The Passion of Collecting Academic Nudes

Join me as we explore my collection of Academic Nudes from the 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Centuries and serendipitous finds in the Museum, Art Auction, and Gallery world......examples from the Golden Age of the European Academie

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vincenzo Alfano (1854-1918) Bathing Boy (Bronze Nude) 1906

Portrait of Vincenzo Alfano (1854-1918)

I thought I would go ahead and photograph the other two nude bronzes I have in my collection and post them before I wondered off into the woods around here and got lost. The first bronze is a Bathing Boy by Italian-American Artist, Vincenzo Alfano (1854-1918), and the second is a bronze of Young Saint John the Baptist by Belgian Artist, Valentine Bender (1884-1947). This project gives me a chance to use the 85mm f 1.8 Canon Portrait lens I received last week for my Canon EOS 7D. I was not really satisfied with some of the early photographs I took way back when I started the blog because that Zoom lens had a pin-cushion effect on straight lines. Annoyed the heck out of me so I ordered a portrait lens and a 50mm f 1.4 all purpose lens to my bevy of lenses for that camera. I am really pleased with that lens and will probably shelve that zoom lens. The Portrait Lens gives a shallow depth of field, causing a nice blurry background while keeping the subject nice and sharp.

Bathing Boy (1906) (Bronze, Lost Wax Casting)

Vincenzo (Vincent) Alfano (1854-1918) was a well-known Italian-American artist who produced many public works sculptures, including works for the Pennsylvania State Capitol building. Alfano was both painter and sculptor. He was a native of Naples, Italy, where he studied at the Academy of Naples under famous painters Domenico Morelli (1823-1901) and Giuseppi Palizzi (1812-1888). Alfano emigrated to America in 1898, attracted largely by commissions from the growing American Renaissance movement. Alfano took up residence in New York and taught at the New York Industrial Museum. He is considered one of the most interesting artists of the school of Italian realism. He abandoned classical forms in favor of more naturalistic and forceful depictions of intense emotions. He had both fierce enemies and strong supporters of his work in Italy. Alfano was very well received when he emigrated to America and attracted many commissions for his talents. In 1902 he was given a Pennsylvania Capitol commission wherein he created two monumental sculpture groups for the entrance ways inside the main vestibule in Harrisburg. The front of the exterior of the United States Customs House in New York features a giant cartouche depicting the shield of the United States, with a serene head of Columbia, sculpted by Alfano in 1903. He was named an honorary professor of the Royal Academy of Naples and was also named a professor of The Industrial Museum of New York.


This beautiful little bronze work came into my collection about five years ago from an estate in New York City. The subject matter is one that you see time and time again in artworks of the late 19th and early 20th century: a bathing boy. It was cast in New York by the famous Roman Bronze Works which cast bronzes from many, many of America's famous sculptors. We will explore this theme of "Bathing Boys" in later posts and take a closer look at the famous Roman Bronze Works in New York. Whether or not it was ever translated into a life-sized fountain sculpture I have not been able to verify. Water in a pond would have come up to the level just below the model's right foot.


Caption: Bathing Boy (Bronze study for a Fountain Piece)
Artist: Vincenzo Alfano (1854-1918)
Medium: Bronze
Dated: 1906

Here is another example of Alfano's bronze works:

David & Goliath ... 1887, Napoli

Friday, August 27, 2010

Johannes Gotz (Goetz)(1865-1934) Jugendstil Bronze: Balancierender Knabe auf Kugel (Boy Balancing on a Ball)

Portrait of Johannes Gotz (1865-1934)


Caption: Balancing Boy on a Ball
Artist: Johannes Gotz (1865-1935)
Medium: Lost wax casting, Bronze
Dated: circa 1900
(Pardon the missing umlaut in Gotz's name)

Several weeks ago I was corresponding with the young woman who does my paper and oil painting restorations and she mentioned that now is a good time to buy European works of art considering the economic situation there and the fact that many nice works are being sold on the open market. I kept that in the back of my mind as I went about my constant search for drawings and paintings featuring the nude figure. Last night I happened upon a German Gallery listing on the net and snapped up this beautiful investment bronze. With the dollar heading for oblivion, it stands to reason those soon to be inflated pieces of paper had better be traded for something more substantial than the paper they are printed on. When I saw this beautiful bronze I decided to make the leap and add it to my collection. I have seen it before in Galleries and an example resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The price was slightly out of bounds but if I eat out of the same cans the dogs eat out of for a month (Pedigree Chicken & Rice is not bad on toast I hear) I could manage the cost, so I bought it. It should be on its way from Germany soon and into my collection. The art market will come back with a vengeance some day and this depressed market will be a thing of the past. (One man's depression is another man's opportunity I believe). 19th and early 20th century bronzes tend to be a bit expensive so I try to confine my collecting to drawings and paintings. This one I could not pass up though. I have several other nice bronzes of the same subject (nude youths) in my collection, a beautiful French bronze of Young Saint John the Baptist and a bronze study of a nude boy for a fountain from the Roman Bronze Works of New York. I will take those out and photograph them and post them at a later date. I think what is most satisfying about this bronze is the playful action of that figure. The artist has captured the very essence of what it means to be a boy.


