Josep Tapiró i Baró

The Artwork of Josep Tapiró i Baró

Born in February of 1836 in the Catalonian city of Reus, Josep Tapiró i Baró was a Spanish painter and one of the leading representatives of international Orientalism. He  was the first painter from the Iberian Peninsula to settle in Tangier. Through his thirty-seven years in Tangier, Tapiró was a direct witness to North Africa’s urban and cultural transformation under European colonialism. He is best known for his series of half-length portraits of traditional characters and religious scenes.

The son of hardware retailers, Josep Tapiró i Baró displayed an affinity for drawing in his early years. He began his formal art training in 1849 under Domènec Soberano, a prosperous wine merchant and self-taught artist who had founded a drawing school in Reus. At the age of thirteen, Tapiró met fellow student Marià Josep Maria Bernat Fortuny i Marsal. These young men, both exceptionally talented painters, established a friendship that lasted their whole lives. In 1853, Tapiró and Fortuny were given the opportunity to exhibit their work at a show held by the cultural and recreational association Casino de Reussense. 

In the latter part of 1853, Tapiró and Fortuny enrolled at Barcelona’s Escola de la Llotja where they studied under Claudi Lorenzale i Sugrañes, a Spanish painter associated with the German Nazarene movement for the revival of spirituality in art. Tapiró produced mainly historical and religious scenes during his time in Barcelona. In 1857, a group of four students, among whom were Tapiró and Fortuny, were given the opportunity to compete for a Rome study grant. The test was a portrait of Barcelona’s eleventh-century military hero Ramon Berenguer III. Marià Fortuny unanimously won the competition and left for Rome in 1858. 

Josep Tapiró i Baró traveled to Madrid in 1858 and enrolled at the School of Painting and Engraving which was a branch of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Ferdinand. He studied under portrait and historical painter Federico de Madrazo until his return to Barcelona in 1860. Tapiró assisted with the decoration of the façade of the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, one of the few medieval buildings in Europe still functioning as a seat of government. 

At his arrival in Rome in 1862, Tapiró joined his friend Fortuny and was introduced to Fortuny’s circle of artists who regularly frequented the Antico Caffè Greco. This café, the oldest in Rome, was a historic meeting place for such figures as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, George Gordon Byron, Franz Liszt, and John Keats. While in Italy, Tapiró visited Naples and Florence with Fortuny, took watercolor classes and painted works that focused more on genre themes. In 1871, he and Fortuny traveled to Tangier in Morocco where they spent most of a year. While Fortuny painted scenes of courtyards and Moroccan landscapes, Tapiró painted detailed watercolors of common people and beggars. Their trip ended in 1872 with his return to Rome and Fortuny’s return to his wife and son in Granada. In 1873, Tapiró exhibited his Orientalist works at the International Art Circle in Rome. 

In November of 1874,  Josep Tapiró i Baró was shocked to learn of Fortuny’s sudden death in Rome from malaria he had contracted painting in the open air in Naples. Rather than remain in Rome or Spain, Tapiró decided in 1876 to join a diplomatic mission to meet Sultan of Morocco Hassan bi Mohammed. He moved into a house near the historical district of Tangier and acquired an old theater as a studio. Although he traveled as far as New York and Saint Petersburg to exhibit his work, Tapiró lived in Tangier for the rest of his life. Returning to the medium of watercolor, he painted a series of detailed, brooding portraits that, instead of his previous dramatic Orientalist style, documented the humanity of the Moroccan people.

In 1886, Tapiró married a Tangier native of Italian ancestry, twenty-year old Maria Manuela Veleraga Cano. Shortly after the marriage, they adopted the orphaned son of Maria’s friend who had recently died. In 1903, Tapiró contracted a lung infection which caused respiratory and cardiovascular problems that led to lack of energy and, by 1905, a decline in his career. The decline was compounded by the decrease in foreign visitors to Tangier due to a kidnapping of two British nationals and a rebellion led by Bou Hmara, a pretender to the throne of Morocco. 

In 1907, Josep Tapiró i Baró and his wife relocated to Madrid in order to promote his work at an exhibition held at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, a major cultural center. After their return to Tangier, Tapiró’s health problems worsened over time and led to his death, at the age of seventy-seven, in October of 1913. He initially was buried in Tangier; however, the government of Reus demanded in 1921 that he be recognized in his home town. Tapiró’s remains were moved to Reus in 1947 and reinterred near the burial space of his friend Marià Fotruny. The city of Reus placed a commemoration plaque on the house in which Tapiró was born.

