Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Constantin Alajálov: Portrait of Jane Bourbon del Monte, Princess di San Faustino

My self-appointed trial as off-site guest curator to the Clark Art Institute's collection of original illustration art by Constantin Alajálov must now come to an abrupt end. Six of the Clark's works by this artist are easily-identified New Yorker cover pieces, one being a preliminary version. This seventh work, if it was published, is likely an interior illustration to some other magazine such as, perhaps, the Saturday Evening Post, with which Alajálov was associated. The sitter, Jane Bourbon del Monte, the Princess of San Faustino, was an American expatriate who was a formidable social presence on the Roman and Venetian social scenes. She is here dressed in her widow's garb, which she wore in some form for more than two decades.

Constantin Alajálov, Portrait of Jane Bourbon del Monte, Princess di San Faustino
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute


Inscription

http://maca.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p132501coll22/id/915/rec/2
Princess di San Faustino

Note:  Perhaps some reader can identify where and when this illustration was published, or indeed whether it was published at all. Just let me know.

Previous posts about Constantin Alajálov can be found here.

01134


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Theatre Lobby: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

The final example of original New Yorker cover art by Constantin Alajálov in the collection of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts is a superb illustration of a Broadway theatre lobby at intermission. Dress, of course, is far less formal today, but the experience of attending a Broadway production is still totally recognizable from this 1940 illustration.

Constantin Alajálov, The Theatre Lobby,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
The Theatre Lobby Museum Description,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

The only thing I have to add to the Clark's metadata is the publication history:
Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, February 10, 1940
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute




Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, February 10, 1940

Note:  You can read more on the New Yorker work of Constantin Alajálov here. If you have artwork of your own you'd like to share, this is the place.

Additional examples of original New Yorker cover art may be seen here. There are now nearly thirty posts on the subject, which is one of my favorites.

My posts about Broadway are collected here.

01133

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Bewildered Sentry: Constantin Alajálov Preliminary New Yorker Cover Art

My survey of the works of Constantin Alajálov in the collection of the Clark Art Institute continues with an example of preliminary New Yorker cover art, the only such example in their collection. The title Fatigue Duty already appears on another Alajálov work of preliminary New Yorker art discussed here last week, so I'll use the alternative title of The Bewildered Sentry which I prefer for this piece anyway. Beyond that helpful alternative title, the Clark's online description doesn't have all that much to say about the art:

Constantin Alajálov, Fatigue Duty or The Bewildered Sentry,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Fatigue Duty or The Bewildered Sentry Museum Description,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

This preliminary wartime New Yorker cover artwork was simplified and improved upon for publication. The subject of the preliminary art is the summer heat, while the subject of the published August 1943 cover is body heat. The thermometer has been eliminated from the strap on the side of the finished artwork. The sentry, who once held his forward right knee awkwardly hyperextended, now strides confidently with his left foot forward and his knee slightly flexed. Most of the folks on the beach have been written out of the script, leaving only our sentry and a quintet of sunbathing women. From the published cover, it's hard to say just what the sentry is thinking, but we readily can guess what is on the young women's minds.

Constantin Alajálov, Preliminary artwork to The New Yorker, August 14, 1943,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, August 14, 1943

Note:  Why, yes, I have more to say on the New Yorker work of Constantin Alajálov here.

More examples of preliminary New Yorker cover art may be seen here.

Further posts about the Second World War may be seen here.

01132

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Hot Tip: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

Take a look at this amusing original illustration by Constantin Alajálov in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. The museum's online metadata gives it the title A Hot Tip, which seems pretty reasonable. The museum has no information regarding publication, although the date May 31 is clearly written on the original for all to see. Instead, not-very-helpful subject keywords are given such as trees and binoculars.

My temporary status as uninvited volunteer guest curator (which I made up) allows me to provide the publication history to the Clark and others as a public service. This was a New Yorker cover, of course, as is easily verified. If others have made this same observation before, I haven't been able to find where that might be.

