“To Excel the Past…”

“… we must not allow ourselves to lose contact with it; on the contrary, we must feel it under our feet because we have raised ourselves upon it.”

— from the essay, “The Other and the Self” by José Ortega y Gasset

Thanks, as ever, to the inimitable Charles Weed.

The Anthropologically Possible

500 pages in 3 days is possible (when on vacation).  To me, an absolute revelation.  A must read before the movie comes out.

My Notes on “Notes on the Science of Picture Making”

Notes on the Science of PictureMaking
by C. J. Holmes
Published 1920

Page 10: Cover

Page 15: Interesting commentary on Cubism… Share with Kingsley

Page 16: Cubism is “decorative rhythm”

Page 16: Fascinating observation on the relationship between form and color and simplification and distortion.

Page 17: On color and it’s connection to shadows and light…

Page 18: Chiaroscuro… Out of favor except for Rembrandt.  And da Vinci.

Page 19: Notes on the art of Rembrandt by same author?

Page 19: If we then wish to paint for eternity…

Page 19: Ruskin maxim: let your white be precious and your black be conspicuous.

Page 19: Find this book: notes on Rembrandt.

Page 20: Brown shadows= the royal road to the facile picturesque.

Page 22: Toc

Page 26: Fault lies with those who have led Men’s thoughts away from the practical side to dream over enticing abstract terms such as Truth and Beauty.

Page 26: Find Walter Pater’s essay the school of Giogione.

Page 27: Ruskin on Reynolds.

Page 27: Considerations on turning the notion of ideal beauty to practical account…

Page 28: Men who achieve lasting fame break from academic precepts.

Page 29: The fault in pursuit of ideal beauty? Insipidity.

Page 29: The problem with Roman copies of Greek originals…

Page 30: Imitation often equals “coarseness, stiffness, emptiness… Eclectic generalization.”

Page 31: “Greatness is departure from a canon”… But doesn’t the canon provide the springboard?

Page 32: “To resemble another artist or school of artists is a sign of inferiority.”

Page 32: “genius is different from all previous standards; while close correspondence with any of these standards, howerpver immediately pleasing it may appear, will be a certain proof of mediocrity.”

Page 33: “if one half of the energy which artists have devoted during the last one hundred years to abusing and discrediting their fellows had been spent ob creative work…”

Page 34: “beauty and Truth have led to disastrous anarchy…Classics and Romantics, Realists and Idealists…”

Page 34: “Technical traditions and canons of beauty are valuable only as a starting point.”

Page 35: “the man who never goes beyond the tradition of his age can never be more than a sound craftsman… For Genius, tradition is always a base from which a further advance may be safely made.”

Page 36: “The true logical foundation of the Fine Arts is inextricably connected with their concrete function, materials and processes; and no abstract philosophizing which has neglected these essential factors, has produced any fruit but fine words, conflicting judgements and bad painting.”

Page 40: Chapter 1

the Value of Emotion

Page 40: “Expression without string feeling, enthusiasm, emotion, is not art.

Page 40: Definition of painting: “personal experience emphasized by emotion in flat decoration.”

Page 41: Double meaning of “experience”…

Page 42: A dis to Bouguereau!

Page 42: Learning the technique from a master vs. Learning Not to see like them; the greater the master the more abject the submission of the followers.

Page 43: This definitely happened to the followers of Caravaggio…

Page 46: The importance of a good frame.

Page 46: Find: Mr. A. Clutton Brock, The Burlington Magazine, Oct. 1907, vol. xii pp. 23-26… The emotional base of painting.

Page 47: “Emotion is the keystone of poetry… And painting.” interesting analysis of poetry compared to science and philosophy in previous paragraphs.

Page 48: “only a dunce or a pedant would sit down in cold blood to write an epic.  Yet thousands of painters seem to sit down in cold blood and expect to paint good pictures.”

Page 48: Working without emotion…”we set ourselves in fact to rivaling the camera, and enter upon that prosaic contest with a heavy handicap against us.”

Page 48: Seize “on the facts of the subject that are essential to pictorial expression an reject all others.”

Page 48: The devices of the painter’s art: rhythm of line, spacing and disposition of masses, light and shade, color, handling of the paint… In pursuit of harmony.”

Page 49: “perfect fusion of visual idea and professional experience = great painting.”

Page 50: “the artist in short runs into the most peril the moment he has nothing to struggle against.  That is the real trouble of those who practice art with success.  The stimulus to do battle for their convictions is removed, and their work, which should be a constant effort to conquer adverse circumstances, becomes an easy routine.”

Page 50: “yet emotion by itself is worthless…”

Page 51: Read this to my drawing class… Again, The Karate Kid Method.

