Religion requires the suspension of Reason.
Little Good is unreasonable.
While speaking with the Maestro earlier tonight on Skype we spent some of the time discussing some of the finer points I made during the presentation I gave of Netherland from a few weeks back, and it occurred to me that I had failed to write any of it down. It now occurs to me that I should.
For starters, I’m inclined to believe there are three kinds of paintings:
- The kind where I know what I want, I make a plan, then execute (rarely does this happen);
- The kind where I say, I’ve got two hours to do it, and at the end of the two hours it’s done;
- The kind where I have just a point of departure and the suspicion that those first steps will lead me on a great adventure—that was Netherland.
(There is also a fourth kind: the kind I don’t finish.)
Then, there is the looming question that inevitably follows any Odyssey of the Third Kind: if I knew that the final image was what I wanted from the start and painted it so directly—without the months of twists and turns—would it still resonate the way I feel the final image does?
On the one hand, I hope the answer is “no,” as I would like to think the blood, sweat and tears adds to the magic.
On the other hand, I hope the answer is “yes,” as I would like to complete magic paintings faster.
Ultimately, Netherland has taught me that I must better set the stage for what I love most about the act of painting: accuracy, economy and spontaneity—I must pursue further a process that isn’t just about getting it right (accuracy), and getting a lot from a little (economy), but making it so that little takes little to do (spontaneity).
These are good things to remember.
Notes on the notes: this post is long overdue! My glorious trip to the National Gallery occurred almost one year ago and the following notes I took on my iPad before, during and after my time in the National Gallery. I had put off publication mainly because I was going to accompany these notes with a video to, but I don’t see that happening any time soon so no need to wait further.
For a look at some of the pictures taken during my time in London, please visit this page on my paintings and drawings website.
Finally, good luck to my friend Peter, who is heading to the National Gallery this January to copy Rembrandt!
December 26th, 2012, writing from Noci, Puglia
For the Painter’s Log – Copying Velázquez
Day before the first day of copying, sitting in The National gallery in front of both paintings.
Philip IV is smaller than I imagined in my mind; Rokeby Venus is larger.
(I’m shocked by how small the virgin Mary is!)
Looks like the Admiral attributed to V by Solomon is now attributed to Mazo!
Flesh is darker than I imagined in general, especially in the Pondering of Christ by a Christian Soul.
Is the secret to exceptional flesh really more about subtlety in value and less to do with color?
There will be quite the crowd tomorrow. I must get a good night’s sleep!
Zan and Neil are the two men I met at the Duty Manager office.
Note the color of the wallpaper: creme red/burgandy red with a kind of floral pattern.
Note also the frame around both paintings. I wonder the story and age of each.
Jan 12th – Day One on Philip IV
Have worked for two hours. Pleased so far (see photo) but very difficult to understand the flesh tones. Time for lunch.
Palette so far:
- Raw umber
- Ivory black
- Yellow ochre
- Flemish white (Doak)
- Burnt umber
- Tried some of Doak’s raw olive umber, but it didn’t convince me.
Still don’t have the luminosity in the flesh. See second photo. Is that something that can be achieved alla prima, or will I get that only after it has dried and I can lay in more paint.
Question: try your v flesh? Or t flesh?
Color I forgot to mention: Lapis Lazuli.
Worked the V flesh (michael Harding Transparent Red Oxide + Cremnitz white with walnut oil)… Definitely improved the luminosity, but it does not yet seem to rival the brilliance of the original.
See photo 3: drawing is good, but something not yet right with drawing. Too wide? Yes, I think so, on the right side.
Am stopping for today… 5 pm. So 10:30 to 5 with one hour for lunch.
Carol, Sheila, Pat, Di, Mary… Some nice ladies I just spoke with after cleaning up. Sitting now in front of the work… Waiting to take a quick video… But the guard is standing right next to me! Guard names: Sheik, Me-lanie, Boris.