Constantin Alajálov, A Hot Tip,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
A Hot Tip Museum Description,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
http://maca.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p132501coll22/id/910/rec/7 

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, May 31, 1947,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, May 31, 1947


Note:  There is more on the New Yorker work of Constantin Alajálov here.

More original New Yorker cover art may be seen here.

01131

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #424

Here is my entry for the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #424 for April 21, 2014. The drawing is provided by Tom Cheney and the caption is by me.

"I still say we should do the laundry at my mother's."



Here are a few other captions I came up with that I didn't use:
"Next time, hallucinate a refrigerator."
"The good news is we don't need a dryer."

"Maybe this is your idea of an oasis."
"Good news.  It's eco-friendly."
"We're only forty miles from the nearest detergent."


April 28, 2014 Update:  The Finalists


May 12, 2014 Update:  Winning Caption




Note:  Last week in Contest #423, some poor guy was abducted by his bathtub and the best caption I could come up with was this.

I'm fond of saying that Tom Cheney gives me more trouble than any other cartoonist in the caption contest, but the truth is they all give me trouble. Previous posts on Mr. Cheney are to be found here in the archives.

01130

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Chorus Girl's Eyelashes: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute boasts seven works by illustrator Constantin Alajálov, no fewer than five of which are fine examples of original New Yorker cover art. Clearly, this was a carefully-assembled group that may well have been donated by the artist himself. Otherwise, it's hard to imagine how so many superb pieces came to be together in one collection. Often museums indicate who donated a work or else what particular fund was used to purchase that work. This kind of information seems to be absent from the Clark's website, at least for these Alajálov pieces. It's always possible the museum may even have been aware all along that these are New Yorker pieces but it simply wasn't indicated on the website.

Just in case the Museum doesn't know about these magazine illustrations, though, I'm going to continue my stint as uninvited volunteer guest curator. Yes, I finally have given myself a title. It sounds so much more impressive than Blogger at Large.

This piece is identified on the Clark's website as Chorus Girl Putting on False Eyelashes. I have been accepting of these titles for the most part because I believe they might possibly have originated with the artist. I'm more leery of the Clark's subject keywords, which in this case include Interior Spaces. I just don't find that particularly helpful.

Constantin Alajálov, Chorus Girl Putting on False Eyelashes,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Chorus Girl Putting on False Eyelashes Museum Description,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Finally, your guest curator pretends to earn his keep by relabeling the piece as original magazine cover art:
Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, April 3, 1948,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, April 3, 1948

Okay. I'm ready for my close-up.


Note:  Read more on the New Yorker work of Constantin Alajálov here. I'll get to his other stuff soon, I promise.

Additional examples of original New Yorker cover art may be seen here.

01129

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chorus Line: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

In writing Monday's post, it occurred to me that the Clark Art Institute, owner of an original work of New Yorker cover art by Constantin Alajálov published on June 6, 1942, almost certainly has no idea what it possesses. If the museum realized that it owned original magazine cover art from the New Yorker, surely it wouldn't be using keywords like Utensils to describe the piece. Utensils!
Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942
Constantin Alajálov, Original cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Wave and Maid Museum Description
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

More to the point, this is pretty much how the Clark Art Institute catalogued all seven of its original Alajálovs. There is no publication information at all, and remember we're talking about illustration art. That range of dates, 1910-1955, broadly indicates that the artist may have created it anytime between his tenth birthday and the year the museum acquired it. His tenth birthday! Does this pass for scholarship? Readers of this blog know it was created between January (the date of the preliminary artwork) and May of 1942 specifically for the New Yorker's June 6 cover. Would you like to know what I think? I think the Clark needs a guest curator, that's what I think. OK, I volunteer. Well, if they absolutely insist on paying me, they can lend me a Renoir.

