Sunday, May 18, 2014

Yvon's Academic Drawing Manual

Many of you are familiar with the drawing course by Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme. Painter and teacher Darren Rousar has procured another drawing manual from the period called "Methode de Dessin" by Adolphe Yvon.

This was the method used by John Singer Sargent when he studied in Paris. According to Rousar, copies of this manual are extremely rare, and he has generously offered to put his copy online for free, but first he's inviting French/English translators to help him render it into English.

Here's a preview of one of Yvon's plates. I'm just guessing from the plate, but it seems to be a slightly different process from Bargue. He still uses the straight lines, but rather than bounding the outside of the form in an envelope or polygonal shape, he seems to find the most general big line going through the contour. The vertical line appears to be a record of measurements and alignments, subdivided into smaller measurements, probably made with the plumb line.

Here's one of Bargue's plates for comparison, with the outside bounding envelope going from the forehead to the tip of the nose and the nose to the chin, with the plumb-line measurements marked on a line drawn inside the form.

Sargent said that the plumb line (basically a weight dangling at the end of a string) was essential:
"When drawing from the model, never be without the plumb line in the left hand. Everyone has a bias, either to the right hand or the left of the vertical. The use of the plumb line rectifies this error and develops a keen appreciation of the vertical."

If you'd like to participate in translating some of first pages (or just read them in French), here's a link to Darren Rousar's studio blog. 
Charles Bargue's method from Amazon


Johan said...

When painting, I sometimes use the vertical edge of the canvas as a "plumb line" when I am at the drawing stage. Maybe this method is rooted in the plumb line method. It works like a charm, assuming the canvas is setup straight ofcourse.

Keith Parker said...

Cool. Do you ever dangle your pencil by the tip to find the verticle?

LizzVisions said...

I read a little Charles Bargue a couple months back. Somewhat difficult, I only did the first two plates. Hope to get back to it soon, I completely forgot about the plumb line!

Dan said...

Fantastic! I'm a great admirer of John Singer Sargent. Will have to keep an eye out for this one once it's translated.

Dom said...

Just translated the foreword, hopefully that it will appear on the site once it's been moderated.
In the meantime, Dan, you can read all about Sargent's techniques as he taught them to his own students here:

Dan said...

Dom: Thanks! Very interesting reading.

Debby Bird said...

You have all the best info. Thanks for making it available to us.

Carlos said...

Hi James. This is indeed an interesting article. Have ever tried the Bargue method yourself? I saw in your blog that you met Fernando Freitas from ARA. They have an online course for drawing with the Bargue approach and I was wondering if it might be worth a try.

James Gurney said...

I became aware of Bargue's method after my art school years. I was teaching myself using information that I found in other books. Yes, I've visited the Bargue-based academies in Toronto, Florence, New York, and other places, and it's really excellent for learning to accurately draw form. I don't know anything about the online courses.

Carlos said...

Thanks for the information James. I was thinking of learning Bargue's method to improve my skills.

Can you recommend any books other than Bargue's to improve both observation and technique? Particularly on human figure? Thanks again.