Page 52: “… Images formed in the mind’s eye…” As Odd said, “you must see it in your mind.”

Page 53: “the painter’s… First business is simply and solely to make a beautiful picture… Every addition which is not sn addition to it external beauty is an excrescence.”

Page 54: For the author, Rembrandt bests Raphael, Van Dyck and Rubens.

Page 55: Chapter 2: The value of Theory

Page 55: The latter of these two alternatives is commonly the more unpopular.

Page 56: “…only to become slaves to a fraction of such a science.” This guy is spot on.

Page 57: Reynold’s discourses will ever be the enthusiastic student’s favorite book.”

Page 57: Reynold’s explanation of genius.

Page 59: “in a well-known passage, leonardo points out hoe, by constant practice, the eye may be trained to measure spaces accurately.” Find this passage.

Page 60: Rules and principles are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.

Page 60: Sometimes rules become regarded as a substitute for invention… Till the artist becomes a hack…possessing considerable facility of hand but nothing else.

Page 61: Find: Burnet’s “Treatise on painting”… The most complete compendium in English of the traditional practices of the old masters.

Page 62: Chapter 3 Invention and Nature

Page 62: Rubensvs. V in inventive quality.

Page 63: “toy landscapes” this is what Odd did.

Page 63: A picture must “retain it’s hold on the minds of men.”

Page 63: The dangers of painting “always with the model before us.”

Page 64: MEMORY “How to pick our way between two extremes?… I think we shall be wise if we adopt the system upon which all great creative artists have worked… To paint our pictures from memory”…!

Page 65: Composition: division of space, arrangement and organization of elements.

“…essential to fix the general disposition of lines and masses.”. Do this with quick sketches.

Page 66: Bingo!  And once again, Odd! “the mere fact of working from a slight sketch keeps the mind on the qui vive and the memory active, while the absence of nature leaves the intellect free to select just those elements and no others which have pictorial significance.

Page 67: “when we come to paint our picture we shall have the rough sketch to inspire us and the finished studies to help us where our memory fails.  Executed with these aids our work should lack neither spirit nor solidity and we can comfort ourselves with the thought that we are working on the system which makes the best possible use of such brains as we possess.”

Page 68: Chapter 4 pictorial conditions and pictorial emphasis

Page 69: The Four Qualities: Unity, Vitality, Infinity, Repose.

Page 70: Velazquez: cool deliberate science

Page 71: Infinity = timelessness?

Page 71: Sargent, for want of Infinity, is among the Brilliant but not the Supreme

Page 72: Excellent summary of the Four Qualities: if Unity then may be said to give a painting coherent structure, vitality to inspire it with the breath of life, Infinity to redeem it from shallowness, repose may be said to endow it with good manners.”

Page 72: “new wine of portraiture put into the old bottles of Velazquez.”

Page 72: “Design is dependent upon subject matter.”

Page 73: Pictorial design = “emphasis subject to pictorial condition.”

Page 74: Condition and Emphasis Chart!

Page 75: Formal Analysis!

Page 75: The need for a “systematic method of inquiry” to “localize faults” and “discover the appropriate remedies.”

Page 75: Illustration or Picture? Major Rhythm Makes the difference.

Page 76: Chapter 5 Emphasis of Symbol

Page 77: “symbols… subject to limitation of material and the purpose of view.”

Page 77: “‘truth to nature’ has been themotto in all periods of art”

Page 78: Reynolds: “The business of a great painter is to produce a great picture, and he must not allow himself to be cajoled by specious arguments out of his materials”

Page 78: “Pictorial symbols must have a relation to nature and art.” goldsmith / flower example is a good one

Page 78: “if we neglect the relation to nature our work will be shallow, mannered, or absurd; if we neglect the relation to art it will be bad painting”

Page 79: Unity of Symbols: Gainsborough landscape and figure, both loose suggestive touch.

Page 80: Puvis de Chavannes, Blake, Daumier… Good example of drawings of figures in landscape.

Page 80: If drawing = verisimilitude, so too must color.

Page 82: Yes!  This is the journey: to go from “a rapid sketch in pen and ink or some emphatic medium” to “a powerful finished picture.”

Page 82: 3 reasons why sketches have vigor…

Page 83: Misled by “sincerity” and “truth”… The “swift” and “fluent” is lost.

Page 84: “is not the faculty of wise selection a greater faculty than that of undiscriminating imitation?”

Page 84: “imitation is for the student… Instinctive separation fo the pictorial from the non-pictorial is the attribute of the master.”

Page 84: *** The Rock Example!

Page 85: Silverpoint example…

Page 86: “Loss of emphasis results in a dull drawing, however capably done.”