Notes: The Catalan-speaking territories abide by the Spanish naming customs; however, the discrete surnames are usually joined with the word “i”, meaning and, instead of the Spanish “y”, a practice very common in formal contexts. Thus, Josep Tapiró i Baró’s first or paternal surname is Tapiró and the second or maternal family name is Baró.

For those interested in a deeper study of Spanish Orientalism, particularly in regard to the works of José Tapiró y Baró and Mariano Bertuchi Nieto, I recommend University of Edinburgh researcher Claudia Hopkins’s 2017 “The Politics of Spanish Orientalism: Distance and Proximity in Tapiró and Bertuchi”. The published version can be found online at:

Top Insert Image: Marià Fortuny, “Portrait of Josep Tapiró i Baró, Tangier”, 1874, Ink Sketch on Paper, Private Collection

Second Insert Image:  Josep Tapiró i Baró, “An Oriental Atrium”, Date Unknown, Pencil, Watercolor and Bodycolor on Paper, 67.8 x 47.9 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Josep Tapiró i Baró, “Homme en Blanc”, Date Unknown, Watercolor on Paper, 64 x 47 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, ” Josep Tapiró i Baró”, circa 1865-70, Vintage Print, Provenance Unknown

John Brock Lear Jr.

The Artwork of John Brock Lear Jr.

Born in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania in June of 1910, John Brock Lear Jr was an American artist best known for his figurative and landscape works. He attended the Chestnut Hill Academy, an all-male college preparatory school in Greater Philadelphia, where he showed an early talent in art. Inspired by two uncles who were painters, Lear studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art, now the University of the Arts, under Thornton Oakley, a protege of illustrator Howard Pyle. 

John Lear Jr’s work as an artist was centered on freelance illustration and creating paintings and drawings for exhibition. In 1931, he traveled to England for the first time and became drawn to the country’s landscapes. Lear continued his visits to England over the course of his life and, through memories and photos, created many striking landscapes in oils. He always referred to these works as ‘records’, the natural world captured with an artist’s eye. 

Lear also produced what he described as ‘creations’, dreamlike landscapes, surrealistic or symbolic in content, composed of realistic and yet disparate images. Composition and color were the major emphasis in these works which he considered closer to rendering rather than painterly in quality. Lear’s creations were not dystopian but often whimsical and brightly colored. Central to most of these dreamlike landscapes are male figures rendered in a style that shows influences by mid-century artists such as George Tooker and Paul Cadmus. 

During World War II, John Lear Jr served in the Army’s calvary division at Fort Reilly in Kansas. Recognized for his artistic talent, he was employed to illustrate Army training manuals, booklets and charts. During his service period, Lear also painted several portraits of generals and officers. Though he did not experience the horrors of war overseas, the destruction of life caused by that war influenced aspects of Lear’s surrealist work. After his military discharge, Lear returned to Chestnut Hill where he remained for the duration of his life. As an educator, he taught illustration at Pennsylvania’s Rosemont College and was an instructor at both Philadelphia’s Hussian School of Art and the University of the Arts.

A longtime associate of the many art organizations in the Philadelphia area, Lear never married and passed away at the age of ninety-eight in September of 2008 in Glenside, Pennsylvania. He is buried at Doylestown Cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 

John B. Lear Jr exhibited his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. His work appeared in many shows at Philadelphia’s  Hahn Gallery, known for its national and international contemporary work, and the Woodmere Art Museum, which houses a collection of Lear’s work. Other permanent collections of Lear’s work can be found in the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, and the Reading Public Museum, among others. In addition to public collections, Lear’s work is in many private collections in the United States and abroad.

Top Insert Image: John Brock Lear Jr, “Male Figure Study with Roman Helmet”, 1983, Graphite on Wove Paper, 31.8 x 22,2 cm, Private Collection

Second Insert Image: John Brock Lear Jr, “Landscape with Figures”, circa 1960, Watercolor, 64.8 x 45.7 cm, Private Collection 

Bottom Insert Image: John Brock Lear Jr, “Construction”, Date Unknown, Graphite on Wove Paper, Private Collection

Sam Szafran

The Artwork of Sam Szafran

Born in Paris in November of 1934 to Jewish-Polish immigrants, Sam Szafran holds a unique place in the art world of the latter twentieth-century. His work is known for its figurative and lyrical approach to reality which he developed in the seclusion of his studio. 

