Monday, June 21, 2010

Henry Tanner, Rockwell Kent & Al Hirschfeld-


June 21, 1859: Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African American painter to gain international acclaim, was born. "In 1879 Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The young artist proved to be one of Thomas Eakins’s favorite students; two decades after Tanner left the Academy Eakins painted his portrait, making him one of a handful of students to be so honored. At the Academy Tanner befriended artists with whom he would keep in contact throughout the rest of his life, most notable of these being Robert Henri, one of the founders of the Ashcan School. Tanner is often regarded as a realist painter. While his early works, such as "The Banjo Lesson" were concerned with everyday life as an African American, Tanner's later paintings focused mainly on the religious subjects for which he is now best known. Tanner's body of work is not limited to one specific approach to painting. His works vary from meticulous attention to detail in some paintings to loose, expressive brushstrokes in others. Often both methods are employed simultaneously. The combination of these two techniques makes for a masterful balance of skillful precision and powerful expression. Tanner was also interested in the effects that color could have in a painting.

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June 21, 1882: Rockwell Kent, American artist & illustrator, was born. "Kent lived much of his early life in and around New York City, and moved in his mid-40s to an Adirondack farmstead that he called Asgaard where he lived and painted until his death. Kent studied with the influential painters and theorists of his day, including Arthur Wesley Dow, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and Abbott Thayer. Approached in 1926 by publisher R. R. Donnelley to produce an illustrated edition of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s Two Years Before the Mast, Kent suggested Moby-Dick instead. Published in 1930 by the Lakeside Press of Chicago, the three-volume limited edition filled with Kent's haunting black-and-white pen/brush and ink drawings sold out immediately; Random House produced a trade edition which was also immensely popular. Less well known are Kent's talents as a jazz age humorist. As the gifted pen-and-ink draftsman "Hogarth, Jr.", Kent created a wealth of whimsical and irreverent drawings published by Vanity Fair, New York Tribune, Harper's Weekly, and the original Life. He brought his Hogarth, Jr. style to a series of richly colored reverse paintings on glass which he completed in 1918 and exhibited at Wanamaker's Department Store. (Two of these glass paintings are in the collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, part of the bequest of modernist collector Ferdinand Howald.) Further decorative work ensued intermittently: in 1939, Vernon Kilns reproduced three series of designs drawn by Kent (Moby Dick, Salamina, Our America) on its sets of contemporary china dinnerware.

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June 21, 1903: Al Hirschfeld, American cartoonist, was born. "During Hirschfeld's nearly eight-decade career, he gained fame by illustrating the entire casts of various Broadway plays, which would appear to accompany reviews in The New York Times. Though this was Hirschfeld's best known field of interest he also would draw politicians, TV stars, and celebrities of all stripes from Cole Porter, the Nordstrom Sisters to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation; Hirschfeld also caricatured hard rockers Aerosmith for the cover of their 1977 album Draw the Line. He expanded his audience by contributing to Patrick F. McManus' humor column in Outdoor Life magazine for a number of years. Hirschfeld started young and continued drawing to the end of his life, thus chronicling nearly all the major entertainment figures of the 20th Century. Hirschfeld drew some of the original movie posters for Charlie Chaplin's films, as well as The Wizard of Oz."

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