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, October 30, 2010

John Barnard Whittaker (1836-1926) Nude Boy By A Stream

John Barnard Whittaker was born at Templemore, Tipperary County, Ireland on August 16, 1836. The great famine and rebellion forced the family to emigrate and they arrived in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1848. John attended Public School No. 1 for a few months before, at the tender age of twelve, he went to work assisting his father, Benjamin, a decorator, grainer, and watercolorist, who taught him how to paint. Afterwards he studied at the National Academy of Design for a short while under Thomas Seir Cummings. In 1863 he attended classes at the Graham Art School in Brooklyn. Between 1859 and 1892, seventy-eight of Whittaker's paintings were exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association. By 1866 Whittaker was teaching at the Graham Art School. He was instrumental in organizing the Brooklyn Academy of Design. In 1875 Whittaker became the director of the Art department at the Adelphi Academy where he held the position for forty-one years, until his retirement in 1916 at the age of eighty. Whittaker was very active in the Brooklyn art community and was one of the founders of the Brooklyn Sketch Club (1857), the Brooklyn Art Social (1859), and the Brooklyn Academy of design (1867). In the summer of 1887 he visited Paris and Munich. He was amongst a group that promoted the creation of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. After his retirement he devoted his time to painting and did so until his death on September 24, 1926 at the age of ninety. His works are in the collections of several Museums, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
While doing some research on Whittaker this morning, I discovered that this particular painting was part of the Collection of Dr. Clark S. Marlor, Professor Adelphi University and was sold at auction by Christies in 1995. Marlor, from my research, was the author of "A History of the Brooklyn Art Association" (1970) and penned a Biography of John B. Whittaker under that title. I bought this painting at auction several years ago. I did not pay much attention to the measurements on the auction site and got the shock of my life when I had to make arrangements to have it shipped. I had placed what I thought was a fair bid and literally forgot about it until the email arrived advising me that I had taken the auction. It arrived in a sixteen wheeler and took me an hour to unpack. Next time I buy something this large, it measures 42 inches by 62 inches with the frame and takes up one wall all to itself, I promise to pay more attention to the size listed in the description before jumping off the bridge. Truly a nice example of Whittaker's painting talents.
Bathing Boys as subject matter in Art
I have previously mentioned in past posts the use of the nude boy, nude youth, or nude ephebe in art and this is a prime example of the phenomenon of "Bathing Boys" as subject matter and symbol in art. I think I will go back into my image files and pull out some additional examples of this popular subject matter. I think you will be astounded at the vast quantity of paintings, drawings, and prints featuring the nude boy swimming, playing, and bathing. If I can find my copy of Germaine Greer's book... The Beautiful Boy, I'll do some research and see if we can make some sense out of why boys play such a prominent role in artistic studies, especially in the late 19th century. I have seen volumes on "The Female Nude" but for the life of me I don't think I have ever seen a serious academic work on the nude girl. We will explore this further in later posts.

Caption: Nude Boy by a Stream
Artist: John Barnard Whittaker (1836-1926)
Medium: Oils on Canvas
Dated: Circa 1865-1890

Here are a few of Whittaker's mature works:

Jean De Roncourt - Monumental Bronze - Art Deco Male Nude circa 1930

Addendum and Update: This evening (Nov. 30, 2010) I was rapidly cruising through past auctions of a Hungarian Auction site and low and behold there before my tired eyes was a bronze of the same subject but in a sightly different pose. That goes to show you that even a blind pig can find an acorn on occasion. The creator of this beautiful bronze is none other than Jean De Roncourt, probably the most famous sculptor of the 1920's and 1930's in France. Unfortunately I was unable to find much biographical information on him but I will keep looking.
I am often surprised when I run across a gem in a most unexpected place. There is a large "Antiques Mall" about twenty minutes of country roads from me. I go there occasionally just for something to do other than wondering around dazed, trying to figure out who I am. It's one of those places that is huge and sprawling, with hundreds of shopkeepers who consign their "goods" to the headmaster at the front desk for commission. I am sure you know the places, where it looks like someones garage has thrown up all over the place. Gaudy junk and treasures yet to be recognized. One Saturday I was wondering around the place and from a half mile away I spotted this beautiful bronze sitting on a table at one seller's stall, which was replete with what looked like some quality European antiques (certainly out of context in this place). The closer I got the more my blood stirred. From those noble aquiline classic good looks, superman musculature, to that onyx stand this bronze was sitting on, this thing just screamed "Art Deco." I made a bee line up to the front desk and asked for more information. The proprietor shrugged and then went into a long story about the man who deposited that stuff in that stall, took off for Greece, and was two months late with his rent. Well I plunked down a deposit and headed for the Credit Union to negotiate a short term loan. The next day I went back and brought this beauty back to his new home. I even found a sturdy oak library table for him to repose on a couple of stalls down. I had my first bronze in my collection.

I have searched all over this bronze for a signature or foundry mark with no success. The word "France" appears at the base of the rock on the reverse. There is a small brass dedication plaque attached to the base which dedicates the work to the recognition of "Prisonniers" and "Deportes" in French and refers to a Monsieur Lormeau (receipient of the work?). I did send photographs to an Antiques Dealer in Paris who told me that these bronzes were commissioned in the 1930's in remembrance of the lost of World War I. He noted he had not seen any as nice as this one however. I am very happy to have him in my collection.

Caption: Male Nude Bronze
Artist. Jean De Roncourt (France)
Medium: Cast Bronze (monumental)
Dated: circa 1925-1935

Friday, October 29, 2010

Franz Iffland (1862-1935): Male Nude Bronze - "Perseus" - 1890

Addendum: (Dec. 2, 2010) I found a monumental version of this bronze on eBay Germany and identified the artist and the name of the bronze. I have made the necessary corrections in the description. Cheers.
I keep finding these little table top bronzes scattered around the house so I thought I might as well list them also. I have photographed them today and will list them since I have already listed the others. I have a monumental Male Nude Art Deco Bronze that I will also photograph and list tomorrow. It is large and weighs a ton. I guess it is the Romantic in me that continually draws me to these "Heroic" classical poses. This bronze came from an Antiques Shop in London and it is not marked so I do not have a clue who the artist is. There is a symbolic face embedded in the shield he is holding but I have no idea what it represents. I will have to do some research and try to figure it out. It almost looks like one of those drama masks used in theater. The figure itself is well sculpted and quite nice in its execution.

Caption: Male Nude - Perseus
Artist: Franz Iffland (1862-1935)
Medium: Cast Bronze
Dated: 1890