Monday, April 14, 2008

Mystery Quote

Please identify the artist who made this statement:

“When you draw, form is the important thing; but in painting, the first thing is to look for the general impression of color…. Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day.”

The prize for the first correct answer is a free deluxe Dinotopia map. Please commit to your guess in the comments before checking Google.
Addendum 8:15 AM

Ricardo is right. The quote comes from Jean-Léon Gérôme, who was among the most famous of the academic painters.

Authors of introductory art history books persist in ignoring academics like Gérôme, Bouguereau, and Meissonier, or presenting them as conservative windbags who were stuck in the studio, blind to the revelations of the Impressionists. The 2004 edition of The History of Art by Horst Woldemar Janson and Anthony F. Janson states: “By the mid-1880s Impressionism had become widely accepted. Its technique was imitated by conservative painters.”

Another old standby text, Gardner’s Art through the Ages, in the space of half a page of its 2005 edition, uses the words “confining” “conservative” “constrictive” “constraining” and “limited” to describe Academic painting.

This view of art history is incorrect and misleading. Scholars like Albert Boime started to correct the Janson/Gardner account as early as the 1970s, but the myths and misrepresentations still remain, and Gérôme is routinely ignored, even though he was the devoted teacher of American artists like Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, William Paxton, Abbott Thayer, and J. Alden Weir.

The true story is that the technique, theory, terminology, and daily practice of plein air impressionism arose from within the academy’s normal practice. The argument in France had more to do with the aesthetics of the sketch, the correctness of drawing, and what was considered acceptable for exhibition.

The introductory text I recommend is Art: A New History, by Paul Johnson, which is well researched, and balances the story fairly and intelligently. Johnson’s text also gives more attention to women artists and to the regional schools in, for example, Russia, Australia, and Scandinavia.

The mystery quote from this post comes from the excellent new catalog of Australian Impressionism by Humphrey McQueen and Terence Lane, National Gallery of Victoria, 2007. The opening quote was noted down by Tom Roberts, an Australian painter who studied in Paris in 1883.

More on Gerome at ARC: link.

Tomorrow: Counterchange


Lindsay said...

This is a total guess...Hawthorn?

ricardo said...

Jean-Leon Gerome?

Adam Paquette said...

crrrrikey thats a tough one...

Im going to take a stab in the dark and sayyyyyy Turner??

Now I go check google and kick myself!!

James Gurney said...

Wow! I thought this would take a while. I never would have thought of Gerome.

But you got it, Ricardo, and if you'll email me your address, I'll send you that map.

Unknown said...

This is wonderful, I'm gaining new insights and understanding through your posts. I used two of your Dinotopia books in a recent school(Gr. 6) visit and the kids were crazy for them.

Kristina Carroll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristina Carroll said...

You know...very often learning about art as a student is like trying to take a drink with a fire hose, but one of the Wonderful things about being an art student is the way certain lessons seem to converge at necessary times to really open one's eyes. Having Marvin Mattleson as a teacher this year and then stumbling upon this blog- all of which seem to focus on very similar lessons in painting has been really empowering, and just feeds the hunger.

Skyler Yue said...

Chuck Norris.

Ha! that instantly gets me the win. :D

Tom said...

Thanks for the Tom Lovell mentions in pervious post James. Another book that might be of interest in regard to the academy and the Impressionists in Bernard Dunstan "Painting Methods of the Impressionists," which I believe is know out of print.

But he makes the interesting point of how much impressionists practices where rooted in academy practice. That the new art was more a manner of changing lighting or subject and in practice how close the "finished" impressionists painting was to the academy oil sketch. Dunstan even claims that Gleyre first advised Renior and Monet to paint plain air.

The book is great because it is for painters, so it is not just history but how too. I don't think I could plow through another Paul Johnson book.

Unknown said...

Love that quote. It was great meeting you at the Society of Illustrators last week. I am learning so much from your blog.

Sarah Stevenson said...

That's an interesting one. I'll have to look up Gerome. I don't know his work, but my husband is a fan of Bouguereau. There's a nice Bouguereau near us in SF at the Legion of Honor, in fact--a great museum.