Page 87: Every medium dictates it’s own essentials and has it’s own set of pictorial symbols.

Page 87: “All painting which in any degree relies for it’s attractiveness upon imitation of texture is inconsiderable; yet, since texture is a thing which the veriest ignoramus can recognize when imitated in paint, the pictures which make it prominent are usually sure to be praised by the multitude for the moment.”

Page 88: There is no fixed rule as to essentials. They vary infinitely with the subject and the materials, and all great painting is a constant process of discovery and invention: discuvery of the essentials of the matter in hand, and invention of the pictorial symbols best adapted to represent them in the chosen medium.”

Page 89: This is why I like bug hero’s sketches better than finished works.

Page 90: Rembrandt’s best etchings…

Page 90: This is it: “lastly, the perfect pictorial symbol will suggest life and vigor by the seeming ease and swiftness of execution.” Seeming the key word. This is Velazquez! Share with painting class.

Page 90: Rubens, Gainsborough, Sargent…

Page 90: “… Sargent’s power is aped without a tithe of his power and knowledge…”

Page 91: Find book of Gainsborough drawings…

Page 92: Critique of pointillism…

Page 92: “Every complexity which diminishes the clearness of the symbol we employ to represent them, every moment that we linger over the strokes we apply to our canvas, must in some degree, diminish the vigor of the result we obtain.”

Page 93: A painting must catch “the attention for the moment by its vigor” but must also “hold and enchant the attention by it subtlety.”

Page 93: …”a Rembrandt or a Claude is pregnant with mystery…”

Page 95: Symbols and Repose: “In the matter of tone for example we must beware of excess of contrast, and in making a forcible study with very black chalk we shall achieve a more harmonious result by towering on a toned paper than by using one which is dead white.”

Page 96: Reconciling “chaos” with “repose”: “Thus, however much we may wish to emphasize the vitality of a rolling plain, of a chaos of tumbled mountains, or of an angry sea, there must ever, in the midst of all this tempestuous movement, be felt the real stability of the Earth, the steadfastness of the mountains, or the vast immobile build of the sea, upon which the largest waves that ever swelled are no more than mere momentary froth.”

Page 97: Chapter 6 Emphasis of Plan

Page 97: Quote for PADASOR: “A well planned work with no particular felicity of execution will more than hold its own against the most brilliant feat of brushwork that is based upon a poor design.”

Page 97: “…that is to say we must decide quite finally what is the principal thing we wish to express. If we hesitate, even for a moment, between two rival centers of interest, we shall be wise to lay our design aside until reflection has settled which of them can best be subordinated to the other.”

Page 98: Pictorial condition of Unity with regard to Plan

  1. A good picture has one subject, one focus.
  2. ‘…the principal feature will have most prominence if it be placed somewhere near the center of the composition.  To place it actually in the center is advisable only in formal compositions; or where the effect of formality can be disguised by an unequal disposition of masses elsewhere.”
  3. Principal effect strengthened and enhanced if supported on each side by secondary masses.

Page 98: “Here we arrive at the principal of triangular or pyramidal composition; which, however disguised, is the secret of almost all stable and compact pictorial designs.  In a portrait the head forms a natural apex to the arms and body.”  Delfina!  Just worked on today.

Page 99: Triangle to Pyramid to Quadilateral to Diamond to Oval.

Page 100: Giorgione’s Fete Champetre in the Louvre… moves the eye away from the pyramid composition.

Page 100: Titian’s Sacred and Profane… two figures and the sarcophagus from a pyramid whose apex we cannot see.

Page 101: II Vitality in Plan

Page 102: “if we can balance the significant lines by a repetition or echo, their emphasis will be enhanced and the rhythmic quality of the design much improved.”

Page 104: Rhythm and it’s connection to vitality and repose.

Page 105: Find: Hogarth, “the analysis of beauty.”

Page 105: Canons on art are points of departures… Maps, perhaps? Once again, it is the journey.  Odd, “you must see it.”. That is the vision of what those things might be like that you will discover… Then there is the journey, and the real discovery.

Page 105: Greek sculptors and their canons…

Page 106: Della Francesca baptism

Page 106: Botticelli’s Nativity

Page 107: Blake’s Morning Stars

Page 107: Titian’s Bacchus

Page 107: Find: Romney’s “Lady Hamilton with a Goat.”

Page 108: III Infinity and Plan

Page 108: Yes!!! “painters are but novices in their craft who compose pictures of which the secret can be exhausted at once.”

Page 109: IV Repose and Plan

Diagonal lines = vitality

Horizontal and vertical = repose

Page 110: “architecture is the most readily accessible means of introducing an element of repose into a composition.”

