Saturday, February 28, 2015

Beaux-Arts Instruction (Part 3 of 4)

Earl Shinn, writing in The Nation magazine in 1869, described the terms of criticism that students heard most commonly from teachers in the École des Beaux-Arts, especially from Jean-Leon Gérôme. These terms, and the concepts they represent, provide an insight into the aesthetics that were valued in an academic figure study. Quoting Shinn: 

"Too insipid, too weak and soft.
This is said of the flesh, or, as the French say, the skin."

This condemns our anatomy, when it has the look of being patched on the surface rather than woven under from the bone."

"False sentiment.
This stricture is not necessarily applied to a Della Cruscan* elegance, but has been heard over a drawing of the Laocoön expressing too much passion and motion instead of the wonderfully caught rigidity of the original."

“You have not seized the movement.
 This is one of the commonest of our difficulties; the word may apply to the most inert things, as the sweep of a lock of hair ; the lay of a fold of drapery, or of patterns on the fold; the expression of a supine hand, etc."
*Note: These criticisms have nothing to do with the painting above. "Della Cruscan" refers to members of a late 18th-century school of English writers of pretentious, affected, rhetorically ornate poetry.
The Nation, Volume 9, July 22, 1869, Page 68. "ART-STUDY IN THE IMPERIAL SCHOOL AT PARIS." by Earl Shinn
Previously in "Beaux-Arts Instruction" Series: Part 1, Part 2


Tom Hart said...

The painting pictured is beautiful. Who is it by? (Maybe I'm overlooking the attribution...)

Thanks again for a great series.

James Gurney said...

Tom, I'm not sure. It's often attributed to Gerome, but it looks to me like someone else. Anybody know?

Dave said...

Tobias Allen Wolf said...

Found this on Sothebys through a Google search via image:

Looks like it's in "MANNER OF JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME" given the title at auction, which I'm guessing means that it isn't verified.

I don't know if anybody here is aware of it or not, but Google's search by image is an awesome tool for sniffing out vague image attribution details, or when you have an image of something and you don't know what it is:

I've been surprised that they haven't featured it more prominently or that more people aren't aware of it. It's incredibly useful, especially for visual ref details. There is a nice Chrome extension for the service too:

Tobias Allen Wolf said...

Ha, it looks like Dave found the same link while I was typing up my response. Good one.

I should point out too I suppose that Google "search by image" is different that Google "image search", just in case that wasn't clear. Search by image allows you to upload an image and search with it, or with the Chrome extension you can just right click on any image.

It's also a useful tool to search the web with your own copyrighted images or works and see if they are being abused, misused, or miss-attributed.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for explaining the difference between "image search" and "search by image." I wasn't aware of the latter, and look forward to playing with that tool.

Tobias Allen Wolf said...

No problem at all Mr. Gurney (sorry if that sounds so formal).

It's the least I could do given how generous and giving you have been in sharing your skills and knowledge with countless people over the years through your blog.

You really have put together quite a resource. Glad to help.