Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bargue Study of a Seated Man

This little study of a seated man by Charles Bargue (1826/7-1883) has some interesting tonal decisions. 

The values are carefully grouped and controlled. In the left side of the jacket, for instance, he didn't overdefine the modeling on the light side, allowing all those light tones to group together into a larger shape.

The darks are also grouped, so that the face in shadow joins at the chin with the dark shirt-front, and the knuckles link up with the blue cloth and the legs into a bigger unit.

The study is also a great example of the "windmill principle," a tonal scheme where the figure/ground relationship includes all four basic possibilities:
1. Light against dark (knee at far right and bottom of jacket)
2. Dark against light (head)
3. Dark against dark (area around hands)
4. Light against light (shoulder and back)

All this is worth mentioning because I find the automatic tendency is to break up everything into smaller and smaller shapes and to define every edge equally. In my experience, grouping shapes and downplaying certain edges takes conscious effort.
Charles Bargue on Wikipedia
Bargue is known to atelier students for his excellent course for academic drawing that he developed with Jean-Léon Gérôme.


mdmattin said...

It's also interesting how he uses the tonal groupings and gradients to emphasize the hands and blue cloth as the focal point. All of the gradients point to or converge on that area, and while he softens the modeling on the jacket, he plays it up on the far knee, creating an area of high contrast and detail that draws the eye.
The overall effect is to portray the man's intense concentration on whatever he is doing with that cloth.

Eileen said...

Thanks for the the schematic analysis of this painting. It really helps me understand why I am so drawn to particular artists/styles and it also helps me be more conscious of how to achieve desired results in my own work.

Craig Banholzer said...

Again, thanks for "the windmill principle." One of my teachers pointed it out to me, and I've used it ever since, but having a name for it makes a big difference. I find that my students are often dismayed when the position and lighting of the model make it impossible to silhouette the figure the same way all the way around its contours. In the future, I will simply say: "Windmill it!"

Rod said...

Good to see Bargue's drawing course is available for a reasonable price these days. Five years ago I couldn't find a copy for less than $300 (maybe even $500) and ended up Xeroxing virtually the whole thing from a copy in the library at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

scruffy said...

i don't know how purposeful it was or how planned but i do love the way it appears the man, one with the light at his back is becoming one with the shadow at his feet.