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Kat

Bryan Larsen's Atlas Series

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titant.jpgmotiveft.jpgfirstheatt.jpg

Here is a message from the Cordair Gallery...

Bryan Larsen has released each of his Atlas Shrugged inspired works as limited-edition prints on canvas. Motive Force: a reference to the powerful locomotive engine in the background, but more specifically to the figure of Dagny Taggart, the woman responsible for keeping not just the train, but the entire railroad running. First Heat: Henry Rearden, a steel mill owner and the inventor of a revolutionary metal alloy, is leaning against a steel beam in his mills, watching the pouring of the first heat of his new metal. The theme is pride in one's greatest accomplishments. And Self Absolution of the Titan: Atlas turning his back on the world bent on destroying itself; freeing his body, and his mind, from his eternal burden.

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I was very pleased to receive a personal telephone call from Linda of the Cordair Gallery thanking me for featuring this series and some of their other pieces on Objectivist Living. :D

Yes, I want them all!!!

Kat

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It's very difficult for me to judge these paintings, because they are so small. That being said, I don't much like the one of Dagny and the train: her pose seems a bit sloppy, and it appears that the train is bearing down on her. I can't at all judge the one of Rearden; I can't make it out. I do like the Galt one; it appears very powerful (although I'm a bit turned off by the puzzling length of material hiding part of his back.)

Can these be seen somewhere in larger reproductions? They are sufficiently interesting that I'm curious.

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Barbara,

Here are links and photos of the larger size from the Cordair Gallery:

titan.jpg

Self Absolution of the Titan (John Galt)

(I think the material is an allusion to the name "Titan" from Greek mythology, and the fact that Atlas was a Titan.)

motivef.jpg

Motive Force (Dagny Taggart)

(I imagined this scene from when the train stopped in Atlas and the signal system was out. Still, I agree that it is not the best of the lot - Her skin color and they way she is portrayed does not resonate well in me. I loved the train, though, and the contrast to the sky and countryside.)

firstheat.jpg

First Heat (Henry Rearden)

(This is still a bit dark, but much better on my screen.)

Here is one by Bryon Larson I saw browsing just now that like very much:

heroeslarge.jpg

Heroes

(Breathtaking composition.)

Michael

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The "John Galt" doesn't at all look like the John Galt described in the book. Wasn't he slender (couldn't you break his neck with two fingers or something like that?) and blond? At least not so big and muscled as this figure.

And wasn't Dagny also blond? Anyway, I'm not so fond of these pictures, they're a bit too much like "Soviet art" for me.

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There's something bothering me in "motive force": the direction in which the train is headed doesn't seem to correspond to the direction of the rail. I tried to imagine a correct view by assuming that the rail under the train is curved, but it doesn't really work. Even if it would be technically possible, it's a distracting element, which should be avoided. Now it may be that I'm overly sensitive to such things...

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Dragonfly:

Now it may be that I'm overly sensitive to such things...

LOL. Oh,...maybe...just a wee tad (though you sure are alerting me to such details; please continue doing so).

I have to admit that, along with Dragonfly, "I'm not so fond of these pictures." They seem to me like self-consciously trying to paint "heroic" poses -- ok for book dust jackets, but they don't "speak" to me.

Ellen

___

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Whenever I look at a painting, I try to see it first 'on its own,' i.e. by putting aside anything I know about it outside of what I can see in the painting, and letting myself react to it as such.

And, on this first pass, I try to see whether I find it visually pleasing or what, in a perceptual sense, like I would with decorative art.

Also, I try to see how it makes me feel emotionally - is it exciting, calming, erotic, scary, full of dread, sad or inspiring.

Then I go back to thinking about the painting in the context of what the painter called it and what I know about any extra-visual associations in it For example, in the Renaissance, having a dog in the painting had a special meaning, or, I know that's Napoleon getting crowned, with all the historical connections surrounding that event in Jaques-Louis David's painting, see http://www.planetware.com/picture/paris/lo...ame-f-fp078.htm.

So I've tried to do this with Larsen's paintings, although I'm worried I may be a bit unfair to him, because I'm not seeing them in person, which can make a huge difference. I know that Michael Newberry's paintings are so much brighter and exciting in person than you can see on line (www.michaelnewberry.com).

Here's what I find when I look at these pictures of Larsen's three paintings:

I like his clarity of style and I often like his choice of colors, although there's an odd flatness to the paintings in some respects that reminds me more of poster art than Renaissance painting.

I look at Absolution of the Titan and enjoy the beautiful male body; I think the draping emphasizes the erectness of his posture while evoking the Greek gods. I imagine the utter blank darkness behind him is supposed to evoke the depth of space as the god turns away from Earth, but I find it a bit sparse for my taste, making the whole painting look more like a study than a full composition. Strangely, however, in this viewing, this painting seems to have the most realistic depth to it, I think because of the fine rendering of the body.

Dragonfly is right that the figure does not look like the description of Galt, but I find that I don't really care - this is Larsen's painting - I don't think it's supposed to be a poster for the book, just inspired by it.

The train painting makes me worried when I first glance at it, because I think the train is bearing down on the figure, but then I realize that she is awfully relaxed for that (she would hear it!). The figure is okay - I can see Larsen is trying to convey an action-ready relaxation through her position. Overall, I like the colors and sunny setting, but I'm not particularly fond of it, I don't think the quality of the painting is up to his others.

My favorite is the steel mill painting. At first glance, I'm captivated by the interesting, dynamic composition that makes my eye roam all over the canvas, soaking in everything there is to see. There are a lot of interesting things to look at in this painting - the pouring bucket, the bridge, what's on the wall in the background- and I really enjoy the relaxed, beautiful figure watching it all. I also like the colors.

I do wonder why the artist chose to have the figure looking away from the viewer - I get the sense that he is supposed to be deeply absorbed in the sight of the millwork, but I'm frustrated that I can't see more of his face!

Again, although this painting has a fair amount of depth, there's something lacking in that arena. Perhaps Larsen needs to develop his technique more in that regard, in terms of rendering of colors, shadows and relationships between near and far objects.

Hmm, I just went to look at an on-line pic of Michelangelo's Holy Family painting here: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/michela...family.jpg.html

to show in contrast to Larsen's, but now I'm wondering if Larsen's problem is as bad as it seems because I've seen this Michelangleo painting in person, and it has remarkable depth - which I don't think shows up in this on-line view! Sorry to Bryan Larsen if I'm wrong!

Marsha

To let the spirit break

Free from rules and make

Its own way

To whatever

Beauty it chooses to seek or take.

By its freedom, making seem

Art's toiling endeavor

Child's play

Or lover's dream.

"Romanticism's Birth" by John Enright

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It's funny how our mind makes things up: I always thought Dagny was blonde too, the last time I read Atlas, only a few weeks ago I noticed a brief indication that her hair was brown (pg. 20 in the paperback edition; when Dagny is first introduced).

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Dominique is blonde - maybe that's confusing the issue.

I realized one thing that bothers me about that picture is the skin tone - it's white almost ghostlike white. I wonder why he chose to make her look that way? She's not described as having really white skin especially.

Marsha

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Marsha,

I'm going to say something that is not kind, but I don't mean this aggressively.

The skin tone, clothing and other aspects made Dagny in front of the train remind me of Morticia Adams. Take away the train and put a haunted castle behind her in your mind and you will see what I mean.

(I will probably meet Bryan one day. I do hope he forgives me...)

That was a lovely little poem by hubby. Child's play or lover's dream indeed.

Michael

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Michael,

Funny, after I made the comment on the skin tone, I looked back at the picture again and actually was shocked at how white she was...so unfortunately, I think you're right! (Sorry Bryan!) Actually, the first time I looked at the painting, I thought she was supposed to have those sheer white stockings on that are sometimes in style, but then I noticed her face was very pale also.

Perhaps he has something he's trying to capture with that look, but I don't get it. I do give him a lot of credit, in all these pictures, for trying to capture some complex and sacred feelings.

John says thanks!

Marsha

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On visiting the gallery (online, see the earlier posts for the link), there are paintings I like much better than these three, not so 'Soviet': one of a little girl building, a little boy doing a science experiment, and a sexy looking broad looking out her window.

