Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: Homer and the Camera


A new exhibition called ‘Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting’ opens this Saturday at Bowdoin College in Maine.


The show and the associated catalog examine the longstanding engagement of Winslow Homer (1836-1910) with various aspects of photography: its purely visual effects, its usefulness as a picture-making tool, and its role in shaping the artist’s public image.

"Winslow Homer, Charles S. Homer, Sr., and Sam at Prout’s Neck,"
ca. 1884, albumen silver print, by Simon Towle. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
I had always assumed that Homer was camera shy and there are few photos of him, but recent scholarship has turned up new discoveries, many of which are included in the exhibition.

Homer’s interest in photographs gained momentum during his time as a sketch artist covering the Civil War. He collected photographs that were taken by others, which helped him visualize the scenes he portrayed for the popular magazines.

By the 1880s, he sought fresh inspiration for his artwork, so he traveled to Europe, and he bought the first of three cameras.

Though he never wrote about his use of photographs as reference, the authors explore the various ways his art was shaped by the camera, a tool that could simultaneously capture accurate information and deceive the viewer.


His painting of a fish in mid-leap was his painterly response to the ability of the camera to freeze action. Though probably not based directly on a photo, the very idea of painting a moment from fast action was unusual in the nineteenth century, when most other artists would have painted a fish as a still life object.


The exhibition and book contain other insights into Homer's process, including doll-size mannikins with simple costumes, which he used for reference when drawing and painting working-class women.



The exhibit ‘Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting’ is the product of years of study by Bowdoin art historian Dana E. Byrd and museum co-director Frank H. Goodyear III. Bowdoin College hosts the first showing of the exhibition, which travels in November 2018 to the Brandywine River Museum.


The catalog is 208 pages with 138 color illustrations, hardbound, and published by the Yale University Press. The exhibition will be up from June 23 - October 28, 2018.
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Other books that explore the relationship between painting and photography:

Art and Photography by Aaron Scharf, 1968. Covers the influence of photography on portraiture, landscape, realism, and impressionism.

Shared Intelligence: American Painting and the Photograph, Edited by Barbara Buhler Lynes, 2011. Chapters on Eakins, Remington, Steiglitz, O'Keeffe, and Bechtle. In this book the main emphasis is on modern painters.

Painting and Photography, 1839-1914by Dominique de Font-Réaulx, 2012. Textbook-style coverage of the intersection between realist painters and the photographic image, with chapters on genre photography, photographing the nude, portraiture, and painters who were also photographers.

The Artist and the Camera: Degas to Picasso. Oversize book with features on key artists who used photography.

Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Shows Rockwell's reference photos compared to his finished illustrations, as well as information about how he took photos and how he changed them to suit his purposes.

Previously on GurneyJourney
Using Photo Reference

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Waterfall City demo

Here's the demo painting of Waterfall City, painted while looking at a rough maquette. 

I did the painting for a workshop audience at IMC (Illustration Master Class) in Amherst last week. (Link to video on Facebook)

Photo: Irene Gallo
Total time: 1.5 hours.
Camera: Canon M6 camera positioned on second tripod.
Medium: Casein over a green-gray casein underpainting in a Pentalic sketchbook.
Colors: White, light red, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue.
Final glaze: Payne's gray watercolor with acrylic medium.
Varnish: Acrylic spray Crystal clear.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Art Talk Podcast: Studio Ramble to Ron

The Golden Palm Tape Network was a 1980s precursor of podcasting, where a small group of far-flung artists kept in touch by recording circulating ideas and readings via tape cassettes. (Video link


This one is addressed to my friend Ron Harris of southern California, a comic artist, collector, and art historian who still comments on this blog.

Sandor Bihari -- Before the Judge
Listening to the tape is a reminder to me of how it was in the 1980s. Discovering obscure information required sleuth work at libraries and used bookstores, plus the cooperation of friends with similar interests. 


The primary members of Golden Palm Tape Network were: 

Here are links to some of the books and artists referenced.

Books (links mostly go to Amazon)
The History of Modern Painting by Richard Müther 

Artists Mentioned (links mostly go to Wikipedia)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

How to Apply the Warm-and-Cool Approach

Gary asks about the warm-and-cool approach: 

"I can not see if there is, or should be, a rationale for when a warm or cool tone is used. I believe that this approach brings life to a drawing but do not understand how to best apply it."


