Friday, July 22, 2011

William Cary Brazington (1865-1914)

William Cary Brazington was born the year the Civil War ended and died two weeks before World War I began. His life and career were brief, and few today know him or his work. An illustrator and portraitist, Brazington exhibited in Indianapolis, studied in Paris, and worked in Indianapolis and New York City before illness brought his career to a close.

Brazington was born on November 9, 1865, in the small town of Westfield, Indiana, and turned eighteen during the First Annual Exhibition of the Art Association of Indianapolis, which took place in November 1883, and where his work was shown, perhaps for the first time in public. Between 1884 and 1898, he kept a studio in Indianapolis. During that time, he married Ida M. Aldrich in Indianapolis. Brazington also exhibited at the Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Art Association of Indianapolis in May 1888 and at another exhibition, Recent Work of Home Artists, in Indianapolis, in January 1898.

Brazington studied art under Jean-Paul Laurens and William-Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian in Paris. He also studied under the post-impressionists Charles Cottet and Lucien Simon, two of the so-called "Bande noire" or Nubians, named for their dark canvases. The Indiana artist worked in New York City for perhaps a decade before suffering a nervous breakdown in 1910. According to his obituary, Brazington "abandoned his profession almost entirely" and returned to Indianapolis. In hopes of regaining his health, he repaired to Arizona in 1912-1913. He returned yet again to Indianapolis--actually to Southport, to the home of his sister--in April 1914. William Cary Brazington died at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis on July 12, 1914, and was buried at another Indianapolis landmark, Crown Hill Cemetery.

Although Brazington has been called an illustrator, I have not uncovered any of his illustrative work. When he is mentioned at all, he is referred to instead as a portraitist in sanguine, or conté crayon.

A portrait drawing of Eugene Ysaÿe, the Belgian composer and musician, by William Cary Brazington.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, July 18, 2011

T. Dart Walker (1868-1914)

Thomas Dart Walker was born in Middlebury, Indiana, on December 11, 1868, son of Civil War veteran Charles W. Walker and his wife, Jennie M. Cooley. Walker attended schools in Goshen, Indiana, until age seventeen. In his youth he set off for Europe to study art. Once in Paris, he became a favorite pupil of William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), probably at the Académie Julian, where Bouguereau taught from 1875 onward. Walker's hawk nose and underslung chin allowed him to pose as Dante for his fellow students. After completing his studies, Walker "strolled over Europe" as young artists were wont to do. A promising career as a painter and illustrator had begun.

The facts on Walker's early life are otherwise scarce, but on April 11, 1893, he married Elisabeth Schioler, a Danish musician, in Allen County, Indiana, probably in Fort Wayne. Elisabeth and her sister Thyra--herself a composer--were active in Fort Wayne society at the time. Elisabeth (or Elizabeth) had also studied in Paris. Perhaps that's where she and her husband met. The couple had two daughters, Ruth and Eleanor, born two years apart in the late 1890s.

A second big event in Walker's life in 1893 was his assignment to cover the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His illustrations of happenings in the unforgettable "White City" appeared in a Chicago magazine, The Graphic. Walker also worked for the publishing house of Harper and Brothers, creating illustrations for Harper's Monthly, Harper's Weekly, and Harper's Young People. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Walker landed a plum job covering General Nelson A. Miles' campaign in Puerto Rico for Harper's Weekly. He was said to have placed himself in personal danger for the sake of a good sketch. In his two years attached to the U.S. Navy as an official artist, Walker witnessed other hazards, including the explosion of a gun turret on the U.S.S. Massachusetts. Thereafter, Walker was known as a marine painter. Perhaps his most famous picture appeared on the cover of Leslie's Weekly Illustrated on September 21, 1901. It depicted the assassination of President William McKinley two weeks earlier at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Walker had known McKinley personally and was working on a portrait of him when the president died.

T. Dart Walker lived the life of the artist. He resided in New Rochelle, New York, home of artists and writers, for some time. In the early 1900s, he helped establish the Artists' Association in New York City. The association, which included William Glackens, Victor Gillam, Arthur C. Goode, Ernest Fuhr, and R. Weir Crouch, was an attempt to create an art colony in the heart of the city with studios at 131 East Thirty-Fourth Street. At the time, Walker was the art editor for Leslie's Weekly Illustrated. He also contributed illustrations to Collier's, The Illustrated London News, and Puck. In 1906 and 1908, Walker acted as artist for the University of Notre Dame yearbook, The Dome. The class of 1906 made him an honorary member and described his room as "a meeting place for all that is Bohemian and Irish at Notre Dame." The class of 1908 called him "genial, big-hearted, friend-winning T. Dart."

The writer of his obituary was not so kind, though to be fair, he or she was simply reporting the facts. In 1910, Walker was in Philadelphia sharing rooms with two cooks and a newspaper reporter. His wife had left him by then, taking their two children with her. "She divorced him because of his drinking habits," that anonymous author of obituaries wrote. The artist who had been at the top of his field in his mid-thirties had fallen far. Four years later, on July 21, 1914, Thomas Dart Walker, "penniless and homeless," died at New York's Bellevue Hospital of acute gastritis, a disease often associated with heavy alcohol consumption.