Szafran grew up in the Quatier des Halles and had a particularly difficult childhood marked by the disasters of the second World War. During the war, he was hidden in the Loire Valley and southern France, and later in Switzerland. After returning to his mother in Paris in 1944, Szafran was captured by the Nazis and sent to a camp in Drancy, a commune in northeast Paris. Freed by the American forces, he left Europe and spent four years in Australia before returning to Paris in 1951. His traumatic life during the war years led Szafran to prefer solitude in which he focused on his own inner thoughts and sense of existence; this introspection gave rise to the prominent themes in his work.

Sam Szafran studied at the Atelier de la Grande Chaumière, located in the Montparnasse district of Paris, under French-American surrealist painter and engraver Henri Goetz. During the post-war period in France, Szafran became associated with painters and printmakers Jean Arp, Alberto Giacometti, and Yves Klein, a leading member of the French Nouveau New-Realism movement. He also became acquainted with photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and documentary photographer Martine Franck.

During his studies at the atelier, Szafran earliest works were in the field of abstraction. In the early 1960s, the discovery of the pastel became a significant event in his life. Since then, Szafran began using the chalks of Pastels Roché as the dominating technique in his work, either alone or in combination with charcoal or watercolor. At the same time, the themes of his work changed. Szafran’s obsession with mastering the technique of pastel led to numerous series of staircases, greenhouses with jungle-like interiors, and ateliers filled with materials. His work focused on figurative themes and the technical precision needed for pastel work, a style quite opposite the abstract and gestural work at that time.

Sam Szafran was an experimental artistic explorer. Throughout his career, he concentrated on a small range of subjects, most notably views of the interior of his studio and a staircase in a Rue de Seine apartment building. In Szafran’s staircase and room series, the viewer’s gaze is challenged by the distorted and deconstructed perspectives and enclosed places that are tightly sealed on themselves. For over fifty years, he produced what he called “feuillages” or studies of potted plants in interior spaces. These are watercolors depicting Szafran’s obsession with plants: their  infinite interstices of leaves, aerial tendrils and luxuriant foliage. 

In 1991, Sam Szafran received the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris. He was awarded the 3rd Prix Piero Crommelynck in 2011. Sam Szafran passed away in September of 2019 and is buried in the Cimetière Parisian de Bagneux. Throughout much of Sam Szafran’s career, his work was acquired by a coterie of enthusiastic and devoted collectors. Prominent among these was the French-American businessman and collector William Louis-Dreyfus, who assembled an exceptional group of works by the artist that spanned several decades of his career.

Szafran’s work has been exhibited in many galleries throughout the years including Paris’s Galerie Claude Bernard, Galerie Jacques Kerchache, and Galerie Vallois. His work was shown at Caja Iberia in Saragosse, Spain in 1988; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004: the Musée d’Orsay in 2008; and the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl, Germany in 2010. Szafran’s work is housed in many public collections including that of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Top Insert Image: Sam Szafran, Untitled (Plants), 1986-1987, Watercolor on Paper, Page from Sketchbook, 73.7 x 47.6 cm, William louis-Dreyfus Foundation

Bottom Insert Image: Sam Szafran, “L’Atelier”, 2019, Lithograph in Colors, Edition of 80, Publisher Cornette de Saint-Cyr, 121 x 80 cm, Private Collection

Avel de Knight

The Artwork of Avel de Knight

Avel C. de Knight was a Paris and New York-based artist, educator, curator, and art critic. Born in New York City in April of 1923, he was the son of parents who immigrated to the United States from Barbados and Puerto Rico. De Knight studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1942 to 1943, after which he served in the Army, in a segregated unit, until the end of World War II. 

After the war and with the aid of the GI Bill, De Knight traveled in 1946 to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Grande Chaumière, and the Académie Julian. In Paris, he discovered an environment that reflected the kind of freedom that an artist of color from the United States needed. He was one of many African American artists living and working in postwar Paris, a group which included expressionist painter Herb Gentry, modernist painter Beauford Delaney, and abstract painter Ed Clark, the first American artist credited with exhibiting a shaped canvas. 