Jim asks: "I would also love a good explanation of the warm/cool approach. Obviously the value must be correct, but how does one decide to use a warm or cool color? Is it based on local color of the object? Is it based on light vs. shadow? Is it based on a combination of both? If so, which trumps the other when they conflict? That is, what color should be used to depict a cool shadow on a red ball? What elements are portrayed as gray (an even mix of warm and cool) within a picture? It's worth figuring out, because it's amazing how much "color" can be achieved with just Burnt Sienna (warm) and Ultramarine Blue (cool)."

Richard Parkes Bonington
Gary and Jim, The way I think of warm and cool is that I'm basically doing a value study, but just taking the first step toward color. The warm pigment might describe an area lit by a warm light source, or you might use the warm color to suggest a local color that is intrinsically warm, such as an orange building. If the warm-cool exercise is a preliminary study for a painting that you intend to paint later with full color, the study will give you an impression of what the final will feel like. The limitations of chroma and hue choices keeps you from straying too far away from making primarily value-oriented decisions. 

It's very similar to the way musical composers will figure things out on the piano and then build their orchestration. A composer might work out the melody, rhythm, and chord structure before deciding on the instrumentation.

A simple warm and cool palette such as ultramarine vs. raw sienna is also a worthy approach for finished works. Many painters of the past sought the muted harmonies of warm and cool to achieve a feeling of quietude, dignity, or austerity.
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Friday, June 15, 2018

Keepers of the Flame

NC Wyeth, illustration from Treasure Island
The new exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum explores the lineage of academic painting and how its branches connected to the Golden Age of American Illustration.


The show, called "Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition," traces teacher/student lineages going all the way back to the Renaissance.


Dennis Nolan is the curator of the show and the author of the 216-page catalog. A teacher himself for half a century, he is interested in how the skills and knowledge needed to make storytelling pictures were passed from one generation to the next. 

Maxfield Parrish
The Art Students League and the Philadelphia Academy were important schools for training American illustrators. Many teachers there had spent time in Europe under the tutelage of French academic masters. 


For example, Maxfield Parrish studied under Thomas Anschutz, who was a pupil of Thomas Eakins, who enrolled with Jean-Leon Gérôme, who was taught by Paul Delaroche, who learned from Antoine-Jean Gros, who studied under Jacques-Louis David, who was in the studio of Joseph-Marie Vien. 

Gerome, Bouguereau, Laurens
It takes a lot of concentration to keep track of all the didactic genealogies, which call to mind the begetting streaks in Genesis and Matthew.

Mowbray and Benjamin-Constant
The teacher-student lineage story leaves aside important forces that shape and define an artist. Nolan ignores other formative influences, such as the inspiration that Rockwell took directly from artists he never met, from his contemporaries, and from Modern movements. 


When Rockwell listed the artists he studied in his student days and who he admired later, he didn't mention his teachers (George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty):
"Ever since I can remember, Rembrandt has been my favorite artist. Vermeer, Breughel, Velásquez, Canaletto; Dürer, Holbein, Ingres as draftsmen; Matisse, Klee―these are a few of the others I admire now. During my student days I studied closely the works of Edwin Austin Abbey, J.C. and Frank Leyendecker, Howard Pyle, Sargent, Whistler.” (from My Adventures as an Illustrator by Norman Rockwell)
Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, The Language of the Fan
The curatorial approach of focusing on these teacher/student lineages also unfortunately leaves out a lot of women artists and self-taught artists, and it leads to the impression of all this art being created by a stodgy, backward-looking old-boy's club, when it's really not true.

American illustration was inclusive, inventive, popular and progressive. It embraced new technologies such as color printing, gave birth to new art forms such as comics, movies, and animation, and expressed the drama of contemporary life.

But these minor quibbles don't get in the way of appreciating the extraordinary artwork on display in this exhibition.

"The Byzantine Emperor Honorius" - Jean-Paul Laurens, 1880
The artist/teachers William Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean Leon Gérôme are central to the story and they're well represented in the exhibition, and there are many lesser-known artists who are worth seeing.


Nolan and the museum worked for years to negotiate loans of the paintings and drawings from both public and private collections. Unfortunately the show won't be able to travel to other venues, and will only be at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

NC Wyeth

Nolan dedicated the catalog "to my teachers, who taught me how to be an artist, and to my students, who taught me how to be a teacher." For visitors who are either students or teachers of art, this exhibition will be particularly affirming.
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The exhibition will at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through October 28, 2018.

The catalog "Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition"
Previously: Dennis Nolan and the Hartford Art School