Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Committee on Moral Books

Jehan-Georges Vibert, "The Committee on Moral Books"
Brush and Pencil magazine from 1902 said of Vibert: 
"There is a certain element of irreverence in the art-loving public of France, and the piquancy, even audacity, of the artist’s treatment of the clergy was relished....With an intimate knowledge of human nature Vibert combines a surprising acquaintance with historical detail, and his pictures, therefore, radiant with light and brilliant with color, are as faithful to historic verity as it is possible to make them. In this regard he has been likened aptly to Meissonier, who in his costume pieces studied to make them absolute transcripts of the times from which his incidents were taken."

Monday, July 30, 2018

Painting on Daffodil Hill

A few weeks ago I painted at the New York Botanical Garden with a group of friends. Here's a video of the adventure.

We were fortunate to have a wonderful model, Mary Alice Ladd, join us on the second day, so I spent the first day getting the painting started and painting in the background.
(Link to YouTube)
I used casein paint, on a canvas-covered panel, and then I varnished the painting to give the dark colors more depth.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review of 'History of Illustration'

Longtime readers of this blog may recall a post way back in 2011 where I pointed out that there is no book on the history of illustration, and there ought to be one. It's such a big topic that no one dared to attempt it before.

Since then, a team of college professors, museum curators, illustrators, collectors, and historians divided up the gigantic task of writing one. There were long debates in group emails about how to define illustration, and how far back to take the story. Should non-western image-making traditions be included? Who would write about them? How much academic theory should there be, compared to biographical detail or stylistic analysis? Should the book be lavishly illustrated, or should the pictures exist in a digital supplement to the printed book?

The team opted to define illustration broadly as 'visual communication through pictorial means,' and they decided to encompass a vast scope of history, from cave paintings to the digital age, as well as a worldwide geographic reach.

I was skeptical at first that such a wide-angle approach to the topic was even possible, given the risk of skimming too lightly over the universe of information. I was also worried that it would narrow the coverage on any given subject (such as Golden Age American illustration) to such brief coverage that it wouldn't be deep enough. I was also frankly dubious about a book led by academics, who often obscure a topic by burdening straightforward facts with political agendas.

But I think they largely avoided those pitfalls and came up with a book that's authoritative, encompassing, and yet still accessible, with something to satisfy the eye and the mind of almost any reader. History of Illustration is a monumental survey of the art of the visual communicator. It's a good thing that the book is tailored for college classes, because professors can assign it for a variety of visual studies classes, and illustration majors can at last have a printed history of their own vocation. The book is also a must-buy for libraries, since it fills a very large gap. For aficionados, it's a celebration of visual culture in all its variety. There's no other book like it.

There are forty-nine contributors, each an expert on their topic. Each is given a chance to explore his or her subject in a series of deep-dive chapters and spotlight articles. For example, Illustration historian Alice Carter oversees the chapter about "British Fantasy and Children's Book Illustration, 1650-1920" and David M. Mazierski, an expert in biomedical communication, writes a section about "Medical Illustration after Gray's Anatomy: 1859 to the present."

The book looks at the illustrator's work in pre-print cultures, not only in Europe, but in China, India, Latin America, and Africa. After the development of print, literacy, and mass media, illustration reached with a wide audience, and the authors chronicle the rise of the illustrated magazines, the children's picture books, wartime propaganda posters, popular and pulp magazines, and underground comix.

History of Illustration is published by Bloomsbury, a leading textbook publisher. There are 870 illustrations, mostly printed quarter-page size and in color. The book comes as a hardcover, softcover, and e-book, 554 pages, 9 x 12 inches, and it's priced at around $200 for the hardback and $90 for the softcover, which is par for the course as textbooks go, but a high price for art students and general readers.
History of Illustration, 554 pages, 870 illustrations, 9 x 12 inches, full color.

 If you're primarily interested in American illustration history, I think the best book is Walt Reed's "Illustrator in America," which is really a biographical survey.  and Susan Meyer's "America's Great Illustrators," which focuses on a few of the leading Golden Age-ers. ---

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Exhibition: Women Artists in Paris

Yesterday we visited the exhibition "Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900" at the Clark Art Institute. The exhibit presents 70 paintings by women who studied at the 19th-century French academies.

Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942), Ernesta (Child with Nurse)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
The show includes some standout works by Cecilia Beaux. William Merritt Chase reportedly remarked of her: "Miss Beaux is not only the greatest living woman-painter, but the best woman-painter that has ever lived." (Source: The Independent, 1899

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Plowing at Nivernais, Ringling Museum of Art 
Rosa Bonheur is represented by a single large work showing oxen plowing. Although the entire scene is painted with incredible fidelity, and it was widely praised in its time, we wondered about how the oxen were attached to the plow. Oddly enough, we couldn't see any yokes on them. Oxen require a formidable wooden beam and individual bows around their necks in order for the oxen to transfer their energy to the plow.

Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938) A Mother, 
Cincinnati Art Museum 
Elizabeth Nourse was already so well trained before she arrived at the Académie Julian that her teacher said she didn't need any further instruction. Her first entry to the Salon "A Mother," was hung "on the line," an achievement for any first-time artist.

Emma Löwstädt-Chadwick (1855-1932) Beach Parasol,
Brittany (Portrait of Amanda Sidwall)
The Scandinavians are well represented. Swedish painter Emma Löwstädt-Chadwick portrayed her friend Amanda Sidwall during one of their painting excursions to the Brittany coast. 

Hanna (Hirsch) Pauli (1864-1940)
The Artist Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, 1886–87
Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden
Some of the paintings celebrated female friendships and alliances. Hanna Pauli painted her friend Venny Soldan-Brofeldt in the studio they shared in Paris. The curators say:
"Pauli builds this vignette of creativity from items strewn about the studio, including paint-splattered drop cloths, a sketch of a female nude, and tools for clay working, placing Soldan-Brofeldt at the center of it all, with mouth open and legs outstretched, fingering a lump of clay. The subject’s unselfconscious manner—an intentional provocation on Pauli’s part, considering the era’s rigid rules concerning proper conduct—and the directness of the sitter’s gaze make a powerful statement on the validity of the woman artist."
Mina Carlson-Bredberg (1857–1943) Self Portrait
Marriage represented a death knell to some women's careers. Mina Carlson-Bredberg had to give up her career after she was married and told her young nieces that they were lucky they were single.

A minor gripe: it was difficult to read the object labels because most of them were vague, wordy, and written in small sans-serif white type on a dark background, requiring a lot of fumbling with reading glasses and navigating back and forth. I believe a label should be clearly readable from a normal viewing distance for the painting, and it should be short and to the point, focused on enhancing the experience of the artwork itself, not discussing wider sociological issues. That's best left for the catalog.

I would also have liked to see fewer Mary Cassatts and more Rosa Bonheurs. Also, the curators overlooked other worthy women artists who lived and worked in Paris, such as Ellen Day HaleAnna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Jeanna Bauck, Bertha Wegmann and Juana Romani, but you can't do it all in one exhibition, and let's hope this show opens the doors to more exhibitions featuring women artists.
Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 is at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts through September 3. You can get the catalog on Amazon.

Incidentally, there's a museum called National Museum of Women in the Arts in Denmark

Previously on GurneyJourney:
Thesleff's Echo (cover image of the catalog)
Studying Art in Paris, 1902
The Ups and Downs of Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Friday, July 27, 2018

Evolution of a Picture, Part 4 of 4: Refining the Idea

This is Part 4 of a 1901 article called Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by academy-trained Edgar Spier CameronYesterday's installment discussed maquettes and animals. Today we follow the journey to the finished painting.

Aimé Morot, Jewish Captives in Babylon, sketch and finish

Studies of Hands by Adolphe Menzel
Part 4: Refining the Idea
"It may be said that an artist never finds a model which corresponds exactly to his ideal, and he is obliged to make changes of form and expression in making his studies. Certain characteristics may be accentuated and others suppressed, while others which the model may not possess are supplied from memory, imagination, or from other models.

"The ways of using studies when they are made are as various as the ways of making them. If a study is in the form of a drawing it may be copied directly in the picture, or it may be transferred either in its actual size by tracing or pouncing, or on a larger scale by "squaring up." In squaring up, lines are drawn over the drawing to form squares and corresponding squares of a different proportion are drawn on the canvas where the picture is to be made.

"All of these processes admit of a certain amount of refinement, correction, or simplification of the original study, and anything which gives an artist an opportunity to prolong his preparations and shorten the time of the actual painting of a picture is of great benefit, as the result will be more spontaneous, fresher, and more vigorous than if it is puttered over and shows traces of experiment.