Returning to the United States after living ten years abroad, Avel de Knight settled into an apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In the 1950s, he would go on to win prizes and acclaim for his art, and supplement his income writing reviews as an art critic for the French language weekly “France-Amérique”. De Knight participated in his first group exhibition in 1953, which was held in the Village Art Center in New York City, where he was awarded the Village Art Center Prize for his work. He exhibited his work in one-man shows at the Sagittarius Gallery in New York City, his first solo show in 1957 and the second in October of 1959.

In addition to his painting and work as a critic, Avel de Knight taught at the Art Students League of New York and, as an academician well respected by the faculty and students, at the National Academy of Design for many years. Pursuing his cultural interests, de Knight spent two months in a cultural exchange program for the U.S. State Department in 1961 as an artist-lecturer in the former Soviet Union. During that time, he was particularly attracted to the regions influenced by Islam, such as Samarkand and Bukhara, just north of the Afghanistan border. This experience influenced his late 1960s “Mirage” series which coincided with the growing Black Arts movement in many of the urban centers throughout the United States.

Though Avel de Knight avoided any direct political statements in his work, his paintings and drawings during the latter part of the 1960s through the early 1970s can be viewed as celebrations of a perceived African aesthetic. Along with this sense of beauty, his work reflected the principles of classicism that he had internalized through his studies in Europe. From these sources, as well as Asian art and Ancient Western sculpture, de Knight was able to draw from a broad cross-section of historic world culture influences. 

De Knight’s interest in spirituality, which would be more explicit in his later work, was deeply rooted in his early experiences as a member of Manhattan’s La Iglesia Católico de la Milagrosa. Located on the fringe of “El Barrio,” the church was a Spanish National Parish that served a large Spanish-speaking community. In addition to images of hooded saints, one of the most powerful images was a life-size statue of Saint Sebastian pierced with arrows. Identified as the patron saint of the dying, and invoked as an intercessor against plague, the image of Saint Sebastian would be used by De Knight in his work as he saw the AIDS epidemic ravage the community he loved.

Avel de Knight was an Academician member of the National Academy of Design, a member of the American Watercolor Society, Audubon Society of Artists, and a member of the Audubon Society of Artists. He had a long and productive career until his death in 1995, and exhibited widely in both individual and group exhibitions. He won many awards, including the William A. Paxton Prize from the National Academy of Design and the Palmer Memorial Prize both from the National Academy School of Fine Arts, the Emily Lowe Award from the American Watercolor Society, and the Samuel F. B. Morse Medal from the National Academy School of Fine Arts.

Insert Top Image: Kurt Ammann, “Avel de Knight, Paris”, 1950

Insert Middle Image: Maurice Grosser, “Avel de Knight, Christopher Street, NYC”, 1961

Insert Bottom Image: Photographer and Date Unknown, “Avel de Knight”


Edward Francis Burney

Edward Francis Burney, “Seated Nude”, 1790-1800, Watercolor, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven,, Conneticutt

Edward Francis Burney, “Self Portrait”, 1785-1800, Watercolor, 18 x 14 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London

Born on September 7th of 1760 in Worcester, England, Edward Francis Burney became a student at the Royal Academy School of Art in 1776, at the age of sixteen. During this time, he made two fine drawings of the Antique School, which are now in the Royal Collection in London. Receiving encouragement from portrait painter Joshua Reynolds, then the president of the school, Burney exhibited several works at the Royal Academy of Art between the years 1780 to 1803. 

Though he was a capable portraitist, painting family and friends, and also historical scenes, Burney worked mainly as an illustrator, devoting a greater part of his career to book illustrations. In 1780, he exhibited three illustrations for his cousin, author Fanny Burney’s 1778 coming-of age novel “Evelina”. One of these illustrations was later engraved and used in the 1791 edition of the novel. Burney created a set of thirteen illustrations for a 1799 edition of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, now in the collection of the Huntington Library in California.

Influenced by the satirical style of painter and social critic William Hogarth, Edward Burney produced a rococo-styled set of four large watercolors, satirizing the contemporary musical and social life. Considered his most important work, these pieces from the 1820s are: “The Waltz”, “The Triumph of Music”, “Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music” and “The Elegant Establishment for Young Ladies”. Burney may have intended to publish prints of the paintings and to sell both originals and prints. There was a substantial market for satirical prints during this period. The four pictures were, however, never published.

Edward Francis Burney died, unmarried, in London on December 16th of 1848, at the age of eighty-eight. He was buried in Marylebone, England.