Page 111: “… Egg-shaped compositions… Depend on rectilinear forms.”

Page 113: “… Compositions architectural in character… Are on the safe side.”

Page 114: Chapter 7 Emphasis of Spacing

Page 114: Whistler a great example of spacing

Page 116: I unity of spacing

Page 118: II vitality in spacing

Page 118: Goya… Capriciously spaced.

Page 119: “whistler shows how little material isvreally needed to make a fine work of art.”

Page 119: Find: Watt’s Jacob and Esau

Page 120: III infinity of spacing

Page 121: Cryptic Michelangelo quote: “a figure should be pyramidal, serpentine,and multiplied by one, two and three.”

Page 122: IV repose of spacing

Page 122: “repose may be obtained by leaving a certain portion of the picture blank; the larger the space, the more restful and quiet the spirit of the work.”. Ex: caravaggio’s Calling, David’s Marat.

Page 122: Velazquez: “carries search for repose to extreme: simple setting of floor and empty wall, but figures are also treated flatly and broadly.”

Page 124: Chapter 8 Emphasis of Recession

Page 124: I unity of recession

Page 127: Unfinished foregrounds can have benefits…

Page 127: II Vitality of recession

Page 127: Raphael… Disput’ and School of Athens

Page 128: III infinity of recession

Page 130: Infinite space in portraits… Go for “mysterious recession and atmosphere suggested by broken tones and vibrant quality.”

Page 130: Corot avoided foreground… Included nothing that wasn’t two or three hundred yards away.

Page 130: “many delightful landscapes are to be found in the backgrounds of figure paintings by the old masters… A painter might take hints from these works and experiment with landscape in which the middle distance.. Was the foreground.”

Page 131: IV repose of recession

Page 131: “Rubens ‘Fall of the Damned’ unpleasant… Christ Presented to the People by Rembrandt.. Shows agai. The effectiveness of empty space.”

Page 132: Chapter 9 Emphasis of Shadow

Page 132: “The arrangement of light and dark masses will be governed by the same laws, be they European or oriental…”  this is the shadow pattern… Or what did Aristides call it?

Page 133: I unity of shadow

Page 133: Unity of tone and unity of mass…

Page 134: Find: pubis de Chavannes

Page 134: “a large easel picture needs to be lighter in key…” not what Merisi would say.

Page 135: Interesting idea on the relation of contrast to scale… Bigger the image, the less dark.  Tell that to Odd.

Page 136: Van Dyck and Reynolds good examples of balance with light and dark.

Page 138: “the most forcible of all oppositions being obtained when the brightest light in a painting is brought into contact with the most intense passage of dark…. Yet this forcible contrast must be employed with caution or it will be destructive of breadth of effect.”

Page 139: Safety lies between these two extremes, in portraiture we may notice how Titian, Van Dyck and Velazquez repeat the contrasts on their sitter’s heads by one or two subordinate contrasts on the light on the hands or on some accessory.”

Page 140: The “chessboard” rule: vertical sections… Ensure that no darks or lights go unbroken.

Page 140: III infinity of shade

Page 140: “when shadows are filled vague reflected lights (this is what Odd is a master of) or when the lights themselves ar aired ad cloudedvwith faint shadows, the objects in a picture do not proclaim themselves at once, but leave room for the play of the imagination in filling up the parts obscured.”

Page 140: “the secret of Rembrandt…”

Page 141: “…real secret not arrangement of masses of light, but quality.” What does he mean by quality?

Page 141: “… But with experience (Rembrandt) found he could rely upon his drawing to give all the solidity he needed… That a better effect was produced when shadow was used broadly, as a means of suggesting the vibration and subtlety of atmospheric tone, and for rendering those delicacies of modeling on which all refined and profound expression depends.  So in all of his mature work shadow is used as a veil, softening outlines which would otherwise looked harsh, suggesting the play of nature’s light upon illuminated surfaces and the mystery of nature’s darkness where the illumination was faint.”

Page 141: I love the ideavthat Drawing = Solidity.

Page 141: Mutatis mutandis

Page 142: Titian: “If light and shadow must have a sharp edge then it must invariably merge softly into the ground elsewhere.”

Page 142: “Titian’s light if examined will always be found to have a delicate half-tone at one edge, which connects them with the tone adjoining them: the shadows at some point will merge imperceptibly into a lighter tone.”

Page 143: When vigor of contrast is lost, unity and subtlety of effect is gained.  … Later works of Rembrandt show this.

Page 144: IV Repose of Shadow

Page 144: Whistler is great example.

Page 145: Interesting analysis of contrast in relation to size of canvas.

