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Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Washington Square Park, New York City

Washington Square Park, New York City

New York City has hundreds of iconic landmarks, parks, monuments, streets, and buildings. During the early 20th century it was a bustling city, full of excitement, investment, and room for expansion and it quickly became a destination for travelers, immigrants, and artists. Art societies and academics became widely accepted and popular, and popped up all over the city. The depictions of New York increased dramatically throughout this time period. This metropolitan destination  could not be missed by any one in the art world, and many moved there to be part of the burgeoning art scene. Therefore, it is no surprise that dozens of prominent artists in the NBMAA’s collection lived and worked in New York City, and derived endless inspiration from the city. (more…)

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Christmas Boxes in Camp-Christmas 1861, 1862. Winslow Homer (1836-1910). Print from Harper’s Weekly, January 4, 1862.

150 years ago this month, the American Civil War began four years of battle that claimed almost a million lives and led to the abolition of slavery. Not surprisingly, the war impacted artists and photographers, who produced shocking images that revealed scenes that were far from romanticized. Many people disapprove of remembering such a horrible event, demonstrated by the reaction certain works received at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Lincoln bicentennial commission. Despite the silence of many American art museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently organizing a survey of the war’s effects on American art that will open in November 2012, which will include works such as Winslow Homer’s Prisoner’s From the Front. Winslow Homer’s War-inspired works cannot be ignored, as many of them made his reputation. Not only did the they allow him to develop as an artist, but also his works had a great impact on citizens across the country. The NBMAA is proud to organize an exhibition in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. (more…)

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General George Washington Resigns, 2002. Mary Dwyer (b. 1959). Acrylic on Wood, 26 x 23 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, General Purchase Fund, 2001.109.

The Revolutionary War took place after the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776. Each side partook in a war that lasted until 1783. George Washington was commander-in-chief of the American forces, and Benedict Arnold was also on the confederate side of the Americans. Both of these important Generals are famous to this day, yet for very different reasons. Washington became the first President of the United States of America because of his noble actions during the war. Conversely, Arnold was unhappy with Congress’ decision to pursue charges of money-related issues against him, and also with their lack of interest in promoting him. His anger turned into his changing of sides, thus becoming a traitor of the American Revolution. (more…)

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Revolt of the Underworld. Rafael de Soto (1904-1987). The Spider, June 1942. Oil on canvas. Promised gift of Robert Lesser

From the depths of the Great Depression through the era of World War II, Americans turned to inexpensive novels as a form of entertainment and a way to escape their woes. These gripping stories, written before the age of television, were charged with adventure and mystery. Buyers were immediately attracted to their covers. The situations depicted were fraught with drama, their narratives simple and direct, and their colors were vibrant.

These artworks were, however, intended for one-time use and were then invariably thrown away to avoid the cost of storage. Over the decades, almost all the original covers commissioned by publishing houses from the leading illustrators of the day—also esteemed for their portraits, landscapes, and still lifes—have been lost. (more…)

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The Problem We All Live With, 1964. Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). Oil on canvas. The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.

Illustration art has not  beeen consistently deemed a true art form in America.  There are a number of reasons that surface which create doubt in people’s minds about illustration’s status as “true art.”  For instance, illustrators must abide by the wants and needs of their clients and audiences, possibly restricting their own artistic freedom.  In addition, illustration is not usually viewed in its original form, as it is mass produced for publication use and sale.  The public does not see the illustrations in their original form.  Many believe that the increased availability of the produced prints devalue the original illustrations themselves.  There were thousands of original works destroyed by publishers due to lack of interest in the artwork after it had served its initial purpose.  There is something disquieting about handling illustrations in this way.  Due to the enthusiasm of many artists and educators today, illustration is increasingly recognized as a true art form. (more…)

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Battle of Midway, 1942 for Battle Birds Oct. 1942. Fredrick Blakeslee  (1898-1973). Oil on Canvas. The Robert Lesser Collection of Pulp Art.

Pulp Fiction (no, not the movie) was termed from the cheap paper on which these publications were printed. Often, they were illustrated with vivid depictions of the story at hand. Each and every cover and illustration of the books and dime novels was done by hand, typically in a large scale with great attention to detail. These pulp magazines eventually evolved into comic books and, later, into graphic novels as the story lines became more complex and the illustrations more elaborate. Fredrick Blakeslee (1898-1973) and Water Baumhofer (1904-1987) launched successful careers from pulp illustration, their work gracing the covers of series such as Battle Birds and Doc Savage. Such artists paved the way for today’s well known graphic-novel illustrators such as Darwyn Cooke and Frank Miller.

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