Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Random Inspiration: John MacDonald Aiken

John MacDonald Aiken
Portrait of the Artist and his Wife (1910)
oil on canvas
181 X 114.3 cm

Scotsman John MacDonald Aiken was born in Aberdeen in 1880, and remained there in the great "Grey City" for most of his life.  His training began with a six-year apprenticeship to Robert Gibb, a portraitist, painter of military scenes, and the eventual official Painter and Limner to the King of Scotland.  After his study with Gibb, Aiken attended Gray's School of Science and Art in Aberdeen, which, founded in 1885, was one of the earliest fine art institutions established in Scotland.  Perhaps seeking a more cosmopolitan education, Aiken next continued his training in London at the Royal College of Art where he studied under Gerald Moira, a muralist and one of the founding members of the National Portrait Society.  Before returning to Aberdeen to assume the Head position of Gray's, Aiken travelled to the continent, where he completed his studies in Florence.

After serving in the British military during the First World War, Aiken resettled in Scotland, and devoted himself full-time to his painting.  He exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and at the Royal Academy, London, but it seems his most significant award came at the 1923 Paris Salon, where his portrait of Harry Townend earned Aiken the Silver Medal.  In 1937, in recognition of his work, he was elected a Royal Scottish Academician.

Aiken's early works display a decorative aesthetic which was greatly influenced by his study with Gerald Moira.  Later, aspects of his early training began to come to the forefront, but it may be his admiration for the work of his contemporary, Irishman Sir William Orpen (see Aiken's copies of two Orpen paintings below), which shaped much of his later art.

Aiken passed away in 1961, at the age of 81.

The Honourable Henrietta O'Neill, Wife of Charles Leith-Hay
oil on canvas
125 X 99 cm

Portrait of Barbara
oil on canvas
122 X 102 cm

Harry Townend (c. 1921)
oil on canvas
127.4 X 102.1 cm

This painting won the silver medal at the 1923 Paris Salon.

The Reverend W.G. Robertson, DD (1949)
oil on canvas
127.5 X 101.8 cm

William Kelly, LLD, ARSA
oil on canvas
90 X 69.5 cm

Portrait of a Man
oil on canvas
111.8 X 86.5 cm

John Lamb, Provost
oil on canvas
102 X 76.4 cm

Francis Cooper, DA, ARCA, FEIS, Principal of Dundee College of Art (1929)
oil on canvas
110 X 85 cm

Annie, Viscountess Cowdray, High Steward of Colchester
(copy after William Orpen) (c. 1920)
oil on canvas
203.2 X 104.1 cm

The Right Honourable Weetman Dickinson Pearson,
1st Viscount Cowdray PC, GCVO
(copy after William Orpen) (c. 1920)
oil on canvas
203.2 X 104.1 cm

The Seamstress (c. 1939)
oil on canvas
91.4 X 71.1 cm

Namouna (1910)
oil on canvas
76.2 X 64.8 cm

This painting takes its title from a ballet written in 1881-1882
by the French composer Edouard Lalo (1823-1892).

Lady in Black (The Artist's Wife) (c. 1917)
oil on canvas
126.6 X 95.2 cm

Charles O'Neill Leith-Hay, Aged 14 (1932)
oil on canvas
63.5 X 49.5

Sir John Phin, DL, JP, LLD, Lord Provost of Dundee (c. 1941)
oil on canvas
127 X 101.6 cm

The Chess Problem
oil on canvas
113 X 102.9 cm

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Color Palettes: Rupert Alexander (b. 1975)

Rupert Alexander
Robert van Wijk
oil on canvas
70 X 60 cm.

With the frenetic pace of life that most people keep today, it can be quite difficult for a portrait artist to pin down a sitter long enough to complete a painting from life.  Artists will often have to remain very flexible in order to accommodate the schedules of their busy subjects, but this frequently results in a painting which takes months or years to produce, when, under ideal circumstances, it could have taken only a small fraction of that time.  Rarely would a portraitist expect a commission to last more than a decade, but then again, rarely is an artist asked to paint a portrait of Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1998, when London-born artist Rupert Alexander was asked to paint portraits of the British Royal Family, he was, at the age of 23, the youngest artist charged with that task since the 18th century. Sittings with HRH Charles, The Prince of Wales, and with HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, were arranged, and Alexander was able to paint both men under natural light within Buckingham Palace, but the remaining subject of his commission, Queen Elizabeth, had a diary so full that she could not, at that time, spare a moment for Alexander to capture her likeness.  It would take another eleven years before the Monarch was finally available to sit for Alexander, and nearly two more for the artist to complete the portrait.