Page 146: Chapter 10 Emphasis of Color

Page 146: “most painters are content to leave color to chance…” Hmmmmm, sounds familiar.

Page 146: Find: Prof. Denman W. Ross, A Theory of Pure Design

Page 147: “it is fantastic to think so.”

Page 147: I.e., landscape painters don’t realize that local color will kill harmony.

Page 148: Find: Watts “Mammon” uses the red to emphasize cruelty.

Page 148: Yellow is exhilarating

Page 148: Blue

Page 148: Purple

Page 149: Orange

Page 149: Green

Page 150: Brown, grey and olive

Page 151: “use pure white with the utmost parsimony.”

Page 151: See Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne for a masterclass on limiting white.

Page 152: “general color of a work decidesmwhat it’s sentiment is to be.”

Page 152: So, general color scheme should sustain sentiment of theme.

Page 152: I unity of color

Page 152: First inquiry: howto ensure a harmonious whole and not a chance aggregate of conflicting hues?

Page 153: “scientific theory on harmony and contrast serves about as much as a canon on ideal proportion.”

Page 153: “Reynolds enunciates that the shadows of a picture should be of the same color… This is naturally most effective when a large portion consists of color, like in a Reynolds or a Rembrandt.”

Page 153: Another Reynolds principle: whites, high lights, should be warm, “as if illuminated by the setting sun.”

Page 157: Test of color harmony on European artists…

Page 158: “Venetians rightly hold the first place as colorized among the various schools of Italy.”

Page 158: “The peculiar glow and vibration of their pigments, the secret of which (probably depending upon the use of a tenpera ground underthe oil painting) has long been lost.”

Page 159: II Vitality of Color

Page 160: “There can be no doubt that the real way of introducing vitality into color is by devising a color contrast of a suitable kind.”

Page 160: On the vibration between laid-over colors and the ground…

Page 160: Something I’ve always considered, but never thought of in this way: “Hence the danger of repainting any part of a picture without ensuring that the new paint is laid over a ground which differs from it considerably in color.”

Page 161: Again, Titian’s Bacchus…

Page 162: Harmony depends on repetition? I would have said rhythm.  Keep greatest contrast near point of interest.

Page 163: “Color contrasts are more lively and forcible if contours are kept sharp.”

Page 163: iII Infinity of Color

Page 163: “In good pictures, even the colors which appear to be unbroken reds and blues resolve themselves, when seen closely, into complex tints of infinite variety.”

Page 164: Achieving great color: “…with the Venetians and Titian it seems to depend upon the laying of a film of semi-opaque oil paint over a luminous ground.”

Page 164: “Turner used thin color on a ground of solid white… Watts used successive scumbles of pigment so stiff as to be nearly dry.”

Page 164: “Every colorist (artist) … Has always had to work out his own salvation in the end, by finding for himself the method which best expresses his personal ideals.”

Page 165: “the knowledge that constant gradations or vibration lies at the root of the whole matter may do a little; but the faculty of appreciating subtle color depends, or seems to depend, upon a fineness of perception in things not mathematically demonstrable, and upon a boldness of invention which must in some degree be inborn,”

Page 165: “Certain methods can be recommended to the beginner… In oil, the use of a transparent brown underpainting, in the manner of Rubens.”. I wonder if mussini brown pink would be a good color for an underpainting?

Page 165: “A sketch is almost always more pleasant in color than a highly finished picture.”. So the trick istoleave some of the finished painting “unfinished”?

Page 166: “Freshness and directness are akin to quality and subtlety.”

Page 166: Yes, but how does Caravaggio fit into this idea?

Page 166: Aha! “even painters like Reynolds, whose contrast of tones is forcible and who admit dark shadows, always take care that their lights shall incline to flatness, and shall be delicately modeled inside that apparent flatness.”

Page 166: IV Repose of Color

Page 167: Apply this to Caesar Portrait: “The most obvious way to achieve repose is the use of secondary and tertiary tones, especially in which blue rather than yellow or red is the dominant quality.”

Page 167: Interesting: again he makes the connection between intensity and scale: glaring reds and purples on a poster vs. an illuminated manuscript.

Page 168: Excellent! How to pick a tertiary in a landscape painting of red and green…

Page 168: “the second way of securing repose in color is by doing away with sharp edges so that tones melt imperceptibly into one another.”

Page 169: “Blurring too often results in ruining the stability of the design.” – this happened to me with Caesar today!

Page 169: “we can make the painting more restful b reducing the pitch of the coloring: the landscapes of Gainsborough… Reduces sharp blues to greysvand turquoise, sharp genes to olive and golden brown.  Rembrandt too.”

