The Flat Tint

If anyone doubts what a flat tint will do, let him see the shadow of a rabbit on the wall, which he can make with his hands.

W. H. Hunt, from Talks on Art, 1890

Book Note of the Day: Preservation of Breadth

John Burnet’s Practical Hints on Light and Shade in Painting, published in 1880, opens with the following quote:

The highest finishing is labor in vain, unless at the same time there be preserved a breadth of light and shadow.

From Reynold’s notes on Du Fresnoy

Book Note of the Day: Alberti on Beauty

‘Beauty’, he says, ‘is that reasoned harmony of the parts within a body, so that nothing may be added, taken away, or altered but for the worse.’

—from The Chameleon’s Eye, by Caspar Pearson.

Book Note of the Day: The Royal Road in Art

There is no royal road in art. In this department of life, as in every other, the student must serve before he can govern. He must learn to construct, to draw, to paint, to observe, and select.

—From the preface of Alfred East's, "Landscape Painting in Oil Colour," Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company, 1908

This book is available as a free PDF file here:

From Odd Nerdrum to Igor Stravinsky and a Favorite Quote on the Creative Process

I have a recent habit of saving a variety of essays, forums posts and articles I find on the internet as PDFs then assembling them into one bundle, which I print as a bound book and carry around with me for a month or so to read and contemplate.  In the latest collection I included an article I found on the “Artcyclopedia” entitled The Importance of Being Odd: Nerdrum’s Challenge to Modernism.

In it, I was especially taken with the following anecdote regarding his entry to the National Academy of Art in 1962: “The application had included three paintings. Two of them were reasonably finished, while the third one had been hurriedly thrown together to meet the deadline. The fact that this was the one that the committee found so promising as to admit him into the nation’s leading art school, made him question the criteria applied to modern art.”  That story ends with the following quote:

This was too easy; it offered too little resistance.

This immediately struck a chord and reminded me of a quote by Igor Stravinsky:

In art, as in everything else, one can only build upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure constantly renders movement impossible.  My freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.  Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength.

I can think of no better silver bullet against the contemporary art world’s notion that craft is optional and a decipherable criteria for quality is irrelevant.



Rubens: How to Price a Painting

For one evaluates pictures differently from tapestries. The latter are purchased by measure, while the former are valued according to their excellence, their subject, and number of figures.

—Letter of June 1, 1618, to Sir Dudley Carleton.