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Posts Tagged ‘golden section’

101fChardinStillLife

The previous six drawings were derived from this painting by Chardin.  To help us see composition and form without being charmed by the color,  I had black-white Xerox copies for everybody to work from.

101eChardinStillLifeBW

We immediately noticed that there was a triangle implied in the arrangement of peaches and cup (green line), giving these random objects a solid organization.

101eChardinStillLifeBWGreenLine

We had encountered the triangle in the Gainsborough landscape.  https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/markmaking-with-gainsborough/

While the arrangement of peaches from small to large takes your eye from left to right, the knife disappearing behind the peaches leads the eye from right to left into the middle of the composition. We also noticed the crack in the table top which adds interest to that horizontal line.

That was enough to organize the students’ seeing and, without further analysis, we immersed ourselves in the drawing process.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) painted scullery maids and piles of kitchen stuff. He seems to have been a quiet, stubborn character who paid no attention to the Versailles aristocracy at a time when satin and wigs were the only things worth painting. The style preferred by the aristocracy in the mid-18th century is called Rococo and I’ll show one painting to illustrate the boneless frivolity of that aesthetic: Boucher’s portrait of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress.

BoucherMmPompadour

Now imagine an artist trying to make a living in Paris by insisting that a woman cleaning turnips was a subject worth painting.  She looks up from her drudgery in a moment of reflection.WomanTurnips

How can you not like Chardin.  He must have had a “whadaya-lookin-at” sense of humor, depicting himself in some get up to keep out the damp weather without any regard for heroic pretentiousness.

selfportrait

 

Getting back to analyzing his still life, I could not find the Golden Section as such in this painting, but he has two perfect squares (pink and red) which hold this composition together and make it compelling to look at.

101eChardinStillLifeBWGoldenSec

For a review of the Golden Section, see https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-golden-section-in-beas-painting/

For more insights into how still life paintings work:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/sit-perfectly-still-be-moved/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/still-life-a-misnomer/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/still-life-momento-mori/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/still-life-with-doll/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/turbulent-still-life/

 

The six student drawings derived from Chardin’s painging:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-3/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-4/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-5/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/06/08/4044/

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Vortex

This painting travels up and down your spine and massages all of your brain. That’s the highest assessment I can give to any work of art. What does this painting embody?
VortexNumbersOrder + Chaos
Rationality + Emotion
Calculation + Spontaneity
The Golden Section
The Enso
Color + black/white
Notice the literal references to calculation and geometry at 1,2,and 3. Very witty.
The enso and Japanese calligraphy can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPGIUk-24dk
Once you’re on that page, you’ll find other demos. One calligraphy artist says, calligraphy lives in the moment. Birth and death, all in one stroke. Powerful.
Painting by Jane Donaldson, 30”x 40”, acrylic on canvas.
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RedSquareSwoosh
In the last post we talked about the convergence of shapes on that cluster of black dots. As you looked at that painting, you probably also noticed that the convergence occurs on the golden section.
In this painting, 36” x 36”, the convergence is in the middle. This is a daring composition. It’s hard to make something so balanced—divided into four quadrants!—so dynamic.
It’s uncanny how the large red area, taking up a quarter of the painting surface, is actually subverted by that pale blue disk in the upper right quadrant. A circular shape, no matter what color or size, will dominate the daylights out of any composition. At a distance, the red will catch your attention, as you can see in this shot from the Studio Exhibit.

IMG_7192
But paintings get looked at from afar and from close up. Once you’re about five feet away, the drama in this painting engages you. Even though it has a rigorous rectilinear division, it feels like a vortex. The blue disk keeps pulling you back up and then you fall back in. The vortex is three-dimensional because the dark gray square appears to be in the distance, behind the plane occupied by the red.
The Studio Exhibit at the Evanston Art Center, 1717 Central Street, is up til this Tuesday, September 8. A terrific show!
Painting by Cassie Buccellato, oil on canvas.
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15Jan1

Look at this. What a mess, you say. One color blotch after another, no repetition of forms, no pattern, no order of any kind.
15Jan1GoldenSecLook again. There’s a black vertical line right in the middle(yellow arrows) If you draw a horizontal line through its top end, you get a golden section (green). If you draw a line through the bottom end point of the black line, you get a golden section (purple). You have to be pretty desperate to find some structure here to do this exercise and you have to be fond of the golden section. I happen to enjoy looking for structure and I’m besotted with the golden section. But that’s all I can come up with here.
Now, aside from the hunt for the golden section, reconsider the mess. Look yet again. If you look closely, if you zoom in, you can find exquisite passages. Here are some. Imagine each as a new painting.——————————————————————————

15Jan1B15Jan1C

 

 

 

 

15Jan1E15Jan1F

 

 

 

 

 

——–
The painting as a whole was incomprehensible and hard to look at—as a whole. But it consists of potential paintings that are quite dynamic and, at the same time, orderly.
Painting by Bruce Boyer, oil on canvas, 40” x 30”
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Toes2
Let us now praise famous toes.Famous squooshed toes, that is.

