Stevan Dohanos: Mainstream Mid-Century Illustrator

The leading general-interest magazine in the United States for roughly 1920-1960 was the Saturday Evening Post. The Post published both fiction and non-fiction pieces along with cartoons and other features. Like The New Yorker, the Post was noted for its covers. When the latest edition arrived in the mail, a subject of family conversation might well have been its cover illustration. By the 1940s, Norman Rockwell ruled the Post cover roost, and the appearance of one of his cover illustrations usually created the greatest interest.

It was during the 1940s and 50s that the Post's policy regarding cover art shifted from a vignette style (subject matter surrounded by white space or a single background color) to fully detailed paintings. This was in contrast to the contemporaneous "big face" style of women's magazine story illustration by Coby Whitmore and others, where backgrounds were usually sketchily indicated.

To be a cover artist for the Post was the pinnacle for an illustrator, the top of the totem pole. So to enter this elite group during the decades surrounding 1950, one had to paint fully detailed scenes. Rockwell transitioned to this mode, and newcomers accepted it from the start because it was a major road to commercial success.

Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994) was one of those newer artists, and he had great success, painting well over 100 Post covers. His Wikipedia entry is here, a site containing examples of his work is here, and a little more biographical information is here and here.

The consensus of opinion is that Dohanos was a skilled realist who was fascinated by everyday items such as telegraph poles and fire hydrants. One observer suggested that, unlike Rockwell, he was perhaps more interested in the setting than the people and actions that he was depicting. Ernest W. Watson in his 1946 book "Forty Illustrators and How They Work" quotes Dohanos stressing how exhaustively he researched his illustrations.


Dohanos in an advertisement for the Famous Artists School

One of his posters during World War 2

Saturday Evening Post cover, 14 February 1948

Saturday Evening Post cover, 25 November 1950

Saturday Evening Post story illustration, 24 May 1958

Art museum scene - possible cover art

Dohanos left school at age 16 and received little formal art training, making him yet another example of a self-trained artist who did well. Apparently he engaged in fine art as well as commercial work, but nothing of note in that field turned up during a Google image search.

I find Dohanos' illustrations to be technically very well done, but they otherwise strike me as being conventional. So I'm offering faint praise. I find nothing wrong with his work, yet can't get excited about it either. For me, he deserves respect, but doesn't quite merit admiration; he was one of the good ones, but not one of the great ones. However, I am pleased that he found success during his lifetime.

The Bland Art of Giorgio Morandi

It's just me. There is plenty of art out there that I don't appreciate simply because something in my background and personality created a blind spot where it comes to subtle things. For instance, slow movements in symphonies bore me. So does 99 percent of the music Claude Debussy wrote. And slow-paced novels; I'll set them aside if nothing much is happening after the first 50 or 60 pages, regardless of what claims are made regarding their excellence.

As for painting, an example is the work of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). In theory, I ought to like him because he resisted some modernist desiderata. But ... well, take a look:

I'm sorry, but I just can't grasp what is so good about Morandi's paintings in spite of the fact that he has been the subject of increasing praise in recent years. Worse, if someone tried to explain why it is good, I still wouldn't understand.

When it comes to still lifes (not my favorite genre), I much prefer something like this one by David Leffel.

Greg Manchess Scores Again

Greg Manchess paints everything from murals to sci-fi and fantasy book cover illustrations. And he has developed into a master of the bold-stroke school of oil painting. I have dozens of images of his work stashed away on my iMac for both inspiration and regret that I could never be as good.

He blogs on Dan Dos Santos' Muddy Colors group blog, which is well worth following if you are interested in contemporary illustration. Not long ago Manchess posted about a demonstration piece he made for a class he was giving. I found the work astonishing.

This is the image he posted. It shows Elsa Lanchester in her "Bride of Frankenstein" movie role. Note Manchess' bold use of blue-green as the main facial color and the contrasting orange-brown on the hair and part of the background (this is not far from normal skin color when toned with white). But the feature that really grabbed my attention is the small areas of warm color below Lanchester's right eye. Without that, the composition would fall apart.

Color is one thing. But what about value (dark-light)? I ran the image through iPhoto to create a black-and-white version. Sure enough, it works well too, which is another factor in creating a satisfying painting. Plus, having colors express values isn't always easy to do, yet Manchess dashed off this painting in less than two hours, including time to fix an area that got smudged by (of all things!) a cat.

As a final test, here is the photo Manchess probably used for reference. His color-based values scheme holds up well when compared to this.

Museum of Biblical Art

 The Museum of Biblical Art is a two room space within the American Bible Society at 1865 Broadway in Manhattan. We recently had a chance to visit for the first time and enjoyed an exhibit of works by Tiffany Studios all pertaining to commissions by churches. The display includes stained glass windows, mosaics, metalwork, interior design proposals, and large scale cartoons for windows.

