Friday, August 5, 2011

Unfinished Tademas

Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema is known for highly finished paintings of Roman life. But during his development stages, he could be pretty loose and improvisational.


(Click to enlarge.) There are a few unfinished paintings that suggest he switched gears part way through the painting and introduced new figures with a brush. They’re drawn in quickly with a thin sable brush to establish an outline. The face of the lower woman is roughly blocked in with  simple planes. The skin tones of the farthest figure has been filled in with a semi-opaque scumble. The middle figure has been refined another step forward.


This unfinished painting shows what a painting might look like in the midst of rethinking and reworking. This time he’s drawing outlines in a light opaque medium (I’m not sure what it is--chalk? white oil?). He seems to be trying to place one or more male faces on the right.

The modulation of tones and edges in the main face has been taken farther along.

Ideally major changes should be done over sections where the paint has been scraped down to the priming, to avoid pentimenti from showing up later.


LINKS
Wikipedia on Tadema
Alma Tadema Complete Works on the web
Pentimento on Wikipedia
BOOKS
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Alma-Tadema: The painter of the Victorian vision of the ancient world
Previously: Tadema's Antony and Cleopatra

12 comments:

Chris said...

Thanks for finding these for us :) It's pretty cool to see how such well known painters worked, or quit, and reworked things :)

My Pen Name said...

regarding chalk: Jon Demartin uses this to redraw paintings, and I believe his teaching 'lineage' so to speak, come directly from Gerome...

He said its better for corrections and intial drawings than charcoal because it doesn't dirty up the brush and paints like charcoal.

Tom Hart said...

It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that Taldema is one artist in whose work pentimenti is not uncommon. I vaguely recall that a painting of his at the Clark in Williamstown, MA is one example. Seeing these correction/alteration methods I'm not surprised. It's too bad he couldn't have foreseen the pentimenti. Given his tight, polished style I feel sure he'd have avoided that if he'd known.

Gordon Napier said...

Alma-Thadema was a very fine painter. I saw his 'Tepidarium' recently at the 'Cult of Beauty' exhibition at the V & A museum. Amazing how small it is, the level of detail and finish, and the perfect textures make you think it's likely to be life-sized when you see reproductions, but it's more like the size of an A4 page.

Ontheroad said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am fond of the period and the painter and learned something new.

Caitlin Flood said...

Your posts on unfinished and process works are some of my favorites. I looked at the Waterhouse studies of nymphs over and over and I think I will do the same here. Thank you so much!

etc, etc said...

So utterly brilliant at conveying the tactile qualities of surfaces.

Ben Valentine said...

I believe he knew fully of the undesirable effect of paint becoming translucent over time. He must have not cared. John Collier speaks of the effect as well as Solomon J. Solomon in the books Mr. Gurney has recommended(both awesome books and surprisingly easy to read). And if Collier knew of it I have to assume Tadema knew as Collier was a sort of student of his.

I was recently reading "A manual of oil painting" again and when Collier describes how to lay in a still life I thought of that top painting. The flat "local color" block-in seems exactly as Collier describes it.

James Gurney said...

Ben, good points. I'm pleased to say that Solomon Solomon's book will be coming out again this fall from Dover, and I had the opportunity to write the introduction for it. More on that later.

Appreciate all the other insightful comments.

CW said...

Does anybody know of any painters who have used or do use pentimenti intentionally to imbed hidden, ghostly images into their works? That's the first thing I thought to do with this effect if I were a skilled painter.

tinoradman said...

I suspect Tadema blocked in the top figure (in first painting) intentionally using high chroma orange. That way, when he overpainted highly staurated underlayer with cooler and lighter translucent paint, he would achieve very beautiful flesh tone. Some believe that Bouguereau used similar technique in his work, as well.

Roberto said...

Using white chalk for sketching changes or additions to a piece works well over darker areas, especially on large pieces. MPN is right about muddying up the paints with charcoal. By using colored chalks you can control this effect to your advantage. For a finer line, and a wide range of colors, I use Nupastels (Prismacolor) to outline. I like drawing with colored lines. -RQ