Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Hitchcock’

I never really knew much about the Swiss born painter Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) but I always found myself stopping whenever I came across one of his paintings, particularly those that were in the vein of the painting above, Evening on the Loire, from 1923. I loved the way he blocked in the forms in his compositions, very much in a manner that I could identify with in my own work.

But his name didn’t bring instant recognition for me, not like the big names from his contemporaries from that incredible time of change for the art world around the turn of the last century. But looking at his work, both as a painter and a printmaker, makes me wonder why this was the case. It is most distinctive work, in many ways bolder and different than that of his peers. His print series, Intimacies, from which I show a few below, is a fascinating group that I have learned was highly influential on the paintings of Edward Hopper and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I can easily see that connection now.

Maybe his lack of of recognition came from the fact that he didn’t seek the spotlight personally or write much on his work. Doing a quick search turned up little. No outrageous quotes or wild stories.

Well, whatever the case, perhaps we will soon know a bit more about this artist as the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a large exhibit of his work, Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet, opening late in October and running through the end of January in 2020. It traces his career from his association with Les Nabis, the painting group heavily influenced by Paul Gauguin and Cezanne, through his woodblock prints and his later paintings that became more like his prints, compositionally.

I am not going to go into a bio here. I just wanted to make folks just a tiny bit more aware of his work. I had a hard time stopping when I was adding images for this post. See for yourself. I know I usually see at least a few things I want to “borrow” whenever I look at it.

Félix Vallotton- The Visit 1899

Félix Vallotton- The Red Room 1898

Félix Vallotton- Interior with Couple and Screen 1898

Félix Vallotton- Interior with Woman in Red 1903

Félix Vallotton- Intimacies V: Money

Félix Vallotton- Intimacies: The Murder

Félix Vallotton- Intimacies I: The Lie

Félix Vallotton- Nuit Effet de Lune Suisse

Félix Vallotton- The Pond 1909

Félix Vallotton- Moonlight 1895


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The 39 Steps posterAt least once a year, usually more, I watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps in the studio.  It’s one of his early films and has  a very dark look to it, pretty grainy which might turn off some who don’t appreciate the unique qualities of black and white films.  Like most Hitchcock films it’s suspenseful but with comic touches and moves along quickly as we follow the hero, played by Robert Donat, who is wrongly accused of the murder of a mysterious woman and pursued across Britain as he tries to find the real killers.  It serves as a loose framework for his later and better known North By Northwest, featuring the iconic scene with Cary Grant being chased down a prairie road by a plane.  It’s good fun and a great film  that I recommend highly, especially if you have any fondness for Hitchcock and his genre, which I certainly do.

 Robert DonatThe reason I mention this film is actually to mention Robert Donat, the star of the film.  He is probably totally unknown to most movie fans today which is tragic.  He was one of the most popular British actors of his time and died in the 1950’s at age 51 from asthmatic complications. He is probably for his portrayal of Mr. Chips in Goodbye Mr. Chips in 1939 for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor, beating out Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights.  Pretty stiff competition.  

I have to admit that I didn’t know a lot about Donat but over the years, as I continue to come across his films, I have come to really appreciate the greatness of his talent for communicating his roles on the film.  He had a very malleable look that could be very soft and foppish or could come across as strong and dashing.  He could play both poor or aristocratic characters with ease and gave all a great a depth.  I hope that more fans of movies will rediscover this now somewhat forgotten actor.  

 There are a lot of great actors out there who are very much like Donat in that they,too, are little remembered.  One of my favorites is Joseph Cotten who starred in scores of great movies like Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Third Man and Niagara just to scratch the surface.  He was always exceptional but, unfortunately, remains relatively unknown today.  But to those who have found him and Donat and many others, they remain huge talents whose body of work lives on today.  

They’re out there waiting to be found…

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