The Soldier of the Lord by Tiffany Studios

The 'soldier of the Lord' comes from the letters of St. Paul who describes a life of faith as a life at war with the kingdom of darkness. Of course, our weapons are not against flesh and blood but against dark forces in the spirit realm. The laurel on his head indicates victory. Although his attire is copied from Renaissance mercenaries who fought for material treasure, his eyes gaze heavenward because that is where a Christ-follower's fortune is being built. The sword represents the Bible which is the 'sword of the Spirit' that speaks truth, healing, and advances the Kingdom of God. The Tiffany exhibit ends on January 20, 2013.

Francisco Pons Arnau's Women

There's not much information available on the Internet about Spanish painter Francisco Pons Arnau (1886-1953). Charley Parker on his Lines and Colors blog corroborates this. A Spanish-language site devoted to him is here, but featured images of his works are blown up from their source sizes resulting in blurring. And it too offers almost nothing in the way of biography.

Pons painted landscapes and formal portraits, but his favored subject matter was beautiful women. Here are some examples.


Clotilde tomendo te

Confidencias - 1925



Mujer sentada

Retrato de mujer

Visiting the Boston Sculptors Gallery

Last week the Boston Sculptors Gallery made Facebook 'likes' into balloons. To celebrate 20 years of achievement, the cooperative gallery invited volunteers to turn every new like on the gallery Facebook page into a large inflated balloon at the gallery. You can see the gallery as it filled on their page, while the video below has pics of the works and Yours Truly and Son tucked in! Founded in 1992 by 18 area artists, it has become the premiere sculpture gallery of Boston presenting work by contemporary sculptors.

Until January 27th you can see work by all thirty-six current members and fifteen alumni. What happens when passionate people work together for 20 years toward a common goal?

227 exhibitions, 58 sculptors with work in 48 US states and 36 foreign countries, close to 100,000 visitors,

Members have received numerous awards, grants and residencies; taught in 70 settings; generated 169 permanent public art works; displayed 308 temporary public art works; and are included in 1,100 private and public collections.

There will be a talk on January 23 "Sculpture that works with Audience: Kinetic, Interactive, Installation and Public Art". 10 Sculptors get 5 minutes each to present their work and ideas on this topic with a reception to follow. 100 people showed up last time, so don't be late! If you are still hungry afterwards, hit the Red Fez across the street for traditional Middle-Eastern food.

MARK ROTHKO, el más abstracto de los abstractos.

Esta vuelta al “trabajo” con el artista que hoy traigo a los Encuentros puede sorprender a más de uno de los visitantes de este blog. Muy pocas veces me he detenido en los llamados pintores abstractos, o en los que han sido catalogados como tales. Es por eso que posiblemente resulte un tanto peculiar que hoy, y de manera aislada, me detenga en Mark Rohtko.


Creo que en un espacio en el que se trata todo tipo de Arte dar cabida a un artista como Rothko es necesario aún siendo una figura bastante controvertida para los que no gustan demasiado del arte contemporáneo, Lo que no podemos ignorar en un espacio como estos Encuentros, es que este artista tiene un lugar muy importante en la historia del Arte.


Marcus Rothkowitz o como todos conocemos a este singular artista Mark Rothko, nació en Letonia en 1903. Fue pintor y grabador aunque esta última profesión no parece haberle dado la fama que le dio la pintura. Como muchos artistas rechazó el verse encorsetado en un determinado movimiento, pero decir Mark Rothko es decir expresionismo abstracto y es decir pintura abstracta, al menos en términos populares.


Sus principios en la pintura fueron totalmente autodidactas, allá por 1925 en la ciudad de N.York. Más tarde se aproximaría al surrealismo y fue a partir de 1947 cuando comenzaría a elaborar los lienzos por los que hoy todos le identificamos, grandes telas con diferentes capas de color que derivarían en las composiciones tan conocidas por todos: rectángulos enfrentados con los bordes velados.

Sus lienzos enormes que parecen envolver a aquel que los contempla fueron, paralelamente a su vida, cambiando de tonalidad. Rothko utilizaba el color, toda la paleta de colores, para hacer visible el espacio, unos espacios difuminados que parecían querer evocar los grandes espacios de las llanuras americanas. 


Esos espacios inmensos que en sus creencias espirituales le hacían sentirse un ser mínimo.

Mark Rothko en numerosas ocasiones afirmó que aunque su obra fuera catalogada de abstracta la figura humana nunca dejó de estar presente en ella, aunque fuera de forma simbólica.

Sus lienzos están llenos de una luz difusa que parece surgir de una fuente espiritual. La luz que emanan tiene un matiz trágico y posiblemente su mayor expresión la encontramos en los 14 cuadros que Rothko pintó para la Rothko Chapel, situada en Houston l y que se inauguró cuando el artista ya había fallecido.