In total, Alexander was granted only three sessions with the Queen, each one lasting just an hour. These meetings were planned to take place all within a four-month period, but with the many demands imposed on the Queen's time, the gap between the second and third sittings was prolongated from a few weeks to a year.  To then make the most of this limited exposure to the Queen, Alexander spent his time at Buckingham Palace concentrating on Her Majesty's visage, while her clothing and even her hair had to be treated as incidental to his information gathering.  Back in his South-London studio, Alexander then employed friends and family as body doubles for the Queen, and dressed these sitters in a custom-made copy of the Queen's jacket, and in a hairpiece he had hired a professional wigmaker to create.  Eighteen months after the initial sitting, and twelve years after the commission had been made, Rupert Alexander's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was finally unveiled at the Royal Warrant Holders Association in London, just days after the Queen's 84th birthday.

Alexander's portrait of the Queen gives proof to the adage that "Good things come to those who wait." Its stark and intimate portrayal reveals that the vitality and strength possessed by the Monarch are intrinsic to her character, and are not qualities bestowed upon her through the accoutrement associated with her position.  It is a truthful portrait of the woman, and not just a picture of her title.


Alexander's initial studies in art took place at the Chelsea College of Art, which, with the aid of a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust awarded to the artist in 1995, were followed by studies at The Florence Academy of Art, and at the Charles Cecil Studios in Italy.  

Of his palette, Alexander has this to say:

My flesh palette is a traditional limited palette: lead white, vermillion, yellow ochre and ivory black. Occasionally I add cobalt blue, primarily to cool shadows where necessary. In other areas of a painting I expand this palette to include French ultramarine, cerulean, alizarin crimson, cadmium red and cadmium yellow, and occasionally other colours like manganese blue, colbalt violet, red ochre and so forth. For the most part I use Michael Harding's paints as I find them to be the best tube paints available. The only exceptions are yellow ochre (I use ochre Romana, prepared by Zecchi of Florence - traditional yellow ochre with a small addition of raw sienna) and ivory black (I use Blockx as it has greater depth than any other I have found). 
I used to grind all my own paints but the only colour I prepare myself now is lead white. White provides the majority of the body of the paint layer, so I find having a white of ideal consistency is crucial, and the only way to achieve that is to grind it oneself.

For more information on Rupert Alexander, please visit his website, www.rupertalexander.com.

HM Queen Elizabeth II
oil on canvas
52 X 40 cm

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
oil on canvas
60 X 50 cm.

HRH The Prince of Wales
oil on canvas
60 X 50 cm.

Christopher Darroux-Xavier
oil on canvas
65 X 50 cm

oil on canvas
28 X 20 cm.

oil on canvas
45 X 35 cm

oil on canvas
60 X 50 cm.

charcoal on paper
46 X 38 cm.

Roger Knight, CEO of the MCC at Lords
charcoal on paper
52 X 38 cm.

oil on canvas
55 X45 cm.

Rob Fahey, Real Tennis World Champion
oil on canvas
96 X 71 cm.

"The portrait is of ten-times real tennis world champion Rob Fahey,
seen on the court at Lord's cricket ground.  The portrait was painted
over the course of six weeks both on location and in the studio. 
Alexander's aim was to show the sitter's dominance in the sport and
something of the atmosphere of the enclosed space."¹

David Burbidge
oil on canvas
140 X 104 cm.

¹BP Portrait Award 2012:  Rob Fahey on Court, retrieved January 24, 2013 from [http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2012/the-exhibition/exhibitors/bp-2012-exhibitor-2.php].

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jeremy Lipking: Upcoming California Workshops

Artist Jeremy Lipking has recently announced two upcoming workshops:

Painting the Figure
Lipking Studio, Agoura Hills, CA
March 1 - 3, 2013
Tuition: $495

"All aspects of painting the figure from life will be covered in an intimate setting at the Lipking Studio, with frequent demos and hands-on instruction. The first two days will explore the figure painted in cool studio light with the third day featuring the figure outside, weather permitting. From the initial sketch 'block-in', to more sophisticated sketch 'finish', Lipking will show his art process and thinking.

The workshop is conveniently located a stone's throw from Malibu's beautiful beaches and mountains, near great hotels, restaurants and major freeways."

For more information, please call 818.451.7675.  To register online, please click here.

Painting the Landscape
Sierra Mountains, CA
5-day workshop, June 2013

Details have yet to be finalized, but it is advisable to reserve your space early.

Painting from the Model
Tuesday Evenings / Two Week Poses
$480 per eight week semester

Enroll Anytime

Max Ginsburg NYC Workshop April 2013

Max Ginsburg is offering a five-day workshop at The Art Sudents League of New York this April, from the 15th through the 19th. Enrollment is limited to 12 students, with a fee of $800 per person for the full session. Please visit www.theartstudentsleague.org for additional information.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Arcadia Gallery at the LA Art Show

Mary Jane Ansell
Girl Ashore
oil on panel
20 X 13.5 in.