Review of today’s process:
- Block in with raw umber and ivory black.
- Flesh started with vermilion, flemish white, ivory black, yellow ochre… Some touches of Lapis lazuli.
- Added burnt umber to palette for shadows and hair on right side.
- Eyes of black and some lapis.
- Kept edges soft!
- Built surface of background. Continued search for correct color. Mixed yellow ochre with ivory black to get more of the green tint.
- With flesh tacky (semi-dry), I started to lay over V flesh mix. Worked well… But I think I can still push further with this technique.
- Pushed shadows with a mix of burnt umber and vermilion.
Brushes used: hog bristle for background, bull hair for flesh and sometimes the da Vinci synthetic for small details.
- Try T flesh mix?
- Try softer brush for background?
- Block in background color and clothes with soft brush. Try and get color and value as close as you can. If background is greenish, then clothes are more bluish? What is the color of the black in light??
- Face, check the drawing: height and width.
- Use test strip to check flesh color. Not sure T flesh is answer. Put V and T on test str and see.
- Make sure shadow colors and values are accurate.
First session complete (see next photo), about one hour on the background. Used yellow ochre and ivory black with a touch of raw umber, but I wonder if the solidity of the background wouldn’t benefit from more raw umber?
In the black shirt used straight ivory black with some Lapis lazuli… The black in the clothes is certainly more of a blue black.
Brushes note: the block studio bristle worked much better than the Jackson’s black hog bristle.
Flesh: I held up the V flesh on the grey ground to the painting and it appears to brighter than the flesh on the actual painting. Curious.
Next step, darken shadows in flesh.
Eureka! Shortened the forehead… Made a big difference. Next photo. Now must fix hair.
2pm, next photo. Hair looks pretty good, but I wonder if it is still too wide.
Finding wonderful colors with raw umber, white, vermilion, burnt umber.
Used my verdaccio middle grey on the collar.
I thought that I would need naples yellow in the hair, but instead stayed with yellow ochre, white, raw umber and burnt umber.
Note the solidity of the paint! Also, have been using very little oil.
Next photo… Batteries running low on camera.
5:45, no more photos as batteries are dead.
Drawing is better, though something still leaves perplexed; I continue to suspect that the head is too wide…or maybe i just need to push the forehead back up?
I am using the Doak raw olive umber dark with the ivory black. Working well. Better covering power, which was needed.
January 14th – The Day After
Great stories to tell…
Marguerita. Or Maria Marvel! (read with your best indigo Montoya / Banderas Puss-in-Boots Spanish accent):
“Oh, this is wonderful, but the head is longer, you see? You must make it longer. But you are almost there… You are so close!”
Moments later, “I think I know what is wrong; the eye drops, you see. His right eye, which is on our left, it drops. You have a straight line, but there it drops.”
I said to her, “ok, stand there and watch, I’m going to fix it.” Michelangelo, the hand of David and Marble dust came to mind.
“Oh, yes, much better. It is wonderful, you are very close.”
I told her to come see me in Rome. We’ll see.
* * *
Julie Jackson: she started to talk to talk to me about paints, Michael Harding, then medium and she noticed there wasn’t any smell of turps… Only walnut oil, I told her.
Then: “I run a life drawing course at the Royal Academy on Wednesdays, would you like to come?”
* * *
Maurizio and Daniel, some nice end of the day critics. But just before :
“That looks nothing like him.” without turning I chuckled; I knew it was Angela. And Kareen was there. They took some fantastic pictures. And Angela had some really good guidance, especially regarding the flesh. Which brings me to the ultimate lesson: solidity.
Eowyn and I mixed some paint yesterday and made some really interesting discoveries: for a good flesh base, the best formula appears to be Doak Flemish white with a touch of Williamsburg Lemon Yellow Ochre and a tickle of Vermilion… Later adding some of the Italian Roman Black Earth to get a nice shadow tone.
