Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Paul Émile Chabas

September Morn, 1912, Paul Chabas
The French have a phrase, "succès de scandale." We Americans simply declare, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." There are probably some American presidential "also-rans" these days who might disagree with that sentiment, but for artists, it very often holds true. "Succes de scandal," loosely translated, is any work of art which finds success due to public controversy surrounding it. Usually there's a moral element involved, though James McNeill Whistler's "success de scandal," Nocturne in Black and Gold, was totally lacking in any erotic content. (This was the painting which English art critic, John Ruskin, accused Whistler of “flinging a pot of paint in the public's face”). However there was no paint pot involved, with Eduard Manet's 1863 Luncheon on the Grass or John Singer Sargent's 1884 Madame X (she wasn't even nude). Marcel Duchamp had his Nude Descending a Staircase. His 1912 figure was nude, according to the title, but far from titillating. That was not the case with the French artist, Paul Emile Chabas and his 1912 September Morn (above).

The Artist's Model, Paul Emile Chabas
Paul Chabas photo, 1897
Insofar as French nudes were concerned (especially during the Pre-WW I era) Chabas' September Morn was pretty much a run-of-the-mill, sanitized, academic nude by a pretty much run-of-the-mill artist of his time. It was far from explicit (especially as compared to Gustave Courbet's 1866, Origin of the World) or even Chabas' own The Artist's Model, (above) also from around 1912. But all that was in France, and all that was before the French art invasion of New York at the 1913 Armory Show. There's no indi-cation Chabas' September Morn was a part of that Modern Art incursion, but the painting did, in fact, show up in New York about May, of 1913.

Anthony Comstock, U.S.
Postal Inspector.
A man named Anthony Comstock, was the head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He protested that the painting was supposedly immoral. If Comstock was offended by the painting, its artist, Chabas, was just as offended by Comstock and the controversy over the work. For a time he retreated to the South of France. None-theless, there was still much publicity. Repro-ductions of the painting soon hit the market (for which Chabas received not a cent). They sold briskly...for many years afterwards, in fact. September Morn has sometimes been con-sidered kitsch, though as kitsch goes, it's a pretty mild example. Chabas refused to identify the model, referring to her only as "Marthe". Yet the controversy refused to go away. As late as 1935, a rumor circulated that the young woman was living in poverty. Chabas was receiving letters from people in the U.S. who wanted to come to her aid. The painting was still considered indecent by some in the U.S. more than twenty years later.

The Nymphs of dance, Paul Émile Chabas
Ninf Loira, Paul Chabas. Today,
his nudes probably wouldn't
raise many eyebrows but the
apparent ages of his models
In the years that followed, Chabas illus-trated books by such authors as Paul Bourget and Alfred de Musset as well as works for the French publisher Alphonse Lemerre. He became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1921 and received the Légion d’honneur in 1928. From 1925 to 1935 he was president of the Société des Artistes Français. He died a widower in Paris in May of 1937 after a long illness. In the room where he died there was only one painting—a copy of September Morn which he had painted from memory.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Number One City Park in the World

