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.

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