Monday, July 7, 2008

Small Touches

William Henry Hunt (1790-1864) painted this watercolor showing a girl plucking a chicken. Hunt (not to be confused with the PreRaphaelite William Holman Hunt) was known for closely observed studies using a stippling technique that took him over two weeks of patient effort.

Walter Sickert (1860-1942) said of Hunt:
“I was thinking how he had anticipated the Impressionist technique, in his multitude of small touches, building up a sensitive whole. I was thinking of this, and of Pissarro, and of how the extreme division into small touches in each case brought about this desirable result. The more touches, provided they are dictated by sensation and observation, the more frequent is the revision. Hence the juster sum.” (from A Free House).
The practice of working with small touches is certainly not restricted to Hunt or to the Impressionists. The greatest early champion was John Ruskin, whose writings were read avidly by many of the Impressionists. Ruskin advised his students to work slowly and delicately, using the point of the pencil or brush “as if you were drawing the down on a butterfly’s wing.”

This way of painting also shows up in some of Rockwell’s work, including this painting of J. F. Kennedy. In our own urgent era, which advocates bold and rapid execution, this method of small touches can offer a welcome alternative pathway.

The Ruskin quote is from The Elements of Drawing, Illustrated Edition, with notes by Bernard Dunstan, link.

More about W.H. Hunt, link.

1 comment:

Simply Organized 4 Life said...

I love Rockwell anything, and the Hunt is gorgeous. What an awesome technique, even though it took a long time. He really knew that the outcome would be stupendous.

Very cool blog. I love it.