Category: Artists & Illustrators

Happy Thanksgiving from Norman Rockwell & us

Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.
Norman Rockwell

This is a famous illustration that American painter Norman Rockwell did for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 4 Freedoms.

Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, and always wanted to be an artist. At 14, he enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art) only 2 years later to transfer to The National Academy of Design, now a Smithsonian branch. The Academy was founded by American artists  by Samuel Morse, Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, Martin E. Thompson, Charles Cushing Wright, Ithiel Town, “to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition.” He did not stay that too long either, transferring to the The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty, a famous illustrator of the time, and George Bridgman, a noted drawing master.

You can read more about him and see a large catalogue of his work on the Norman Rockwell Museum in Indianapolis.

Black ink and Gorey

from the New Yorker Magazine, November 9 1992. Atypical of Gorey in that watercolour washes were applied.

Our header photo is of Edward Gorey taken by Richard Avedon for the New Yorker magazine.

We rectified Mr. Gorey to 10:23 PM in Chicago Illinois on February 22nd, 1925. This puts Saturn 14 Scorpio 19 Rx in the first house suggesting he had a strong emotional connection to his work — he enjoyed creating his characters, and watching the tableau play out. They were his playthings and children (trine Uranus in the 5th). A large part of their allure was that they were so eccentric and quirky they could only be his — he liked the idiosyncratic projection of his self threatening the world at large (Mars opposite Saturn where Saturn is in its accidental fall and Mars in its accidental detriment because it is opposite its rulership in Scorpio) demanding attention. This combination also creates skilled artisans often mimicking metal and stone (Gorey worked predominantly like Aubrey Beardsley in black and white but with chiseled effect).

Jupiter at 14 Capricorn according to Dr. Raman the great Vedic Astrologer, signifies bachelorhood.

Accidents will happen

‘Accidental’ dignity indicates the strength a planet gains for some reason other than its position. Mars on the midheaven, for example, is accidentally dignified because it is exalted in Capricorn which naturally is the 10th house. In the current chart Mars falls in the sign of Virgo but in the 10th house, it is now accidentally dignified.   So too, the accidental fall of Saturn in Gorey’s chart is similar — the reason is that Saturn is exalted in Libra (the 7th house) and now in the 1st, it is in its detriment, but as this is by placement not naturally, it is accidental — just how the roll of the zodiac fell because of his ascendant, the Lord of the Chart.

Mars has a similar problem: it rules Aries, the first house but is “accidentally” fallen into the 7th house where it is in detriment — the house opposite one’s lord is the detriment; opposite the exaltation is the fall. So in Gorey’s chart Mas is accidentally in detriment. This makes the two planets weaker than they would be but the fixed Grand Cross bucks them up a bit and makes each determined to win the contest. Of course since Mars is faster moving than Saturn, it will eventually cede position to Saturn, who wins the battle of hard knocks and harsh determinism.

Edward Gorey does a colourful Christmas

The other opposition – Venus Neptune

The other opposition of Venus to Neptune is not so dour. Neptune is accidentally in its fall in the 10th house but Venus is free of all encumbrances — thus Venus wants to get out and acquire new things and bring them into the house, Neptune remains shy and cloistered with his work. How does this turn out? Well as a rather shy person who goes and about through his vision and work — and at a distance, reading about his success, the the comments from the safety of his liar.

These two oppositions create Gorey’s Grand Square or Cosmic Cross in fixed planets of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. They are also at the angles giving the cross stability and fixity of purpose — i.e. bucking up the weak points. This aspect would have made Gorey a rather crotchety person, much like his characters, who did things his way, without explanation or heed.

Edward Gorey died in Aries on April 15 2000 in Hyannis, Massachusetts of a stroke. He left a large part of his estate to cats, rats, bats and dogs, and a few spiders.

Designing Henry Dreyfuss

Henry Dreyfuss is not a household name, but his designs are objects that fill and beautify our homes like the Royal Quiet de Luxe Typewriter, the Westclox Big Ben alarm clock, the Western Electric desk, vacuum cleaners for Hoover and the AT&T desk and Princess line phones, the round thermostat for Honeywell (cloned by Nest though still in use). He lead the forefront of American industrial for decades until his death in 1972.

Dreyfuss’s name has a second “s” because his family were German Jews. French Jews Julia Louis Dreyfus of Seinfeld and Veep fame have just one. He was born on March 2, 1904, New York City, little else is known about his parents or family. A glaring oversight, that he is not part of the Jones 1000.

At the Start

In 1921 at Dreyfuss designed sets for stage presentations at a Broadway motion-picture theatre by 1927 a store commissioned him to study its merchandise, assess its attractiveness, and make drawings indicating improvements that the manufacturers could make. He made the study but refused to undertake the design because disagree with his overguiding approach — that design is part of the process and not “paste” on design afterwards; most notably Steve Jobs of Apple agreed.