David Levine

David Levine: Coney Island Watercolors

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in December of 1926, David Levine was an American artist and illustrator. He studied painting at the Pratt Institute in New York and, later in 1946, attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, graduating with a degree in education. Levine also studied under painter and teacher Hans Hoffman, whose teaching had a significant influence on post-war American avant-garde artists, including Helen Frankenthaler and Larry Rivers.

Along with doing illustrative work for publications, David Levine produced a body of paintings, many of which were destroyed in a later 1968 fire. Most of Levine’s paintings are watercolors, including portraits of ordinary citizens, seaside images of distinctive architecture, and scenes of vacationers enjoying the day at the beach. He often painted scenes of garment workers, remembering the workers in his father’s garment factory, and scenes of the bathers and amusement rides at Coney Island, a section of his Brooklyn hometown.

Together with portrait artist Aaron Shikler, David Levine founded a salon for artists interested in collective sketching and painting, the Painting Group, in 1958. In the early 1960s, he developed his skills as a political illustrator. He illustrated his first work for The New York Review of Books in 1963, subsequently drawing more than thirty-eight hundred caricatures of famous artists, writers and politicians for the Review’s publication. Levine produced other work of combined equal quantity for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone Magazine, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy, among others.

David Levine was elected in 1967 into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1971. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, and several collections have been published, including Knoph’s 1978 “The Arts of David Levine” and the book “American Presidents”, published in 2008 by Knoph, which features his drawings of U.S. Presidents, covering a span of five decades.

In 2006, David Levine was diagnosed with macular degeneration, and with the gradual loss of his vision, produced no new work after April of 2007. A man who drew people of all political persuasions with the same acid treatment, David Levine died in December of 2009 of cancer at the age of eighty-three.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast

Artwork by Maurice Prendergast

Born in 1858 in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, Maurice Brazil Prendergast was a post-impressionist artist who worked in watercolor, oil paints, and mono-type. At a young age with very little schooling, he was apprenticed to a commercial artist in Boston, where he became influenced by the bright-colored and flat-patterned work. A shy, reserved individual, Prendergast remained a bachelor throughout his life, closely attached to his artist brother Charles, a gifted craftsman and artist. 

Starting in 1892, Prendergast studied for three years in Paris at the Atelier Colarossi, under painter Gustave Courtis,  and at the Académie Julian. During one of his early stays in Paris, he met the Canadian landscape painter James Morrice. Under the influence of Morrice, Prendergast began sketching on wood panels scenes of elegantly dressed women and children at the seaside resorts of Saint-Malo and Dieppe. Later, drawing inspiration from the post-impressionists Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, he developed a more sophisticated modern style, with boldly contrasting, jewel-like colors, and flattened, patterned forms rhythmically arranged on a canvas.

Returning home in 1895, Prendergast shared a studio with his brother, continuing in his work to focus on people strolling in parks, on the beach, or traveling the city streets. A trip to Venice in 1898 exposed him to the genre scenes of early Renaissance narrative painter Vittore Carpaccio and encouraged him toward even more complex and rhythmic arrangements. Prendergast also became one of the first Americans to embrace the work of Cézanne, understanding and using Cézanne’s expressive use of form and color.

A successful exhibition of the work Prendergast produced in Venice was held in 1900 at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. In 1907 he traveled to France; where,  after contact with the Fauvist movement, he started painting works with startling bright colors and staccato brushstrokes. Later in 1907, Prendergast exhibited his new work in a show with the group of artists known as The Eight, exponents of the Ashcan School. 

In 1913 Prendergast was invited to participate in the famed Armory Show in New York City which was largely arranged by his friend, landscape painter Arthur B.  Davies. In 1914, he settled in New York, along with his brother Charles, where he enjoyed great success with collectors such as Duncan Phillips, and attracted a number of important patrons, including John Quinn, modern art collector Lillie B. Bliss, and Dr. Albert Barnes, the founder of the Barnes Foundation. 

During his final years of his career, Maurice Prendergast spent his time sketching during the summers in New England and painting in New York in the winters. In frail health by 1923, he died a year later, in February of 1924, at the age of sixty-five.

William Brickel

Watercolors by William Brickel

Born in England near the Welsh border in 1994,  William Brickel studied Fine Art Photography at Cumberwell College of Arts, graduating in 2017 and earned his Masters Degree the following year at the Royal Drawing School in London. 

