Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Master drawings’ Category

Drapery_Study_for_a_Seated_Figure_c1470_Leonardo_da_Vinci

Leonardo was about eighteen when he made this study of drapery.  Doesn’t matter how old he was.  He was making drapery studies when he was forty-DraperyStudyLeonardoDetaileight, too.  It’s not something you master and then you’re done with it.  Drapery is mesmerizing, both for the artist working on it and for us, the viewers.  It draws you into a universe that envelopes you and at the same time feels utterly alien.

The Leonardo drawing activates your sense of touch, convincing you that you’re inhabiting a real world, as if you were feeling your way through a cave with a bizarre topography that nevertheless completely seduces your senses.

DraperyStudyLeonardoAnalysisYou can snap out of the trance, however.  And when you do, you’ll notice that some passages are unreal.  He just made some crinkles up—out of whole cloth, so to speak.  With your (momentarily) sober mind you can look at this passage, for example, (pink circle) and realize that cloth does not behave this way.

Leonardo lied.  He created this fiction. Why?  Because it’s fun to create fiction.  He creates the illusion of reality but he’s actually playing with form.

Look at Rogier van der Weyden, who’s about fifty years earlier than Leonardo.

Full title: The Magdalen Reading Artist: Rogier van der Weyden Date made: before 1438 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Are these green folds hammered out of aluminum?  You know very well, cloth does not drape, fold and crinkle this way.  Yet, here it is, captivating us, compelling us to its rhythms like a fierce drummer.  (Ha, I’m looking at 15th century drapery and thinking of Gene Krupa and Art Blakey.)

Drapery, in other words, is a wild thing.

Linné Dosé, whose love of form and composition lead to daring omissions in his choice of still life elements, came up with this cloth floating in space.  No table to rest on.  He apparently saw that shape, found it compelling and that was enough.

16AprilDrapery

Now, when you see this thing sitting there on the page, it harmonizes with the Drapery15%behavior of drapery, but it also becomes something in itself.  Your imagination kicks into the surreal.  What is this?  It looks like a critter, doesn’t it.  You’re now in that cave with Leonardo and Rogier.

Leonardo and Rogier worked for clients who were all-powerful and dictated the subject matter to be depicted.  The artist then set out to work as if he were saying, fine, I’ll give you your mythological characters, but I’ll go wild with the drapery. You can have your Magdalen, but the drapery is mine.

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519

Rogier van der Weyden, 1400 – 1464

Linné Dosé, graphite on paper, ~12” x 18”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-square/

20160428_155310

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.katherinehilden.com

www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

15SunflowerThey tend to droop and get weighed down by lunching squirrels. I cut down the tallest sunflower in my garden and brought it to drawing class. As a still life subject the tired sunflower offers lots of issues to work on: negative space, dynamic composition and the opportunity to practice energetic markmaking. But the greatest of these, hmm, is the problem of wanting to draw a flower as a flower, meaning pleasing and pretty. It’s a glorious, assertive flower. But, alas, it’s dying.
The glorious and assertive, but dying VanGoghSunflowers2sunflower must have touched a nerve in Van Gogh. He painted it, many times, in all its raggedness and made it famous. You can’t go to the farmers market in early fall and  not sigh ah-look-so-Van Gogh.
Twenty years later, Egon Schiele also fell for its decadent charm, celebrating decay even more than Vincent had done.  EgonSchieleSunflowers1
EgonSchieleSunflowers2The two decades bracketing the year 1900 brought great cultural change. The 19th century was giving way to the inventions of modernism in every field you can think of, in the sciences and the arts. It was an exciting time to be alive and alert.
In Van Gogh’s Sunflowers we see the decaying half of the change.

In Schiele’s Sunflowers we see vitality and strength, in the midst of decay.

One student in the drawing class worked in a technique that held maximum potential to convey the dynamism of the dying sunflower. It’s a difficult subject, technically and emotionally.

LizzySunflower
Drawing by Elizabeth Mendoza, China Marker on gloss paper, 14 x 11
Vincent VanGogh, 1853-1890
Egon Schiele, 1880-1918
StillLifeSunflower2All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was Rembrandt’s birthday.

André Malraux, in The Voices of Silence, talks about Rembrandt’s early work showing the influence of his teacher Pieter Lastmann. Here’s Rembrandt at the age of twenty.

