Click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Iranian Art

Persian Calligraphy Modern, Kolah Studio
Today I did something it seems like I'm apt to do more and more often these days. I began researching an artist whom I'd already written about--the Iranian painter, Mahmoud Farshchian. I wasted close to an hour in doing so. However, it wasn't a complete waste. In the process I stumbled over a web site promoting his art calling themselves the Iran Politics Club (IPC). Given the name of the group, it wasn't at all what I expected. Oh, there was politics involve. Iran is a hotbed of political unrest. However, in this case, there was more art, or perhaps I should say, "culture," than politics. In a nutshell, the IPC mission is to protect and serve the Persian Culture. The site was not limited to painting, but also a healthy discussion poetry (of anti-Muslim), film, literature, architecture, drama, and other manifestations of the fine arts.
Shepherds in a Landscape, Safavid era, c. 1675.
Landscapes are rare in Iranian art and the human figure
even more so.
The Iran Politics Club supports the fight to establish freedom, secularism, federalism, human rights and democracy in Iran. The IPC embraces all Iranian ethnic and racial groups including, but not limited to: Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Turkmens, Baluchis, Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Assyrians, Blacks, Orientals, Indians and others. The IPC is a club for intellectual discussions and debates about Iran, U.S. and world politics, philosophy, economy, history, sociology, art, science and related subjects. The IPC is a club for "All the People," not for only "some of the people". All nationalities, races, cultures, religions, ideologies; Persians, non-Persians, Zoroastrians, Muslim, Bahaiis, Christians, Jews, Atheists, and all other philosophical, political, and economical ideologies are welcomed. I don't know this for a fact, but my guess is the website is not hosted in Iran.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, out of the blue.
The IPC is typical of a kind of "new awakening," or perhaps a renaissance, in Iranian art. As the painting Persian Calligraphy Modern (top) demonstrates, this revival of sorts is not aimed a jettisoning the past, but embracing it and blending it, especially in the area of painting, as seen in the examples above. It's interesting to note in the work of the Iranian artist mentioned earlier (now living in the U.S.) that Christian iconography has crept into his work as seen in his Born in the Kabbah (above), although the history and religious symbolism involved are complex and deeply intertwined. I'm not sure why, but western style landscapes such as Coastal Landscape by Vadoud Muzzein Zadeh (above) are exceedingly rare in Iranian art.

Iranian Minimalism.

The IPC champions Iranian culture of all types and regardless of any hierarchy of perceived importance. That is to say, furniture design (above) is seen as of equal importance as fashion design (below), though the latter is often at odds with the strict religious prohibitions of Muslim doctrine especially as applied to women. Once more, as in the clash between painting the human figure and traditional calligraphic motifs, there tends to be a blending of the past with the present.
In a culture adverse to several content areas, abstract or non-representational decorative elements make for a natural fit.
Likewise, Iranian architecture years of designing and building mosques. Some of these might arguably be considered among the most beautiful works ever built combining art and man. From their own brand of Gothic (below-top) to 21st-century Cubist Minimalism (below-bottom) we find Iranian architects with far more freedom whether at home or on the far-flung construction sites around the world than the designers of ceramic tiled, onion-domed, minaret adorned religious landmarks ever dreamed of.
International Post-modernism.
One doesn't have to read far into the mission statement of the IPC to realize that, though it purports to preserve, protect, and defend all elements of Iranian culture, it is also written for, and possibly by, Americans, or at least profoundly influenced by American democratic ideals and documents. In some instances, their "manifesto" actually quotes from them. " Do not make the club boring...[but instead] make it hot and exciting. Let us value and build this stand for freedom; let us try to build a better world."
Iranian advertising art--an attempt to avoid boredom.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Claire Falkenstein