Here then is another brilliant Alajálov illustration from the Clark's collection, along with its official scholarly description. Let's see what the museum has posted online after having this to study for 59 years. We should be able to set them straight in a few minutes.
Constantin Alajálov, Chorus Line in Spotlight,
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Chorus Line in Spotlight Museum Description,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute


Well, it's immediately clear the museum has done a better job on this piece with its keywords. Dancing girls is, I hope we can agree, a solid improvement over Utensils. So now all that our guest curator needs to do is supply in a single line the publication history that has eluded the Clark for all these years. From the title of this post, you can pretty much guess what it is already, and it isn't exactly obscure. After almost six decades in the Clark then, here goes:
Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, January 17, 1942
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, January 17, 1942

That wasn't so hard, was it?


April 27, 2014 Update:  The Clark Art Institute was founded in 1955 from the collection of Sterling and Francine Clark. It seems almost certain then that the Alajálov works in the museum today were collected by Sterling and Francine Clark themselves. To put together a collection of this quality, they must have had to purchase the artwork shortly after publication in the New Yorker. They knew exactly what they were doing. Whether they kept records of it for the benefit of today's curators I don't know. If they did, the online catalogue of these works doesn't reflect it.


May 19, 2014 Update:  According to the July 15, 1946 issue of Life magazine, these chorus girls are actually the famous Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall.
Life, July 15, 1946, page 70



Note:  With museums putting more and more of their collections online, it's entirely possible that crowdsourcing could be used to identify publication histories of obscure illustrations. Unfortunately, my own attempts to use the knowledge of blog readers for such purposes have been disappointing so far. For a compendium of illustration art I've posted from unidentified or incompletely identified sources, click here.

Constantin Alajálov'art has been the subject of a lot of discussion here lately. See what you've been missing here.

There's a fair amount of original New Yorker cover art on this blog. You may as well have a look at it here, especially if you happen to be a museum curator.

01128

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Visiting the Barn: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

Illustrations are created for a purpose, and that purpose is generally to be reproduced in print. Not knowing the publication history of an original illustration often means not understanding its context or perhaps even its importance. Charles Martignette was an important illustration collector and he must have known that this original illustration of his by Constantin Alajálov was used as a 1945 New Yorker cover. One wonders what sort of records he maintained and whether the auction house that sold off his estate had access to them. Heritage Auctions is an extremely reliable seller of illustration art, yet even they did not recognize the significance of this particular illustration. The lot description gave the art a reasonable title, Visiting the Barn, and noted the medium of gouache and watercolor on board. There was no publication history provided and the painting sold for only $625.

This may not be the most appealing of Alajálov's New Yorker covers, but it is still a published New Yorker cover and probably would have sold for considerably more if it had been properly identified as such. Yes, the assembly-line nature of the milking operation depicted here is somewhat sobering. And yes, Alajálov has a regrettable penchant for showing sophisticated women smoking cigarettes. Nevertheless, even back then it couldn't have been prudent for even a sophisticated woman to carry a lit cigarette into a wooden barn with hay all over the floor.

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Constantin Alajálov, Framed original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Constantin Alajálov's signature

http://fineart.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=5090&lotNo=78005#74547454449


Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945


Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945


Note:  I have surveyed illustrator Constantin Alajálov's work for the New Yorker in a variety of blog posts which are located here. I suppose I can't keep this up for very much longer.

Some of my favorite posts feature original New Yorker cover art. You can see them all right here.

I'm always looking for fine examples of original New Yorker art, alternative versions, preliminary sketches, presentation drawings, etc. If you have access to the raw material of a future blog post, let me know. If not, don't worry. I don't think I'm going to run out anytime soon.

01127

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day with Asterix and Obelix

Happy Earth Day!  Asterix the Gaul and Obelix dominate the Eastern hemisphere in this 1975 painting signed by artist Albert Uderzo and writer René Goscinny. Asterix remains popular around the globe, but Sotheby's Paris may have put a prohibitively high estimate on this piece in their 2012 Bande Dessinée auction. At any rate, it failed to find a buyer.