We also muted and warmed up the Galena Grey / New Titanium White mix by adding a “wash” of burnt umber, Italian black roman earth and flemish white.
National Gallery: 2 days before the Venus. Sitting in front of her as I write.
It really is about solidity: the ability of a color to hold a space and how visual strength of the color depends on its thickness.
I had previously asked the question: “are there areas of painting that are painted thinly but represent the illusion of solid forms, like stone, flesh etc?”
But it is the opposite that should be examined: are there areas that are painted thickly, yet not intended to hold the space? The thickness of paint, I think corresponds to two things: 1. The importance and power of the space and area and 2. The importance it plays in the overall balance of the composition.
Sweet Venus! See you day after tomorrow.
January 19th, Day 1 on Venus
Flesh tones are MUCH darker than anticipated. Using only vermilion, Flemish white, roman black earth and a touch of lemon ochre. Also, using walnut oil to draw, but stand oil and calcite to mix the body of the paint.
Still perfecting the drawing… Though I have played with some of the flesh colors on her bottom. Now back to the drawing…
January 20th, Day 2, 10:20 am, Last Day
Right away I saw the drawing that needs adjustment: bottom buttock needs to be longer to the right, maybe higher up.
Angle of back also need to arc a little higher to the right.
Head position looks good but I think the right arm needs to come lower. Yes, looking at it now the bottom of her thumb must be even with top left of where her shoulder meets her neck.
Need to make background much darker to get a better sense of light in figure; when my painting sits beneath the picture it appears to be brighter, but when it is on the easel it appears darker.
I have a very pink figure; I’ll need to think of ways to make her a little more golden and a little more blue (purple) in the shadows.
No guts, no glory.
Okay, I think I have figure a few things out:
- The drawing is better: elongated the lower buttock; lowered the right shoulder; fixed the arch of the back.
- Used some burnt umber with the roman black and red to work the shadow where the back meets bed sheet.I
- It’s the warm over cool! Plus the use of bull hair! Have used the Titan flesh over yesterday’s mixes.
- Plus ivory black to cool them off when needed.
- Note the Titian flesh is Cremnitz white in walnut oil + a Dan of crimson lake. It works well because of its transparency.
- Should also note that I’ve added some damar to my walnut oil.
- Also of note: my premix of lemon ochre and vermilion.
Now going to use a second bull hair brush to work the shadows around the neck…
2:18 pm, just back from lunch. The head needs to be smaller.
Saturday, January 21st – The Day After
Understanding flesh tones:
- Work only with roman black, lead white and vermilion. Get the drawing with a walnut medium. Use hog bristle brushes and a mix of black and red.
- Build form with solid contrasts, use palette knife if needed. Also use calcite carbonate to extend paint. CaCO3 Use stand oil as medium. Soften edges of form with large soft hog bristle. Let sit for day.
- Now starts the process of working from cool to less cool to warm. In the Venus copy, I’ve now switched to a medium of walnut oil with damar.
- Build flesh with the Titian Flesh: Cremnitz white in walnut oil + crimson lake. Switch to bull hair brushes to get better diaphanous flow. Vary the warm and cool with vermilion, lemon ochre and black; cool over shadows, warmer on flesh…. Though in some cases shadows will go warm (lower back of Venus where she is lying on the sheet).
- After building and smoothing form further with the above, use big bristle to unify.
- Now switch to Velazquez flesh and warm up the lights and reduce further the contrast between light and shadows. Then final touches with big brush, and there you have it.
Color Palette of Venus and Resulting Affects
Ground: galena grey + new titanium white, washed with burnt umber, lead white and roman black earth.
Roman Black Earth: top right background with varying body to creat the gradiation.
Lapis Lazili + Lemon Ochre + Ivory Black: bottom blue drape and covering chiffon. Note the extraordinary transparency covering her lower buttock! Also worth remembering that this was painted over an initial layer of blue painted with black and blue ultramarine.
