I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by my comments. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.
Today we'll cover pages 164-173 of the chapter on "Painting from the Life," where he talks about Velázquez.
1. Velázquez Man with a Ruff
Notes of Speed's main points: Early Velázquez-- Simple handling of tuft of beard. A lot of searching and labor over the edges of the ruff.
V- "hasn't yet arrived at the largeness of perception." I think Speed means his tones are more choppy and modeled on a small scale rather then conceived as larger tonal unit.
2. Velázquez Portrait of young Philip IV
Speed's notes summarized: Head study. Added armor and costume later. Preoccupied with contours of tone masses, but larger effect accomplished. But still tight and "searched out."
3. Pope Innocent X
V. had been traveling in Italy studying painters there. Pope was a difficult subject; Italian painters hadn't succeeded. Painted a study first. Color richer than normal for V. Still interested in edges of tonal masses, but effect is subtler and richer and simpler. Preoccupation with overall visual impression. Very subtle touches to the corners of the eye. Many different brushes in evidence.
4. Court Buffoon (Don Juan de Austria)
Painted to please himself to experiment with new painting ideas. Simple modeling, but good knowledge of skull and structure. Keeps attention on all-embracing unity of impression. "Painted on the same scheme of working from carefully wrought middle tones up to the accents of the lights and the darks, which are the last touches put on."
|Velázquez Philip IV of Spain (detail)|
5. Velázquez Philip IV of Spain
Speed calls this painting the "despair of painters." V had painted the king many times before. Knew his subject. Head well planted in collar. Lack of hard definition throughout. Vertical edge of hair at left and shadow line of eyelid on right echoes vertical structure.
Speed tries to analyze the method V. used: First sitting: rubbed in the head with simple colors, thin paint, and simple tones. Next sitting scumbled with bone brown. Scumbling all over.
6. Speed's allegation that the National Gallery overcleaned the painting.
Speed says that the conservators took away some key glazes and details, and shows comparative photos to demonstrate his charge.
JG again: Velázquez was the object of extreme interest among academic painters both in France and England at the time Speed wrote his book, and Velázquez was much admired when Sargent was studying with Carolus Duran. Much of the academic theory was based on his method. Check out the book The Art of Velázquez by R. A. Stevenson, also from the time of Speed's book. It's available free online at Archive.org.
Next week— Reynolds and beyond.
In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.----
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