Albert Uderzo, Astérix et Obélix, 1975

http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/bande-dessine-comics/lot.31.html
The awkward English translation is probably state of the art, for what it's worth:



Note:  See how Earth Days past were celebrated on this blog here.

01126

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fatigue Duty: Constantin Alajálov Preliminary New Yorker Cover Art

Comparing preliminary with published versions of New Yorker cover artwork allows one to infer the kinds of changes requested by the magazine's editors. Of course, some changes might have been made independently by the artist and some could be more or less random. Constantin Alajálov's preliminary cover illustration dated January 1942 is finished and seems perfectly adequate, but it was repainted by the time of the June publication. The question is, why?

Illustration House sold this alternative version of the June 6 cover in its May 2010 sale. The lot description notes this "is evidently the first version of Alajalov's idea, the main difference being that the woman has an officer's hat." The cap is a part of the uniform and seems to belong there right alongside the gloves. Were the editors concerned that readers might take it for a man's cap, that of a visitor? That would be totally out of context here. Did the editor Harold Ross think she should have hung it on a coatrack? I doubt we'll ever know.

The gloves have definitely been improved upon in the published version. In the preliminary artwork, they are somewhat creepy, like the gnarled roots of a tree. In the final version, they are sleek and elegant, befitting a woman's hand. Unfortunately, the woman's hand holds a cigarette in both versions.

The room has been rendered less frilly and more colorful. The feminine ribbons have been removed from the wallpaper. The window curtains are less ornate. Color has been added to the vanity, the ribbon on the lampshade, and the summer dress. Were the editors concerned that a white summer dress looked too much like a wedding gown? Why on earth were the slippers removed from the floor by the vanity?

Finally, for those who look at the New Yorker of this era as a bastion of propriety and respectability, it is interesting to note one other minor change. The bathroom door has been closed just slightly.

Constantin Alajálov, Preliminary cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942

Illustration House
Lot 6, May 22, 2010

The Illustration House sale price:
http://www.findartinfo.com/search/listprices.asp?keyword=14468&name=Constantin-Alajalov


In the previous year, 2009, this lot was offered by James D. Julia Auctions. They were unable to identify it as a variant of a published New Yorker cover, although they did note Alajálov's work for that magazine and for the Saturday Evening Post. They also noted the January 1942 date written on the back as well as the title Fatigue Duty, which I have adopted. The work did not sell.
Constantin Alajálov, Framed preliminary cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942


http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/constantin-alajalov-american,-1900-1987-prepara-2305-c-696c573d19

By November of 2009, someone identified the New Yorker connection. The work was sold for $900 and the buyer must have taken it to Illustration House for resale:

http://www.findartinfo.com/search/listprices.asp?keyword=14468&name=Constantin-Alajalov
By the way, the original artwork to the published cover is in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. They acquired it in 1955 along with six other works by the artist. They identify it by the title Wave and Maid. (During World War II, women serving in the U.S. Navy were known as WAVES, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.)
Constantin Alajálov, Original cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942
Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942

May 13, 2014 Update: An earlier sale of the preliminary art was held in 2008 by Trinity International. Interestingly they identified it as published, not preliminary or alternative, New Yorker art, and they gave it the title "The Wedding Dress." It sold for $2,000, more than twice what it fetched in 2009.


Constantin Alajálov, Preliminary cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942
Constantin Alajálov, Framed preliminary cover art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942
Constantin Alajálov's signature


http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/4710980


Note:  Alternate versions of published New Yorker art are often quite interesting. If you have access to any, please contact me to share your variations on a theme right here on Attempted Bloggery. Fame can be yours, but most collectors prefer anonymity.

More of my blog posts about the New Yorker art of Constantin Alajálov may be seen here.

I have just a few additional posts with preliminary versions of published New Yorker cover art and they may be seen here.

My previous posts about Earth Day are here and they're 100% organic.

01125