Claire Falkenstein's Copper fountain, 1965. Long Beach, CA
When we think of abstract art, we most generally think of the Abstract Expressionist paintings of the New York School, of Pollock, Kandinsky, de Kooning, Hofmann, and quite a few others whose last names aren't quite so familiar. We seldom think of abstract sculpture, much less the artists who have created such works (aside from Picasso and perhaps Henry Moore). Why is that? Abstract, non-representational sculpture grew out of the same mindset as it's painted counterpart, yet it's the pigment on canvas rather than welded metal, cast bronze, fiberglass, and stone which got all the attention both then and now. Most "art appreciators" today could probably name five or ten abstract expressionist painters for every sculptor who worked in that style and manner.
A Claire Falkenstein gallery exhibit: "An Expansive Universe."
Color Space, 1941.
Claire Falkenstein
One such woman sculptor we should think of, one on a par with Louise Nevelson, was the young artist from Coos Bay, Oregon, Claire Falkenstein. I guess I should mention at this point that there were a few Abstract Expressionist of both genders who were primarily painters, but who also "dab-bled" in sculptural work. Claire Falkenstein was quite the opposite. Though, in her early years, she began as a painter, after the mid-1930s when her time with the WPA expired, she became primarily a 3-D artist. Her work included ev-erything from small, abstract jewelry pieces to large-scale sculpture, fountains, gates, glass, and stained glass. In fact, glass in various shapes and forms, came to comprise one of the two most important items in her work. The other, was stovepipe wire.

Falkenstein's sculpture was several years ahead of its time,
much of it preceding the work of Abstract Expressionist
painters on the east coast.
Claire Falkenstein's father managed a lumber mill. Her family moved to the Oakland-Berkley area near San Francisco where she finished high school. The Falkenstein family was ethnically German. Her grandfather came to the United States as a medical student from Frankfurt, after the political upheaval of the mid-1800s. As a child, Falkenstein liked to scavenge items such as shells, rocks, seaweed, and driftwood from area beaches. She later came to use such natural materials to inspire and create her sculptures. Falkenstein attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1930 with a major in art and minors in anthropology and philosophy. Even before graduation she landed her first one-woman exhibition, at a San Francisco gallery. Her art education continued in the early 1930s at Mills College, where she studied under Alexander Archipenko, and László Moholy-Nagy.

Barcelona, 1949, Claire Falkenstein--Painting and
sculpture combined.

Curved lines, open and closed
spaces, consolidated masses,
all became a part of Claire
Falkenstein's trademark style.
Claire Falkenstein was married for twenty-two years to an Irish-American trial lawyer nam-ed Richard McCarthy, whom she met in high school. Around 1950, she decided she wanted to live in Paris. He didn't. They divorced. She spent the next thirteen years of her life there. In Paris, Falken-stein explored what she referred to as "topology," a connection be-tween matter and space, incor-porating the concept of a continu-ous void in nature. She became associated with the freeform philosophy of L'Art Informel, the French counterpart to American Abstract Expressionism. Econom-ic necessity drove Falkenstein to use inexpensive, nontraditional materials for her work, including wooden logs, stovepipe wire, and lead bars. It's amazing what you can do with stovepipe wire. Applied in innovative ways, Falkenstein discovered its similarity to lines in drawing. She continued to use it even after she was able to afford other materials. Eventually, the large, airy forms created from this material became part of her individual style.

The New Gates of Paradise, Venice, Italy, Claire Falkenstein.
One of her most well-known pieces is The New Gates of Paradise, was constructed of metal webbing with chunks of glass. Located on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, it was commissioned in 1960 by her friend, Peggy Guggenheim. The gates are each 12 feet by 4 feet (3.7 m × 1.2 m). They marked the first time she used a never-ending screen with repeating modules attached in various directions, giving the impression that it could continue forever.

Sculptured glass designed by Claire Falkenstein for Vetrerie Salviati, Murano on the occasion of Biennale Vetro in 1972.
Some years later, in the early 1970s, Falkenstein returned to Venice to work with Vetrerie Salviati, of Murano Glassworks in creating several limited-edition pieces of glass sculpture (above). Most editions were comprised of nine items and today sell for over $6,000 each. The left item (above) is in opaline glass with hot application of amber glass. The piece on the right is a sculptured vase recalling a female torso, also from about 1973. The main body consists of opalescent hand-blown glass, with applied handles requiring glass applications in the same color.

