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M. J. Hamblin Smith [1871-1936]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HAMBLIN SMITH, M. J. (1871–1936; British)

“On the Move”

four-color woodcut / 6 inches by 7.5 inches / #6 of 50

ca1920

Hamblin Smith is one of the collection’s mystery artists, attested by the paucity of biographical information available. It is possible he was the son of James Hamblin Smith, a life-long Cambridge tutor and author of texts on mathematics. Among Smith’s four children is a son named Maurice—who is plausibly the “M” in M. J.—though the latter’s career was spent in criminal justice as the superintendent of England’s Dartmoor Prison. It is tempting to imagine the administrator of a notorious detention facility like Dartmoor relaxing with chisels and a piece of soft wood—a hobby that would have been denied his inmates.

The pace of village life such as he might have encountered in Devon a hundred years ago is convincingly portrayed here with muted tones and stark contrast. We hear the whiney of a horse near retirement. We feel the weight of the teamster’s load. All is calm. It simply requires the arrival of Miss Marple.

Oleg Denisenko [born 1961]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

DENISENKO, Oleg (born 1961; Oleh Denysenko / Олег Денисенко)

“Old Vine”

2009

etching / 8.5 inches by 6.25 inches / #79 of 100

“Sebastian”

2006

etching / 8.5 inches by 6.25 inches / #93 of 100

“The etchings of Ukrainian print artist, Oleg Denisenko, delight the imagination with their fantastical themes and complex, intricate detail. The fineness of line and rich imagery reflect the very strong and active print tradition of Eastern Europe and Russia.”

Another on-line blog waxes about Denisenko with even more enthusiasm:

“Sometimes artists can be self-consciously quirky in an attempt to be ‘different’ and carve a niche for themselves. Other times, though, artists are simply quirky because the are. I think Ukrainian artist Oleg Denisenko falls into the latter category.

“His delightfully bizarre prints of fantastical figures in elaborate armor, often sporting wings and accompanied by armored horses, arcane astrolabes, strange musical instruments, wheels, levers, charts and diagrams are filled with wonderful bits of texture and line. The monochromatic prints have a remarkable sense of being colorful because the variety of textures and line-filled areas have some of the same space-defining feeling as areas of color might in a painting.

“Though the images carry a sense of medieval times, Denisenko was born in 1961. [Another source gives 1959.]

“His images spill over with objects from his mental and emotional attic. Wheeled toys, wind-up keys, jester hats, and Da Vinci-like diagrams for nonsensical Renaissance machinery mix with textured amalgams of dragons and birds.

“Through it all is a wonderful graphic exuberance that makes you think that as soon as he stopped on one image, he would immediately begin the next just because he was having so much fun.”

These two delightful prints came to Agincourt as an exchange between Denisenko and NIN art faculty member Mason Glore, who has graciously placed them with us on extended loan. Though the scale is vastly different, in content they compare favorably with the lithographs and drawings of Robert A. Nelson.

Gordon Hope Grant [1875-1962]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

GRANT, Gordon Hope (1875-1962)

“Reflection”

undated (ca1940)

lithograph / 9 inches by 12 inches (image) / edition of 250

Best known for his marine paintings, watercolors, and etchings, Gordon Hope Grant was born in San Francisco and educated in Scotland. He then studied at the Heatherly and Lambeth Art School in London and returned to San Francisco where he worked as an illustrator for local newspapers until 1896, when he moved to New York as an illustrator for both the World and Journal. In 1899 Grant was sent as an artist-correspondent to South Africa by Harper’s Weekly to cover the Boer War. From 1901 to 1909, he was an illustrator for Puck.

In the years following service during World War I, Grant concentrated on marine subjects, producing paintings and etchings, and illustrating books with nautical themes. He also created a series of highly regarded views of Manhattan. A member of numerous professional societies, his work is held in important collections nationwide, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gordon Hope Grant died in New York.

“Reflection” is one of several seascapes in the Collection. The oblique three-quarter profile of the larger boat compares favorably with both the John Edgar Platt prints.

Odin J. Oyen [1865-1926]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

OYEN, Odin J. (1865–1926)

Study for Courthouse Mural

watercolor on paper / 27.5 inches by 36.5 inches

ca1900

About 1900, the LaCrosse, Wisconsin interior designer and painter Odin J. Oyen submitted sketches to decorate the Fennimore County courthouse. Oyen’s scheme was decidedly “Classical” in spirit and contrasted with the earlier Richardsonian Romanesque character of the 1888-1889 building. It is remarkable how twelve years can can shift architectural style so dramatically. The murals were lost in the fire of 1966, so this is the only substantial artifact of that project.

Norwegian-born and educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oyen was renowned throughout the Upper Midwest for the interior decor produced by his firm, with examples in Wisconsin, Minnesota, both Dakotas, and Iowa. the Odin Oyen Collection is housed at the University of Wisconsin—LaCrosse.

Eddlison/Eddleson/Eddelson [active 1890s]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

EDDLESON / EDDLISON / EDDELSON, S. (active 1890s)

Mediæval City Gate

1895

watercolor / 7.7 inches by 10.9 inches

In this era of the selfie, the notion of being a slow and deliberate tourist might seem quaint. Recording your experience in watercolor (or should that be “watercolour”?) requires time and careful observation; it is the artistic counterpart of ‘stopping to smell the roses”. The signature is indistinct, but the subject is undoubtedly British, though many cities of Mediæval origin are likely candidates, possibly Yorkshire where the name “Eddleson” is quite common.

An early acquisition, the source is unrecorded.

David Walling Humphrey [1872-1950]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HUMPHREY, David Walling (1872–1950)

“Faun Serenading Nymph”

color monoprint / 9 inches by 6 7/8 inches

1909

David Walling Humphrey was born in February 28, 1872 in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the fourth child of Benjamin Blodgett and Mary Jane Walling Humphrey. His mother died just 41 days after he was born. Humphrey was educated in Elkhorn public schools in the southeast Wisconsin community.  On November 18,1889 a Warranty Deed (Vol. 102, p 49) was recorded for $1,000 from David to his sister Hattie on a piece of jointly-owned property inherited from their father Benjamin Humphrey. He could then afford to study at the Art Institute of Chicago which was called the ‘Art Mecca of the Middle West’ at that time. As an honor student in Chicago and a serious student of contemporary art, he worked hard to establish himself in the art community. David chose for his subjects, figures, genre (human activities) and nude figures and mythology.

He concentrated on monotypes, a technique that creates a unique original print with each impression. This is a slow, labor-intensive process that produces perfection rather than quantity. Frequently, he went to the countryside and did sketches with pastels, then returned to his studio to create the monotype metal plate. Monotypes were a spontaneous approach developed soon after the etching revival of the late 1870s. Although monotypes are classed with graphic arts, Humphrey’s work was superior in quality and was referred to more often as a painting.

David Humphrey continued to study at the Academie Julian and with J.A.M. Whistler for two years in Paris.

E. A. Alford [active 1890s]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

ALFORD, E. A. (active 1890s)

The Daily Inter-Ocean

oil on canvas / 18 inches by 22 inches

ca1892

Trompe L’Oeil is a genre in art which attempt to replicate reality; it means “to fool the eye”. Examples can be found from the Renaissance to the present, but this particular example depicts a copy of the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean for December 1st, 1892, wrapped around red roses. The artist E. A. Alford is unknown and thus far has defied identification through standard on-line sources.

The front page found at newspapers.com for that date is the morning edition and differs somewhat from the page illustrated here. though the price is still Two Cents.