With its four very distinct seasons, Vancouver's Stanley Park is
almost like four parks in one, it's many different features
enjoyed by many different types of people for many different
reasons the whole year around.
Several months ago I began this series featuring the Top Ten City Parks in the World (according to the reviewers at TripAdvisor, of which I am one). Last month I revealed the number two park, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This month, in wrapping up this series, the winner is (drum roll please), the number one city park in the world, is Stanley Park, British Columbia, Canada. Surprised? The people of Vancouver certainly were back in June, 2014, when the listing was first announced, especially given the fact that the second through fifth spots went to parks in U.S. cities. Apparently insofar as the reviewers at TripAdvisor are concerned, uniqueness counts for a lot. Stanley Park is not the largest of them all (third largest, actually). Some might argue convincingly that its not the most beautiful. Nor is it the most popular at "only" eight-million visitors each year. New York's Central park has almost five times that many.
Stanley Park has all the usual lawns and flowerbeds of other such urban respites, but also two beaches and two forests, one
made up of totem poles.
Lions Gate Bridge, leading
from the park to North
Vancouver, dates from
I'm only guessing, but I think what elevates Stanley Park to the top of such a self-important list is the number of distinctive items it features that are not a part of any other city park in the world. What other park on the list has its own suspension bridge, it's own "little mermaid" (which is actually a bronze girl in a wetsuit), it's own forest of Giant Red Cedars, some as tall as 250 feet, and several hundreds of years old? Like several other city parks on TripAdvisor's list, Stanley Park is so large as to not actually fit in the middle of the city, as does Central Park in New York, but lies on the outskirts, though still within easy walking (or jogging) distance from the center of the city. Unlike most such parks, however, Stanley park is also unique in that it evolved over more than a century rather than rising as a whole from some landscape architect's drawing board.
Beaches, lakes, lagoons, bridges, and half a million trees, Stanley
Park has features other city parks can only dream to speak.
At just over one-thousand acres, Stanley Park occupies its own peninsula jutting out into Vancouver's massive, island-strewn harbor. The park area was one of the first areas to be explored in the city. The land was originally used by prehistoric natives for thousands of years before British Columbia was colonized during the 1858 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. For many years thereafter, the future park, with its abundant resources, would also be home to early settlers. The land was turned into Vancouver's first park when the city incorporated in 1886. It was named after Lord Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician who had recently been appointed Governor General.
The Stanley Park Rowing Club and Marina dates from the 1930s.
Unlike most city parks there is little that is "new under the sun" in Stanley Park. Most of the manmade structures seen today were built between 1911 and 1937 under then park superintendent, W.S. Rawlings. Only a few additional attractions, such as a polar bear exhibit, aquarium, and miniature train, were added in the Post-World War II period. For the most part, the park remains as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s, with about a half million trees. Thousands of trees were lost after three major windstorms hit the park over the past 100 years (the last in 2006). Virtually all the trees destroyed have since been replanted. Even one of the newer features of the park, the Vancouver Seawall, is nearly a century old. It draws thousands of residents and visitors to the park every day. The park also features forest trails, beaches, lakes, children's play areas, and an Aquarium, among many other attractions.
Though largely left as nature intended, some of Stanley Park's trails have been modified to accommodate human guests of the park's amazing diversity of wildlife. (Yes, it's a photo, not a painting.)
Stanley Park is conveniently located on the west side of the downtown area. The park is surrounded by the harbor and is home to huge red cedar and Douglas fir trees. A seawall, which rings the park has an extensive walking, jogging, and biking path with designated lanes for each. From the seawall, there are many impressive views of the city and mountains. A scenic drive also winds through Stanley Park with numerous pullouts. If you visit, don't miss sculptor, Elek Imredy's 1972 Girl in Wetsuit (below) located along the north side of the park. And don't call her "The Little Mermaid."
Girl in Wetsuit, 1972, Elek Imredy, During high tides, she gets
her fins wet. at other times the seagulls keep the rest of
her quite moist.
 Yes, there's "Art in the Park" too...

The Stanley Park Light House
at Brockton Point

Monday, November 28, 2016

National Museum of Wildlife Art

A watercolor of the museum as inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, echoes the hillside behind the facility.
The museum's entry rotunda
features a "wildlife"
totem pole.
On the outside, especially as one approaches from a distance, it doesn't look like much. Located near the ski resort of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you might easily mistake it for some sort of Native American ruins. But at some 51,000 square feet of display area, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is much. Actually, insofar as the building goes, it doesn't look all that impressive from the inside either (left)--which is good. It bucks the trend of turning a museum's architecture into a work of art itself, thus com-peting with the art it displays. Although I dislike museums which do that, it has become so common these days I guess I should get used to it. This is the second of an indeterminate number of items dealing with some of the smaller, often overlooked, art museums dotting the American cultural landscape. Founded in 1987, like so many such museums, even at some 5,000 different art items, its holdings are modest, but represent the best work to be found in its spec-ialized area of content.

Wapiti Trail, 2007by American sculptor Bart Walter
As befits a wildlife museum, there's almost as much sculptural art outside as there is painted art inside. The sculptural group Wapiti Trail (above)is a site-specific piece commission specifically by the museum. Also outside, near the parking lot, is an impressive creature (below) often called "Bullwinkle" by older visitors. Younger visitors simply ask, "What's a Bullwinkle?" In addition to 14 galleries, the museum has a Sculpture Trail, Museum Shop, the Rising Sage Café, a Children’s Discovery Gallery, and Library. More than 80,000 people visit every year.