Industrial designers were often trained traditionally as architects, now called the visual arts profession, and now work as part of a larger creative team. That was not true in Dreyfuss’s time where he typically worked alone, and brought his designs to the manufacturing & marketing teams for review. His concern was to to produce products where “form followed function” as in the credo of the great American architect Louis Sullivan (born September 2 1856 Boston, Massachusetts) and his famed student Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8 1867 Wisconsin)

Unlike Sullivan and Wright, Dreyfuss worked mainly on appliances or “things” and not buildings. Nonetheless, he kept the same idea of the Chicago School in mind — that the designs while stressing utility should be pleasing so that people would use and enjoy them. He said that “when the point of contact between the product and people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed.”

His part of fortune at 03 Libra in the 7th House shows the importance his marriage to Doris Marks was to him. — “the day of a new day everything changed.” It is conjunct though out of sign, to his North Node in Virgo giving him deep, though idealistic, aspirations for their partnership marriage. This can cause problems, as indeed it did when Mrs Dreyfuss became ill, with his inability to face the reality of death — see Moon opposite Sun in Pisces in the 12th House of jails, and willing incarceration.

His book The Measure of Man contains extensive data on the human body and its movements. His approach to industrial design is described in his book Designing for People(1955, 2nd ed. 1967). An important theorist in the field of  human-factors engineering, or ergonomics, Designing for People published also that year, discusses his service-(focal determinator Moon in the 6th house of service and serving) oriented philosophy.

On Oct. 5, 1972, Dreyfuss, along with his business partner cum wife, Doris Marks Dreyfuss, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes of their car parked the garage of their Pasadena California home. They had left a left explaining their actions so homicide would not be suspected and that their family doctor be notified and witness their bodies. The Dreyfuss’s reasoning was Doris’s terminal illness, found the sympathetic Pisces (Pisces 27 rising “a harvest moon”) in affinity with her pain and heart sick over her coming loss; they had 3 children.

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da Vinci Medieval and Modern

da Vinci whole house with fixed stars

Astrologically Leonardo

We have adopted the traditional 10 of Sagittarius ascendant for a wandering mind, as the Maestro did not physically travel far. Its symbol is “a teacher giving new forms for old symbols, ” and hearkens to the higher faculties of human understanding with the keyword of “acuteness.”

Life of da Vinci

LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) is the great Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer and natural philosopher. He was the bastard son of a Florentine lawyer (Piero), by a young girl of a merchant family Catarina (Catherine). He was born in Vinci, a castello or fortified hill village in the Florentine territory near Empoli, from which his father’s family derived its name.

Upon birth of her son, Catarina was married to one Accattabriga di Piero del Vacca, of Vinci. Ser Piero on his part was four times married, and had by his last two wives nine sons and two daughters; but he had from the first acknowledged the boy Leonardo and brought him up in his own house, principally, at Florence. Ser Piero was successful first as notary to many of the chief families in the city, including the Medici, and afterwards to the signory or governing council of the state.

The youth grew up with shining promise and inexhaustible intellectual energy. Among his multifarious pursuits to were music, drawing and modelling. His father showed some of his drawings to an acquaintance, Andrea del Verrocchio who at once recognized the boy’s artistic vocation, and was selected by Ser Piero to be his master.

Verrocchio, although hardly one of the great creative or inventive forces in the art of his age, was a first-rate goldsmith, sculptor and painter, and is particularly distinguished as a teacher. In his studio Leonardo worked for several years (about 1470-1477) in the company of Lorenzo di Credi and other less celebrated pupils.

Baptism of Christ

Among his contemporaries he formed special ties of friendship with the painters Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino. He had soon learnt all that Verrocchio had to teach – more than all, if we are to believe the oft-told tale of the figure, or figures, executed by the pupil in the picture of Christ’s Baptism designed by the master for the monks of Vallombrosa. The work in question is now in the Academy at Florence.

According to Vasari the angel kneeling on the left, with a drapery over the right arm, was put ire by Leonardo, and when Verrocchio saw it his sense of its superiority to his own work caused him to forswear painting for ever after. The latter part of the story is certainly false. The picture, originally painted in tempera, has suffered much from later repaints in oil, rendering exact judgment difficult. The most competent opinion inclines to acknowledge the hand of Leonardo, not only in the face of the angel, but also in parts of the drapery and of the landscape background. The work was probably done in or about 1470, when Leonardo was eighteen years old.

da Vinci Alcabitus method, a very early non Ptolemaic method but uses just the classic 7 planets. Here we see even here, a grand trine out of quadrature from Saturn to Mars to Venus, emphasizing that his ideas need to take a tangible physical form. It also makes him a locomotive — intent on his own vision to the exclusion of all else.

