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Ronald Olley (born 1923)

OLLEY, Owen Ronald (born 1923)

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

“War Sketch”

undated

acrylic on paper / 7.0 inches by 10.3 inches

“Sunrise Horse Ride”

undated

oil on panel / 11.3 inches by 11.1 inches

“Blitz, London”

2011

oil on panel / 7.5 inches by 9.9 inches

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, today, it is especially appropriate for the Community Collection to feature these three works by British nonagenarian artist Owen Ronald Olley.

Olley was born in 1923, and studied at both the Harrow Art School and the Central School, London. His father had served as a soldier throughout the First World War, and Olley joined the army in 1942, witnessing the bombing of Bath, England, before being stationed at El Alamein in Egypt, and then in Italy. As one of the last artists to paint World War II from personal experience, a significant part of his portfolio depicts battlegrounds and war-torn landscapes. While they may not have been created on the actual battlefield, they were painted using significant research and photographs, augmenting Olley’s own knowledge of the front line.¹

His work has been shown at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists, as well as in exhibitions at the Medici Gallery and at Duncan Campbell.

¹ Rachel Campbell-Johnston wrote about precisely this quality of Olley’s work inThe Times for 11 January 2014: “Ron Olley ‘paints what battle is like'”.

A new pleasure…

“The first thing Arthur noticed as they entered into the thick of the party, apart from the noise, the suffocating heat, the wild profusion of colours that protruded dimly through the atmosphere of heavy smoke, the carpets thick with ground glass, ash and avocado droppings, and the small group of pterodactyl-like creatures in lurex who descended on his cherished bottle of retsina, squawking, “A new pleasure, a new pleasure”, was Trillian being chatted up by a Thunder God.” — The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

For some of us the internet is a boundless buffet. And I, for one, fail to recognize when my plate is overfull and it’s time to push away. Looking for who knows what today, I stumbled upon a postcard reproduction of a painting by an Italian artist (presumably living in Italy, because I can find so little about him in English) named Enrico Leonne [1865-1921]. Google insists I must be searching for “Henrico Leone”, an opera in three acts composed by Agostino Steffani, which  is comparably unknown to me.

So few of Leonne’s works materialize in a google image search that this pair of portraits are curiously balanced; the second showed up in my otherwise fruitless quest. Are they the same subject? And did all this slouching have any long-term consequences for her posture?

It probably goes without saying (so I’ll say it anyway): Signore Leonne is unlikely to have been represented in the Community Collection — though I wish that weren’t true.

Do you think he might have been influenced by Gustav Klimt?

Gustav Klimt / “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” a.k.a. “The Lady in Gold” / 1907

elionneDreams

Enrico Leonne (1865-1921) / “I Sogni” or “Dreams” (n.d.)

Ruth Freeman (born 1940)

FREEMAN, Ruth (born 1940)

“Boy on a Dragon”

linoleum block print on paper / 9.25 inches by 14 inches

n.d.

Childlike imagery and dynamic composition enliven this linoleum print by Pittsburgh artist Ruth Freeman. A self-styled Pop artist in the “Andy Warhol Circle”, she studied at Carnegie Mellon University under Joseph Fitzpatrick and with artists Douglas Wilson, Robert Gardner, and William Libby, as did Warhol himself. “Boy on a Dragon” is on loan from Little Ones Pre-School of Saint Joseph-the-Carpenter Episcopal church.

Georges Le Serrec de Kervily (1883-1952)

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

Le SERREC de KERVILY, Georges (1883–1952)

“Portrait of a Boy” [William Kelly Simpson]

1933

oil on wood panel / 16.25 inches by 20.25 inches

Before he emigrated to the United States, Georges Le Serrec de Kervily had been a Polish expatriate living in France. Born in 1883 at Krakow during the partition of Poland, he may have had either Polish or Russian citizenship, where his family were titled. He studied art in the West, however, served in the French Army during World War I, and then emigrated to the U.S.

Known primarily as a painter of landscapes and commissioned portraits, this delightful study from 1933 shows the five-year-old William Kelly Simpson, who eventually became professor of Egyptology, Archaeology, Ancient Egyptian literature, and Afro-Asiatic languages at Yale University. He once lectured at Northwest Iowa Normal in conjunction with an exhibition centered upon art of the Amarna Period.

Simpson’s wife was a great-granddaughter of Standard Oil magnate John D Rockefeller. His extensive personal collection of art was auctioned following his death in 2017.

Frances Faig (1885–1955)

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

FAIG, Frances Wiley [1885–1955]

Ohio Landscape

ca1915

oil on canvas / 6 inches by 8 inches

“A noted woman artist from Cincinnati, Ohio, Mrs. Faig studied with Frank Duveneck and also with Charles Hawthorne.  She was a member of the McDowell Society, The Cincinnati Women’s Art Club and the Southern States Art League.  She was married to John T. Faig, professor of mechanical engineering and president from 1918-1951 of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, now the College of Applied Science.

“In addition to the Engineering Library murals at the University of Cincinnati, Mrs. Faig painted murals of the Miami and Erie canals in Hartwell High School and of the Cincinnati hills in the Woman’s City Club.  In 1932 she painted murals in Western Hills High School.”

Les fauves (‘the wild beasts’) was coined by art critic Louis Vauxcelles when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain in a Paris exhibition of 1905. But unlike the French Impressionist movement, the Fauvists “emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over representational or realist values” retained by the Impressionists.

This small but powerful work comes to the collection from the family of Agincourt businessman Holborn Messenger, a 1914 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where he may have known the Faigs.

Van Jones [dates unknown]

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

JONES, Van (dates unknown)

Portrait of William Bendix

ca1945-1950

oil on board / 23 inches by 19.2 inches

It is surprising when portraits leave a family’s possession and find their way to strangers through estate auctions or garage sales. An anonymous donor noticed this fine portrait at an antique dealer in Omaha and recognized the subject as former Agincourt resident William Bendix (1905-1984), developer of Riverside Addition and builder of what is arguably Agincourt’s first mid-century modern home. Bendix owned the Chevrolet dealership, which may be where the portrait hung and also account for it going astray.

William and Maureen Bendix had one child, a daughter Estelle. About the artist Van Jones we know little, except he was British, active post-1927, and produced both fine and graphic art — a distinction we are loathe to make..

Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt [1888-1982]

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

BJÖRKMAN-GOLDSCHMIDT, Elsa (1888-1982)

“Vinter” / “Winter”

1922 (1916)

lithographic reprint of woodcut /

This modest print is one about which we know more about the artist than the work itself. The original was printed in 1916 in an unknown edition. Copies of the original are included in the collections of the British Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland. In 1922 it was reproduced as a print, possibly in book or periodical form such as The International Studio. Our copy is in that format and is on long term loan from Temple Emanu-El synagogue.

About the artist herself, however, there is considerable information. Her entry in Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikonintroduces a massive biographical summary of her long and dramatic life:

Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt was an author, journalist and visual artist who was associated with the liberal left women’s movement. She also undertook comprehensive humanitarian work on behalf of prisoners of war, children, and refugees during and after both World Wars, largely as the local representative of Rädda Barnen in Vienna.

As the citizen of a neutral country during the Second World War, Mrs Björkman-Goldschmidt was able to accomplish considerable humanitarian work, despite her status as a Jew.

Photograph of Else Andrea Elisabeth Björkman-Goldschmidt [1888-1982]