This mpressive creature you wouldn't want to meet along
the road (or worse, in the middle of it). They have
 been known to charge automobiles head on.
The core of the museum's collections reflects traditional and contemporary realism. The museum's two centerpiece galleries display a collection of works by noted wildlife artists, Carl Rungius and Bob Kuhn. The museum's holdings are dedicated to recognizing the relationship between humans and the environment. The collection includes work dating from 2500 B.C. to the present, including pieces from Charles Russell, Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, George Catlin, Frederic Remington, John James Audubon, N.C. Wyeth, Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert, Bruno Liljefors, Robert Bateman, Simon Gudgeon, and Mark Catesby. Additionally, there are works by such un-notable wildlife artists as Auguste Rodin, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Andy Warhol.

Carl Rungius was a German-born (1869) wildlife artist active
during the first half of the 20th-century, painting in Canada
and the western United States.
The museum awards each year its Rungius Medal, named in honor Carl Rungius, to individuals who have made lifetime or extraordinary contributions to the artistic interpretation and preservation of wildlife and its habitat. The museums other featured artist, Robert Kuhn, born in 1920, also rates his own gallery of wildlife at (below).

The work of American wildlife artist, Robert Kuhn is a perennial
favorite with museum goers.
In addition, the museum encourages artists to take inspiration from Jackson Hole’s famously beautiful natural surroundings during its annual Plein Air Fest each June. The festival, has lined up more than 50 artists for next year, who will race to complete plein air masterpieces in just four hours during the festival’s exciting “quick draw.” Along with watching the artists creating in real time, art lovers will have an opportunity to bid on the freshly painted pieces.

A crowd of potential buyers observes the museum's annual speed painting competition.
What's with the elephants? Where does it say
American wildlife?

The wildlife has the right-of-way.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tombstone Art

Some of the best carved sculpture to be found today resides,
largely unknown and unappreciated, in large city cemeteries.
It occurred to me today that I don't write as much as I should on sculpture, sculptors, and certainly not the old "hammer and chisel" sculpture from the past. You know, it's hard to overstate the tremendous impact Pablo Picasso had on three-dimensional art the first time he began fastening together various found objects in creating the first Cubist "built" sculptures. From that point on the old-fashioned way of carving images from wood or stone has largely bit the marble dust (or sawdust, if you prefer). It's not that such sculptors no longer exist--they do. It's just that, even with computers, they're not very economically viable artists. The quality of their work today is superb. Their messages and concepts as valid as any in the past. It's just that "subtractive" sculpture is about ten times more demanding (in time and skill) than Picasso's "additive" works utilizing modern materials.
Michelangelo's original plan for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
The tomb was to be freestanding Michelangelo's Dome of
St. Peters Basilica so there were just as many figures
populating the other side.
The tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome.
There's nothing new about that. Michelangelo fought the same battle in planning the tomb of Pope Julius II. Someone pointed out to him that in his drawings he had covered it with so many writhing figures (above), literally carved in stone, that even though he was the fastest stone carver in the world at the time, he could not possibly live long enough to complete them all (and that there was simply no other sculptor who could match his style). Moreover, Julius II would be in need of his tomb long before even two or three of Mich-elangelo's figures could be completed. Poor Julius had to settle for a single, monumental Moses flanked by a half-dozen minor figures, all relegated to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.
One of the most common themes in sepulchral sculpture involves
"Waiting for the Second Coming" (resurrection).
 It's become a long wait.
Although artists, the famous, the wealthy, and all dead popes continued to be buried in churches for another three or four centuries, today the place to go to see some of the most beautiful...also the weirdest, funniest, and most touching carved (and cast in bronze) sculpture is virtually any major cemetery in the large cities in the world (few local cemeteries has much beyond sandblasted plinths). Such urban cemetery sculpture is actually some of the oldest, best-preserved art to be found in "younger" countries such as the United States (top, left). The skull and crossbones was a common motif (as to the temporal nature of life) in pre-colonial cemetery sculpture. Later, in Europe, a common theme (top, right) was "escaping" death.