Why is Eirene’s little toe deformed? It’s 360 BCE. Nobody was wearing narrow pointed high heeled boots in Athens at the time.  How did the sculptor come up with the idea of hammering such a crooked little toe out of his marble block?
ToesGSThe Greeks were famously obsessed with perfection and in the visual arts that meant the Golden Section. As an example, you can see that Eirene’s peplos drapes at about the line dividing her body into the Golden Section. But the little toe? Now, granted the Athenians had lost the war with Sparta in 404 BC and were understandably demoralized. They stopped writing juicy drama and instead produced brittle philosophy. Maybe their obsession with perfection gave way to a sense of humor. I was startled by the sight of this toe. It’s funny. Should it be? Can this be explained? Has anyone written a monograph on Athenian toes? Or will I have to live through this coming year distracted by this weighty mystery?
Sappho1I walked on. Heading towards the Café next to the sculpture court at the Met, I was tripped up by yet another set of toes. Here’s a tense, heroic Sappho wiggling her toes as if playing the piano and, look, her little toe is puny and out of line.

IMG_5052

What’s going on here? This sculpture is from the 19th century. Could it be that for two thousand years sculptors have been encoding their deepest existential gloom in little toes and nobody’s taken notice!? The little toe cries out for recognition. The little toe needs to be understood. The little toe demands scholarly attention. The little toe is the elephant in the room.
Ahem. I know three things about toes. 1) only men have foot fetishes, no women do; 2) ballerinas do their best point work if they have the most toes in a straight line; 3) our evolution may dispense with the little toe (and little finger) altogether, over many more eons.

IMG_5055
So, my first thoughts of the new year are on solid ground, on an uneven footing and draped in mystery. I like it already.
An uneven, alert 2015 to us all!
Marble statue of Eirene (personification of peace), Roman, Julio-Claudian period circa 14-68 CE. Copy of Greek bronze statue, 375-359 BCE. By Kephisodotos
Sappho. Marble, 1895. By Compte Prosper D’Epinay (1836-1914)
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13BoyerLesRondes1This painting (oil on canvas, 40” x 30”) took three class periods to complete, that’s about seven hours.  The artist started by putting down the colors he wanted to work with, reminiscent of the rich sepia and ochers of the Renaissance, he said. Rectilinear shapes fell into place, hinting at the Golden Section. This is not surprising when you have the Renaissance on your mind and one of the recent topics under discussion in the class had been just that, the Golden Section, its history and uses, briefly of course.

13BoyerLesRondes2The working method adopted by the artist, Bruce Boyer, was to sit back from the easel at a distance of about six to eight feet and look at the painting in progress. Then he would get up and quickly add something.  He had discovered, he said, that the painting tells you what to do.

The painting tells you what to do! 

 

Well, how hard can that be!?  Consider this: In the theater, actors will tell you that the hardest thing on stage is to listen.  So it is with painting.  Listen!  This takes tremendous 13BoyerLesRondes3concentration. My students often tell me that after three hours of this work, “I’m ready for a nap.”   It’s hard work.

I’m showing this painting in four stages and without commentary.  I invite you to study the process—the conversation.  Listen!

 

——————————————————————

Next , the completed work. Bravo!

13BoyerLesRondes4

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13OrangePeals

Scatter the peels of five oranges on a board. Draw.

Not so fast.

The exercise was set up with the instruction to draw each wedge convincingly with shadows and reflected light and at the same time to connect all the wedges so that they would read as a unit.  Notice, also, that there’s a gap in the line-up, suggesting a golden section.  None of this is easy to execute.

But it looks simple and inviting.  And oranges in January…what could be more pleasant!

13OrangePealsMaggy

13OrangePealsGaby

13OrangePealsAle13OrangePealsLinne

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Monet is popular because of his use of color.  In l967 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, under its new director Thomas Hoving,  acquired Monet’s La Terrace à Sainte-Addresse for  1.4  million. Monet had painted it in 1867, at the age of twenty-seven and had sold it for pittance because as a new father he needed the money.  But I digress.

Hoving fought to get the painting for the museum.  When he saw it in the dingy quarters of its eccentric owner, the Swedenborgian pastor Theodore Pitcairn, in a suburb of Philadelphia, he was so overcome by the painting’s beauty that he ”sat down on the bed and stared at it for what must have been an hour.” In his book, “Making the Mummies Dance,”  Hoving talks only about the exquisite colors in this painting.

Well, now, as is our custom in this blog, let’s have another look.  Colors, yes, but what about all this geometry.