Leonardo was not one of those artists of the Renaissance who sought the means of reviving the ancient glories of art mainly in the imitation of ancient models. The antiques of the Medici gardens seem to have had little influence on him beyond that of generally stimulating his passion for perfection. By his own instincts he was an exclusive student of nature.

From his earliest days he had flung himself upon that study with an unprecedented ardour of delight and curiosity. In drawing from life he had early found the way to unite precision with freedom and fire – the subtlest accuracy of expressive definition with vital movement and rhythm of line – as no draughtsman had been able to unite them before.

Shadow and light in painting

Leonardo was the first painter to recognize the play of light and shade as among the most significant and attractive of the world’s appearances, the earlier schools having subordinated light and shade to colour and outline. Nor was he a student of the broad, usual, patent appearances only of the world; its fugitive, fantastic, unaccustomed appearances attracted him most of all. Strange shapes of hills and rocks, rare plants and animals, unusual faces and figures of men, questionable smiles and expressions, whether beautiful or grotesque, far-fetched objects and curiosities, were things he loved to pore upon and keep in memory.

Neither did he stop at mere appearances of any kind, but, having stamped the image of things upon his brain, went on indefatigably to probe their hidden laws and causes. He soon satisfied himself that the artist who was content to reproduce the external aspects of things without searching into the hidden workings of nature behind them, was one but half equipped for his calling.

Every fresh artistic problem immediately became for him a far-reaching scientific problem as well. The laws of light and shade, the laws of “perspective,” including optics and the physiology of the eye, the laws of human and animal anatomy and muscular movement, those of the growth and structure of plants and of the powers and properties of water, all these and much more furnished food almost from the beginning to his insatiable spirit of inquiry.

The evidence of the young man’s predilections and curiosities is contained in the legends which tell of lost works produced by him in youth. One of these was a cartoon or monochrome painting of Adam and Eve in tempera, and in this, besides the beauty of the figures, the infinite truth and elaboration of the foliage and animals in the background are celebrated in terms which bring to mind the treatment of the subject by Nuremberg master Albrecht Durer in his famous engraving done thirty years later.

Albrecht Durer’s Adam and Even; Leonardo’s could not be found.

A peasant of Vinci having in his simplicity asked Ser Piero to get a picture painted for him on a wooden shield, the father is said to have laughingly handed on the commission to his son, who thereupon shut himself up with all the noxious insects and grotesque reptiles he could find, observed and drew and dissected them assiduously, and produced at last a picture of a dragon compounded of their various shapes and aspects, which was so fierce and so life-like as to terrify all who saw it.

grotesques from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

He was full of new ideas concerning both the laws and the applications of mechanical forces. His architectural and engineering projects were of a daring which amazed even the fellow-citizens of Alberti and Brunelleschi. History presents few figures more attractive to the mind’s eye than that of Leonardo during this period of his all-capable and dazzling youth. He did not indeed escape calumny, and was even denounced on a charge of immoral practices, but fully and honourably acquitted.

No contemporary gives the least hint of Leonardo’s having travelled in the East; to the places he mentions he gives their classical and not their current Oriental names; the catastrophes he describes are unattested from any other source; he confuses the Taurus and the Caucasus; some of the phenomena he mentions are repeated from Aristotle and Ptolemy; and there seems little reason to doubt that these passages in his MSS. are merely his drafts of a projected geographical treatise or perhaps romance.

Jacopo de Barbari’s portrait of Fra Pacioli

When he and Fra Luca Pacioli (Franciscan friar, mathematician and the founder of double-entry accounting) left Milan in December 1499, their destination was Venice. They made a brief stay at Mantua, where Leonardo was graciously received by the duchess Isabella Gonzaga, the most cultured of the many cultured great ladies of her time, whose portrait he promised to paint on a future day; meantime he made the fine chalk drawing of her now at the Louvre but his real purpose for the trip was to learn cosmogony and calculus

Death of father

His father had died in 1504, apparently intestate. After his death Leonardo experienced unkindness from his seven half-brothers, Ser Piero’s legitimate sons. They were all much younger than himself. One of them, who followed his father’s profession, made himself the champion of the others in disputing Leonardo’s claim to his share, first in the paternal inheritance, and then in that which had been left to be divided between the brothers and sisters by an uncle.

The litigation that ensued dragged on for several years, and forced upon Leonardo frequent visits to Florence and interruptions of his work at Milan, in spite of pressing letters to the authorities of the republic from Charles d’Amboise, from the French king himself, and from others of his powerful friends and patrons, begging that the proceedings might be accelerated.

At this point Leonardo drew in chalk our only portrait of himself (see our header picture): while he looks old for his years, he has the character of a veteran sage with features grand, clear and deeply lined, the mouth firmly set and almost stern, the eyes strong and intent beneath their bushy eyebrows, the hair flows untrimmed over his shoulders and commingles with a majestic beard.

+++Adapted and condensed from Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911