Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Early Influences














When I was a kid I loved the pastel portraits of Ralph William Williams for Breck Shampoo advertisements and would stare at these for hours. The Breck Girls, oh yeah. Sometimes I attempted to copy them in pencil. That shiny hair! I thought that it was magic how he could make that happen with pastels!

5 comments:

Don Gray said...

Oh man, you're taking me down memory lane. I used to study those Breck girl portraits in awe too!

Martha Miller said...

Hi Don

Oh, I'm glad to hear this! I also studied Norman Rockwell's illustrations in LIFE magazine with the same amazement...
Rob sited having such scholastic inspirations as a child in my last post - I was almost embarrassed to post about The Breck Girls. But I didn't have parents or grandparents who were savvy about the art world or artists. Rob was fortunate! I guess I gobbled up what art I could find in magazines.
It is very compelling and seductive to see something rendered so realistically...
Yet The Breck Girls are hardly realistic in terms of the subject - too perfect - they look more like rendered studies of dolls...
When I was a teenager I finally got my hands on some art books from the library and began studying the work of Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Kathe Kollowitz... I also loved looking at Kandinsky...

Don Gray said...

Like your parents, mine had no background in art, and we lived in a smallish, decidedly "un-arty" town. I don't think any of my grade school teachers had much background. Thinking back, as a kid I took art inspiration wherever I could find it. That included the Breck girls, as well as any illustration work I could find in books and magazines. Steel and wood engravings in old books fascinated me. I loved to study the painted ads for cars in magazines. Howard Terpening did wonderful sun-drenched figures illustrating short stories in magazines like McCall's. And I loved John Scott's wonderfully precise pencil drawings in outdoors mags like Field and Stream.

Around age twelve I discovered the old Walter Foster art instruction books--remember those? I was a HUGE fan of Robert Wood's landscapes!

Also around this time a perceptive aunt gave me a book called "Art Treasures of the Louvre." It was my introduction to the old masters and I wore dog-ears on that treasured book. I still have it, and looking back have to marvel at how that book opened up this small-town boy's world.

Martha Miller said...

Hi Don

Thanks for checking in and sharing your boyhood inspirations! I didn't know about Walter Foster, but I did have a John Nagy art kit with instruction book! I can still see Nagy's goateed photo from the cover of the book in my mind's eye (a real 50's beatnik - like, yeah, man. Coool...)
I did have the good fortune to attend Saturday morning art classes at RISD for 6-7 years but we had little if any art history as I recall.
Your story about receiving "Art Treasures from the Louvre" brings to mind that great scene from Pleasantville (one of many - I love that film...) where Bud (Toby McGuire) shows the Jeff Daniels character an art book. Daniels played the soda jerk in the local diner - a frustrated artist who was allowed to make art only at holidays when he painted seasonal scenes on the the store front window. So Bud shows Daniels an illustrated art history book from the library and blows open his soda fountain mind! It's actually a very moving scene...

Anonymous said...

It so happens that my wife inhierited an orginal Beck Girl pastel, but it is signed by Anderson. We believe they are orginals because her father worked for the company in RD. He created the formulas for hair color, shampoos and alike. Every now and then we take it out and just appreciate the colors and fine detail.