I immediately notice two things in the geometry:  1) the two flag poles, making me suspect a Golden Section and 2) a dominant line at the lower right.

The Golden Section (1) is right there, defined by the flag poles and the center of the umbrella and the eye of the man in the hat, the beholder of the scene, and therefore one of us the viewers. (The bright green lines).

The dominant line (2) is the strong line dividing the pavement from the garden. (The pink line)  This line, in the Western tradition, is read as going down.  Hm, down.  Here’s this cheerful scene, which Hoving describes as pure joy, and what we get is this dominant line directing our eye down, down, down.    If you don’t immediately see the down-effect of this line, just flip the

image over.  Now, the line goes up.  When that line goes up, the joy loses all gravitas and turns the image into a tourist bureau advertisement.  Doesn’t the optimism in the flipped version become facile and trivial?

The picture within the picture that frames the man, the woman and the black sails through the use of the flag poles (3) is clearly intentional especially since the man in the hat is looking at that scene.  A few days after the birth of his son, the penniless Monet wrote to his friend Bazille: “Everything is fine here, work and family;  were it not for the birth I should be the happiest man alive.”

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It was another of Beatrice K.’s unassuming tranquil photos, probably taken at the Botanic Garden. ( See also 3.12.11) But its harmony, I could tell right away, was grounded in the ratio of the Golden Section.  Oh, no, not math.  Yes, math and very beautiful math, at that.

Pythagoras did his math on the coast of Asia Minor around 600 BCE.  He came up with this ratio that keeps on giving.  Take a line, any line.  On that line is a point that will divide the line into two sections, call them a and b, such that the whole string is to the long section as the long section is to the short section, which looks like this in  algebra,  (a+b):b = b:a.  Then if you take just a to be the whole string you can start the whole subdividing and ratio forming again, ad infinitum.  The Greeks thought this was so beautiful that they used this ratio over and over not only in building their temples but also in constructing the bodies –and faces—of their heroic sculptures.

And here it is in Bea’s painting.  The Golden Section was already in the photo, but it was important not to lose it while pushing the paint.  The reason this was important is that without the Golden Section, this peaceful landscape painted in soft tones of blue, sienna and green would drift into sentimental swampland.  The painting is far from a faithful reproduction of the photo.  In the photo the rivulet was lined by dark shrubs on its right bank.  In the painting, such a dark line in the foreground would have detracted from the tension in the upper left corner, where the Golden Section holds forth.

The last stage of the painting involved the sky.  Originally it was the same blue as the water.  This flattened the landscape.  By turning the sky very pale and grayish and, most importantly, painting a white-ish halo around the trees, the illusion of special depth became convincing.  Entrancing, I would say.

For more on the Golden Section see “The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture”  by György Doczi.

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This landscape by Ivan T. originated from a photo he had taken in the Greek islands.  In the photo the boats are smaller, more evenly spaced and with more water visible between them.  The houses are smaller because they’re farther in the distance.  The hills are also smaller because they’re very far in the distance.  That’s what he started with.

At the beginning of the class I showed how Cézanne pushed the distant elements of his landscape up in the picture plane. (See previous post.)  Ivan immediately applied this insight to his 24 x 18 painting, which he had started the previous class.  The boats became bigger, crowding the harbor.  The houses became bigger and fewer in number. The houses farther up the hill are not diminished in size, as perspective would dictate and as they appear in the photo.  At this point we suspect that he might be pulling a Cézanne on us.  When we take in the mountains, there’s no doubt:  this is Cézanne country.  The mountains have been pushed up and towards us.  The whole tripartite scene is being pushed forward and crammed into the picture frame.  The composition is made up of three elements: boats, houses and hills. Each of these sections is “in front;” nothing recedes into the distance. This immediacy is made even more tactile by the handling of the paint. The artist painted with a palette knife, thick and loose.  So that we’re looking at boats and at the same time paint itself.  We get this effect in Cézanne, too, who did not blend, but rather left his individual brush strokes visible.

There’s more to explain the dynamic of this painting: 1) the zig-zag of the overall composition; 2) the golden section; and 3) the cropping of the mountain.

1) The pink lines in this diagram trace the zig-zag of the big forms in the painting.  (See post “Skies Tahiti,” April 22, 2011 ) The masts, rather tame and thin in the photo, are zig-zag and coarse, an invention of the artist.

2) The green line shows the golden section, a topic for a future post.

3) The mountain on the left is brought up to the upper edge of the canvas so that the sky does not go clear across the top of the scene.   This has the effect of bringing the mountain even closer to us.  I’ll talk about that in connection with Caillebotte’s photographic cropping in a future post.  Soon.

And what about that orange house to the right.  And the rhythm created by the windows, which are painted in single slashes of the brush.  It’s an engaging painting.

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