For mourners also facing a similar wait for the resurrection
of the dead in the final days, this family decreed a pleasant,
living room setting carved from black stone ebony featuring the
oval headstone in place of a TV.
Although mourning and religious themes continue to dominate much of the carved stone sculpture in cemeteries today as in the past, in more recent years other such works are often designed to reflect the profession, personality, personal habits, hobbies, and image of the deceased. Headstones such as that of guitarist and songwriter Johnny Ramone (below), who died in 2004, fulfill most of these thematic elements.

Johnny Ramone's bronze headstone sculpture located in the
Hollywood Forever cemetery is neither the best nor the worst
to be found in many of today's large, park-like cemeteries.
Among spiritual or religious sculpture found in cemeteries around the world today the results range from the soaring inspiration of the young boy escaping from his wheelchair (the memorial designed by his father) to the downright maudlin figure of a weeping nymph or angel seen below at the bottom. Variations of such emotional works are quite often holdovers from the 19th and early 20th centuries before families began personalizing such grave markers.

The mournful figure just above, while reflecting a
heavily emotional theme reminiscent of the 19th-
century, the overall design of the modern seems
very 20th-century in its modern simplicity.
In exploring how far we've come in both our outlook on death, and our taste in sculpture, the two headstone below would seem to proclaim the deceased's love of crossword puzzles (on the left) and heavy-duty cycling (on the right). In case you didn't notice, that's a computer console, carved in marble, in the lower-left corner. All in all, this is heavy-duty stone carving--no sandblasted dates or pithy epitaph's here.

The crossword puzzle marker manages to impart both a personal
liking and a great deal about the one buried beneath it.
From here, things get a little weird...depending upon your taste in tombstones...perhaps a lot weird. The stone grave coverings below seem to be asking the question, "is there sex after death?" Asleep is the marble gravestone of Laurence Matheson (1930-1987), sculpted at the request of his widow by artist Peter Shipperheyn. The grave is located in the Mount Macedon Cemetery of Victoria, Australia. The "barely" clad couple below the Matheson grave appear to be lingering in the afterglow of a sexual encounter, which may be intended to say a lot about their marriage.

Sculptural works such as those above, while dedicated to
physical love relationships, also would seem to invite various
forms of vandalism.
If you think the marble idolization of love pushes the limits of good taste past
most cemetery norms, I've saved the really weird ones until last. Below, we see a late-model stone car carved from a single boulder which, in fact seems to be crushing the car. Below that, the ridiculous image of a man who, for lack of a more appropriate phrase, seems to demand only the freshest of dairy nutrients. Perhaps he was, in fact a dairy farmer; the man with the crushed car an auto dealer battling crushing debt. Or, it could be that both cemetery pieces simply refer to the two men's causes of death.

Weird, stupid, funny, or perhaps the cause of their deaths.
An expression of sympathy.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Louis de Caullery

Colosso di Rodi, after 1570, Louis de Caullery (cropped slightly).
Although artists today often spend exorbitant amounts of time applying final touches to their work, forever (it seems) trying to achieve perfection; very few would even consider starting over on a fresh canvas attempting to perfect the same scene. However, artists some five-hundred years ago quite often, if not routinely, did just that. Of course, we'll never know if their doing so was a search for perfection causing them to paint several different versions of the same scene, or simply an economic factor in the art market back then that has since largely faded away. Few artists today paint copies of their earlier works. I've done so two or three times but that was several decades ago. Most artists turn to Giclee prints when a particular painting becomes particularly popular. One artist who seems to have made something of a habit of painting several versions of the same scene was the Flemish painter Louis de Caullery.
A firework display at the Castel San' Angelo, Rome,
Louis de Caullery. Here you see how the term,
"Roman Candles" derived.
So far as I can tell, de Caullery's Colosso di Rodi (top), now in the Louvre, is his only attempt at that subject. It probably wasn't all that popular, or the artist decided he could do no better in creating a second version. Whatever the case, when it came to crucifixions (below) and Roman fireworks displays (above), I've had to check carefully to make sure I didn't post the same painting twice. It's especially interesting to note in his crucifixions where figures are similar (sometimes identical) and where he experimented with different poses and compositional arrangements.
It would be interesting to know in what order these
paintings were completed, but unfortunately,
there are virtually no dates associated with any
de Caullery's paintings.
Louis de Caullery was born in Caulery, which is a small town near Cambrai in what is now northern France. He was born "around" 1580. I was amused at one of my sources dating de Caullery's Colosso de Rodi (top) as being done "after 1570" which would indicated the art historian was sure it was done sometime after the artist was born. I guess I should be thankful for that modest tidbit; it was the only date listed for any of de Caullery's works. For an artist of his importance and stature in Flemish painting, we know surprisingly little about the man. We do know, thanks to Rembrandt, what he looked like, though (below).

