Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Virginia S.

Virginia Snedeker   "Self-Portrait"  1933  Private Collection

Virginia Snedeker (1909-2000) was born in New York City, and studied at the National Academy of Design and later at The Art Student's League of New York. She was strongly influenced by artist Kenneth Hayes Miller, who taught at the League, and was an early proponent of the urban genre scene. Snedeker, under Hayes' tutelage, became part of what is now called the American Scene movement, which existed from some time in the 1920's through the 1940's (and even possibly into early 1950's.) The American Scene movement was also known as Regionalism, and rejected the currently fashionable Modernist Art movement, instead espousing a representational style focused on everyday life. Snedecker focused on the region she knew best, which was New York City.

Virginia Snedeker   "Self-Portrait with Brushes"  1938  Private Collection

In addition to her painting, Snedeker worked as illustrator. Her first cover for the The New Yorker magazine, 1939,  shows a bohemian-looking man and woman carrying a large painting through the streets of New York. It's fascinating to me that it appears to have been assumed that the artist of the couple was the man, whereas Snedecker, the painter, may have been quietly referring to herself. In any case, the cover was a hit, and its success gained Snedecker a coveted contract with the New Yorker. She did covers as well as numerous black and white spot illustrations for that magazine.

Virginia Snedeker  "Untitled (Bolsheviks)" The New Yorker June 10, 1939  Condé Nast Collection

After World War ll the world was a different place, all over. Snedecker married, and moved to Ridgefield, New Jersey where she eventually quit painting and illustrating, and instead focused on domestic life and raising a family. She is not known to have ever picked up a brush again after about 1949, despite living to the ripe old age of 91. Although Snedecker's work was shelved for decades, she has recently begun to be noticed again, and her oeuvre, both fine art and illustration art, was the focus of a solo exhibition at the Morven Museum in Princeton, New Jersey in 2006 and was also exhibited at the Morris Museum in 2008.  In 2009 her work was included in a group show at the Zimmerli Art Museum entitled A Parallel Presence: National Association of Women Artists, 1889- 2009.

~Many thanks to Eliza Drake Auth for spotting the Self-Portrait with Brushes image~

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blue Corn

Kirk Richards "Blue Corn" 1996  Private Collection

Kirk Richards (b. 1952) was born, raised and currently lives in Amarillo, Texas. For someone from that area of the country Richards seems relatively uninterested in the usual southwestern style art scene. In fact this painting has the most southwestern flavor of any works of his I have seen. And rather than focusing on a big-hatted cowpunch, Richards has turned his intimist gaze on a Pueblo artist at work. This interior has a Vermeer-like calm, showing a moment of absorption in an artist's life, suspended for our contemplation.

Richards earned two degrees from West Texas State University and studied privately with the artist Richard Lack. He taught for many years, founding his own atelier of classical realism, and has also written about art for various publications including the Classical Realism Journal.  His work has been exhibited widely, and he is currently represented by Gandy Gallery. The artist's website can be found here.

~Many thanks to Eliza Drake Auth for sending me this image~

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Ruth Smith "Self-Portrait"
Ruth Smith (1913-1958) was born and lived most of her life in a small chain of islands known as the Faroes. This archipelago is situated about halfway between Norway and Iceland, but is under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. Nonetheless, it is a self-governing country. Someone from the Faroe Islands is described as Faroese. (Just FYI!) 

Smith lived in Denmark for a while and studied first with artist Bizzie Højer and then at the Art Academy of Copenhagen (I actually cannot figure out which academy is meant by this, there are two with similar but not matching names...anyone who knows please tell me!) She moved back to the Faroes, living in the small village of Nes, situated on a fjord. Smith enjoyed swimming in the sea, but this rugged athletic pursuit led to her death. She drowned during a swimming session. 

There is a museum dedicated to the artist called the Ruth Smith Art Museum. It is located in the Old School on Vágsvegur 101, in the town of  Vágurand this is the same school Ruth Smith attended as a child.

~Many thanks to Allan Rahbek for alerting me to this artist!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finishing Touches

Thomas Jefferson Kitts  "Finishing Touches, Big Sur"

Thomas Jefferson Kitts is a contemporary artist based in Portland, Oregon. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri before returning home to the Pacific Northwest.  Kitts has won many awards for his accomplished plein air painting. His work is in numerous collections, and he is also a popular teacher, leading many plein air (painting from nature) trips all around the world for adventurous art students. Kitts painted this beautiful image of one of his students on such a trip at Big Sur in California. You can just feel that satisfied and tired end-of-a-good-painting-day feeling the artist is experiencing, as she is bathed in the beautiful light of the golden hour.

