Friday Art: Barbershop With Monkeys & Cats by Abraham Teniers

Abraham Teniers was a 17th century Flemish painter from a family of more famous painters, notably David Teniers the elder (dad) and David Teniers the younger (brother). David the elder (as well as some other family members) painted lots of cabinet miniatures, but David the younger got more successful, married into the family of Pieter Breugel’s descendants and became court painter to Archduke Leopold William. He painted some wonderful landscapes, scenes of peasant life, and some religious paintings.

But deep in his soul, a voice cried…. “MORE MONKEYS!!!!!” Young David also painted monkeys in various situations. Monkeys were a popular depiction of human foibles during this period, so you’d see them in uniforms gambling or running amok, that sort of thing. But don’t tell me Abraham was a lesser artist when HE paints monkeys carefully tending to grooming kitty customers in a Baroque era barbershop this side of the BEST. ACID.TRIP. EVER!!!!!

This one is only 9×12 inches or so in actuality, making it probably smaller than your computer screen. He might like silly subject matter, but his ability to cram small details into the space is up there with other Northern European artists.

Love that cat in the center, admiring himself and his new look in the hand mirror. Bet he leaves a nice tip. And check out Puss ‘n’ Boots coming through the door in the back. Famous, yes, but did he book an appointment? The place is packed. Every cat needs a haircut to look good at Rembrandt’s cat’s bar mitzvah that weekend.

Okay, maybe that’s from MY acid trip.

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Friday Art: The Versailles Road at Louveciennes (Snow) by Pissarro

It’s the middle of February and I’m in the mood for a chilly scene of winter, I guess. This one is similar to the way Pissarro paints street scenes – the line of trees going off into the distance at an angle, the light effects off the different surfaces and buildings, and a sense of movement in the figures.

I love that sky. The whirl of brushstrokes suggesting gray clouds moving around with the dark patches looking to me like the remnants of smoke from chimneys outside of the frame… a little bit of wind, maybe? More snow on the way despite the shadows along the street suggesting the sun breaking through it all? I bet that group of kids on their way to pick up what looks like their sled over on the sidewalk must be hoping for more snow. Back when I was their age (probably about the time this was painted) more snow meant more sledding and school canceled.

HELL YEAH!

And now that I’m a mature adult & art lover, I’ll just sit here inside my warm abode on this gray rainy SoCal February day, have a nice cup of tea and think about winters’ past via Pissarro’s magic.

Friday Art: Sommarnöje by Anders Zorn (1886)

Good God, I thought Winslow Homer was a genius with watercolor, and then I discovered this guy. Look at that water…. the gentle waves, the subtle reflection of light, the dock, the boat… the shadows…. all of it, really.

Look at the fine detail on the wood of the rowboat, the dock. The near photographic realism of the two human figures and their clothes. (The woman is Zorn’s wife.)

And then remind yourself it’s a watercolor. How pointy this guy’s brushes must have been.

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Friday Art: A Pair From Konstantin Korovin

Korovin was a Russian impressionist painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who mostly worked in theater decor. He wrote that the impressionist work he saw in Paris for the first time contained “everything he was punished for” back in Moscow university. I must admit, I never really think of Russia when I think of the impressionist movement. Korovin’s stuff, however, is all quite lively and beautiful. He eventually moved to Paris shortly after the Russian Revolution, not to escape Stalin but I’m sure it worked out that way. He’d paint Parisian nighttime scenes a lot, they’d be his support when a bunch of his works were stolen before an intended exhibit. And he’d continue to work largely in scenery design for the theater.

A Night In Paris above, is typical of his work. A lively scene of happy colorful nightlife on shiny reflective streets (makes ’em look wet, but it’s not raining). This one evokes similar types of street scenes by Pissarro and (with the suggestion of rain) Caillebotte, but what makes it different is the 20th century modern feel to it. Look at how the two women in the center have a flapper look to ’em, and (especially) look at the cars. Look at all that electric light coming out of the cafés, through the shades and windows. It’s all bright ‘n’ fun ‘n’ alive, to say the least.

