Sunday, November 10, 2013

Zorn's two-source lighting

This portrait of a peasant girl by Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920) is unusual because the head is lit from two sources, one from the right and one from the left.

These sources leave a shadowed plane on the forehead and cheek, and a dark cast shadow on the nose.

This photo shows Zorn with the painting and the model in the same spot he did the painting. There must be a large window or skylight behind the camera, as you can see from the cast shadow of the model's chair and shadow below the far chair which holds Zorn's hat. The secondary light source is the window in the far wall.

Was the photo taken while the painting was actually being done? Perhaps. Artists sometimes painted on a canvas in a frame. But it's also possible that Zorn and the model set up the photo after the painting was finished, and pretended to be working.

A major exhibition of Zorn originals opened yesterday at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The exhibit will continue through February 2. The exhibit will then travel to New York from February 27 to May 18, 2014.

And there's a new book: Anders Zorn: Sweden's Master Painter

The painting "Peasant Girl" is in the art museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. 
See lots of Zorns online at the Anders Zorn: the Complete Works


Kate said...

I hope I would have noticed the double light sources if you hadn't mentioned it... but what strikes me is how similar in intensity they are.
If it's not posed for the camera, the painting seems in a tricky position for painting upon, down there. Thanks, as always, for making us think James.

Robert J. Simone said...

Love the Zorns at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The Met and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. When I marvel at the apparent range of color in some of them, I have a hard time believing he was as committed to a three color palette as is commonly believed. I think he used other colors as needed. Even so, he is still one of the greats of all time!