The human figure is a recurrent and central concern in Brickel’s work. Depicted with contorted bodies, the figures gaze away from the center and the viewer toward the edge of the picture plane, looking beyond the other figures and the cramped surroundings. If not alone, the brooding figures, when they appear in pairs or groups, playfully and wistfully wrap around and caress one another with enormous, unwieldy hands.

Backgrounds are often more suggestive than explicit; but mindful attention is given to the patterns of fabrics and, particularly, the gradations of light on the forms. A great deal of skill is exhibited in William Brickel’s watercolors. It is not a very tolerant medium; mistakes are hard, almost impossible, to correct and even oil from your skin can effect the paper’s absorption of the color. 

William Brickel’s work has been featured in group and solo exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Europe. His work will be featured at the 2020 Marfa International Exhibition at the August 13th to 16th event held at George Hall in Marfa, Texas.

Note: An extensive collection of William Brickel’s recent work can be found at the Samuele Visentin Gallery’s website located at:

Insert Image: William Brickel, “A Small Room Upstairs”, 2021, Oil on Canvas, 160 x 129.5 cm, Private Collection


Yuri Georges Annenkov

Yuri Georges Annenkov, “Portrait of Daniel Geccen”, 1922, Watercolor with Pen and Ink, 44.5 x 37.7 cm,  Private Collection

Born into an old family of noble descent in Petropavlovsk, Russia, near the Sea of Japan, Yuri Georges Annenkov was formally trained as an artist at the St. Petersburg University. There he studied from 1908-1909 under the direction of Savelli Zaideberg, and from 1909-1911 under painter Yan Tsionglinsky of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. Annenkov left Russia in 1911 and traveled to Paris, enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he met many of his compatriots, including Marc Chagall and sculptor Ossip Zadkine.

While in Paris, Annenkov entered the studio of painter Maurice Denis and printmaker Felix Vallotton, both members of the Les Nabis, a group of young artists transitioning to symbolism and abstract art. During the years 1913 to 1917, while illustrating for text publications, Annenkov confirmed his personal style, rooted in the Constructivist form of the time, but with a contemporary personal interpretation adapted to the genre and medium used.

Annekov regularly contributed to the Russian illustrated weekly magazine  “Tetr I Iskuustvo (Theater and Art)” and a variety of other publications. His first work as a book designer was social-realist writer Maxim Gorky’s 1917 fairy-tale book “Samovar” with illustrations by E Popkova.  Annekov gained notoriety when he adapted his constructivist style to a series of illustrations for Russian poet Aleksandra Blok’s emotional revolutionary poem “Dvenadtsat”. This was one of the first poetic responses to the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, a poem later widely condemned by the Russian intelligentsia.

In 1920 Annenkov joined Mstislav Dohuzhinsky, known for his cityscapes, and architect Vladimir Shchuko in preparing theater sets in Saint Petersburg, under the commission of the Bolshevik government. The work included the massive 1920  production “The Storming of the Winter Palace”, performed on the Palace Square, an effort not only to commemorate the Revolution’s third anniversary but also, by design, an attempt to break the barrier between actors and audience. Annenkov’s 1920 production “Hymn to Liberated Labor”, a one-time, open air spectacle with a cast of four thousand, was staged in front of an emotionally charged audience at the old St. Petersburg stock exchange.

Annenkov, in the years from 1920, started to seriously work in the genre of portrait painting. While in Russia, he painted portraits of the renowned artists and politicians of the era, including Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin, art critic and historian Alexander Benois, and poet and novelist Boris Pasternak. Annenkov’s book “Portraits”, published in 1922, contained eighty portraits, made between 1906 to 1921, of the main figures of Russian art at that time.

Immigrating to Paris in 1924, Annenkov worked as a book illustrator and as both cinema and theater set designer until his death in 1974. He was co-nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for work in the 1953 film “The Earrings of Madame de. . .”, a romantic French drama film by Max Ophüls.

Note: Annekov’s watercolor “Portrait of Daniel Geccen”  is signed in cyrillic and dated 1922 in the upper right corner. The inscription on the obverse, written by the sitter Daniel Geccen states: ‘1924 9 October – 29 March  To my baby friend – my wife, memory about her I will carry through all of my life, let my love and her love never touched by course of time. Yours Dan…’

Edward Clifford

Watercolors by Edward Clifford

Edward Clifford was associated with the Aesthetic Movement in England, an intellectual and artistic movement emphasizing nature and beauty more than social or political themes in the arts and literature. Clifford was also honorary Secretary of the Church Army, the evangelizing branch of the Church of England, which did missionary work among the slums of England.