Page 172: Part II Emphasis of Materials

Page 174: Chapter XI Processes of Drawing

Page 174: Processes of Drawing

Page 175: “For subtle purity… And portraits, silverpoint is invaluable.”

Page 176: Pen drawing

Page 177: Find: pen drawings by Charles Keene

Page 177: Reference to comics

Page 178: Red chalk: Raphael, Michelangelo, Holbein, Rubens

Page 180: Charcoal: “These dramatic effects, however, come so readily with charcoal that drawings made with it are apt to look showy and superficial.”

Page 181: Brush drawing

Page 184: Chapter XII Engraving

Page 203: Chapter XIII Water-Color and Egg Tempera.

Page 228: Find: Mr Berenson’s “The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance.”

Page 229: Chapter XIV  Oil Painting: The Transparent Method

Page 230: 3 General Headings for Painting: Transparent, Mixed and Opaque.

Page 231: Find: unfinished picture of St. Barbara by Van Eyck

Page 231: Design drawn on gess, then fixed with a flesh tint.

Page 232: When finished the painting was exposed to the sun…!

Page 232: Sunlight and the reference to letters by Rubens.

Page 233: Venice Turp… Then amber or varnish.

Page 234: Rubens Technique: Brown ground over the white, shadows so dark that these were the shadows for the painting; then colors, thinly except lights and half-lights where opaque pigment was laid in with considerable body.

Question: how did this technique impact Velazquez?

Page 234: Rembrandt exemplifies the mixed method… Gainsborough offers a revival of the transparent method.

Page 235: Why was the transparent method superseded?

Page 236: Ah!  Change in scale… And design alterations were nearly impossible.

Page 236: “Realism” was ultimately responsible.

Page 237: Find: Gainsborough’s “market Cart”

Page 238: Pre-raphaelite technique

Page 241: “transparency is of inestimable value to those whose feeling for color is imperfect or underdeveloped.”

Page 241: “it would seem that solid body and strong pigment would outcast a thin coat… But the reverse holds true.”

Page 243: Turner: “principle lights was first fixed by a forcible impasto.”

Page 243: “where extreme accuracy of form is required as in portraiture or figure work even the most gifted painter will hardly be able to dispense with a careful drawing to guide his eye.”

Page 244: Transparency provides greatest unity of color.

Page 245: Chapter XV: Oil Painting – The Mixed Method

Page 245: Velazquez… And the list!

Page 246: Titian is the “father” of the mixed method.

Page 246: Titian’s early work: transparent brown on luminous ground to some completeness; left to dry thoroughly; then color, some transparent, some opaque, tints frequently softened, spread or blended with fingers; first color done in broad flat masses; then painting put aside for some time, bleached out by exposure to sunshine; then painting was finished off with stumbles and glazes: Bacchus and Ariadne were produced this way.

Page 247: Two points about Bacchus: transparent brown underpainting not covered in the shadows and opaque paints were translucent films.

Secondly: though drying between coats was key.

Page 248: Titian’s later method: fully developed image in black, white and red, then left to dry, then glazes.  For Holmes, not as luminous or successful as his previous method.

Page 249: Titian modeled in low relief.  So too V (sometimes), Caravaggio in high relief.

Page 249: Dry your pictures thoroughly!

Page 250: Strong red grounds may sometime be serviceable.

Page 251: Constable, Whistler, then Van Dyck!

Page 251: Rembrandt technique:  Similar to Rubens but… First worked out a monochrome sketch in a fiercely modeled impasto containing much solid white.  Then on the impasto, transparencies… Or opaques when needed.  Even highlights were glazed.

Page 252: Velazquez!  Technique based more on all a prima: one coat of paint containing a lot of oil

Page 252: Find: Burlington Magazine, jan 1908, pp. 102-205 on CJ Ho,mes on Hals.

Page 253: Velazquez:”indeed his fame rests on the fact that no one has combined such decision and finality of brushwork with so much naturalism and pictorial good taste.” paves way for Goya to Whistler to Manet to Carolus to Sargent.

Page 255: On Reynolds… “ghosts!”

Page 255: Craquelure?

Page 256: Reynold’s influence led to 30 years of “brown sauce” .. Watts… Crome? A paint who resembles Velazquez.

Page 256: Find: Crome

Page 257: Turner worked on a thick flake white ground.

Page 257: Constable: Eclisse! Glazing over a bright light then sometimes working into it with a cool opaque color… In later years he used the palette knife to apply touches of pure color.

Page 258: Poussin French heir to Italian Renaissance, Watteau heir to Flemish.  Chardin used both.

