Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Solid portraiture, from the Ukraine

Though I find small pockets of admiration for this illustrator around the web, I have no idea if my readers have found him, so it falls to me to point him out. That's the basic gist of what this is all about.

Years ago, in a legendary box delivered to me by the archivist at Dover, I found among the other treasures there, three plates by an artist whose name was new to me. Sigismund de Ivanowski (1875-1944) was Ukrainian born, he was taught in some of the best art cities of Europe, (Munich, Paris, London...) and by some of the best painters of the day. (James Whistler, anyone?)

After emigrating to the US in 1902, he made his home in NJ, and was active in the NYC art market, including a membership in the Society of Illustrators. Portraiture was his forté, and a series he ran with Century Magazine on Heroines in Literature lasted EIGHT years, from 1906-1914. I don't know the total number of pieces he did for that series, but it has my wheels turning. Most of the work of his that I have seen, has been from that group, as were those three plates in the box. Jane Eyre, (above) was one of the three, and years later, when Dover brought out a Thrift Edition of the tale, I knew there was no other image for our cover.

Ivanowski's illustration output seems to have waned in his later years, I imagine portraiture became the focus of the latter part of his career, though I found evidence that he did some teaching as well. Anyone have any info? 

The other plates were found perusing the net, and I should certainly point you over the great group of plates that turned up at GoldenAgeComicBookStories. If you haven't stumbled on this blog yet, Mr. Door Tree does a great service uncovering Golden Age material over there.

There was also a fantastic story about the search for, and the background on (another version?!?) of the last piece here, of Maude Adams as Peter Pan—by another artist. The story is the kind of bookstore/garage sale archeology we are all hoping to stumble across. (My own take on this, is that the painting in the story, is very likely to have been done after Ivanowski's Peter Pan. Copying art from early print was a convenient way to learn to paint at that time, and these early color plates would have been ideal subject matter.) Could it possibly be Ivanowski's own color sketch? The color palettes are too close for one not to have been related to the other.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Second Generation

It is not that uncommon for a group of siblings to grow up to be artists (in this case, illustrators) together. Growing up in a house that encouraged creativity, spurred on by a desire to outdo each other, families like the Robinsons, the Brocks, and the Leyendeckers, all yielded more than one successful career illustrator. On what seems to me to be be a somewhat rarer occasion, a child follows in the career of the parent. I don't think this happens as frequently due to the fact that following a parent—who has a generation of experience more—would often seem an insurmountable task for a child to form their own identity. (Though sometimes following a path already blazed is the easier route)  If it does happen, there is often some deviation in market or medium, to take advantage of the positives, while eliminating the direct competition.

Here is a British artist who followed after his father in the earlier part of the Golden Age of Illustration. Gordon Frederick Browne, (1858-1932) was most active in the 1880-1905, when line was still the king, and color was going through rapid changes in process and application. (Of a similar era to Walter Crane) While Browne was successful and prolific in his day, he had followed after a previous generation—his father being Hablot Knight Browne. Those who are fans of Charles Dickens' early illustrated works would be familiar with work of the elder Browne, who worked under the pseudonym of Phiz.

Always ready to explore some mythology, George Frederick Browne's Norse pieces here come from 1913's The Book of The Sagas. It is plain to see how much more comfortable he was with his line work— the loose, fluid forms, and his mastery of understanding value in ink contrast sharply with the rigid uncertainties that came with exploring early color reproduction. The younger Browne illustrated hundreds of books and worked for the British magazine's of the day, such as The Illustrated London News, Cassell's, The Pall Mall Magazine and Puck. The last of the six images is from a volume of fairy tales Browne had collected himself, which features a very unusual take on Beauty and the Beast.

Thanks to Bill O'Connor for the lend of the Saga material.

Also in the news—my upcoming Dover profile on W. Heath Robinson, and his early works has just been announced for next February. This will examine his more traditional works, before the humorous contraptions and cartoons that made up the latter part of his career became the major component of his output.