"The artist's studies are the ammunition with which he loads up for a final effective coup, which makes a hit or a miss, as his aim has been true or not. That such studies are requisite for good work is the universal verdict of all who have essayed to teach the art of painting.

Study by Friedrich August von Kaulbach, 1878
Planning or Improvisation?
"'It is undoubtedly a splendid and desirable accomplishment to be able to design instantaneously any given subject,' says Sir Joshua Reynolds in his Twelfth Discourse. 'It is an excellence that I believe every artist would wish to possess; but unluckily, the manner in which this dexterity is acquired habituates the mind to be contented with first thoughts, without choice or selection. The judgment, after it has been long passive, by degrees loses its power of becoming active when exertion is necessary. Whoever, therefore, has this talent must in some measure und what he had the habit of doing, or a least give a new turn to his mind.'

"Great works which are to live and stand the criticism of posterity are not performed at a heat. A proportionable time is required for deliberation and circumspection.

Oil-painted studies by J.C. Leyendecker
"However extraordinary it may appear, it is certainly true that the inventions of the pittori improvisatori, as they may be called, have notwithstanding the common boast of their authors that all is spun from their own brain—very rarely anything that has in the least the air of originality. Their compositions are generally commonplace and uninteresting, without character or expression; like those flowery speeches that we sometimes hear, which impress no new ideas upon the mind.'

Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville Defense of the Gate
"It is said of a celebrated French painter, that a visitor called upon him one day and found him busily engaged making studies for a new work—studies in posture, in facial expression, in drapery, in suggested action. A considerable length of time elapsed, and the visitor again called upon the painter and found him still engaged in the work of making studies for the same composition. The painstaking, plodding methods of the painter provoked some exclamation of surprise from the caller. 'There is no occasion for wonderment,' returned the artist in justification of his multitude of studies. 'This is the main part of painting.'

"Illustrations such as those accompanying this article present no element of novelty to the practiced artist. There are who have essayed creative work who have not well-filled sketches of similar character and equal interest. To those, however, unfamiliar with the methods of the studio they give an insight more convincing than words could furnish into the way in which artists have produced the disjecta membra, so to speak, of their finished compositions. It would be interesting in the case of some noted picture to reproduce the finished work together with all the studies that entered into its composition."
Editor's note: The author is muralist and critic Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) from Chicago. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His teachers were Dewing, Inness, Cabanel, Lefebvre, Boulanger, Laurens, and Benjamin-Constant.

Sources and More Info:
Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Edgar Cameron in Brush and Pencil Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 3 (June, 1901), pp. 121-133

The Academic Method Series:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Evolution of a Picture, Part 3 of 4: Maquettes and Animals

Ernest Meissonier, study for Friedland
This is Part 3 of a 1901 article called Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by academy-trained Edgar Spier CameronYesterday's installment discussed studies, facial expression, and drapery. Today we look at maquettes and animals.

Maquette by Meissonier
Part 3: Maquettes and Manikins
"Meissonier was so scrupulous in his drawing that he sometimes modeled his horses and sometimes his figures in wax from which to make his drawings.

"In a subject in which there are numerous figures, animals, or objects of similar size, the element of correct perspective is of great importance, and the grouping together of maquettes, or small models in wax or clay, makes it possible to avoid those errors which creep into the work of some of the greatest artists.

Lord Frederic Leighton in his studio
"Sir Frederic Leighton frequently made use of the plan, and it is said that Detaille, in composing his battle scenes, arranges whole companies of pewter soldiers on a table on which the inequalities of the surface of the ground have been represented in various ways.

"Maquettes and manikins are of great service in composing decorative subjects when it is desired to show figures in unusual positions requiring violent foreshortening, as in flying, or in a perspective system such as is sometimes used in ceiling decoration, with a vanishing point in the air.

Aimé Morot with the skin of a lion
Animals in Motion
"When animals are introduced into a picture many studies of them are necessary because of the great difficulty in securing a suitable pose or action, owing to their almost constant movement.

"In making studies of animal motion, many painters resort to the use of instantaneous photographs with the result that they frequently show movement too rapid to be observed by the human eye. In their efforts to avoid such solecism, artists have resorted to various devices to study the motions of the animals they paint.

