recall with great clarity across all these years. It was given off by the gum used as binder for the colours.

A few years into my junior painting career I finally managed to obtain one of these lovely ninety two colour tin paintboxes. I had the idea that the more colours I had at my disposal, the less likely I was to make mud. I was mistaken of course, because it never occurred to me to use two water pots to keep my crappy little brush and palette clean, so I went on merrily polluting my colours as I dabbled them together. The paintbox was left behind with so many other aspects of my childhood many many years ago.

I picked up the example above on eBay a couple of years ago for pennies; far less money than it was originally sold for way back in the day. Mind you, it was rather well used:

thumbnail of The muddy interior of the paintbox
Someone else had been happily making mud in this paintbox, and you can see clearly how thin the little tablets of paint were.

It was made by a company called Page of London who once dominated the kiddy paintbox market in Britain and its former colonies.

Once you get past its period charm, you begin to see some seriously disturbing perspective weirdness. Notice how the ship and the row of cranes have diverging vanishing points even though the ship is presumably parallel to the dockside cranes. The scale of the lorry is completely out of whack with the train, which in turn makes nonsense of other scale relationships between the porters, their barrows and so on.
Throw in the dangerously low flying aircraft and what appears to be an attempt at lowering cargo straight down funnel number two, and you begin to understand why the boy on the left might seem to be jabbing himself in the eye with a large bodkin. I wonder how much the illustrator was paid for this.

There’s one more tiny but puzzling detail in this lid design. It’s the name of the ship: ‘Royal Blue’. When you open the paintbox there must be nine or ten different blues; but no Royal Blue. This is not odd in itself, but when you see one of their other tins that also includes the name of a colour (Vermilion) splashed large on the side of a bus in the scene, you start to wonder if there is a continuing theme running through all the lid designs.

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A double decker called Vermilion(A)

Unfortunately my swift (read: lazy) sweep of the web looking for more evidence to support this theory didn’t turn up any more examples to support the idea. You’re welcome to send in further examples if you know of any, or better still, own one of these paintboxes.

Here are a few more that I found on the web, and I bet that whatever they look like, they’ll all have that unforgettable smell.

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Alice In Wonderland.

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Robin Hood.

This last one is arresting. Can you spot any strangeness in this picture?

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The Girl, The Pony and the Kite Flier.

Sadly, my web search for Page of London did not reveal that the company was still in existence. It would be nice to know that they had somehow made it through to the 21st century, but I suspect that they would have had to abandon the decorative tins somewhere along the journey into this century, and adopt boring plastic packaging just like everyone else. (I also wonder what happened to the illustrator – Did he / she go on to do covers for colouring books? The style would suggest a strong aptitude for that kind of work.)
Whatever the outcome for the company, this end of the artist materials market is being very well supplied by the Chinese now. (Supplies! Supplies!)

Teun Hocks

Dutch artist Teun Hocks doesn’t cut corners. His striking images are carefully created using brushes and camera. No digital montage tricks: Hocks hand paints backdrops on which he then photographs himself in bizarre poses. His work exhibits a delightful sense of silliness. (Click to make bigger).

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His work has a whiff of Réné Magritte, but with a delicious dollop of whimsy…

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Self Portrait.

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Teun Lamp

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Shooting Stars.

Link to his website, and a link to a recent interview on the publication of his book, ‘Teun Hocks’, published by Aperture.

The Adam and Ron Show

Artists Ron English and Adam Neate will share more than their ideology in an upcoming two man show at the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms (London) in May.

(Please click the small images to enlarge them)
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Press it. You know you want to….

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(Thanks Damien, Thanks Edward.)

The two images above are the work of the American Ron English, and they neatly encapsulate his intellectual approach to his art, wherein every cultural icon is up for grabs and ripe for reinterpretation.

Have a look at this excerpt from “POPaganda: The Art and Subversion of Ron English”. He’s working in a thoroughly post modern arena whose early pioneers were Hippies, Yippies and Adbusters.

Adam Neate’s label is “Street artist” which might help to justify the alignment of these two artists in the same exhibition, and they found they shared common ground when Neate wrote a gushing fan letter to English.

Neate first came to public attention by leaving thousand(s?) of his paintings on the streets (and the pavements too, presumably) of London, for people to take, or leave, at will.

These links will give you a flavour of his work.