RembrandtProphet Balaam
Malraux talks about the “fallacy of a ‘neutral style.’”
“Its origin is the idea that a living model can be copied without interpretation or any self-expression; actually no such literal copy has ever been made. Even in drawing this notion can be applied only to a small range of subjects: to a standing horse seen in profile, for instance, but not to a galloping horse. This theory owes much to the silhouette, and underlying it is the assumption that the basic neutral style would be a bare outline. But any such method, if strictly followed, would not lead to any form of art, but would stand in the same relation to drawing as an art as the commercial or official style of writing stands to literature.”
Here’s a work by Pieter Lastmann.

PieterLastmanHagar
Malraux continues: “A neutral style no more exists than does a neutral language; styleless pictures no more exist than do wordless thoughts. Thus the teaching of the plastic arts (apart from mere training of the hand) is nothing more than the teaching of the significant elements in a style or several styles (thus, in our own, perspective is one of these elements). Academic drawing is a rationalized style—what theosophy is to religions or Esperanto to a living tongue.… Though the life-stories of great painters show us pastiches as being the starting point of their art, none tells of a transition from the art school to genius without a conflict with some previous genius. Any more than the history of art can show us a style born directly from nature, and not from a conflict with another style.”

André Malraux, The Voices of Silence, 1953. Translated by Stuart Gilbert. p.316
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669
Pieter Lastman, 1583 – 1633

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

GossaertMadonnaThe Flemish painter Jan Gossaert (c. 1478–1532) was much sought after, as a portraitist of Hapsburg royals and as a creator of altar pieces for Catholic churches. When I saw this Madonna and Child at the Met last December I just about burst out laughing. No, I didn’t actually laugh out loud, though that’s permissible in museums, but I did stand there for a long time, gaping at this extravagant and, yes, funny image of what was at the time a sacred subject.
He was a very busy man and it’s hard to imagine that he had time to paint for his own entertainment. But it’s also hard to imagine this undogmatic Madonna and Child hanging in a Catholic church in the early 16th century, during the Counter Reformation.
Let’s consider one bit of the historical context. In the Late Gothic, the S-curve of the Madonna becomes very pronounced and the baby Jesus becomes playful and fidgety, pure baby.
https://www.google.com/search?q=late+gothic+madonnas&biw=1536&bih=851&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=lYwoVabCJca8ggTs04GgCA&ved=0CCAQsAQ
But Gossaert’s Madonna is over the top. He shows her playing with the baby, but it doesn’t look like a lot of fun, does it. The baby looks terrified and frantic and mom–sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up–is more interested in posing than in bonding with her child.
The heap of blue cloth that we are supposed to accept as her gown is so overdone—even for the convention of the time—that I find it comically bizarre. It seems to be the work of an obsessive-compulsive. Or somebody who had an ax to grind.
Maybe Gossaert painted this not so much for his own amusement but as a satire. Satire wafted in the northern air. It was a time of political/theological upheaval and Gossaert may have had clients who were eager to see satirical views of the establishment’s icons. Who else would have bought a painting like this around 1500?!
Two contemporary northern satirists were Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), who had the nerve to poke at the papacy, and Hieronymus Bosch (1450’s-1516), who made no bones about his disgust with the corruption of the Catholic Church and the general insanity of the time. Sebastian Brant (1457-1521) published his satire Ship of Fools in 1494. Here’s part of Bosch’s illustration of that theme:

BoschShipFools
We don’t have personal details about Gossaert’s life that would provide insights into his playful, very human and possibly satirical Madonnas.
For more Madonnas by Jan Gossaert,
https://www.google.com/search?q=jan+gossaert+madonna+and+child&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=bIsoVfaQIIS8ggTD9IHACQ&ved=0CCEQsAQ&biw=1175&bih=829
Jan_Gossaert_-_the_virgin_and_child_with_white_lily_and_cherriesAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

Wyeth3
Oh, Wyeth, I thought, I don’t like Wyeth. I had just walked in at the 7th Street entrance, said hello to some Dutch masters, Helen Frankenthaler, De Kooning and Jackson Pollack. And then there was a sign pointing to Andrew Wyeth watercolors. I was familiar with his paintings, admired them for their composition and austerity, but, really, Mr. Wyeth, all these individual brush strokes for dried grass. Hill and hills of brush strokes for dried brownish grass. Oh, well, I shrugged to myself, I’ll just go in and have a quick walk through.
My jaw dropped at the sight of the first piece, a pencil sketch he did for Wind from the Sea (1947). Then he worked out a watercolor of the same motif, the curtain blowing in the window. Oh, my!