Aimé Morot
"Aimé Morot, who has painted some of the most spirited cavalry charges ever reproduced on canvas, was attached to the General Staff of the French army, and had all the horses and men he desired at his disposition. His favorite mode of study was to have horses ridden past him, and at a certain point he would give one quick glance at his models, close his eyes, and open them only when he had diverted his gaze to the white surface of the paper held in his lap on which he quickly jotted down the impression received. (See previous post: Morot's motion device)

Horse study by Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier
"Meissonier had a track built, along which he had himself propelled as horses were ridden along a parallel course. Another excellent way for an artist to gain an appreciation of a horse's movement is to see and feel it at the same time by riding the animal along a wall in sunlight and observing its shadow."

Editor's note: The author is muralist and critic Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) from Chicago. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His teachers were Dewing, Inness, Cabanel, Lefebvre, Boulanger, Laurens, and Benjamin-Constant.

Evolution of the Picture, Part 2: Studies and Drapery
Morot's motion device

You can find more about these methods in my book Imaginative Realism.
Ernest Meissonier exhibition catalog.
Frederic Leighton Abrams book.

Sources and More Info:
Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Edgar Cameron in Brush and Pencil Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 3 (June, 1901), pp. 121-133

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery

William Bouguereau in his studio. Note preliminary studies displayed at left.
This is Part 2 of 4 of an article from 1901 called Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by academy-trained Edgar Spier Cameron.

Yesterday's installment discussed how major paintings begin with compositional sketches drawn from the imagination. Today we look at studies, facial expression, and drapery.

Studies by Jean-Paul Laurens
Studies of Costumed Figures by Fritz Roeber

Commencing the Picture: Studies or Études
"From this point in the production of the picture there are various ways by which the artist may arrive at the completion of his work. He may either arrange his models in relation to the accessories as nearly as possible like his composition and paint directly from them, or he may "square up" or in some other manner transfer the lines of his composition to his canvas and proceed by painting portions of his picture directly from nature or from studies.

Study squared for enlargement by Eugene Carman
"Making important changes in a picture after it is commenced is not productive of so good results as a rapid execution preceded by mature preparation.

Study squared for transfer by Frank Brangwyn
"It is for this reason that most artists who paint figure subjects make careful drawings of the various figures of their compositions, and many fragmentary studies of heads, hands, or other portions in which the expression of a pose or movement may play an important part of the picture.

Mr. Byam Shaw criticising a student's work
"Studies of drapery, of accessories, of architecture or landscape which may constitute the setting for the figures, are other important elements in the preparation of a picture.

Portrait Studies by Friedrich von Amerling
Facial Expressions
"Facial expression also requires much study. There are models who have sufficient of an actor's ability to enter into the spirit of an artist's conception and give him a pose or an expression which may be literally copied, but they are rare; and in order to secure exactly what he desires in this respect the artist often becomes his own model with the aid of a mirror.

Studies of facial expression by M. Hayman
"The studies of facial expression shown here are parts of a series thus made by a young artist of Paris, who possessed considerable histrionic ability. They were published by him as a guide to artists and students.

Frank Brangwyn Study squared for Enlargement
"It has been frequently remarked that the technical qualities of the painting of some students is superior to that of many artists who are accounted as great masters, yet their pictures are valueless except as examples of technique. The reason of this is that they have not learned to use their knowledge, and what is learned in an art schools is but a small part of what an artist has to learn. Some masters, of whom Puvis de Chevannes is a striking example, have learned so well how to express their ideas that they dispense with technical elegance in their painting. Of Puvis de Chavannes it is sometimes wrongly held by immature critics that he was an incapable draughtsman.

Drapery study by Frederic Leighton
Nudes First, Then Drapery
"Many artists, in order that the figures in their pictures may express more fully the sentiment of a pose, begin by making a careful drawing of the nude over which drapery or costume is afterward drawn from the draped or clothed model.

Jacques Louis David - The oath of the Jeu de Paume
"There is preserved in the Louvre a large unfinished picture by David, "Le Serment du jeu de Paume," in which all of the figures are carefully drawn in the nude and only the portrait heads are painted. It excites the risibility of most visitors to the gallery, but it is of interest to artists and students."

