Saturday, November 19, 2011

A natural position

"Never paint a portrait as though the person were posing. A natural position can only be kept for a few seconds, it is like a flash of lightning. You must just put down a few large marks for the chosen position of head, hands, feet, etc., and keep fitting the sitter into them."


Quote from Charles Lasar, Practical Hints for Art Students, (Duffield & Company, New York, 1923
Drawing by John Singer Sargent.

4 comments:

Jessica Yang said...

I always wondered how painters around the Renaissance managed to capture fleeting expressions. There is this painting of a middle-aged man laughing, done around the late Renaissance I think (the artist eludes me), where the expression is as spontaneous as a candid photograph. I remember reading a book about the use of camera obscura, but if I remember correctly that claim was hotly disputed.

James Gurney said...

I'm wondering if you mean Frans Hals, who did the great painting of a "Laughing Cavalier"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughing_Cavalier

He did it around 1624. Not exactly laughing, but if that's the one you mean, it certainly seems candid. I doubt if he relied on a camera obscura, which would be far more tedious than just sketching.

wandamarie said...

I guess one must just learn to sketch really, really FAST!

James Gurney said...

Yes, sketch fast to capture the big truth of the pose, but then you can take your time on the final painting. I think Sargent had Madame X for something like 90 sessions, but he fit her into a pose he saw out of the corner of his eye.