T. Dart Walker was among the most accomplished of early Indiana illustrators. His depictions of life in America during the 1890s and early 1900s--in government, in the military, in society--have become invaluable references of that long-ago time. Some are almost iconic. His daughters were another triumph. In 1920, after living in Denmark with her mother for several years, Eleanor Walker returned to the United States to take up the post of secretary of the Danish Legation in Washington, D.C. Little else is known about the women who survived T. Dart Walker except that Elisabeth Schioler Walker lived into her nineties and died nearly half a century after her ex-husband.

General J.R. Brooke receives word at Guayama, Puerto Rico, that the United States has made peace with Spain, in a detail from T. Dart Walker's documentary illustration. The drawing is dated August 20, 1898, a month before the birth of Walker's younger daughter, Eleanor. From Harper's Weekly.
"Wall Street When the Bankers Shut Up Shop for the Day," an illustration from Harper's Weekly, 1897.
The assassination of William McKinley by T. Dart Walker, the defining image of the event. A little-known part of the story is that a bystander, James Parker (left), knocked the gun from the assassin's bandaged hand and helped subdue him.
"Spending Uncle Sam's Money," an illustration from the cover of Leslie's Weekly Illustrated and fitting for the debate this summer, more than a century after Walker's drawing was first published.

Note: T. Dart Walker (1868-1914) should not be confused with the illustrator and cartoonist Harry Grant Dart (1869-1938).
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, July 1, 2011

Postage Stamps

In commemoration of the American Revolution and the birth of our great country, I offer postage stamps by or based on the work of Indiana illustrators and Hoosier cartoonists. You'll find Revolutionary War heroes, presidents, a yellow kid, a rickety trolley car, and many other images here. Happy Birthday, America!

"Herkimer at Oriskany 1777 by Yohn," a 13-cent commemorative issued for the bicentennial of the American Revolution. The illustration from the stamp is from a painting by Indiana illustrator Frederick Coffay Yohn (1875-1933).
And a reproduction of the original, painted in about 1901. As a young artistic prodigy, Yohn painted pictures of historical scenes from the American and English Revolutions. His work was favorably compared to Howard Pyle's. According to Wikipedia, Yohn's original painting is at the Utica Public Library in Utica, New York.
George Rogers Clark at Vincennes, located in what is now Indiana, accepting the surrender of the British garrison in 1779. The event was a turning point of the war in the west, captured by Frederick C. Yohn in a painting for Youth's Companion in 1923 and adapted to a commemorative stamp in 1929, the sesquicentennial year of the surrender.
"Presidents of the United States," a sheet of commemoratives designed by Indiana illustrator Gene Jarvis (1921-1990) and Michael Halbert and issued by the Marshall Islands in 2005. 
A stamp design by Paul A. Wehr (1914-1973) for the sesquicentennial of Indiana statehood, 1966. In keeping with the patriotic theme, I can tell you that Wehr was born in Mount Vernon, Indiana. In another five years, Indiana will celebrate its bicentennial, and what a celebration it will be.
"American Illustrators," a sheet of stamps commemorating some of our greatest illustrators and issued in 2000. Although none of the stamps represents the work of a Hoosier, the decoration at the top is by Franklin Booth (1874-1948), an Indiana farmboy made good in the art world of New York.
"Comic Strip Classics" from 1995, the centennial year (or the year before the centennial year, depending on whom you ask) for newspaper comic strips in America (hence in the world--sorry, European theorists). I don't think the artwork is original, but I have never heard any comment on that possibility. In any case, Hoosier cartoonists represented on the sheet are three in number: First, Fontaine Fox (1884-1964), creator of Toonerville Folks. Although he was born in Louisville, Kentucky, Fox went to school at Indiana University and that's where a large collection of his art resides. Second, Harold Gray (1894-1968) and his Little Orphan Annie. Gray was born in Kankakee, Illinois, but grew up in Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in engineering. The title of his comic strip is from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley of Greenfield, Indiana. Third, Dale Messick (1906-2005), creator of Brenda Starr Reporter and native of South Bend. Dale was one of the first female cartoonists to find success in syndication. Her work is also on deposit at Indiana University. Other strips with an Indiana connection: The Yellow Kid, aka Hogan's Alley, drawn by George Luks after the creator of the strip, R.F. Outcault, had left--to draw another version of the strip. Assisting Luks on Hogan's Alley was Paul Plaschke (1880-1954), a German-born artist who lived in southern Indiana for many years. And another alley, Gasoline Alley, created by Frank King and carried on after King's death by Dick Moores (1909-1986), in his day one of the most widely admired of cartoonists.
The more recent "Sunday Funnies," with a column of stamps showing Garfield and Odie, creations of Jim Davis of Fairmount, Indiana.
Finally, detail from "The Art of Disney-Imagination" from  2008.  What's the Indiana connection? Bill Peet (1915-2002) of Grandview adapted the story for 101 Dalmatians from Dodie Smith's novel and helped develop the characters. Victor Haboush (1924-2009), who attended the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, was among the animators. Peet and fellow Hoosier Harry Reeves contributed to the story in Cinderella as well. And who else but Phil Harris (1904-1995) of Linton, Indiana, could provide the voice for Mowgli's beloved friend Baloo in The Jungle Book? 
Postscript: "Pioneers of American Industrial Design," a sheet of "Forever" stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service this year, 2011. Among the designers commemorated is Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960), a native of Pendleton, Indiana, who, before making his mark as an industrial designer, worked as an illustrator. That's his design for a camera, middle, far left.

Captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley