söndag 13 juli 2014

Back to the Classics

In 1959 Golden Press published The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends. It was a compilation of antique tales retold by Anne Terry White and illustrated by Martin and Alice Provensen. But several finds in the collections of University of Minneapolis, Minnesota, proves that Gustaf Tenggren was considered as an alternative artist for the book. A number of fully executed paintings depicting ancient gods of the greeks shows that Tenggren spent a whole lot of work in the belief that he would get the commission for this Giant Golden Book. 
Anne Terry White:
The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends, 1959
Illustrated by Martin and Alice Provensen
Cover draft for
Tenggren's Golden Treasure of Myths and Legends
Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections
Artemis
Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections
Prometheus
Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections
Pandora's box
Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections
Centaur
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Achilles
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Orpheus
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
It is not known whether the Golden Press editors felt that Tenggren had more than enough of jobs for the publisher or if Tenggren just didn't have time to complete another Giant Golden Book. Around this time he would have been very busy completing the illustrations for one of his most beautiful books, Golden stories from Arabian Nights. The Provensens were earlier commissioned to do another classic,  The Iliad and the Odyssey, while Tenggren were to concentrate on two Anglo-Saxon classics: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as well as King Arthur and the Knights Around the Round Table.

onsdag 2 juli 2014

How it all started

Yesterday I had the pleasure to pick up another Tenggren painting for my friend, the Tenggren collector.
I know this painting very well and it was a delight to see that it was in such a good condition although painted in 1917, with its brilliant colors pretty well preserved. At the time, Gustaf was only 21 years old, still studying at Valand's School of Art,  and the influence from jugend and Ivar Arosenius is quite obvious.
Illustration for The House Gnome's Bundle, Bland Tomtar och Troll, Åhlen och Åkerlund 1917
This painting is quite special, since it is one of four made for the very first fairy tale illustrated by Tenggren in the series Bland Tomtar och Troll.
Bland Tomtar och Troll, Åhlen och Åkerlund 1917, cover

It was also the first time that a volume of this annual was illustrated by two separate artists. When John Bauer refused to continue illustrating after 1915, publisher Erik Åkerlund hired Anna Stenberg MasOlle, a friend of Bauer's and an idle contributor to Åkerlund's other publications. But after just one year, in 1916, he realized she couldn't fill out the role as Bauer's successor. Probably through a hint from John Bauer's brother, Ernst, Åkerlund let Gustaf Tenggren illustrate one of the stories and Stenberg MasOlle the rest.
The tale, The House Gnome's Bundle (Kvistvätten's knyte),  is written by Vilhälm Nordin. It's about a girl who plans to emigrate to the U.S.A. but realizes that the house gnome will move from the house too and take the luck of the household with him. That makes her stay home with her folks. The aim of the story was to stop the wave of emigration that threatened to drain Sweden of young laborers.

Her are the four illustrations, scanned from the book.





Although the novel didn't help much in stopping the Swedish emigrants for America, it was successful in another way. The year after, 1918, Erik Åkerlund let Gustaf Tenggren make the whole volume of Bland Tomtar och Troll. Tenggren was to continue the job for eight more volumes. The irony of it is that he made it from the U.S.A. where he moved in 1920. 

fredag 30 maj 2014

Hit the road, Jack!

Previously I have shown some examples of how Gustaf Tenggren reused old material. As a master illustrator of fairy tales he was bound to turn back to the classics several times throughout his career. In this case it's interesting to follow his styles as they develop through years, one each decade. The first time he illustrated Jack and the Beanstalk it was included in The Read Fairy Book, compiled by Andrew Lang. After that he made three more versions, all of them great works of art.
Jack and the Beanstalk of the twenties:
The Red Fairy Book,  David McKay, 1924
Jack and the Beanstalk of the thirties:
The New York World Sunday Magazine, 1930
Kerlan collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections
Jack and the Beanstalk of the forties: 
The Tenggren Tell-it-Again Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1942
Jack and the Beanstalk of the fifties:
Tenggren's Jack and the Beanstalk. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953

onsdag 7 maj 2014

California Watercolors

From his first years as an illustrator, watercolours had been the major painting method for Gustaf Tenggren . All the artists he admired had worked in the same media: Carl Larsson, John Bauer, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, to mention a few. He was a member of the American Watercolor Society along with many of his colleagues within commercial art, and as they he had learned to master the technique to perfection. The paintings were very accurate and meticulously rendered down to the tiniest detail.
Laguna Beach 1936
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
But after his arrival in Los Angeles in early spring 1936, he seems to have become aware of an alternate, looser and more vivid watercolor style.
At this time, the art scene was significantly influenced by the painters in The Californian Watercolor Society. Among the members were Mary Blair and her husband Lee Blair. Mary Blair never met with Gustaf Tenggren at work while employed at the Disney Studio; she came to Disney's in April 1940 and Gustaf left in January 1939. But Tenggren exhibited at the Pomona Country Art Fair in fall 1939, where Lee Blair had some paintings, so they're likely to have met and to have known each other.
Gustaf Tenggren painting at Catalina Island 1937
He started to make free-air painting excursions in the neighbourhoods; Hollywood and Wilmington, Laguna Beach and even to Catalina Island. Walt Disney himself bought a Catalina landscape from Tenggren in 1938.
Catalina Landscape 1936
In the same way that the climate made both Gustaf and Mollie Tenggren more happy and relaxed, it helped to vitalize Tenggren’s imagery and added yet a style to his visual toolbox. It might also have helped to loosen up his painting all over; a change of style is clearly visible in his post-Disney works.
A number of Gustaf Tenggren's watercolors are held by the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who have kindly given permission to publish them here.
Hollywood 1936
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Hollywood 1937
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Hollywood 1937
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Wilmington 1937
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Wilmington 1937

fredag 2 maj 2014

With a whole lot of help from my friends!

Thanks to the kind and helpful assistance from Bjoern Larsen and Henrik Wilfred Christensen, two of the members of the Danish Jules Verne Society, I can now add a row of ten more Tenggren-illustrated books to my library. Let alone my own excitement, it was invaluable for my Tenggren research to be able to study them more closely.
The ten Jules Verne books illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren in 1919 and
published in 1922 by Jespersen's publishing Company, Copenhagen.
I'm so grateful to the members The Danish Jules Verne Society that
discovered the illustrations and helped me to get the books!
I think that this commission for Jespersen’s publishing company was a great challenge for Gustaf Tenggren when he received it in 1919. To judge from the consistency of style, the row of next to 60 drawings were executed during a concentrated period. It forced Tenggren to be quite efficient and to develop a drawing style that would fit both the printing process and the limited budget. This edition was meant to be an inexpensive one, which implied bulkier inlay paper and a more fragile cardboard binding.
Nevertheless, it’s an impressive piece of work to have been executed by a 23-year old artist, just let out of Valands School of Art, and on the verge to a 50-year career within illustration in USA.

20,000 leagues under the sea, cover painting by Gustaf Tenggren
The Children of Captain Grant, cover painting by Gustaf Tenggren
The advertisement for the book series tells us that Tenggren also made front covers for some of the books. It seems that these are the two first in the row, “20,000 leagues under the sea” and “The children of Captain Grant”, since the rest have covers already used earlier. Maybe it was due to loss of time that he didn’t complete the covers; he was also busy making the illustrations for Grimm’s Fairy Tales” for the same company.
As an example, here come the six illustrations for “The Children of Captain Grant”, probably published on the Internet for the first time. Enjoy!






måndag 28 april 2014

The donkey lettuce

The other day I had the great joy to intermediate in the receipt of a nice Tenggren painting. Mr Clas Albanus from Mariefred arrived in Stockholm, carrying the little painting with the shimmering color and odd motif, and signed "Tenggren 1917". Mr Albanus had inherited the painting from his father, but didn't feel it fit in his home, which, I gladly declare, made me quite happy as it brought yet another hidden Tenggren treasure to the surface.
Mr Clas Albanus from Mariefred holding the watercolor "The Donkey Lettuce".
The motif of the picture was quite intriguing, but obviously an illustration for a special story. It pictured a hunter looking up a tree with a flock of birds fighting over some kind of clothing.
Front side of painting with original framing 
The frame backing carried a hand-written text which was almost impossible to read because of its age and wear. The line "Bought in 1917-1918" could barely be distinguished. The clipping from Saturday Evening Post 1956, where Diane Disney Miller's "My Father Walt Disney" was published, shows that the owner was well aware of Tenggren's fame.
Back side of painting with original backing
After I carefully had removed the backing, the truth was revealed. The watercolor was executed on a nice, high quality Whatman art board, which proved that Tenggren already at this early stage of his career had the economy to afford his careful choice of material. A text, presumably written by Tenggren himself, told me that this was an illustration for one of Grimm's fairy tales, "The Donkey Lettuce". I didn't recognize it as ever being published. I found the tale easily in the edition of Grimm's fairy tales from 1923. The clothing in the tree was a wishing cloak, as the hunterhad already been told by a witch. Later in the fairy tale the hunter found a field of magic lettuce; one sort of the lettuce turned you into a donkey, while another made you human again, hence the odd name of the tale. One comes to think of the frightful scenes in Pinocchio where Lampglass and Pinocchio turn into donkeys on the Island of Joy, but there is probably no connection.
Without its glass, the painting itself revealed the great handicraft and a subtle color treatment used in the tradition of Rackham and Dulac. Tenggren had applied fluid color washes over the surface and carefully washed it out with a damp brush to add light in the subdued areas. The whole rendition was held in ocher and turquoise which created a transparent, glowing light.
"The Donkey Lettuce", unpublished illustration for Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jespersen's 1923. 
This painting also showed that Gustaf Tenggren had started his commission for Grimm's Fairy Tales already in 1917, unlike in 1918 that was earlier presumed. Maybe this was a pilot for the job, but never used. I'm so happy that it was bought and kept by Clas Albanus' father to be enjoyed even today, almost a hundred years later.

fredag 11 april 2014

Rare Tenggren books discovered

It was long known that Gustaf Tenggren spent time in Copenhagen in 1919 before he left for USA in July 1920. He had a commission for E. Jespersen's Publishing Company to make 32 illustrations fro Grimm's Fairy Tales. They were completed in 1920 and published in Denmark in 1923. Also in 1919, he painted a portrait of the daughter of publisher Halfdan Jespersen. The rest of his doings in Denmark that year has been benighted - until now.
Thanks to the illustrious Jules Verne Society in Denmark (Det Danske Jules Verne-selskab) and their fabulous website, 10 more titles has been added to Tenggren's row of book commissions. They were published in 1922 and contains a total of 59 black-and-white drawings, plus possibly some covers in full color. Most of the covers were reused from the previous editions but two  (20,000 leagues under the sea and The children of captain Grant) were new and might have been painted by Tenggren.
Cover for Illustration for
20,000 leagues under the sea, Jespersen's forlag 1922
Illustration for 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Illustration for 20,000 leagues under the sea.
I got on track when I read a letter from Gustaf Tenggren to a publisher, listing his illustrated work and mentioning these early illustrations. The 10 books had already been published in several illustrated editions before, but Tenggren was hired to re-draw the original french illustrations, perhaps of printing technical reasons. Despite his youth, being only 23 years at the time, he managed to produce a nice row of drawings, obviously without exceeding his very talented predecessors. None of the illustrations are signed, which is very unlike Tenggren. Maybe that is the reason these illustrations has been relatively unknown until now.
An advertisement announcing the publishing for
the series of  Jules Verne books in 1922.
List of the 10 Jules Verne books illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren in 1919 and published in 1922.
  1. "En Verdensomsejling under Havet" (20,000 leagues under the sea) 6 B-W illustrations. 
  2. "Kaptajn Grants Børn" (The Children of Captain Grant), 6 B-W illustrations.
  3. "Den hemmelighedsfulde Ø" (The Mysterious Island) 5 B-W illustrations
  4. "Det rullende Hus" (The Steam House) 6 B-W illustrations. 
  5. "Fem Uger i Ballon" (Five Weeks in a Balloon), 6 B-W illustrations. 
  6. "Jorden rundt i 80 Dage" (Around the World in 80 Days) 6 B-W illustrations.
  7. "Kaptajnen paa 15 Aar" (A Captain at Fifteen) 5 B-W illustrations.
  8. "Kejserens Kurér" (Michael Strogoff) 6 B-W illustrations.
  9. "Rejsen til Maanen" (From the Earth to the Moon), 6 B-W illustrations.
  10. "Keraban Stivnakke" (Kéraban the Inflexible) 7 B-W illustrations.

A detailed overview can be studied at The Danish Jules Verne Society's homepage.
Thank you for your kind help in retrieving this!