Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Well, like so many I use Facebook. Also, like many I have many people on my "Friends" list. Recently I had a odd experience. I had a FB friend who I did not know. I wasn't sure how she got there. I noticed that her profile pic was this really cool portrait of a woman with a head scarf or turban* and a shawl. I wondered if this was a contemporary portrait of her do in the style of a early period or a antique portrait. It appeared to be 19th century in style. Maybe the work of an American Itinerant Painter! So rather than pepper her with a million questions at once I posted to ask her if she knew who had painter the picture. She responded a "nameless" painter. I was very excited to see was was then most likely the work of a Itinerant. I told her this. She then told me it was a picture of Marie Laveau and people said she looked like Marie. I knew that Laveau was was a practitioner of Voodoo in New Orleans. I right way searched for the painting on line to learn more about it. Plenty of info was found on Wikipedia.*
Laveau was born in 1782 and died in 1881. A very long life for anyone in the 19th century, never mind for a person of mixed race in the south. She and her daughter, Marie Laveau II, had a large multi-racial following. Still today visitors place marks on her alleged crypt for a voodoo wish.
But, the portrait has a interesting history. It is not a portrait by a "nameless" painter. It is attributed to none other that George Catlin, famed painter of the American West and Native people in the mid-1800's. But, this is not the painting! The portrait we have today is by Frank Schneider and was painter by him around 1920. It is "after" or copied from the original that is said to be by George Catlin. Apparently the original is lost. The copy belongs to the Louisiana State Museum. The painting I have posted is after Schneider's by a person called Smerdis Smerdis of Tlon , who posted it to Wikipedia and released it into the public domain. Schneider's version is copyrighted. When dealing with the copyrighted picture of a Voodoo priestess still respected by practitioners today, I try to play it safe.
However, I can find little information about the Catlin painting. They would of been contemporaries. It is easy to image that Catlin would have visited the Port of New Orleans on his trip in 1830 when he accompanied General William Clark on a diplomatic mission up the Mississippi River into Native American territory or on later trips into the American West. So, where does the information that the original was by Catlin. I have found not refrences to it in on-line Catlin websites. Why would a painting of a well know New Orleans figure done by a important American painting dispear. Is there proof it ever existed? Was Schneider working from a orignal that was only attributive to Catlin by local ledgend? Or, is it possible the exsistence of the orginal is only legend? Does anyone know more about this? I would love to learn more.
This is a strange tale, fitting for a portrait of a voodoo priestess. Strangely enough the young lady "disappeared" from my FB "friends list" after introducing me to this wonderful portrait.
I will post more if I find out anything . . . .
* (Apparently this is called a“tignon.” It was always very fancy, made of colorful material and considered a fashion accessory. She usually wore it with seven knotted points sitting up like a crown. This information is from a poster at Yahoo Answers)
**(Please don't tell my students I used Wikipedia. I often explain how it is not a scholarly or primary source, and can be very unreliable. But, for this it seem like a reasonable place to look.)
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Was amazed by ipad, with stylus, and "Paint" app. Tried them in a store. Sketched away. Thought this could replace my always present sketch book. Then after the thrill died down, I thought: this is nothing I can't do with dry medium and paper then scan into "Gimp". Also, the apps seem limited to a max of four layers and appear to save in their own format not portable to other Graphics software. Think I am going to stick with "old skool".
This is mostly a visual blog - so I am going to throw up this doodle on made to past time on the ferry boat today.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A traditional design with Ships on Terra Cotta and a Non-Traditional Sailor Tattoo Design I call "First Mate" This is my second stab at the "First Mate"
Traditional New England Hand Throw Beanpot w/ very non-traditional design. The clay body has specks of Mag. Oxide that make the brown speckles. I fired the lid in place, dry. The Oxide must have fluxed fusing the lid to the body. I tried every trick I knew to dislodge it and it would not budge. I have given up and decided it would be a great doorstop. Then, I picked it up by the loop and it came free and clear. - (I already have request for more of this form.)
I found this recently:
"Myth # 66: In the winter, itinerant portrait painters would work ahead, painting canvases with bodies and backgrounds, but no heads, so that come summer, they would have only to fill in the subject’s head."
They conitue with:
"Such a good idea! Stay home during the winter months and paint a stock of canvases with bodies and backgrounds, then ride out in the warmer months to find clients who could select a body and pay to have their head painted on it. A real time saver for both artist and sitter, right?
But there is no evidence for it. No artist or sitter mentioned in dairies or other written records that this practice occurred. No unfinished, headless portrait painted by an early American folk artist has been discovered in an attic or storage shed. (And the few unfinished portraits that do survive inevitably include heads.) No physical evidence, like overlapping paint layers at the neck or head, has been detected on existing portraits. Nonetheless, museum guides say that someone in the group inevitably asks about this whenever folk art portraits come into view.
It makes sense to us today, and it seems to explain the similarities in the clothing and backgrounds of some American folk art portraits. However, in portrait painting, artists typically start with the most important feature—the head—and work the rest around that.
Because there are many examples of portraits that are highly similar in body and background, the myth spread. Scholars such as E. C. Pennington (Lessons in Likeness, 2011) and museums like the American Folk Art Museum, Cooperstown, the Columbus Museum, and Colonial Williamsburg point out the lack of evidence for this practice. "
What the next thin they are going to say is the itinerants didn't also paint signs and other commercial jobs when they needed money!
I do have a less reactionary response.
There is a painting at the Fearing Tavern Museum in Wareham Mass that the sitters head is very oddly placed her a body. It has been suggested this is a stock painting finished with the sitters head. I will attempt to photograph it, but it may take sometime. The museum is operated by the local historical society and only open on Saturday in August. It was this painting that help fuel my interest in these early American Artist.
Additionally another poster said this:
"At Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis, MD, we have a portrait by Robert Edge Pine that shows that the head and body were painted separately. You can clearly see a square where the layer of canvas containing the head seems to have been glued on top of the layer showing the body. I don’t think that Pine painted a generic body and then put a specific face on it, but I haven’t been able to find a definite reason for the technique he used. Someday I hope to have time to research it…"
So there you have it! What do you think?
I am posting a portrait of Daniel Webster done by a unnamed Itinerant.