Page 259: Daumier and Millet

Page 259: Corot’s method: on luminous white foundation, built up picture in transparent monochrome.  When dry, colors applied in thin films, forcible impasto for high lights.

Page 259: Monticello, Courbet, Manet

Page 261: “The most elaborate effects of quality can be attained by judicious use of glazing and scumbling”

Page 263: Van Dyck, Velazquez…

Page 264: “On the whole it is evident that a firm white ground, if necessary veiled with some simple tint, is the first condition of safety… Next paint should be as thin as possible; if done all a prima, so much the better.”

Page 265: Excellent advice on brushes…

Page 266: Chapter XVI  Oil Painting The Opaque Method

Page 266: Watts and Chavannes back the opaque method.

Page 267: “opaque” fails the infinity test…

Page 271: On Watts!!

Page 276: Part III Emphasis of character

Page 278: Chapter XVIi The Painter’s Aims and Ideals

Page 278: Extraordinary quote!!!

Page 280: “Despotic Art”

Page 281: Massacio and Piero della Francesca…

Page 282: Success in “virtue of the things they omit, almost as much by the assistance of the things they express.”

Page 282: What makes a painting heroic…

Page 285: Individual Art, four types: Dramatic (art of crisis), Lyrical (art of mood), Satiric (art of ridicule), Narrative (art of description)

Page 285: Find: Mr. Roger Fry

Page 286: Rembrandt, raising of Lazarus, dramatic, then T and V

Page 288: Again, Rembrandt. Drama is mostly light and shade.

Page 288: Before or after the moment… Then wat of Rembrandt’s Samson?

Page 289: Lyrical painting… Begun with Piero Di cosimo and Giorgione.

Page 290: Giogione to Titian to V to Van Dyck

Page 290: Lyrical = contemplative, charm us into sympathy with the artists mood.  Dramatic painting is moment of swift and significant change, Lyrical painting, the crisis is remote, time moves slowly.

Page 291: Here is the compare and contrast between dramatic and lyrical…

Page 291: Begin with definition and contrast, end with harmony and fusion.  This indicates the lyrical mood demands more skill and experience from the artist than the dramatic.

Page 292: Bingo! “We cannot convey subtle or delicate feeling in art without a corresponding quality in our workmanship.”

Page 292: Satiric Painting

Page 294: Narrative painting

Page 295: Of all forms, most cavorts by the educated public…

Page 296: “indeed, the great artists of all periods, though they have had the highest regard for truth, have never regarded truth as identical with deceptive imitation though this fallacious identity… Has provided an obvious and plausible critical formula.

Page 296: Interesting note on Leonardo…

Page 297: The best of the narrative painters: Van Eyck, Holbein, Chardin, Vermeer…

Page 300: Th formulas passed down by the masters must be refreshed by the application of living nature…. Narrative painting is a splendid tonic, but proves an intolerable diet.

Page 302: Michelangelo!  Ordered away from sculpture to paint the ceiling!

Page 303: Chapter 18 the painter’s training

Page 304: The training process: all great artist start with precision; precision is modified by a desire for a greater breadth of mass; this desire in turn is exchanged on the approach of old age for a love of freedom of brush work and a disregard for all minor details.

Page 306: Nice anecdote on Raphael…

Page 307: Chiaroscuro is a valuable servant only when ruled by a despot.

Page 308: The lessons learned by Raphael and Titian…

Page 309: Van Dyck and Reynolds… Then Rembrandt…

Page 310: Rembrandt “secures a mastery of certain aspects of human personality which remains supreme and unique.”

Page 311: Rembrandt and Memory…

Page 311: Find: articles on Rembrandt in the Burlington magazine…

Page 312: Development of the artist corresponds to that of the human race:

Page 313: Transition from Dramatic to Lyrical… That should accompany the new body of work: “Breadth and Oxygen.”

Page 313: The common practice of teaching an artist to draw and paint precisely and accurately at the outset of his career is absolutely correct.

Page 314: Relying fully on models vs. A combination of models and memory; the latter is what Odd does. Tim, you must aspire to “give solidity to the things you imagine.”

Page 315: All great artists, however precocious eir beginning, have a long time in attaining to the summary breadth, fusion and emphasis of their final manner.

Page 315: “The artist must remain a student all the time he is attempting to be a master.

Page 316: “No instance I believe is known of a painter regaining the powers of his youth after he has once succumbed to the temptations of indolence or popularity.”

Page 316: “the best remedy for the perilous disease of “middle age”–endless experiment…. Incessant alternation between working form memory and working from the model, until the period of experiment is succeeded by that of experience–of perfect knowledge.”

Page 317: Quote the following paragraphs with keyboard!

Page 319: Chapter 19 the future of painting

Page 328: Taste in the arts…

Page 331: Why evolution of the representation of nature in art is possible: the expression of vitality is not confined to an all-round statement of things in themselves alive, but may be conveyed also, and often more effectively, by an emphatic statement of a few significant features.

Page 332: Unhesitating selection and omission is open to one real peril: emptiness.

Page 336: Chapter 20 Some Popular Fallacies

Page 336: Fascinating: is subject-matter, it’s inward significance, more important than it’s technical expression, it’s outward decorative aspect?

Page 337: “The illustrator, in consequence, has always enjoyed it’s immediate favors at the expense of the true painter… Luckily, ultimate rank is not settled by the popular voice, but by the accumulated judgement of trained minds…and they have recognized that decorative excellence is an essential condition of artistic immortality.”

Page 338: More on the relationship between Decoration and Significance…

Page 339: Identity of construction implies identity of thought.

Page 340: “the advantage of using only a limited number of colors is still rarely insisted upon.”

Page 340: “Truth to Nature” – were this so the best works of art would be those that resemble photographs.”

Page 341: A few points seem clear: On Unity: all the symbols employed in  a single work should be of the same kind and have the same relation to nature.

Page 341: On Vitality: Vitality is enhanced if the symbol states no more than the essential features, if it states them clearly, and if it states them swiftly, for the very swiftness of the execution will convey a sense of power and liveliness to the spectator. This vitality must also be accompanied with the tenderness and subtlety born of long and earnest insight into nature, or the symbol, though spirited, will be shallow.

Page 341: Repose involves that the symbol shall take it’s place quietly in the work for which it has been designed.

Page 342: So long as a painter’s symbols breathe that living force and acknowledge that subtle tenderness, they will possess the essential character of nature, whatever facts, or details, or appearances, they may, for pictorial reasons have to sacrifice

Page 342: On Values and Finish…

Page 342: …and not the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans?

Page 343: Coarse, empty, lifeless… Great words for special people.

Page 343: Values may be unquestionably useful a a means of training students to grasp the general aspect of things, as part of their artistic alphabet; but it is no more a complete solution of artistic problems than knowledge of the alphabet is a complete equipment for the poet.

Page 343: If Velazquez, who is sometimes named as the great master of values, depended for his reputation upon values alone, he might rank lower than the shadowy Mazo.  It is because he could paint the living soul and the princely refinement of his sitters, and could fuse that life and subtlety into superbly decorative canvases, that his name stands high–not because he marched values with conspicuous taste.

Page 343: On Finish… All painters know that it is frequently impossible to retain in a finished picture the freshness and spirit of a rapid sketch.

Page 343: Find: Mr. roger Fry’s “Reynolds’ Discourses”

Page 344: Finish is the balance between Vitality and Infinity.  The question is: where must the painter stop?

Page 344: It would seem as if the painter had to make at the outset a great decision: should the aim be clearness of impression, or should it be richness of content?

Page 344: If richness of content is the objective, fuse details with large masses (titian is the master).

Page 344: Average talent should aim at clearness of impression

Page 345: Another take on “illustration”: a mass of tedious detail = dull illustration.

Page 346: A good ideal: outcome should be the result of a personal experience.

Page 346: All painters except Narrative painters thus produce their effects by the emphatic rendering of some part or phase of nature… Which is the business of the painter’s personality.

Page 347: The mechanical part can be learned with the help of others… But subject matter must be chosen… If done before the labo is in vain.

Page 347: Good Picture= “Personal Experience Emphasized by Emotion in terms of Decoration”… It is only in their perfect fusion that the solution of the problem of painting can be found, and to master the secret of this fusion is the hardest task of all.

Page 348: …until some royal road is invented…

pLog Pith VIII

A few words now about technique, so that there may be no misunderstanding as to its importance.  It is a poor thing that cannot be abused, and I do not want you to be afraid of the word, or to surround it with mystery. Read more

“Having a Life and Not a Career”

Most bizarre: I was re-watching the recent clip of Christopher Hitchens speaking with Andersen Cooper and I thought, good interview, then thought, speaking of good interviews, what’s Charlie Rose doing these days?… and there Charlie was with Christopher!

A must watch: Charlie Rose interviews Christopher Hitchens about his new memoir and his battle with cancer.

“By Going Wrong, I Began to Work Out How to Go Right”

Today on the train ride back to Rome from Puglia I caught up on some podcast listening, including a Fresh Air episode featuring the writer, David Mitchell.  The title of the post is the quote from Mr. Mitchell early in the interview that quickly spun me into a time-traveling* train-ride rapture.  How divine when discussion of art and art-making transcend the medium, as is right and righteous.

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