Portrait of Louis de Caullery, 1632, Rembrandt van Rijn
What little we do know about de Caullery boils down to the fact that he once lived in Antwerp and that he once visited Italy (or at least Rome and Venice). Virtually everything else we know about Louis de Caullery derives from studying his paintings. His time in Rome is chronicled in his paintings of fireworks over the Castle San Angelo, while his time in Venice can be seen in his Carnival and Bull Fighting at Piazza San Marco (below). I've been to both locales, and his architectural renderings are reasonably accurate for their time.

Carnival and Bull Fighting at Piazza San Marco, Louis de Caullery
Quite a number of de Caullery's paintings contain the words "elegant company" in their titles. When we think of genre painting of any nationality we tend to think of middle-class or peasant depictions. De Caullery's painting are some of the earliest Flemish genre paintings, indicating that genre did not originate with rural peasantry but with royal pleasantry. De Caullery also seems to have been in love with monumental architecture such as his Tower of Babel (bottom), and grand palaces as seen in his fictional The Gardens and Courtyard of a Renaissance Palace (below). I should note that the title of the latter work is questionable since the term "Renaissance" did not come into become common usage until the 19th century.

The Gardens and Courtyard of a Renaissance Palace, Louis de Caullery
The Tower of Babel, Louis de Caullery


Friday, November 25, 2016

Patrick Caulfield

The work of Patrick Caulfield. Is it Pop or is it not.
I've written a number of times on the subject of stereotyping as it has to do with artists and their work. I suppose, to some extent, we all do it, though we often give it euphemistic names such as "classifying" or "categorizing." It's a tendency artists should be aware of in their own minds if for no other reason than the fact that all too often, they are the victims of such thinking on the part of others. Unfortunately, stereotyping extends beyond just artists into the realm of art history having to do with styles, movements, and eras. When we think of Cubism we think only of Picasso. When we think of Abstract Expressionism we picture Pollock and maybe de Kooning, perhaps one or two others. If the subject is Romanticism only Gericault and Delacroix come to mind. And with Impressionism it's Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Degas. It seems as if our compartmentalized minds have room for only a few big names in each era. That's stereotyping, though not in the manner in which we're used to thinking.

After Lunch, 1975, Patrick Caulfield
Even though he came of age as an important British painter in the era of Pop Art, Patrick Caulfield fought all his career not to be stereotyped as a Pop artist. It was an uphill battle in that his work bears a strong resemblance to Lichtenstein's black-outlined cartoon glorifications. Caulfield's style at times is similar to that of Rosenquist, Alex Katz, and Peter Max. Moreover, his content is not far removed from that of Warhol, David Hockney, and Britain's own Pop pioneer, Richard Hamilton. Of course, Caulfield was not alone among even some of those mentioned above in wishing not to be categorize or classified in a type of art with a limited shelf-life in the first place, and one in which they had little chance of competing with the big American names in Pop.

Like David Hockney with whom he studied, Patrick Caulfield
has often been linked with the Pop Art of the early sixties; but
his work is not a study in Pop's trademark consumerism.
Patrick Joseph Caulfield was born in 1936 in the Acton section of, (west-central) London. During the war years, to escape the Blitz, Caulfield's family returned to his parents' hometown of Bolton to work at the De Havilland factory. At the age of fifteen, Caulfield secured a position as a filing clerk at Crosse & Blackwell, a food production company where he later transferred to the design studio, working on displays and carrying out menial tasks. As soon as he turned seventeen, Caulfield joined the Royal Air Force thus pre-empting the requirement for national service. In his free time, he attended evening classes at Harrow School of Art (now part of the University of Westminster).

Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (after Delacroix),
 1963, Patrick Caulfield, compared to Delacroix's version painted
in 1826.
After the war, Caulfield progressed to the Royal College of Art from 1960 to 1963, while also teaching at Chelsea School of Art. In 1964, he exhibited at the New Generation show at London's Whitechapel Gallery which, more than anything else, resulted in his being associated with the Pop Art movement. In the years that followed Caulfield developed a style that was completely his own. He settled on a combination of black lines and flat, vivid color, grappling experimentally with various genres of the sixties, from figure studies influenced by Juan Gris, to Cubist still-lifes. However, by the 1970s, Caulfield was in his stride with a group of huge interiors such as Café Interior: Afternoon (top-right, second image, 1973) with its playful picture-making, describing the café’s modernist table and chairs while exploring light and shadow, allowing color to display its own abstract power.

The Young Ladies of Avignon Seen from Behind, (on the right),
1999, Patrick Caulfield, as compared to Picasso's 1907 version.
This was the blueprint for what followed. The rest of Caulfield’s career, was a push-and-pull between a graphic depiction of reality and experiments with different painterly styles. Into his color-saturated interiors came photorealist depictions of landscapes or objects, trompe l’oeil wallpaper, and a flurry of expressive marks, making each painting as complex as it was absorbing. In 1987, Caulfield was nominated for the Turner Prize for his show The Artist's Eye at the National Gallery in London. In 1996 he was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). On May 24, 2004, a fire in a storage warehouse destroyed many works from the Saatchi collection, including three by Caulfield. He died in London in 2005 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery where his grave (below) is as distinctive as the art which inspired it.

Lest anyone miss the point.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Clerence Holbrook Carter

Let Us Give Thanks, 1943, Clarence Holbrook Carter. It's impossible to view this painting without considering the fateful circumstances of the moment--the psychological effect of leaving a place vacant in the foreground. The effect is to invite us into the picture so we may
participate in this moment of prayer and reflection.
Inasmuch as I'm a lifelong native of Ohio, there's every reason I should be proud of my state's contribution to the fine arts. However in searching out a list of Ohio artists I was chagrinned to note that the list was distressingly short--well under a hundred. Moreover, most of them I'd never heard of before. I was familiar with George Bellows as well as Maya Lin, Don Drumm, Robert McCall, Jenny Holzer, and Hiram Powers. In fact I'd written about some of those and a few others. I'm assuming that Ohio has contributed to the world quite a number of important historic figures, especially in science and industry. As for the fine arts...not so much. One artist not (for some unknown reason) on the list I mentioned was the Portsmouth, Ohio, artist Clarence Holbrook Carter. Although he was not such a major painting personage that I'd taken note of him before, in surveying the surprising number of his works, I've come to the conclusion that he was really quite good--just severely underrated.

It's uncertain if these identical houses are in Portsmouth or the
Cleveland area, nor is the painting titled or dated but it is typical
of much of Carter's early work.
The only Carter self-portrait I
could locate dates from 1928.
Portsmouth, Ohio, is located on the Ohio River near its southernmost point before it continues it's northwestern flow toward Cincinnati. It's a river community, though there is little evidence that the riverboat culture was much of an influence in Clarence Carter's art. In any case, Carter was born in Portsmouth in 1904. Early on, Carter was seized by the stark grandeur of landscapes where snows or the rising Ohio River in spring competed with human presences in conversation. It may well have been the memory of the river’s overwhelming its banks in 1913, when Carter was only six, that inspired his first important work, painted non-stop in one day and one night while he was still in art school. (I could not locate a photo of the painting.)

Cleveland steel mills during the 1920s and 30s' left quite
an impression on the young Clarence Carter.
Carter had come up to Cleveland in 1923 to study with painters Henry Keller and Paul Travis, making ends meet by waiting tables in the tearoom of the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Flood, his first prize-winning entry in the museum’s annual juried showcase of regional artists (The May Show), earned him $25. He earned another $100 when Cleveland industrialist, Ralph Coe, purchased the painting from the show. Years later, Carter bought it back. The painting had a special place in his heart, he said, because it was the work which brought him to the attention of the museum’s director, William Milliken.