David

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I've been to the Cordair gallery a few times and I have seen all of these. I do like some of the Bryan Larsen ones on their own, without the background material. I do admire technical ability, fine lines, and use of color. The gallery itself is full of light and is generally uplifting to be in. But in general, I'm not really all for bending my tastes towards one particular aspect of asthetics.

In Motive Force, I just like her face; I don't really pay attention to the rest of the painting too much. The colors are okay, but a little flat to me. Facial expression is hard to get, so I think the face is a pretty good representation of determination.

I don't like the J.G. one, and I'm not really fond of the Rearden one either. They do not reach me in any substantiative way. I've liked a few of the pieces at the gallery-- the ones I do like are the more intimate ones, the ones that bring you closer to the subject. I don't feel that most of the pieces do that but that, I think, is a subjective interpretation. And I do think that art is way more subjective that people think it is.

In any case, I *like* some artwork at Cordair. However, I just prefer places like the Louvre better, because I stand *in awe* of the pieces there. I just haven't found that level of artistry-- such mastery as portrayed in the Dutch masters, or in the marble statues-- anywhere in modern times; enough so that it makes me speechless with awe.

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Dayaammm!! This is a tough group of critics. Constructive criticism was never my favorite part of being in art class, but what the hell. The first one, I think, illustrates the title of the book Atlas Shrugged extremely well. I could see it as the cover of the book. I don't think it was meant to be a picture of John Galt, as I don't think he was the toga party type. :D

The one of Dagny and the train, IMHO is the weakest. The train is awesome but the person is too androgynous and seems like a stoned hippie dude clueless that he is about to get run over by a train. "Wow, dude, like a train, man!" I think I mentioned once before that my own personal vision of Dagny is the illustration used on the postage stamp. This person in front of the train does not portray the success, pride, strength, determination and dignity that are characteristic of Dagny. I imagine Dagny as one with a definite presence. That isn't happening with this pose, although the expression may be close. I like it as a painting, but not as a portrayal of Dagny. Maybe if she looked like she owned the railroad, rather than ducking or playing chicken with a train....

The third one of Reardon is very strong and you feel the heat of the factory, and get the message that it is hard laborious work for the man who is dedicated to producing the products of his mind.

The Cordair site does have a little bit more info on the making of these pieces in the workshop area.

Kat

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Dayaammm!!  This is a tough group of critics.

Well, personally, I have gone through the receiving and giving criticism part of making artwork... have done it 2-4 times a week for 2.5 years; so I think I have a biased view of artwork, critique, color, presentation, style, etc. in general than folks who haven't gone through it. I don't call myself an expert critic or anything, but I always draw from my experience and education when I do an art critique.

One thing I *have* noticed through knowing artists is that while you *might* be able to know their values from their artwork, it's not *always* the case. I've known some highly well-adjusted individuals who did artwork that seemed like they were nuts. On the other hand, I've personally known nutty (as in, they need medication type nutty) people who have made some coherent artwork and started businesses based off their creative abilities! One could *not* tell from their cheerful design/art that they were depressed, they did it so well. I think it's because the human experience is so complex that any number of ranges can occur between who the person is, how they view the world, what they select as expression, and what their chosen values are.

Also, just because someone doesn't like something is any reason to be personally affronted by that. I've learned that the hard way; there is always a third of the class who couldn't care less about what I made, whlie some would rave about it. I once had my video prof. slam my work but one guy came up to me two days later saying he really *liked* my video. I've learned not to take it personally; to know that people have their own tastes for equally valid reasons.

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Perhaps it is because I've been staring at a computer moniter for too long, but I'm not getting a lot of "determination" out of her face. More like she smells something rather unpleasant. And her cheeks seem to be sagging a bit. And the train behind her makes me a little anxious, if only because I'm a little afraid of trains.

Speaking of the trains, I agree with Dragonfly about the train not looking quite right. Is it just me, or is it tilting?

And btw Mike...Morticia usually has higher eyebrows, and the pose is a little out of character. For some reason, I'm thinking more along the lines of Daughter of Dracula.

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Am I the only one who likes them all as they are? They all look great to me.

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I like the Rearden one as a book illustration. In fact, this is almost exactly how I imagined the scene from the book, down to the colors and the angle of the face.