Johannes Goetz (1865-1934) came from a family of artisans in Furth, Germany. He initially trained at the Art School in Nurenberg and later went to the Berlin Academy where he studied under the famous Prussian Sculptor Reinhold Begas (1831-1911). He enjoyed a wide popularity, including members of the Royal household. He collaborated in the decoration of the facade of the Berlin cathedral. From 1884 he lived in Berlin and enjoyed wide success. In 1892 to took the Prix de Rome.

Classical Life Drawing Studio: Lessons & Teachings in the Art of Figure Drawing

Mr. UPS just delivered a new book from that I ordered several days ago. The cover is illustrated below and the book is a beautiful history of Figural Drawing at the Art Students League of New York. What a bargain for less that twenty bucks and a great addition to my library. I have included a sampling of the illustrations of 19th century drawings, although the volume includes illustrations of works of current instructors at the institution. The Introduction includes a History of Academic Figure Drawing titled "Academic Drawing: A Living Tradition." Here are the particulars if you wish to order the book and add it to your own library:

Title: Classical Life Drawing Studio: Lessons & Teachings in the Art of Figure
Author: James Lancel Mc Elhinney & the Instructors of the Art Students League of New York
ISBN: 978-1-4027-4229-1
Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
Call Number: NC765.M385 2010


Here is a sampling of the beautiful illustrations:

Nude Sleeping Boy (Example of Foreshortening) Artist Unknown

I have tried to decipher that signature in the lower left hand corner of this drawing but for the life of me I can't read it so we will just wait until someone out there recognizes it I guess. I really love the square format or near square format of this drawing. Many of my own paintings are on square formats or similar proportions. There's just something about that format that captures my artist's-photographer's eye. I took photographs with a Hasselblad 2 1/4 by 21/4 format camera for many years and I guess my admiration of the format came from that photographic usage. Many of my fellow students in my painting class would always groan when I showed up with another square canvas for the assignment. They were addicted to the rectangle. Any student of drawing when asked what they find most difficult about the process of figure drawing will tell you that foreshortening poses the most difficulty in believable execution. Try it sometimes and you will quickly find out why its not easy. I think that the artist who created this nice drawing did an admirable job, especially when you consider how out of proportion a child's body is in comparison to his head. I honestly tried to identify the artist behind that signature and for some strange recollection this pose and the subject matter seems terribly familiar. After class I would hit the Fine Arts Library stacks and literally start at one end of a row and pull down all the books on that row and look at works of art. When I first saw this drawing I immediately thought of a preparatory drawing I had seen of a similar subject matter and pose by Pierre Cecile Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) for the Symbolist painting The Poor Fisherman (see illustration below). That child on the ground is what I am referring to. In the preparatory drawing by Puvis de Chavannes the child was not draped but nude and I'll swear was almost identical to this drawing. I will have to search through my extensive files and see if I saved a scan of that particular drawing, which brings us to another something in regards to this drawing and that pose. To my eye the symbolic use of a nude male child brings to my mind several concepts: innocence, vulnerability and more importantly, the viewer's gaze. Let's face it, if you enjoy figural works of the nude human body then by definition you are a voyeur. Three cheers for voyeurism! If you have a chance to review a copy of Germaine Greer's book: The Beautiful Boy, please do so. It is filled with so much information about the nature of male beauty and answers many of the nagging questions as to why you see so many nude boys floating around artistic works in art history. I remember the tempest in a teapot this book caused in the art world when it hit the shelves. One particularly incensed critic even called Greer a "pervert" for the exploration of her subject matter. I doubt that critic had even read the book as opposed to just oogling all those nude boys and male youths. I wish I had time to explore the subject in more detail now but we will have to wait until later.


Caption: Nude Sleeping Boy
Artist: Signature Unknown
Medium: Conte on paper
Dated: 1880 - 1900

The Poor Fisherman .... Pierre Cecile Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sir Charles Holroyd (1861-1917) Seated Male Nude

Portrait of Sir Charles Holroyd by Alphonse Legros

Sir Charles Holroyd (1861-1917) was Director of the National Gallery, London from 1906 to 1916. In 1880 he entered the Slade School of Fine Art, London where he studied under Alphonse Legros (1837-1911). His initial course of study at Leeds was engineering. From 1880 to 1884 he studied under Legros and learned the finer points of etching, which became his principle medium as an artist. He began exhibiting etchings at the Royal Academy from 1885 until 1895 of mainly religious and historical subjects, and portraits. Later in his career he confined himself to primarily landscape, painting, and etching. He was keeper of the Tate Gallery (1897-1906) and later served as director of the National Gallery. He traveled extensively in Italy from 1888 to 1898. At the Tate Gallery he actively promoted British artists. Holroyd made his chief reputation as an etcher of exceptional ability, combining strength with delicacy. He had learned a profound technical knowledge of the art of etching and printmaking from his teacher, Alphonse Legros. In all of his works, Holroyd displayed an impressive sincerity with a fine sense of composition and of style, allied to an independent and modern feeling.


Caption: Seated Male Nude
Artist: Sir Charles Holroyd (1861-1917)
Medium: Conte on paper
Dated: Circa 1880


Here are example of Sir Charles Holroyd's mature works and etchings:


Death of Torrigiano...exhibited 1886

Nymphs by the Sea..
Part of the "Icarus" Series...


Daedalus and Icarus 1 ...

Arkadiassa ............

Portrait of a Lady (Artist's wife?)

Sanford Authur Strong .... 1904 (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Sketch of Alphonse Legros ...

The Rialto, Venice .. (Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaelology)

The Salute, Venice