Milliken at the Century of Progress, Chicago, 1940, 
Clarence Holbrook Carter
Untitled--Country Road,
Clarence Holbrook Carter
It's not surprising that Carter should think so highly of Milliken (above). He was an ardent champion of local artists, helping to launch Carter’s career, and arranging for his young protégé to study with Hans Hoffman in Capri, Italy. The museum director also promoted the work Carter sent back for sale from Europe. This enabling him to spend a second year abroad in France, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Sicily and north Africa. When Carter returned to Cleveland, Milliken arranged for him to teach studio classes at the museum. However, the artist primarily supported himself by selling his work during the eleven years between his graduation and 1938, when he took a faculty position at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Technical Institute (now Carnegie-Mellon University).

Jane Reed and Dora Hunt, Clarence Holbrook Carter--pure Portsmouth.
Smoldering Fires,
Clarence Holbrook Carter
In many ways Clarence Carter was a fortunate man. His talent revealed itself early in life and it was nurtured by Milliken and others who recognized it as standing on a par with that of many of the most important artists of his era such as Edward Hopper, William Zorach, and John Singer Sargent. Virtually every year of his life he won prizes and accolades when he entered his work in competitions. Yet Carter also had the misfortune of beginning his professional career at a most inopportune moment in history--the entire period of the Great Depression. His hometown of in southern Ohio saw him as something of a curiosity while the big cities of northern Ohio, struggling with their own brand of economic distress, could ill afford to support an artists painting mostly country genre (top).

The Ohio that Carter knew best.
In 1935, Carter was chosen in a statewide competition to paint murals in the Ravenna, Ohio, post office by a national panel that included Eleanor Roosevelt. This was the first of a series of works to be commissioned for Ohio public buildings as part of the WPA Federal Art Project. Thus, ironically it took the Great Depression and the WPA to bring Carter’s work back to southern Ohio. It was during this time that he briefly served as regional superintendent. His other regional works included four large murals for the new post office in Portsmouth, Ohio.

I believe these two images represent the same painting, though
each came with different titles. In any case this example serves
to underline the treachery of Internet color representations.
From 1938 to 1944, while teaching painting and design at Carnegie Tech, he took a position with the Alcoa Steamship Company during which time he painted a series of twenty-one scenes from the Caribbean and South America that set new standards for national magazine advertising. He was to create other memorable series for the First National City Bank of New York and American Locomotive that appeared in Fortune and Life magazines (below).

As Carter delved into a career in advertising, his work
became more design oriented, leading, after the war, into
abstraction and symbolism. The upper painting, dating
from 1956, is titled, Bright Future for Black Diamonds.
By the early 1960s Carter’s work had become more symbolic, almost abstract, in nature. A series of huge canvases the artist referred to collectively as Over and Above (bottom) featured giant insects, birds and other animals peering over walls at the viewer. In the years that followed these somewhat humorous images led to large, luminous, structural compositions of tombs, caverns and ovals Carter called Transections. From there he delved into surreal landscapes featuring an element that had been present in his work since the early 1930s--the almost mystical egg shapes, which Carter saw as the symbol of life, or Eschatos (The Final Things).

Eggs with Reverberations, 1970, Clarence Holbrook Carter
Clarence Holbrook Carter died in 2000 at the age of ninety-four. It was only after his death that the artist's fascination with photography became apparent. This "hidden" source of inspiration came to light with the discovery of an old chest full of snapshots corresponding to some of his most famous paintings. Carter worked at a time when painting from photos was often looked down upon as a form of copying. Yet, Frank Trapp, author of the definitive book on Carter, claims to have personally watched the artist create three of these very paintings on canvas from scratch, beginning with faint pencil lines, then applying the paint, with virtually no revising or retouching. Despite such an anecdotal account, some of Carter’s best-known paintings are clearly based on photographs.

Outside the Limits (Fireworks Stand), Clarence Holbrook Carter.
A work painted from a photo? You decide.

Over and Above 14, 1964, Clarence Holbrook Carter