Born in Bristol, England in 1844, Clifford studied at the Royal Academy Schools. He painted landscapes, portraits and historical subjects in oil and watercolor and had many aristocratic patrons. From 1877 to 1892, Clifford exhibited at the Royal Academy, Society of British Artists, and Institute of Painters in Watercolors, the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery and elsewhere. 

Clifford’s Royal Academy paintings are conventional Victorian portraits: but, at the Grosvenor Gallery and elsewhere, he showed Biblical and allegorical scenes. His Biblical paintings show the influence of symbolic painter Holman Hunt, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Clifford was also influenced by Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the group of artists who gathered and exhibited at the Dudley gallery in London. 

Often visiting India and the Kashmir region to learn methods of controlling leprosy, Clifford later traveled to Hawaii in 1888. While visiting the leper colony located in Kalaupapa, he met Father Damien, the Belgium Roman Catholic priest whose name became recognized for his charity work and fight against leprosy. After returning to England, Clifford made watercolor paintings from his Hawaiian portrait sketches, later used for illustrations in the 1889 published account of his journey “Portrait of Joseph Damien de Veuster”. 

Edward Clifford died in 1907 in England. His works are in many public collections including the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Harvard University Portrait Collection, London’s National Portrait Gallery, and the Nation Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. 

Top Insert Image: Edward Clifford, “Portrait of a Boy”, 1872, Chalk on Paper on Board, 21 x 19 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Edward Clifford, “Tito Melema”, Date Unknown, Pencil, Watercolor, and Bodycolor with Gum Arabic, 36.8 x 30.5 cm, Private Collection. Tito Melema was the Greek husband of Romola de Bardi, the heroine of George Elliot’s 1862 novel “Romola”, set in Renaissance Florence. The watercolour is a somewhat rare example of Clifford using a secular and contemporary literary subject.

Antony Gormley

Watercolors and Sculptures by Antony Gormley

Gormley’s career began with a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1981. Almost all his work takes the human body as its subject, with his own body used in many works as the basis for metal casts.

Gormley describes his work as “an attempt to materialise the place at the other side of appearance where we all live.” Many of his works are based on moulds taken from his own body, or “the closest experience of matter that I will ever have and the only part of the material world that I live inside.” His work attempts to treat the body not as an object but a place and in making works that enclose the space of a particular body to identify a condition common to all human beings. The work is not symbolic but indexical – a trace of a real event of a real body in time.

The 2006 Sydney Biennale featured Gormley’s Asian Field, an installation of 180,000 small clay figurines crafted by 350 Chinese villagers in five days from 100 tons of red clay. The appropriation of others’ works caused minor controversy and some of the figurines were stolen in protest. Also in 2006, the burning of Gormley’s 25-metre high The Waste Man formed the zenith of the Margate Exodus.

On 13 March 2011, Gormley was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for the set design for Babel (Words) at Sadler’s Wells in collaboration with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. He was the recipient of the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and is the 2013 Praemium Imperiale laureate for sculpture. Gormley was knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to the arts.

Rene Capone

Watercolors by Rene Capone

Born in September of 1978 in Niskayuna, a small town in the mid-eastern area of New York state, Rene Carol Capone is an American figurative painter.. He attended the Parsons School of Design in New York City on a merit scholarship in the fine arts. Upon graduation in 2000, Capone moved to San Francisco to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. 

Known for his depiction of the human figure in mysterious, erotic, or whimsical circumstances, Capone often uses themes from his favorite myths and literary tales in which to place his characters. He began his career as an artist creating dreamlike, sensual, often homoerotic images of young men on deep, personal quests for love, identity, and their place in the world.

After a four year hiatus from his fine art work in which he studied the topic of child abuse, Rene Capone self-published his first authored and illustrated graphic novel, “The Legend of Hedgehog Boy”. More than just a queer fairytale of a boy in search of his identity, the tale dealt with the issue of child abuse and its consequences, both psychological and physical. The story argued in favor of self-expression and the reconstruction of one’s life after a traumatic event.

