Posts Tagged ‘Rubens’

In my drawing class, I present demos on various techniques and then stand back to see who will use those techniques and to what degree.  The lesson on shading, for example, will make quite a different impression on different students.  A student takes what he or she can use at that moment—and feels like using.  That is, I think, as it should be.

One student, Gaby, has been using a careful shading technique for drapery studies that fill the page with a compelling presence and at the same time invite associations to anatomical features.  The illusion of three-dimensionality of these round forms is difficult to achieve and requires intense concentration and visualization.

Another student, Linné, working from the same still life set-up (see previous post) avoids the articulation of light-shadow-reflected-light and instead suggests the drapery with his own forceful lines. In some passages of the drawing, he goes into the sheer pleasure of markmaking and simply invents.  Mysterious humanoid forms emerge while at the same time clearly representing drapery.

‘Twas not ever thus.  Individual expression was not tolerated among the Renaissance and Baroque artists who worked with numerous assistants in their spacious workshops.  For example, Raphael (1483-1520) and Rubens (1577-1640) trained their assistants to specialize in certain aspects of a painting like drapery, clouds, water,architectural detail and flesh.  The assistants had to reproduce the master’s technique so faithfully that the whole tableau appeared to have been painted by the same hand–the master’s.  We tend to forget this—and we’re supposed to—when we look at these enormous paintings and frescoes.  Rubens’ paintings celebrating the life of Marie de Medici measure about 14 feet in height.  Raphael’s School of Athens fills a wall in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Let’s not be overwhelmed by the achievements of these masters and let’s instead give credit to those unnamed assistants.  We moderns, lucky us, can study the techniques of those big guys from the past and then enjoy the freedom to find our own individual approach.

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




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