Saturday, September 30, 2017

Zorn, as seen by his peers

Anders Zorn (1860-1920) was the star pupil of the Swedish Academy, and he left his fellow students spellbound.



"There were a number of able young men," recalled Bruno Liljefors, a fellow student at the Academy, "and it was a treat to walk about and look at their fresh lay-ins and to admire their pith, color, and truth, as was fashionable then. There were many discussions on the different methods of seeing, their stylish treatments, lucky accidents, etc., endlessly. But in front of Zorn's easel, with the whole crowd gathered around, there was absolute silence."



"One heard, occasionally, breaking the stunned silence, 'It's the devil.' That was all one heard. It was a powerful indication of how strongly we were all gripped. No one thought or intended criticism. One saw that here was a man with something to say and said it with such a clever and powerful voice there was nothing more to be said."



"Should anyone have asked us what it was that gripped us — whether it was the fine color harmony, originality or that it was so up-to-date, we could only have said: 'It was so goddamn good!"


"The subject of art lectures was 'truth.' One should paint it 'as it appears,' and painters everywhere began stressing correct values: Colors should be in correct relationship to each other. A single tone accurately judged and painted — color against color — in which the drawing became apparent on its own, was the best way to achieve this result."


"But no one dared take the fateful step to do it, to actually embark on this method; they hesitated as if before a precipice, held back, and smeared in details, compromising, until, finally, the whole thing didn't make sense."



"But Zorn never hesitated. Like a cat on the rain gutter of a roof, fully confident in its abilities, walking with the same calm up there as down on the ground — with the same self-assurance, Zorn solved the most dizzying problems with this method. He was the first to understand that by this method everything could be painted — from grass and stones, air and water, from women's skin to the life of the soul — only provided the man's hand didn't shake."


"And Zorn was unafraid. With merciless power he laid color beside color, and in this we have the crux of this so-called magician's quality. Because, by setting the correct values of the large forms, the onlooker himself sees the details, though none are painted, if the values are correct, and they must be correct."
----
The Petit Palace in Paris is currently hosting an exhibition on Anders Zorn through 17 December 2017.
Quotes are from the book Bruno Liljefors: The Peerless Eye by Martha Hill.

12 comments:

Robert Cosgrove said...

Decades ago, on a vacation trip to Washington DC, I took a tour of the White House. Leaving (or perhaps later, at the Smithsonian], I purchased a book of White House official presidential portraits. It started impressively, with Gilbert Stuart, then quickly dropped off into a long line of portraits I found rather unimpressive. I perked up when I hit Teddy Roosevelt--hard to top John Singer Sargent--but I turned the page and was blown away by a portrait of the rotund President Taft--powerfully conceived, painted with great simplicity and confident brushwork--by some guy I had never heard of, Anders Zorn. I've been a Zorn fan ever since--I can scarcely imagine what it must have been like to be in a painting class with him. Great story, James. Thanks for passing it along to us.

A Colonel of Truth said...

I have visited Zorn's home and museum (Mora, Sweden) several times. Stunning! As is the larger than life full-figure (pedestaled) bronze of him in town. Go!

jionjhon said...

Your gouache paintings are legendary.What is your gouache portait painting process?How do you start of and finish? Thanks

GJ said...

This fellow can do things with watercolor that are forbidden to mortals. Not especially the rowboat by the jetty.

Evelyn said...

An Anders Zorn exhibition at the Petit Palais runs through December 17, 2017 -- ah, to get to Paris!
http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/expositions/anders-zorn

Tyler J said...

Beautiful work but there is a photographic quality about some of it. I couldn't find anything about his methods in the internets but I'm wondering if anyone knows what his workflow was like?

A Colonel of Truth said...

Tyler J, Have read extensively, researched, and studied him and his work for more than 30 years. Zorn rarely worked other than from life (models, plein air), sketches, and experience.

Jennifer Branch said...

There is nothing quite like Zorn’s luminous colors. I’m in awe of the rowboat. I’m inspired! Thank you.

Jayson Mondala said...

I'll be breaking brushes in frustration for years trying to figure out how he rendered that water.

Bug said...

Zorn could be painterly while rending something well. Often the balance is one way or the other. He is much a favorite of mine along with Sorolla. I'd like to suggest that people look to Thaulow for treatments of water moving in streams. It's almost magical how well he does that. Zorn and Sorolla were almost magical in the way they painted almost every subject.

Jim Williams said...

It would be useful to known the size of these paintings. Thanks for your always interesting blogs. Jim

Sesco said...

I am reading Frank Slater's book "Practical Portrait Painting", and he states that there are at least two ways of approaching portraiture: Direct and indirect. Direct is exactly as Anders Zorn's work has been described, making a mark and leaving it alone without blending, etc. Indirect is utilizing a monochrome underpainting with glazes of color over this. Both approaches, according to Slater, require compromises in the direction of the other. I would love to try this Direct method, and not be like the other students in Zorn's class. Can anyone shed light on the pros and cons of this method, tips, the compromises and the extent to which you make them? I LOVE Zorn and Sorolla, but perhaps every artist does. Would love to paint in such a way that renders other students, viewers, speechless.