New York City's leading venue for contemporary representational art, Arcadia Gallery, is heading west this week to give Californians a first-hand, sneak peek at works from the gallery's talented assembly of painters.  Arcadia will be participating in the LA Art Show, which, now in its eighteenth year, is the longest running exhibit and sale of its kind in the country.  With more than 100 galleries from around the world participating and an audience of more than 50,000 visitors expected, the Show is the largest on the West Coast, and Arcadia, from the examples of artwork shown here, figures to feature prominently among the exhibitors.

The 2013 LA Art Show runs from January 23 through January 27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  It will be held in South Hall J and K to accommodate all four sections of the exhibit:  Modern & Contemporary, Historic & Traditional, Vintage Poster, and The IFPDA Los Angeles Print Fair.  For more information, please visit the event website, www.laartshow.com.


Thursday January 24, 2013 11am - 7pm
Friday January 25, 2013 11am - 7pm
Saturday January 26, 2013 11am - 7pm
Sunday January 27, 2013 11am - 5pm

Matthew Cornell
oil on panel
35 X 40 in.

Ron Hicks
Table for Two
oil on canvas
60 X 40 in.

Brad Reuben Kunkle
oil, gold and silver leaf, on panel
32 X 24 in.

Casey Baugh
oil on panel
24 X 16 in.

Gregory Mortenson
oil on canvas
50 X 24 in.

Jordan Sokol
Old Ghosts
oil on canvas
25.5 X 19.5 in.

Julio Reyes
Velada No. 2
oil and egg tempera on copper
10 X 9 in.

Takahiro Hara
Lucia Tumbada
oil on linen
28.5 X 39.5 in.

Dorian Vallejo
Freefall No. 1
oil on canvas
73 X 45 in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Auction Preview: Bonham's Auction 20485
19th Century Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours

Henry Tanworth Wells
Portrait of Emma and Federica Bankes of Soughton Hall at their Dressing Table (1869)
oil on canvas
57⁵/₁₆ X 48⅟₁₆ in.

Bonham's Auction House, London, will be holding its sale of 19th Century Paintings, Drawings, & Watercolours in just a few days, at the venerable auctioneers' New Bond Street location.  There are over 100 lots in the sale, all of which can be seen in person during previews, beginning this Sunday, January 20, 2013.  The full catalog is also available for viewing online.

What I particularly like about searching through these auctions is the ability to see artworks which are not in museum collections, and which are, therefore, less familiar.  A good case in point is the work of Edmund Blair Leighton, who is represented here by two paintings.  Blair Leighton (not to be confused with Frederic Lord Leighton, to whom there was no relation) is an oft underrated, British, genre painter, the vast majority of whose paintings reside in private collections.  That he is as widely known as he is is the result of the popularity of licensed products bearing images of just a few key examples of his work (The Accolade probably being his most famous of these reproductions).  Currently, Kara Lysandra Ross, Director of Operations at the Art Renewal Center, is compiling a catalogue raisonné of Blair Leighton's paintings, but until that collection is published, auctions like these are the best opportunity to see his lesser known works.

The auction of 19th Century Paintings, Drawings, & Watercolours will take place in London on January 23rd at 2:00 PM GMT.  Preview dates and times are as follows:

January 20  /  11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
January 21  /  9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
January 22  /  9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
January 23  /  9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Edmund Blair Leighton
The Glance that Enchants (1902)
oil on panel
13¹⁵/₁₆ X 9¾ in.

Edmund Blair Leighton
The Latest News (1920)
oil on canvas
14 X 18½ in.

Vlaho Bukovac
At Rest (1909)
oil on canvas
16¹⁵/₁₆ X 21¼ in.

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe
Interior with Cello
oil on canvas
29¹⁵/₁₆ X 22⅟₁₆ in.

John Prescott Knight
Portrait of Marshall Ramon Cabrera, El Tigre del Maestrazgos
oil on canvas
36 X 28⅛ in.

Sir George Clausen
Portrait of Arthur George Clausen (1893)
oil on panel
9⁷/₁₆ X 6⁵/₁₆ in.

George Spencer Watson
Portrait of a Lady Holding a Parasol
oil on canvas
34⁷/₁₆ X 26¹⁵/₁₆ in.

Alfred Guillou
The Mussel Gatherer
oil on canvas
45¹³/₁₆ X 27⁷/₁₆ in.

Henry Scott Tuke
A Bather
oil on panel
11⁷/₁₆ X 7⅞ ln.

Albert Brockbank
On the Fylde Coast (1886)
oil on canvas
29¹⁵/₁₆ X 43¹¹/₁₆ in.

Sidney Richard Percy
Glaslyn (1878)
oil on canvas
24 X 37⅜ in.

John Atkinson Grimshaw
Thrush's Nest, Primroses, Pear Blossom (1862)
oil on board
12 X 15¹⁵/₁₆ in.