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.


Michael Pianta said...

I'm really enjoying this series, looking forward to parts three and four!

Susan Krzywicki said...

Well, this line is good advice for ALL of life:
"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.

And, just now I happen to be re-reading a classic murder mystery by Ngaio Marsh, called "Artists in Crime". The premise is based on some of the ideas mentioned above: how to pose the human model, how drapery looks natural, how artists approach a canvas - for me it is a delightful coincidence. Thank you.