St. Basil Church, 1969, Claire Falkenstein, A.C. Martin Architects.
In 1963, Falkenstein moved to the Venice district of Los Angeles, where she had built an oceanfront home/studio. She received many high-profile commissions for large public art pieces, including sculptures, fountains, and screens. My favorite, and to my way of thinking, the most outstanding work from her whole career came in 1969 when Falkenstein created the doors, gates, and stained-glass windows for St. Basil Catholic Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles (above). Years later, Falkenstein recalled, "When I presented my ideas for the windows and the doors, Cardinal McIntire asked me, 'Are you religious?' I said, 'Oh yes. I'm very religious.' He didn't ask me what religion. If he had, I would have said 'nature,' because through nature I came to the never-ending screen'."

Claire Falkenstein, all
wrapped up in her work.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Robert Rafailovich Falk

Paris, Canal Saint-Martin, 1930, Robert Falk
With the obvious exception of North Korea, there are very few countries left in the world today where painters need worry much about political censorship or retribution. That's not the case from a religious point of view, but then religion has always superseded politics as a coercive force to be reckoned with. Political ideology is fluid and ever evolving. Religious dogma is pretty much etched in stone (literally, in some cases). Roughly one-hundred years ago, one of the great cultural giants of the entire world fell under the crushing yoke of dictatorial Communism (they were called Bolsheviks at the time). Art became a tool of the state; artist were forced either to flee their homeland or submit creative control of their work to the state. The Russian painter Robert Rafailovich Falk tried both.
Falk was fluent in all the major painting styles of his day.
The Russian artist with the (mostly) American name, not to be confused with Peter (Colombo) Falk, was born in 1886. He grew up in Moscow to study at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in the years before the revolution. In 1910, Falk became one of the founders of what we might call today the Moscow chapter of the Paul Cezanne fan club. They didn't call themselves that of course. The group of rebellious young artists chose the name "Jack of Diamonds." All other visual art they considered too trivial and bourgeois. This point of view was not, by the way, limited to this particular group of Russian upstarts. Cezanne was practically worshipped by avant-garde artists all over Europe at the time.
The Cubist similarities between Falk and Cezanne are
striking, and by no means accidental.
Starting in 1918 and until around 1928, Falk taught at the State Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops. The oppressive yoke of Communist domination of art and artists did not exert its smothering effects in one fell swoop like a shroud over a dead body. It settled over the Russian art world, mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg (by that time called Leningrad) quite gently before tightening a strangling grip with the death of Lenin in 1924. Perhaps seeing the "handwriting on the wall" and the soaring star of Stalin, Falk took a short trip to Paris in 1928. He stayed ten years.
While safely ensconced in Paris, Falk seems to have picked
up an appreciation for Impressionism and Claude Monet.
As witnessed by his Paris, Canal Saint-Martin (top), from 1930, Falk apparently fared quite well in Paris alongside many of his Russian counterparts who came there before he did and those who managed to escape the political oppression of Stalinization in the horrifying years that followed. Despite being one of the fortunate ones who made it out alive, Falk returned to Moscow in 1938, where he managed to work in secluded isolation, "under the radar" of official government supervision and the muscular social realism that came with it.
Still Life with Bottles and Pitcher, 1912, Robert Falk
Despite the Communist "cult of personality" starting with Lenin and continuing under Stalin; and the near-deification of the party leaders that came with it, Stalin died in 1953. The transition from one Soviet leader to another has always been a rather messy affair. In this case, a political stalwart, who had somehow managed to survive all the Stalinist purges, crawled out of the party woodwork to emerge as the Soviet Premier--Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev. Shortly thereafter, around 1956, he initiated the "de-Stalinization" of the government and, in effect, the de-deification of Joseph Stalin. Included as part of this process was a period which came to be known as the "Khrushchev Thaw."

Artwork by Bernard Safran
September, 1959: Khrushchev's "thaw" ushered into
the Soviet Union a new wave of consumerism and freedom
of expression not seen since the days of the Russian Czars. 
Alley, 1933, Robert Falk
This period, from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, saw repression and censorship of artistic expression in the Soviet Union relaxed. Millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps, and peaceful coexistence with other nations became the hallmark of Soviet foreign policy. During the "Khrushchev Thaw" Robert Falk once more became popular among young painters. Many considered him to be the main bridge between the traditions of the Russian and French Modern Art of the beginning of 20th century and Russian avant-garde of the 1960s. Khrushchev, for his part, and despite his "thaw," was no great lover of Modern Art. He declared: “As long as I am president of the Council of Ministers, we are going to support a genuine art. We aren’t going to give a kopeck for pictures painted by jackasses.” Unfortunately, by this time Falk was over seventy and in ill health. He died in 1958 at the age of seventy-two, never having come to enjoy the new eras of glasnost and perestroika which came to follow.

The Night on the Market, Robert Falk--artists fearfully emerging from a long famine to taste a few sips of freedom.
Lisa In The Sunlight (the artist's
wife), 1907, Robert Falk

A Young Girl with Braids,
Robert Falk


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Picasso's Villas

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins on the French
Riviera, where Picasso lived for most of the years from
1961 until his death in 1973.
Recently I've been highlighting the homes of various important artists from the past--everyone from Rembrandt to Walt Disney. Today I decided I should explore the French villa of one of perhaps the most important artist of the 20th-century. He called it La Californie. It was only in delving into the artist's life that I discovered the Pablo Picasso actually only lived in Cannes just six years, from 1955 to 1961. Not only that, but over the latter half of his life (those years when he could afford such lodging) the man had four such homes, one in Paris; La Californie overlooking thee harbor at Cannes; another, the Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins; and the Château Vauvernargues near Aix-en-Provence, where he was laid to rest in 1973.

Pablo Picasso's granddaughter, Marina Picasso (the daughter of Picasso's oldest son, Paulo), poses outside La Californie, which she renamed, Pavillon de Flore. The property overlooks Cannes, and recently sold for more than $110-million.
One factor too, which separates Picasso from many of his long-departed peers, is that none of these four homes is currently open to the public. As near as I can tell, only one, the Chateau Vauvernargues, is still owned by any of the descendants of Picasso's three wives or their four children. The other three Picasso residences appear to be privately owned. Moreover, it's not probable they will ever welcome the hoards of art tourists that would likely ensue, the one simple reason being they all occupy some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The going price for a prestigious address on the Cote d'Azur is roughly $390 (€365) per square foot. That would be a pretty pricey tourist attraction.

Grenier de Picasso (Picasso's attic).
Picasso in his Paris studio with
his wood-burning stove, 1944.
Pablo Picasso's first major home-studio was in Paris at the 17th-century Hôtel de Savoie on the Rue des Grands Augustins in the chic 6th arrondissement of Paris. A plaque out front next to the building's wrought iron gates proclaims: "Pablo Picasso lived in this building between 1936 and 1955. It is in this studio he painted Guernica in 1937." His studio was in the cavernous attic (seen just above). Picasso moved into this studio after separating from his first wife, Olga. It was here that Picasso sat out the Nazi occupation of Paris. When a German officer tried to bribe the artist with extra coal to heat his studio, Picasso reportedly refused, retorting: "A Spaniard is never cold!". The heavy overcoat he can be seen wearing in the 1944 photo at left suggests otherwise.