However, as fine art, I find most Objectivism-inspired paintings to lack depth in the sense implied by Marsha Enright above. Depth for me is conveyed by focus on a theme right down to the smallest details, by means of the highest command of artistic devices and techniques. It is not enough to render well some correct philosophical theme. AR once said something similar regarding music, that the issue is not just the thematic intention, but the specifically artistic means used, and how.

That said, I don't know much about the art of painting, and am speaking only of my reaction as a viewer of art. I like the Rearden picture very much, as I said above.

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It's much easier, no, to critique someone else's art than to do a piece yourself?

Having said that, I will still offer a critique.

(1) All these pictures do look much better full sized than the smaller versions that appear atop this thread.

(2) On seeing "First Heat" in more detail, I have more appreciation for it than I did from the smaller version. The tension running through Rearden's body is fitting, as is the way his face is turned to the side. That element invites the viewer to question, for him/herself, what emotions are on Rearden's face.

(3) That image of Dagny still has me thinking it through. Her pose is one ambiguous element: why is she kneeling? Strangely enough, I have given precisely that posture to my own heroes (the Qhatuujil twins) with the understanding that they are both 7' tall, and have the confidence to lower themselves, physically, without lowering themselves, mentally. For one of those twins to kneel, implies that he's relaxed. It takes confidence to do that.

(4) Which leads back to Dagny, kneeling before a train. Does that suggest she has confidence before the force of technology? If so, that is a good description of her character all along.

(5) For that matter, is the train moving or at rest? If this picture is taken literally, and the train is moving, then Dagny is suicidal. This is a quality which Dagny lacked. I am interpreting the train as not moving; Dagny has dismounted after a long and triumphant journey across the rails. And there's another detail: the rails are blue-green. How appropriate.

(6) The painting of John Galt is, in my opinion, not a literal portrayal of Galt. It is a portrayal of the legendary Atlas, who was himself a Titan. That helps explain why he is dressed in Græco-Roman style. I am interpreting the muscular strength implied in this painting as a metaphor of Galt's intellectual strength.

(7) On closer inspection, I see less of raw muscle, as one might see in a Soviet Realism [sic] painting of a worker, than endurance. This figure looks less like a body-builder, and more like a man whose strength is based on will-power which leads to endurance.

(8) The only technical shortcoming I have found in these, and the "Heroes" painting, is to be found in Dagny's legs. Up close, they seem too much like sculpture.

(9) Back to work on the Qhatuujil twins. :-$

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Brian Larsen is interviewed in the most recent issue of The Objective Standard (Summer 2012). It includes some good color plates of his work (e.g.).

Asked who are his favorite painters, Mr. Larsen replied that circle would include Jacob Collins, Maxfield Parrish, and John Burke. Among figure painters “William-Adolphe Bouguereau is an amazing figure painter. I like him mostly for his technique. . . . ./ Alma-Tadema is another Victorian painter. What I like about him is his attention to detail.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

Jonathan, thank you for #23. Surely you are correct. John Berkey

Larsen: "There's also [this artist], who paints really loosely; but I've always been a sci-fi fan, and he paints scenes of starships and planets in a way that's very mysterious and artistic."

--Stephen

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The "John Galt" doesn't at all look like the John Galt described in the book. Wasn't he slender (couldn't you break his neck with two fingers or something like that?) and blond? At least not so big and muscled as this figure.

And wasn't Dagny also blond? Anyway, I'm not so fond of these pictures, they're a bit too much like "Soviet art" for me.

John Galt --- ectomorph.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The "John Galt" doesn't at all look like the John Galt described in the book. Wasn't he slender (couldn't you break his neck with two fingers or something like that?) and blond? At least not so big and muscled as this figure.

And wasn't Dagny also blond? Anyway, I'm not so fond of these pictures, they're a bit too much like "Soviet art" for me.

I don't see "Soviet Art" in the pics. John Galt shouldn't be complaining about his great body, especially after he spent all that time in the gym. I don't get Dagny kneeling in front of the train engine except for compositional balance.

--Brant

edit: Looking at his other paintings and drawings none of them do anything for me in spite of what appears to be great technical mastery and use of color and light and I would not own any--I don't want those people in my home; it's all posing in the way the Mona Lisa isn't though she, the model, was

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