Contrariamente a lo que se pueda pensar al observar su pintura y que a algunos puede resultar sencilla, su pintura está cargada de fuertes influencias que recibió en su niñez.
Hijo de un intelectual que educó a sus hijos con ideas no religiosas durante el Imperio Ruso, Mark fue el único hijo que recibió una enseñanza religiosa, algo que más tarde tendría un efecto muy fuerte en su vida, sobre todo al sentirse excluido de su propia familia ya que todos sus hermanos habían acudido a las escuelas públicas y recibido una educación laica.


La ciudad en donde residió Rothko en su niñez no estuvo exenta de violencia durante el periodo de los zares y posiblemente el niño Mark vio más de un acto de violencia.

Algunos estudiosos de su obra dicen encontrar cierto paralelismo entre las tumbas de los judíos y las formas rectangulares que aparecen en sus telas.


En 1910 su padre emigra a EEUU. El resto de la familia lo haría en 1913. Al año su padre falleció y la familia se encontró sin ayuda económica alguna y Mark vendiendo periódicos en la calle.

Rothko logró completar sus estudios pero no recibió formación artística aunque siempre realizó bocetos y dibujos.

De talante liberal, como su padre, fue un buen orador político y un gran defensor de los trabajadores y de los derechos de las mujeres.

En el Art Students League de N.York tuvo su primer encuentro artístico.

Se encontraba con un amigo que recibía una clase de dibujo. Los alumnos realizaban el boceto de una modelo y fue en ese momento cuando decidió qué quería en su vida.
Se matriculó en esa misma escuela.

Después de algún amago como actor teatral reinicia su formación artística en el New School of Design. Allí recibió clases de artista vanguardistas.


Nueva York era una ciudad idónea para el desarrollo de cualquier actividad artística. Pintores de todas partes del mundo y de cualquier movimiento artístico realizaban muestras en las galerías de la gran ciudad, una ciudad que además poseía un gran número de museos que servían para fomentar más aún si cabe al ambiente artístico y la creatividad.

 Una gran influencia, entre otros, fue la del artista Paul Klee (este Blog 30.05.2010)

Hacia 1928 en una colectiva de varios artistas tuvo la oportunidad de exhibir sus obras. Además de algunos lienzos con escenas urbanas, sus pinturas fueron sobre todo interiores de paleta oscura. Las críticas fueron muy buenas y su fama comenzaba a crecer, pero sus necesidades económicas eran grandes así que acepto el puesto de profesor en una academia de Brooklyn donde impartió clases de escultura y pintura.

Las jornadas del artista y sus épocas de asueto estaban dedicadas al arte, algo que era constante también en sus colegas entre los que estaba Milton Avery y sus seguidores Barnett Newman, Adolp Gottlieb y John Graham, entre otros.
 En 1932 conocería a Edith Sachar, una diseñadora de joyas que más tarde se convirtió en su esposa.

Rothko realizó en 1933 su primera exposición individual. Fue en el museo de Portland y en ella se incluyeron dibujos y acuarelas.

A finales de ese mismo año y también de forma individual expuso óleos en la Contemporary Arts Gallery. También se incluyeron dibujos y acuarelas, pero fueron los óleos los que atrajeron la mirada de críticos y público.
En 1935 se forma un grupo de artistas al que se une. Entre ellos está Ilya Bolotowsky, Adolph Gottlieb, Louis Schanker, Joseph Solmon y algún otro. Reciben el nombre de “Los diez disidentes de Whitney” 

Según dicen, las obras que ejecutó al final de su vida estaban dominadas por tonalidades oscuras. Desde todos los marrones pasando por diferentes granates pero sobre todo por el negro. Esa negritud asoma en paralelo a una época de su vida sumida en la depresión.


Entre estas obras encontramos “Sin Título”, un óleo pintado en 1967 y que se considera como uno de los pertenecientes a su época de madurez. En él los estudiosos de su obra parecen encontrar señales de su enfermedad mental.


 Es cierto que al contemplar este lienzo la sensación de melancolía es abrumadora aun siendo predominante en él el color rojo. La franja negra de su parte inferior domina poderosamente toda la pintura.


En febrero de 1970, unos pocos años después de pintar este lienzo Mark Rothko se suicidó posiblemente arrastrado por los fármacos antidepresivos y el uso del alcohol.

Fuentes consultadas:
Arte del Siglo XX (Edit.Taschen)

Para la fotografía : las mismas

NOTAS: Para mejor visualizar la fotografía “picar” con el ratón encima de las que interesen.
Para la lectura de entradas anteriores, ir a la ventana de la derecha y “picar” en los años y meses. Se desplegarán los títulos correspondientes a cada fecha.
Para la elección de otro IDIOMA ir con el cursor al final de la página.

