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Archive for the ‘The Arts’ Category

Anyone in northern California, or it’s Central Valley, in the foreseeable future should make a detour to see the Leyendecker room at the Haggin Museum in Stockton. The Haggin is one of the few (possibly the only) American museum to recognize Leyendecker’s work as being artistically valuable, so it’s not surprising that they also have the largest collection by the artist.

Leyendecker, like his later colleague Norman Rockwell, is typically dismissed as a mere illustrator by modern hackademics and artless critics. An oft repeated criticism of these two men is that their work was commercially commissioned (as opposed to being their innermost expressive gestures of the soul untainted by the rot of avarice) and therefore not art. If we follow that flawed logic to it’s absurd conclusion, the Louvre should deposit the Mona Lisa in a trash bin since the painting was (unfortunately for it) a commissioned portrait — just like nearly everything by Titian and Rubens.

I don’t have the time in a single post to cover the full history or merits of J C Leyendecker, or America’s golden age of illustration. However, for the purposes of this blog it is relevant to point out that it was Leyendecker who gave us the iconic Arrow Collar Man. His stylized renderings of form and fabric are wonderful, at times even fetishistic, and celebratory of an ideal form of beauty for the era.

Note: the paintings which became magazine covers are medium sized easel paintings, oil on canvas; also on display are the series of lifesize children’s faces for Kellogg’s cereal ads.

http://www.hagginmuseum.org/leyendecker/

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It hardly needs mentioning that not only did artists paint better 85 years ago, they also dressed better. English artist Albert Ludovici jr, pictured here, certainly had style, maybe even more than his paintings, depending on your taste. From the artiste’s bow under his wing collar to the shark fin fold of his pocket square, he knew how to take dashing photograph. Let’s not overlook the perfectly rakish tilt of his hat.

And it won’t surprise you to know that he was close with another artist of discriminating fashion taste — Whistler, of whom Ludovici had this to say:

[Whistler] was always neatly dressed, in black in the winter and white in the summer, and his hair, with the white lock which grew near the centre of his forehead, carefully arraigned. He always changed for dinner, and used to appear at the [Society of British Artists] meetings in evening dress

Apparently some of the other members of the Society found this pretentious, whereas I would venture to say he was showing the proceedings, and some of the pusillanimous attendees, more respect than they may have deserved. But Whistler was a gentleman about most things, despite what Ruskin, and an entire generation of critics, said about him. Whistler was most definitely controversial in both art and life… as if there’s a difference.

Below Whistler’s portrait by William Merritt Chase, now in the Met.

Whistler could be a fashion critic as well; for example, when asked by a notable society lady what he thought of her new and expensive frock, he adjusted his monocle and replied:

“There is only one thing…” and paused.

“…Tell me what is wrong!”

“Only that it covers you, madam,”

The picture of Ludovici and anecdotes are from his autobiography An Artist’s Life in London and Paris 1870-1925, published by T Fisher Unwin, London, 1926. Image of Chase’s Whistler nabbed from Wikipedia.

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