In 2014, Capone published this illustrated novel entitled “A Boy Named”, the story of boy, now more comfortable in his skin, on a quest for identity in his world. The tale is told through eighty-five illustrations by Capone as well as a collection of portraits of him taken by various photographers.  Also in 2014, Capone did thirteen  illustrations for Dorian Carbone’s children’s book “A Turtle Who Likes to Eat Fish”. 

An overall retrospective of Rene Capone’s work from 1999 to 2011 was published under the title “Any Given Moment: The Artwork of René Capone”. His most recent publication is a hardcover art book of Capone’s work from 1997 to 2018, entitled “A Boy Named Patience”, which was published in 2021. The artwork features the words of poet Dave Russo alongside the paintings. Capone’s artwork has also been  published on book covers, including publications in France and Israel,  and will be used for a series of books entitled “The Goldberg Variations”, issued by

He took a four-year absence from creating fine art to dig deep within his psyche and painful childhood to create a series of paintings that inspired his graphic novel The Legend of Hedgehog Boy. The novel struck a deep chord within many readers, and it transformed the artist as well.– The Advocate

Charles Demuth

Five Watercolors by Charles Demuth

Painter Charles Demuth (1883-1935) was one of the earliest American artists to expose his gay identity through forthright, positive depictions of homosexual desire. As a leader of the American Modernist movement, Demuth was best known as a pioneer of the precisionist style* and as a master watercolorist.

Raised in a well-off merchant family, Demuth had the financial freedom to pursue his artistic vision without regard for public opinion concerning aesthetics or sexuality. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he started painting when a childhood illness rendered him unable to walk. Charles studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where the realist tradition of former faculty member Thomas Eakins prevailed. Eakins was himself a painter of major works of homoerotic content.

In 1912, Charles began a relationship with Robert Locher, also from Lancaster, who was to become his life partner. After spending two years in Paris, the two men went to New York City, enjoying the bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village. They also embraced the summer artist colony of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Demuth associated with leftist writers and artists committed to sexual liberation.

Note: In regards to Charles Demuth’s “Turkish Bath with Self Portrait”, seen above, the watercolor sketch offers an illuminating depiction of the gay subculture in postwar New York. The setting is likely the Lafayette Baths, a Turkish bathhouse in the East Village. The artist, with dark hair and mustache, appears nude in the center of the frame. He talks with two other men: a blonde man swaddled in a towel, who faces away from the camera, and a fully undressed red-headed man who strikes a confident pose. Behind the trio, a man with indistinct features stands in a pool, water waist high, while a duo in the upper right corner of the canvas seem to be caught up in an intimate moment.

Demuth was likely open about his sexuality with his friends, and frankly depicted the evolving, underground gay scenes in New York and Paris. This image is striking in its open, candid depiction of desire and attraction between men. It was not intended for public exhibition during Demuth’s lifetime and historically it has great significance, visualizing the emergence of a sexual subculture organized along very different lines than male/female courtship. Since his death, Demuth’s watercolors of early-20th-century gay life have proven to be sources of inspiration and fellowship to later generations of American artists, including Andy Warhol, another Pennsylvania native.:


Richard Vyse

Richard Vyse, Title Unknown, Watercolor and Ink on Paper

Internationally collected artist Richard Vyse has shown at galleries in Manhattan and Honolulu. He has studied at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and taught at Pratt n Brooklyn. Vyse’s art has been featured in many art and literary arts magazines. His artwork is in the collection of the Leslie+Lohman museum in Manhattan.

Andrew Wyeth


Andrew Wyeth, “Afternoon Flight”, 1976, Drybrush Watercolor, 58.1 x 72.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Andrew Newell Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Primarily a realist painter, Wyeth’s favorite subjects were the land and the people around him, both in his hometown of Chadds Ford and his summer home in Midcoast Maine. Many of his works were done with the drybrush watercolor technique.

Andrew Wyeth is perhaps best known for his 1948 painting “Christina’s World”, currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He  passed away on January 16, 2009 at the age of ninety-one.

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, “Mountain Stream”, 1912-1914, Watercolor and Graphite on Off-White Wove Paper, 34.8 x 53.3 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“Mountain Stream” is one of Sargent’s most dazzling images based on the theme of flowing water. This exhibition watercolor, which the artist sold to the Metropolitan Museum, differs from his many anonymous views of streams in its inclusion of a bather, which suggests a specific time and place. However, its precise setting cannot be identified; in the early 1910s, when this watercolor was probably made, Sargent painted in the Alps of France, Italy and Austria.