Picasso's view, the old harbor of Cannes. When high-rise
buildings came and blocked his view in 1961, Picasso left.
Picasso's Villa La Californie (top), is a grand mansion in Cannes, France. The house overlooks the bay of Cannes. In the background are the hills of the district of California, from which the estate gained its name. Built in 1920 by a Russian diplomat, Picasso bought the house in 1955 and moved there with his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. From this studio he painted the Bay of Cannes (below), in 1958. In his own Cubist manner, Picasso represents the seascape strangled by the urban environment. He live here only six years before the city's urban sprawl sent him "house hunting" a few miles further up the Mediterranean coast to Mougins.

The Bay of Cannes, 1958, Pablo Picasso.
The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, recently sold for €164-million ($220-million). This luxury mansion, where Picasso took up residence for the final twelve years of his life, is located in the French resort of Mougins (in the Provence of Alpes--Cote d'Azur). For that considerable hunk of cash the new owner got a 35-bedroom villa with two swimming pools, a tennis court, a flower garden, a guest cottage and a guardhouse for protection. The town has also played host to Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arman, Yves Klein, César Baldaccini, Paul Éluard, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, and Catherine Deneuve.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie today bears only a modest
resemblance to the house Picasso knew. Modernization
has erased all but the Picasso mystique--that which jacks
up its property value.
Picasso's time in Mougins coincided with the height of his fame and wealth. Although his productivity was slowing down, during this period of time he produced some important artworks from his 'later period'. Among these were: The Dance of Youth, 1961; Nu assis dans un fauteuil, 1963; The Chicago Picasso, 1967; and Femme nue au collier (below), from 1968, which was a painting of Jacqueline Roque.

Naked Woman in the Necklace, 1968, Pablo Picasso
Although Jacqueline Roque was not the easiest women to be around, (she later prevented two of Picasso's children from attending his funeral), there is no doubt that she loved him. Thirteen years after Picasso's death, in 1986, Jacqueline Roque shot and killed herself, unable to cope with the loneliness of life without him. Picasso produced over 400 drawings and paintings of Jacqueline during the twenty years they were together. He produced seventy portraits in one year alone. This was more than he had done from any of his previous relationships, with Dora Maar or Francoise Gilot.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, then and now. 
Pablo Picasso died at his home of Notre Dame de Vie, Mougins in April of 1973. During the evening he and Jacqueline had been entertaining friends for dinner, when Picasso fell ill. The cause of his death was fluid on his lungs causing breathing difficulties which led to cardiac arrest. On the grounds of Château de Vauvenargues, near the provincial town of Aix-en-Provence, there is a simple mound of earth, covered in grass and ringed by ivy. Mounted on top is a curvaceous bronze nude, made by Pablo Picasso in 1933, and exhibited alongside Guernica in the Paris international exhibition of 1937. Beneath lies the body of the artist himself.

Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, 1887, Paul Cezanne
The Spanish artist bought Château de Vauvenargues in 1958. The estate is located in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain immortalized in countless paintings by Paul Cézanne (above), whom Picasso regarded as his artistic father. The current owner, Catherine Hutin (the daughter of Jacqueline Roque from her earlier marriage to engineer André Hutin) resides there now. When Picasso bought Château de Vauvenargues, he had intended to spend the rest of his life there. He sent for all his bronzes to be placed on the terrace and hundreds of paintings he had collected were stacked in the château’s cavernous rooms. He loved the isolation and scale of the place, which reminded him of Spain. However Jacqueline apparently found it too draughty and unfriendly. Just two years later, the couple moved to Notre Dame de Vie in Mougins. Picasso lived at Château de Vauvenargues for only a very short time. In death's irony though, he has spent far more time at this villa than he did during his lifetime in all his other villas combined.