Drapery study by Degas
"For the study of drapery they are also invaluable. An effect of flying movement may be given to drapery by laying it upon the floor and drawing it from above or by arranging it in suspension with strings, but a more effective model may be made of paper, which is sufficiently stiff to retain its folds long enough, without support, to permit it to be drawn. Its folds are sharper than those of cloth, but it has the advantage of more natural effects, and is possible to find in tissue paper colors approaching almost any shade desired a painting, or to tint or decorate it as one may wish with watercolor.

"Portrait painters frequently use large lay figure upon which they place the costumes of their sitters, rarely for the purpose of making studies, but to serve as a substitute for the sitter in painting directly on the portrait. Other artists make use of the lay figure to make studies of elaborate costumes or uniforms.
Yesterday: Evolution of the Picture, Part 1: Compositional Studies.
Tomorrow: Mannikins and Animals in Motion

Sources and More Info
Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Edgar Cameron in Brush and Pencil Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jun., 1901), pp. 121-133

The author is muralist and critic Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) from Chicago. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His teachers were Dewing, Inness, Cabanel, Lefebvre, Boulanger, Laurens, and Benjamin-Constant.

You can find more about these methods in my book Imaginative Realism.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Evolution of a Picture, Part 1: Compositional Studies

Although many artists studied in the 19th century ateliers, few of them published practical information about the actual methods used by masters of academic realism. 

In their books, authors like Harold Speed, Solomon Solomon, and Charles Bargue focus mostly on drawing and painting accurately when working from observation. It's much harder to find information about how academic artists developed their imaginative ideas. 

One exception is the following article from 1901 called Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Cabanel-trained Edgar Spier CameronThis stuff is gold. Because it's so useful, I present it to you in full in four installments.

Portrait of Édouard Detaille by Basile Lemeunier 
"Many people who consider themselves well informed upon matters of art have but the vaguest conceptions of the way in which a picture is made. An artist does not sit down with palette, brushes, and canvas and dash off a picture when an inspiration seizes him.

"A sketch may be made in this way for the mere pleasure of doing it, or in order that the data which are thus secured may be preserved for future use, but the process of making a picture is longer and much more elaborate.

The Single Effect
"The picture which expresses something, which has a raison d'être, is generally evolved with as much thought and care as a writer bestows on a serious article or a story and by somewhat similar processes. In a picture, whatever its subject may be, the "unities" are imposed by the means of expression.

"A picture cannot well represent more than one idea, one place, or one instant of time. All that the artist has to say must be concentrated into one single effect, and consequently all of his study must be in the direction of elimination from the multiplicity of suggestions which nature makes to him, the material for a picture.

By Jules-Elie Delaunay
"As some writers are able to complete the composition of their articles in their minds before they begin to put their thoughts on paper, there are artists who are able to see their pictures finished before they begin to paint, but they are rare exceptions.

Compositional study by Jean Leon Gérôme
Compositional studies
"For any important pictures requiring arrangement or composition, as is the case of nearly all figure subjects, most artists make numerous studies. The title "Study" applied to paintings shown in exhibitions is nearly always a misnomer. Such works are chiefly the work of students or painters who have more technique than ideas to paint, and were not painted as a study for something more important.

Sheet of studies by Wilhelm von Kaulbach

"When an artist has received his "inspiration," or found a motive and given the subject sufficient thought to have decided something of how it is to be treated, he generally makes a composition sketch, possibly several of them, before the arrangement of the picture is decided upon. These are almost always made "out of his head," without models, with only the memory of effects previously observed in nature to guide him.

Tomorrow: Part 2: Studies and Études
Sources and More Info
Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Edgar Cameron in Brush and Pencil Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jun., 1901), pp. 121-133

The author is muralist and critic Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) from Chicago. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His teachers were Dewing, Inness, Cabanel, Lefebvre, Boulanger, Laurens, and Benjamin-Constant.

You can find more about these methods in my book Imaginative Realism.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Super Colossal Mario

Look who walked into my painting—Super Colossal Mario. (Link to video on Facebook)

Super Colossal Mario, gouache over casein underpainting

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mystery Man in Church

Sketch of a man in church, by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931)
Boldini painted a man near him in church. Who is that man?

Boldini Portrait of Sem (Georges Gourçat)
According to Christies, "it could represent the caricaturist Georges Gourçat, known as Sem (1863-1934), who was a good friend of Boldini."