Wyeth1

His watercolors are wild! The brush stokes—big brush!—are furious, ruthless, raggedy, dripping, bleeding, dragged dry. The watercolors are large, about 20 x 24, and each looks as if had been done in a frenzy of concentration, in maybe 15 minutes. Here’s the quote I took down from one of the walls:
“I break loose…and there are scratches and spit and mud…that’s what gives them some quality.”
Some quality, indeed. And yes, he ripped into the heavy paper with a knife or razor blade, he stressed the paper to the point of wrinkling, and the mud was passionate mud. He probably did spit and sweat.
Then why are his paintings so, well, fussy. Individual blades of grass, individual threads on torn curtains. Maybe, after breaking loose in a watercolor or two, he got out his tempera and oils to calm himself down.
I have no idea how long I was in that gallery. I lost track of time.

Wyeth2
Drawings and watercolors often don’t reproduce well in art books. The immediacy, the “spit and mud,” is lost in reproductions and prints.
What a revelation this exhibit was! It closed two days later. I will hop on a plane the next time someone puts up a Wyeth watercolor exhibit.
(Photography was not allowed, of course. I’m pulling images from the web here. Again, these only hint at the passion of Andrew Wyeth. I could not find the pencil drawing or the watercolor he did for Wind from the Sea and, in any case, no reproduction would do. Shown above is the tempera painting.)
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

PosingPicassoAvignon1
You’ve seen it hundreds of times in art books. And now there it is: Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. In the flesh, in the canvas, in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This famous painting, this icon, yes, icon, of modernism. You’ve flown thousands of miles to get to New York, you’re modern, you’re not shocked by this shocking painting, you’re cultured, civilized, you’re familiar with its origin myths and the various interpretations offered by art historians. You know that Picasso’s early sketches show a medical student entering a brothel, that the red light district in Barcelona, where Picasso spent his teen age years, was along a street called Avignon. You’ve studied every passage of this painting from reproductions in art books: the course handling of the drapery, the aggressive fruit bowl, the terrifying masks. And here it is and here you are. It looks just like the reproductions in the books. It’s big and you knew that PosingPicassoAvignon2all along. There is no surprise, there’s nothing new here at all, nothing to learn, nothing to experience. So there’s nothing for you to do but stand in front of it like a good tourist and do the touristy thing; you ask your friend to take a picture of you standing in front of Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon.
In 1936 in an essay called The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Walter Benjamin said when people go to museums now, they don’t go to see art, they go to see the original of what they’ve seen before in reproductions. There’s no surprise, no experience, no epiphany, no shock, no aesthetic experience. What they’re curious to see is the original that spawned so many reproductions.
That’s what I witnessed earlier this month when I spent a day at the MoMA. Les Demoiselles D’Avignon drew a crowd. I inched my way close to the painting’s edge and looked closely at the brush work. Very clean, very neat. No overpainting that would leave previous layers to peek through (pentimento). No reworking. No pencil or charcoal lines to lay out the composition.

A less famous painting of Picasso’s, Night Fishing in Antibes, was not mobbed and attracted only the occasional poseur. Famous because it was a Picasso, but not as widely reproduced. Hence a smaller crowd.

PosingPicassoNightFishing

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

Read Full Post »

“There were two of them, they were sisters, they were large women, they were rich, they were very different one from the other one…”—Gertrude Stein

The Cohn sisters, Claribel Cone (1864–1929) and Etta Cone (1870–1949), lived in Baltimore, traveled 13CohnMatisse1extravagantly and amassed an extensive art collection.  Claribel called her apartment in the Marlborough in Baltimore “the museum.” They knew not only Gertrude Stein but also Picasso and Matisse.  Matisse became a friend and visited them in Baltimore in the 1930’s.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has put together a Matisse show gleaned from the Cone collection that is well worth the drive.

If you can’t make it to Indy before the show closes on January 12, you can pick up a copy of Brenda Richardson’s “Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta,” 1985, which has excellent reproductions of Matisse drawings and paintings in the collection.  I own a copy and have studied the paintings in reproduction there, but seeing the originals…Oh!

MatiseeNude

The book has all twenty-one stages of “Large Reclining Nude” that are buried under the final version, the twenty-second layer of paint.  Matisse worked on the painting from May to October 1935 and took photographs at twenty-one stages of its development.  This is fascinating enough.  You think!  But seeing the original, now in Indy for the exhibit, reveals yet another aspect of how hard he worked on this painting.  He struggled with color.  To get the color dynamic right, he pinned swatches of color paper or cloth onto the canvas.  You can see the pin holes!

This is a smart show. It stresses the work process. Matisse looks fast and loose, doesn’t he?!  Makes you feel light and freed from conventions. Go to Indy and see how hard he worked to make you feel that way.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com 

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

http://www.katherinehilden.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »