Monday, July 31, 2017

NEW REFLECTIONS ON OLD COMBAT ART, part 1



One of the rich and remarkable stories of American illustration has remained buried in museum vaults for many decades. It's the story of the eight illustrators who were selected in 1917 to accompany American troops into battle in World War I.
The illustrators were selected by Charles Dana Gibson's "Pictorial Publicity Committee," under the auspices of the wartime "Committee on Public Information." They were:
Harvey Dunn
William James Aylward
Walter Jack Duncan
George Matthews Harding
Wallace Morgan
Ernest Clifford Peixotto
 J. AndrĂ© Smith
Harry Everett Townsend
There have been some articles and even a book written about these artists, but their artwork was exhibited at the Smithsonian in the 1920s, then placed in storage where it has remained hidden from public view. There are some 700 works in this extraordinary collection.

Now, to commemorate the anniversary of America's intervention in World War I, the Smithsonian Institution has unearthed this art and placed 65 works on exhibition. The show is a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. It will remain on display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC until November 2018.






Going through the exhibit, I was struck by both the talent and the resourcefulness of the artists.  Here for example is Harvey Dunn's metal sketchbox which he designed so he could store long rolls of paper inside, safe from the elements, and still have a flat surface on which to draw:






Over the next few days, I'm going to show and comment on some of my favorite pictures from the collection and offer some thoughts about the significance of the exhibition.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

THE WALL OF PRESIDENTS AT THE SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS, part 2

In February I wrote about the wall of portraits at the Society of Illustrators in New York, where each president of the Society was drawn by a prominent illustrator of the day.   

Unlike typical portraits which are designed to flatter subjects who know little about art, the portraits on the walls at the Society were pictures of working artists, done by working artists, to be displayed in front of a judgmental audience of working artists. 


Here is another assortment of drawings worth considering from the wall.  Which are your favorites?

Personally, I'm crazy about Victor Juhasz's lively, observant drawing of Dennis Dittrich:

Dennis Dittrich portrayed by Victor Juhasz
Juhasz drew his subject from life.  Compare the vitality of his drawing with Norman Rockwell's cautious portrait of Wesley McKeown.

Wesley McKeown by Norman Rockwell
Rockwell lent technical mastery to everything he touched, yet I think this portrait lacks the spirit of Juhasz's drawing.

Bob Peak's drawing below also strives for vitality, but I find his racing stripes an artificial way of achieving it (unlike Juhasz's drawing where every "loose" line serves a purpose). 

Walter Hortens by Bob Peak
I'm guessing that Diane Dillon's portrait by her husband and partner Leo is unadventuresome because he likes her just fine the way she is, and can't see that any experimentation or distortion is warranted.


Diane Dillon by Leo Dillon
The talented Greg Manchess employed charcoal for these drawings of Berenson and Schultz:

Richard J. Berenson by Gregg Manchess 
Eileen Hedy Schultz by Greg Manchess 

Master of the pencil Paul Calle manages to combine sharp realism with a brisk look:

Doug Cramer by Paul Calle
Last, here is a drawing of Shannon Stirnweiss by Dean Ellis:


Shannon Stirnweis by Dean Ellis 

What do you think?