Pablo Picasso's castle--Château Vauvernargues, Aix-en- Provence, in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gentile da Fabriano

Adoration Of The Magi, 1422-23, Gentile da Fabriano
Pseudo-Arabic script in the
Virgin Mary's halo, (detail above)
from Adoration of the Magi.
We all like to think that art is eternal--especially our own. However, in the back of our minds, we all know that's not the case. To clean up an otherwise nasty quote regarding the history of human ex-istence (including art) "Excrement hap-pens." Wars happen. Fires happen, as do floods, earthquakes, human greed, simple neglect, and many other enemies of mankind's creative efforts. In large part, perhaps far more than most other artists, that's been the story of the Italian painter, Gentile da Fabriano. In researching this unfortunate painter's work, the words, "now lost" keep appearing over and over again.
Gentile da Fabriano
from Vasari, 1568
Fabriano lived during the early years of the 15th-century, and thus worked almost exclusively for various churches creating lavish altarpieces, which, as art goes, tend to be the most treasured and best preserved works an artist can produce. However, he also lived and worked all his life in northern Italy, which, from Roman times on, may well be the most fought-over hunk of real estate on the face of the earth. As I've said many times before, war is the archenemy of art. In fact, it encompass virtually all the other disasters that may befall this fragile rendering of the genius of man.

Valle Romita Polyptych, 1405-1410, Gentile da Fabriano
Fabriano was born around 1470 and died in 1527. As his assumed name would indicate, the artist was born in Fabriano, located on the back side of the Italian "boot" roughly due east of Florence. In his youth, he gravitated to Venice and the workshop of Jacopo Bellini, where he worked helping to decorate the Doge's Palace. A disastrous fire palace in 1577 destroyed his early work. Fabriano's earliest surviving piece is the Valle Romita Polyptych (above), from around 1405-10, (now in Milan's Brera Art Gallery).

Quaratesi Altarpiece, 1425, Florence, Gentile da Fabriano.
As was the case with many lesser-known artists of the time, Fabriano moved around a lot. Besides Venice, he also worked at various times in Brescia, his hometown of Fabriano, Siena, Rome, and Florence. It was in Florence, in the family Church of San Niccolò Oltrarno, that he painted what's considered his greatest masterpiece, the Quaratesi Polyptych (above) from 1425. Though the work has long since been divided among several museums, through the magic of digital imagery, I've manage to reassemble (after almost two hours). The lower paintings depict (left to right) the Birth of St. Nicholas, The Gift of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Saving a Ship from the Tempest, St. Nicholas Saves Three Youths from the Brine, and the Miracle of the Pilgrims at St. Nicholas' Tomb. The upper images depict Madonna with Child and Angels (central compartment), flanked on the left by St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Nicholas of Bari, while on the right side we find, St. John the Baptist, and St. George.

Coronation of the Virgin, ca. 1420, Gentile da Fabriano
If the work of Gentile da Fabriano seems strangely formal and contrived, keep in mind that he worked in a style that's come to be called Italian Gothic. In short, this was the style which preceded the classicism of the Italian Renaissance. In his Coronation of the Virgin (above) from 1420, he used extensive tooling, decorative patterning, gold leaf, and rich pigments to create a sumptuous surface resembling a tapestry. The complex patterning, elaborate materials, and long flowing lines of the robes of the Madonna and Christ are characteristic of the Italian version of the International Gothic style.

Madonna With The Child,
Gentile da Fabriano--
characteristic of the
ravages of time and neglect,
offering a clue as to why so
much of the artist's
work is labeled "now lost."


