Illustrators #33 (magazine review).

art: JC Leyendecker
All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2021

If you want your jaw to drop, then you need to see the art of American artist J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) and think if he was modern, more so he could do comic paintings that wouldn’t be out of place in the likes of ‘Mad’ magazine yet he was at his pinnacle at the turn of the 20th century and was a major influence of all the artists that followed him, including Norman Rockwell who became a neighbouring friend. Seeing his work here and how he relied on models, declaring he wasn’t a photographer, shows how much more he added to the picture. There are also samples of how he prepared for each painting in exquisite detail that put people like me who paints directly to a canvas layout to shame.

art: Frank E. Schoonober
All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2021

In comparison, Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972) has a practically muted colour choices. Diego Cordaba points out that the artist tended to add red to all his paints to brighten them up. Schoonover was also trained by Howard Pyle and after trips through North America was frequently used for painting realistic western scenes. He was also the first artist of the Brandywine School to do SF illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Mars’ books, although none are included here. Looking on-line, there doesn’t appear to be many examples available neither.

art: Edmund Dulac
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(c) The Book Palace 2021

French artist Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) worked in watercolour with a more surreal look and also heavy into fantasy. His work is compared to Arthur Rackham, although I’m less sure about it simply from a detail point of view. Art is often down to personal taste and undoubtedly had his fans in his lifetime.

art: Edmund Blair Leyton
All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2021

Edmund Blair Leyton (1852-1922) will have your jaw drop even further when you realise you can’t find buy books of his paintings, although there are plenty of prints. When it comes to painting, you do need a keen eye for colour and then being able to translate it to canvas. Then there comes a problem of mixing the right colour and ensuring its balanced to the other tones you’re using. Looking at Leyton’s work, he had it right in spades, knowing when to mute and especially when to get detail absolute. His teacher, Thomas Heatherly, taught him an important lesson, stating, ‘In art, it is never too late to alter your art if it is wrong.

I do think scraping acrylic paint off a lot harder than oil paint but I see his point. I think any artist will objectively think none of their art is truly completed. I didn’t expect to be as totally bowled over by his medieval and regency paintings but his attention to detail is very humbling. It’s a shame he left no notes on his techniques but, even with the use of models, he painted what was there than what you think was there.

art: Frank Moss Bennett
All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2021

Finally, a gallery of Frank Moss Bennett (1874-1953) showing historical paintings. You can’t help but draw some comparison to Leyton’s work here and think why wasn’t he as so precise. Then you have to take into account that on a wall, you are more inclined to look at paintings at a distance than close up and even books can show some limitations that way.

Don’t under-estimate this edition of ‘Illustrators’. If you paint, you are going to come away wishing you can do better judging by the quality of the art here. Any form of art is a continual learning process and looking at the artists here then you’ll want to do as well as they can do no matter your subject matter.

GF Willmetts

June 2021

(pub: The Book Palace, 2021. 98 page illustrated squarebound magazine. Price: £20.00 (UK), $21.99 (US) via Bud Plant. ISBN: 978-1-913548-03-2. ISSN: 2052-6520)

check out website: www.bookpalace.com and www.illustratorsquarterly.com

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