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Friday Art: A Pair From Everett Shinn

Shinn was an American realist painter of urban life who loved painting scenes from the NY theater scene. He’s associated with the Ashcan School of early 20th century American painters like John Sloan for the realistic depictions of everyday goings-on in the big city, like in one of my fave pics of his above, The Canfield Gambling House (1912).

Winter scenes always make me nostalgic for living in the northeast, now that I’ve been in SoCal lo these many years. Shinn’s depictions of the overall iciness are what draw me into this one. The whites are SO bright, with light reflecting off the icy surfaces regardless of texture – hard steps, flexible umbrella, soft horseback – but the ice doesn’t care. Everything freezes in winter. The ivy on the walls is dormant and bare. It’s zombie ivy, getting sleeted into a deeper coma. Wonderful subtle touches of white snow in every nook and cranny of the door, the carving above it, the windowsills, the wheel, the driver’s sleeve…. everywhere. There’s no escape from the driving flurries that are not depicted as falling flakes anywhere, only as landed residue. His technique is wonderful.

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Friday Art: New York Movie (1939) by Edward Hopper

Hopper’s one of my favorites. His paintings of everyday urban life and the fine line between solitude and loneliness in his figures always ropes me in.

This is one of my favorite Hopper paintings, too. Yeah, probably ‘cus I’m a movie guy, and I also love the way he sets up the mystery in what he’s showing us.

The frame is divided in half by the end of the theater wall, separating what looks like an entrance to the balcony on the right from the lower seats to the left. So we get the juxtaposition of the audience watching the screen on the left to the lone woman leaning against the wall under the bright light off to the side.

The red stripe uniform tells us she’s a bored and/or tired usherette (remember, they had movie theater ushers in 1939). She rests her tired chin on her hand, maybe sighing. She evokes the tired & jaded barmaid of Manet’s Foles Bergere – a lone woman jaded at her job, even though the job is connected to the world of flash and entertainment.

And look at the glimpse of what Hopper offers us on the screen – looks like we can see the top of an actor’s head leaning into what looks like a big movie kiss. Is this the magical cinematic promise/fantasy missing from the reality of the usherette’s life?

Those sorts of themes fit in with the rest of Hopper’s output. I also love the colors in this one – the way he uses the oranges and browns to give us the darkness of the theater, with yellows and greens used for both the movie screen and the brightness of that light, illuminating the reds of the curtains on the balcony stairwell. The texture on the carpet is also a nice touch.

And the year fascinates me – 1939 is known as one of the best years for American film. We got The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Roaring Twenties… all in the same year! Which one of those amazing classic films is the jaded usherette ignoring, I wonder? How jaded must she be to tune out such wonderful movies… unless of course, it’s The Return of Dr. X with Humphrey Bogart as the blood-sucking rabbit-loving mad scientist.

Hey wait, I actually like that one…

I wonder what Hopper’s favorite movies were. I might need to look that up now.

A Bittersweet Tour Through Yesterday

Back in the 1960s, resorts in the Poconos attracted fun-seeking young marrieds and celebrities, sort of an alternate Catskills. Numerous fancy schmantzy hotels & spas dotted the landscape.

And now, many of them are abandoned ghost resorts. Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts has a nice article about a lot of the abandoned resorts here – check it out for background and then…

Check out this great piece on dcist by photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer where he took old matchbook cover photos and postcards of the resorts in their heyday (like the pic above) and then took current-day photos of the same locations from the same angles, cross-fading them online. It’s fascinating and depressing all at once, watching the slick resort locales dissolve into graffiti-laden ruin.

Then for more wonderful photography of the abandoned sites, Seph Lawless’ work can be found here in some clickable galleries.

I’d like to think the ghosts of Morty Gunty and Tubby Boots are still putting on shows in those places… but it all has an eerie “The Shining” vibe to it, don’t it?

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