Monday, February 3, 2020

Watercolors of Myles Birket Foster

Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) painted watercolors of rural England.
Myles Birket Foster, Children Reading Beside a Country Lane, watercolor
This one shows children reading a book beside a country lane. Foster didn't hire professional models, but instead enlisted his own kids or people in his neighborhood to pose.

Illustration by Myles Birket Foster for "The Complete
Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow"
He started out by learning wood engraving, and he worked for many years as an illustrator for the Illustrated London News. 

The experience with wood engraving influenced how he painted. A 1906 book about him said:
His approach to watercolor "was very dissimilar to the 'wash' methods of the early school of watercolour painters. Birket Foster, indeed, worked with his brush as dry as it well could be, and probably no artist in using the medium of watercolours ever used so little water. Of course all painting may be said to be drawing with a brush, but Birket Foster’s was practically drawing to a peculiar degree, not washing with a brush."
Photograph of Myles Birket Foster
"He used a very fine brush with very little paint in it, and owing to his habit of frequently putting it between his lips to make the point of it as fine as possible, it used to be said that the paint came out of the artist’s head."

"He usually used thick solid cardboards to work on those which were called Chalon-boards, after; the once popular artist J. Chalon, were very convenient to pack when travelling, or to carry in a sketching bag, and there was no anxiety in straining paper.
"Birket Foster worked very rapidly in his own way of obtaining the effects he desired, and his remarkable gift for composition enabled him to people his scenes with wonderful facility and felicity."
Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899)
Critics considered him old fashioned even in his own time, but regular people and collectors loved his paintings.
"With regard to the vexed question of body-colour—that old artistic tilting arena—Birket Foster was too good a free lance to hold other than broad and liberal views. Although a “purist” in the use of transparent colour, he could yet admit, under any necessity, the useful means of recovering the paper without injuriously soaking and rubbing and sponging the surface into roughness. But he used bodycolour, when at all, very all events in art, the end justifies the means."
Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899)
Friends said he always had a sketchbook in his pocket, and he created studies in tone before commencing his full watercolor compositions.

Martin Hardie says on the Victorian Web website:
"Unfinished work by him shows that he made a careful pencil drawing, often covered parts of it with transparent colour, and then applied patches of Chinese White, over which he worked with stipple or hatched strokes of pure colour. His method was much the same as that of Hunt and [John Frederick] Lewis. All of them could finish their work piece by piece, making and mending as they carried it to completion. His body-colour mixture of white made the blue of his skies sufficiently tacky for the hair strokes of his brush to show quite clearly."
Myles Birket Foster on Wikipedia

1 comment:

scottT said...

I'm interested in the idea of consistency of approach across different media and Foster achieves that. Although this style of watercolor was later largely discarded in favor of broad washes, if one is given to fine hatching and detail in pen and ink, pencil, and engraving as this artist is, the translation of a similar drawing approach to watercolor can actually created an airy, light filled, vibrating surface similar to pointillism. Thank you for featuring him!