Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Painterly drawing

Here's a pencil drawing of a man standing by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American, born in Germany, 1874–1951) 12 1/2 x 9 5/16 inches, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

The drawing is built from patches of tone made of parallel diagonal strokes. This way of drawing creates a relaxed, impressionistic effect. The white spaces between the strokes keep it open and airy.

Another master of this method is the Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920), who made many portrait etchings in addition to his famous oil paintings. Instead of using lines to outline the form in the usual sense, he achieved a painterly treatment and a sense of atmosphere by organizing his parallel strokes in broad, sweeping movements. 

Another example is American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944). This pen and ink drawing shows a voter's reaction to the news the morning after the election. The eyes, hands, and mouth are just suggested, leaving a lot to the viewer's imagination.

All of these artists probably took some inspiration from banknote engraving and wood engraving, both of which use sections of parallel lines to build up larger tones. When pen and ink drawings could be photomechanically reproduced, it brought about a flowering in the art of the pen.

This way of drawing might also be called called "painterly" or "impressionistic." This term fits not only because the patches of parallel strokes suggest big strokes of a bristle brush, but also because it exemplifies one of the fundamental doctrines of impressionist painting during this period, namely the preference of broad optical effects over a delineation of form and substance.

The goal of the artist was to concentrate on the representation of the appearance of an object. As Sir Edmund Gosse puts it, "The picture was to be a consistent vision, a reproduction of the area filled by the eye. Hence in a very curious way, the aspect of a substance became much more real to [the artist] than the subject itself."
Further exploration:
Other artists to look at for painterly drawing:
Stanislaw Bohusz-Siestrzencewicz (Polish, 1869-1927)
Franklin Booth (American)
and Chinese / Russian academic drawing
Previously on GurneyJourney: Line Direction, Banknote engraving, and Wood engraving
More online samples of Zorn's art at Anders Zorn.org 
Wikipedia on Gibson and Leyendecker


Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

Interesting to see how some just are very much painters, no matter what tool they pick up (Zorn!) and others are draughtsmen - and how some seem to be able to combine those two aspects in various ways.

I have often been thinking how - the other way round - there also seems to be such a thing as "drawerly painting" (if that's a word - I'm sure a more elegant one could be made up ...). Like some of your own work where you make a detailed line drawing and add some transparent washes of paint on top of it.

Also, Leyendecker often seems to use a contour in his paintings, giving them some "drawerly" quality - and his otherwise very bold and painterly brushstrokes often function as some kind of drawn hatching - but then again, applied in a way like here in his drawing that emphasizes the broad optical effect.

Johan said...

I really like the drawings of Colin Davidson:


He draws like a painter

James Gurney said...

Johan, yes, someone else mentioned his work a while ago, and I love it.

CGB, I think you're right--there is a kind of drawerly painting. When I'm painting, I like to think I'm drawing with a brush, and when I'm drawing, I like to imagine I'm painting with a pencil. They're really both forms of the same thing, I suppose.

Carol said...

Paul Calle's "the Pencil" demonstrates his methods of pencil drawing based upon the looked of 19th century wood engravings.

Robert J. Simone said...

The personality and presence conveyed through drawings like Leyendecker's is amazing. I marvel at great classical drawing and painting but I prefer the "broader optical effect" as you put it. I feel more involved in work like Leyendecker's. Good post and good pics. Thanks, James.

David Apatoff said...

I agree that Leyendecker was a "drawerly painter," and I think that accounts for much of his special strength. While Bouguereau and the French academy (and even Zorn) were delicately blending colors and molding forms, Leyendecker was learning to borrow the vitality of graphic work and apply it to painting; he shaped his figures from slashing diagonal lines, creating the illusion of using a paint brush like a pencil. It not only gave his paintings a dynamic feel more appropriate for the faster moving 20th century, it also seemed to give them a structural strength, as if he was exposing their vertebrae for all to see.

It seems to me that Leyendecker got some of that approach from Toulouse Lautrec, one of the best "drawerly painters" of all. If you look at "La Toilette" or "In Bed" or "At the Circus Fernando, the rider" (which to this day has one of the best horse's butts ever drawn with a paint brush) you can see a lot of where Leyendecker would be 30 years later.

Steve Fastner said...

Great stuff.James Montgomery Flagg also had a very open loose, impressionistic pen and ink style,even looser than Gibson.He might have been inspired by Whistler and Gibson.