Automobile Facial Expressions

Because the front ends of most automobiles have two headlamps and an opening to send air to the radiator, they can be said to resemble a human face -- the headlamps as eyes, the grille opening as the mouth.

Ordinarily, the notion of a car having a face is simply a mental construct. But in some cases, front ends seem to be faces with expressions. At times, this might have been the intention of the stylist, in other instances it could have been accidental.

Let's take a look at some examples.


1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan
Although I missed it, a number of observers have pointed out the "sad" look on 1949 Lincolns. Indeed, the outside of the grille was squared off for the 1950 model year apparently because potential buyers were put off the the '49s expression.

1950 Buick Special
I've never encountered a consistent set of reactions to the 1950 Buick's grille (that too was quickly changed for the following model year). Mostly observers found it outrageous. As for analogies to human expressions, the notions of "buck teeth" or "drooling" might apply.

1956 Oldsmobile 98
Oldsmobile sported a grille theme that evolved from 1946 through 1958. The endpoint versions are considerably different, but if one looks at Oldsmobiles year-by-year between those dates, the progression is noticeable. For the 1956 model year the cars had a fish-faced look because grille opening resembled mouths of certain fish.

2010 Acura TSX
The facial expression of this Acura is ambivalent. Seen on the street from certain angles, it seems rather harsh and sinister. But in the view in the photo above it looks like there is an odd, angular sort of smile.

2010 Mazda 3
On the other hand, the Mazda 3's face is clearly smiling.

The Protection of One Small Flame

Kirsten Borror, North River Gallery
Morning Song by A. Gassel

Alexander Gassel describes boyhood in rural Russia in the 1950's...Trees and children had a special relationship. They were the
place to hide, play and rest. We would climb them to check for apples, eat
cider nuts, and even do something silly like throw nuts and surprise people
passing underneath.

There were kids everywhere playing on the collective farms.
Country boys knew everything about how to survive alone in the forest such as  where to find nuts, what mushrooms to eat, how to build a hut; they were wild
kids. We could go to the forest and do whatever we wished. Life in the city
meant going to the library, playing table tennis, basketball, soccer, and

The forest could be dangerous because of wild dogs. Many were abandoned in the forest by villagers, and they would form packs
like wolves.  Sometimes we would be in
the woods at night, and it was dangerous because the dogs could surround and
attack you. One time when I was with a friend at night alone in the forest we were surrounded by 30 dogs ready to attack. We had a box of matches, and just the single flame of continuously ignited match sticks kept the dogs away. The village remains a special part
of my growing up.

Art Buzz: Encounters 2013

Sir James Gunn

Sir James Gunn (1893-1964, he eventually dropped his first name, Herbert, in favor of his middle name) successfully practiced representational painting in an era when it fell out of fashion. Perhaps this was because he made his living as a portraitist with the Royal Family among his prime clients. Information about him is scarce on the Web, though this site has a biographical note along with a slide show of many of his works.

Gunn was born in Glasgow, son of a tailor who apparently owned a successful business, given the support James received. He studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Académie Julian in Paris. During the Great War he served with the Artists Rifles and later as an officer with the 10th Battalion, Scottish Rifles. He was gassed, which resulted in lung trouble for the rest of his life.

He married Gwendoline Hillman, widow of Captain G.S. Thorne, in 1919. They had three daughters, but divorced in 1927. He married Pauline Miller in 1929, that marriage lasting until her death after a long illness in 1950. They had a son and daughter. Pauline was the subject of numerous paintings. Gunn lived in the London area from 1925, but spent some time in Paris 1935-36. He painted many portraits of members of the British establishment including Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Macmillan, plus a group portrait of George VI's family and others of the Royal Family. He painted British officers, including Montgomery in France following the D-Day invasion.

Gunn was elected to full membership in the Royal Academy in 1961 and knighted in 1963.


Gwendoline Hillman - 1925
Gwendoline was his first wife. Their marriage might have been heading for the rocks when this was painted.

Pauline, Wife of the Artist - c.1930
Painted not long after their marriage.

Pauline Waiting - 1939

Pauline in the Yellow Dress - 1944
Two more Pauline portraits.

Gracie Fields - c.1940
Fields suffered from cancer around the time this was painted.

July by the Sea

Roman Forum - 1929
Two outdoor scenes, the first probably from the early 1920s. Gunn also painted some sensational nudes not quite modest enough for this site.

Conversation Piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor - 1950
The Royal Family supposedly at ease (though the posing is stiff).

Queen Elizabeth - state portrait - 1953-56

My take on Gunn is that he was highly competent, but lacking the additional trace of spark or flash needed to make him and his works memorable and his reputation stronger.