Kitts' website can be seen here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mother and Son

Sigrid Hjertén  "Self-Portrait with Son"

Sigrid Hjertén (1885-1946) is now considered one of the great Swedish modernists, but she received  mostly scorn and disparagement from the art critics of her day, with only a few exceptions. She graduated from the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, intending to be a drawing teacher. However at the encouragement of her future husband, the artist Isaac Grünewald, she instead committed herself to the life of the "fine artist', a decision which she inaugurated by heading off to  France to study with Henri Matisse. Although impressed with the work of Matisse and Cezanne she herself leaned more toward an emotional rather than cerebral response to color, thus inadvertently allying herself with the German Expressionists such as Ernst KirchnerHjertén was known to speak of colors in a way that described the emotions they invoked within her by such phrases as "cold yellow", which I believe could be a symptom of a neurological condition known as synesthesia. Synesthesia can take different forms, and in Hjertén's case it might have been an unusual ability to interpret people and emotions through color associations.

Whether or not Hjertén actually had synesthesia (and this is purely a conjecture on my part) she did suffer from various "nervous conditions" which escalated in intensity until she was diagnosed with schizophrenia (a catch-all diagnosis at the time) and placed in care in a psychiatric hospital in Stockholm. She died of complications from an unsuccessful lobotomy in 1948, having not painted for almost the last decade of her life. 

In this painting Hjertén portrays herself with her young son, Ivàn, who watches her with the alert gaze of the intelligent child, as she attempts to paint while wearing a spectacularly plumed hat and a slightly dazed expression.  Although Hjertén's work draws association with that of Kirchner and some other German Expressionists, many of her works strike me as an oddly precurrent mash-up of the work of Florine Settheimer and of Alice Neel, raw emotion jostling with a theatrical  presentation and an almost eerie use of both color and line.

Note: I am unable to find the date this was painted, nor discover its current location. If anyone reading this has any information, please do contact me so I can include those details. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Art Lesson

Henri Fantin-Latour "The Art Lesson" 1879 The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium 

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) was, at heart, a homebody. While a young man living at home with his family in their Paris apartment he frequently used his parents and two sisters as models. After his marriage he was equally content with his new domestic circle, and used his wife and her sister and their parents as models too. Even the flowers he painted in his well-loved still-lives were often those grown by his wife Victoria Dubourg, who was an avid gardener as well as a respected painter. In this painting Fantin-Latour has painted his two sisters Marie and Natalie drawing and painting a still-life set-up.  Fantin-Latour's father Théodore Fantin-Latour was a professional portrait artist, and probably encouraged his daughters to learn at least the rudiments of art, although nothing is known of their artistic output.

~Many thanks to Eliza Auth for sending me this image~

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Louise C. Fenne

Louise C. Fenne "Painter at Work"  2004
Louise Camille Fenne (b. 1979) is a native of Denmark. She studied drawing at the Glyptothek in Copenhagen, then enrolled at the Florence Academy in Italy. After that she studied in various other locales around Europe, finally returning to Denmark where she now lives and works. She exhibits at Ann Long Fine Art and Eleanor Ettinger Gallery. Her work is a combination of realist and fantasist and she concentrates mainly on portraits, figure and still-life. Her website can be seen here.

Louise C. Fenne "Woman at Work"  2006

Louise C. Fenne "Self-Portrait with Cockatoo" 2006

Louise C. Fenne "Self Portrait with My Muse" 2012

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Mabel Dwight "Self-Portrait"  1932 Smithsonian American Art Museum

Mabel Dwight (1875-1955) led an unusual life, perhaps the most interesting aspect being that she did not really hit her artistic stride till she was well over fifty years old!  This deaf artist was born in Cincinnati and grew up in San Francisco where she studied art at the Hopkins School of Art. In 1903 she moved to New York City, settling in the Greenwich Village section of the city and apparently participating actively in that artistic and intellectual milieu. In 1906 she married artist Eugene Higgins, known for his paintings and etchings, and spent the next eleven years promoting her husband's career and becoming more and more  involved in political and social causes. The couple separated in 1917. The following year she became a secretary for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's newly established Studio Club, an organization for promoting modern American art that has since evolved into the Whitney Museum of American Art She also participated in the club's life drawing sessions, exhibitions, and other community activities. In 1921 she took the name of Dwight, for reasons unknown. (Her birth name was Mabel Jacque Williamson.)

While visiting Paris in the mid-1920s Dwight was introduced to what became her medium of choice, lithography. It was through this form of printmaking that she was best able to express her artistic vision. She had almost immediate success with her lithographs depicting satirical scenes of everyday life. Her eye was compassionate, despite her keen sense of the comedic she had a deep understanding of the cause of underlying social pressures on human impulses and actions.

During the depression Dwight worked for the WPA, producing a series of twenty-five lithographs in the social realist vein. Her work attracted the attention of collectors and curators and she was able to support herself despite failing health which necessarily took its toll on her artistic output. In the last years of her life she lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her work is found in major collections, both private and public, throughout the United States including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Smithsonian.