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Carl Eytel

A Rio Grand Pueblo, 1918, Carl Eytel
There's an old saying having to do with success: "It's not what you know but who you know." Of course, there are some limitations to such a cynical viewpoint, but insofar as it goes, it also applies to artists. In the case of portrait artists, "It's not how you paint but who you paint." And, for the landscape artist, one might say, "It's now what you paint but where you paint." A couple days ago I wrote about an Australian artist named John Eyre, who became historically memorable not because he was such a great artist (he was mediocre, at best), but for the visual history of Sydney, Australia, which he almost inadvertently left behind.
Even in the Sonora desert, and long before Palm Springs became so "pricey," mediocre artists led a rather Spartan existence.
Very much cut from the same cloth was an American painter named Carl Eytel. He was born in 1862 near Stuttgard, Germany. His father was a Lutheran minister who died when Carl was just a child. With the death of his father, the young boy became a ward of his grandfather, who saw to it that he was well educated. At this point I usually mention that the child showed great promise at an early age in becoming an artist. Carl didn't. He wanted to be an American cowboy. That was, of course, taken as a rather silly ambition by everyone he knew, given the time and place. Instead, he studied forestry, which made more sense in that Germany had far more trees than it did cattle.
The Twelve Apostles, Carl Eytel.
After serving time in the Kaiser's army during WW I, Eytel set about to make his boyhood dreams come true. He emigrated to the United States and found work as a ranch hand in Kansas. Tiring, perhaps, of working with cantankerous live cattle, Eytel worked for some eighteen months in a slaughterhouse, "herding" far more docile to speak. However, that too no doubt grew tiresome after a while so when, the young man read an article in a San Francisco newspaper about the desert area of Palm Springs, California, he once more headed west.

Desert Scene, 1902, Carl Eytel
It was during this time that Eytel began to draw cattle rather than wrangle or slaughter them. The problem was that, as intimately familiar as he was with them, both alive and otherwise, dammit, he didn't know how to draw cattle. So, in 1897, by now probably more than a little homesick, Eytel returned to Germany to study up on the subject at the Royal Art School in Stuttgart. Inasmuch as that area of Germany is not particularly well-known for either palm trees or cattle, Eytel stayed for only eighteen months.

Untitled, 1910, Carl Eytel
Back in the United States, still deep-down wanting to be a cowboy, Eytel worked as a cowhand in the San Joaquin Valley for a time before eventually settling once more in Palm Springs around 1903. Living in a small cabin he built himself, the would-be cowboy artist spent the rest of his life in Palm Springs. Eytel often walked in his travels, sometimes covering as much as four-hundred miles in the Colorado desert on foot. His misadventures read like a western dime novel with which he was no doubt familiar. On one occasion he was nearly lynched as a horse thief while another time he was almost lynched again, this time suspected of being a German spy.

Coachella Valley, Carl Eytel
While living as something of a "desert rat" and starving artist, Eytel began to travel throughout the American desert Southwest accompan-ied by author, J. Smeaton Chase and painter, Jimmy Swinnerton. Later he served as a guide for the British photographer and journalist, George Wharton James to (I'm not making this up) "every obvious and obscure location of importance." Eytel then turned his art talent (such as it was) to illustrating James' two volume The Wonders of the Colorado Desert. The work was successful and received generally favorable reviews. The collaboration lasted for four years.

By burro or wagon, it sure beats walking.
The man in the back of the wagon is Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
During the latter years of his life, Eytel became a member of an evolving "brotherhood" of Palm Springs artists including the cartoonist and painter Swinnerton, author James, and photographers Fred Clatsworthy and Stephen H. Willard. The men lived near each other, traveled together throughout the Southwest, helped with each other's works, and exchanged drawings and photographs which appeared in their various books.

Palm Desert, Carl Eytel.
I see the desert, but where's the palms?
As an artist, Eytel was largely self-taught. Stylistically he might be considered an impressionist, though there's little evidence he either understood or utilized their color theories. He was not widely schooled, but he was widely read. Eytel possessed a knowledge not only of the Greek and Roman classics but of the best literature of England, America and his native Germany. More than a little eccentric, Eytel seldom slept indoors in order to inure himself to hardships in the belief it would toughen his constitution. Despite his concern as to his constitution, Eytel died in Palm Springs of tuberculosis in 1925 at the age of sixty-three.

Although, unlike John Eyre in drawing Sydney, Carl Eytel was not
"into" drawing urban landscapes (not that Palm Springs in his day
was what you'd call "urban." Yet his work, and that of his artist
friends, does provide a valuable starting point from which we can marvel at the incredible changes the 20th century brought to this desert oasis.
Eytel's most important art tool.