Vermilion + Crimson Lake + Lead White: top right curtain, ribbon. Note: ribbons were one shot! Laid in shadows first, then pulled the whites and reds over the top.
Flemish White: laid over the under painting for the white sheet.
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The title says it all.
Fascinating insights into “human visual recognition systems” passed on to me by a friend about a month ago:
Many thanks, Sean!
Where there is Dogma, there is a Devil.
Annotation Summary for: Practice of Oil painting by Solomon J. Solomon
“spaces left” = negative space
The trickyness of foreshortening.
Drawing a means ro a definite end… Painting! Knowledge and accuracy!
Study the skull. Skin is of of different texture when tightly drawn versus loose parts where it is more fleshy.
Chapter II construction of the human figure.
24 inches high is the advisable size for a figure drawing…
Proportion is the first thing to consider and the most difficult to preserve.
Head = the proportion key.
First, get likeness to confirm correct proportions, then, and only then, the ears; from the ears, the neck.
Refer constantly to hand glass.
After head is satisfactory, draw neck and shoulders.
Success of a figure lies in the head to the neck to the shoulders…
One of the most difficult problems to contend with: placing the head on the shoulders.
Observe people, make mental notes of how their head attaches to their shoulders. Use the negative shapes to help you remember.
Plot armpits from shoulders, then distance from collar bone to armpits. From there you can indicate the pectoral markings.
Use head and neck as standard to plot the navel; find the triangle as it exists from pecks to the navel… This helps indicate the character and action of the torso.
Follow closely the center line from the neck to the base of the torso.
Use plumbs to establish relative positions…
In your drawings, everything must dovetail and fit…
Chapter III Construction of the head
Of great importance: the placement of the ear.
Ears: length of the nose; tops in line with the brow, lobes in line with the nostrils.
Answering shapes of the face. Example: a smile…
Copy the heads by Holbein!
Foreshortened passages always appear wider than they actually are… And how to correct this!
All solid masses have their beyond.
Chapter IV Characterisation
Reference frequently the model and drawing in a mirror!
Axiom: as we depart from the proportions of nature, we weaken the result!
Reynolds: the eye sees no more than it knows.
The delta of the face! Shapes of the head…
Make it a rule never to draw one side without the other.
Curves of the arm…
Once you have settled on proportions, paint the arm and hand in one sitting… Rarely are they posed twice alike. Van Dyck anecdote…
See that the foot plumbs well under the head… Use the plumb-line.
Images of legs…
Light and shade
The head, the feet, the knees and the lower part of the abdomen are generally richer in colour, and therefore lower in tone, than the rest of the figure.
VERY IMPORTANT: with but very few exceptions, every figure or solid object has one predominating light passage, and it stands to reason that every other light passage must be lowered in relation to it; the same applies to shadows.
YES! Definition of breadth.
“Where every one is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”. The secret? Squint!
How to manage when the light is too brilliant to be rendered by pigment?
The highlight on porcelain…
Photography is unwarrantly abused…
Ah, so how tone plays a role in its placement in space.
Do not paint the figure out of context…
Lay a sure foundation for your house, or the superstructure,which painting is, will be futile and of no avail.
Painting, Materials, Colors.
THIS IS WHAT RECENT PAINTINGS HAVE SUFFERED: You may take it for granted that no sense of freshness can be preserved after three, or at utmost four, coats od a similar tint have been laid solidly over each other on the canvas… When the grain is gone, all attempts to regain clearness are hopeless.
Steel plush mat. Erase paint and renew texture. What is this?
READ TO KINGSLEY: Oft-recurring exhibitions…
Originality is not affectation, but the frank expression of a personality.
Ground: a distinct tooth is a necessity.
Avoid toned ground… Leads to dullness. Hmmmm…?
Make sure palette is not less than 18 inches in length.
Get used to large brushes an inch or more across.
Palette knife should be trowel shaped.
Charcoal used for initial drawing.
FIND: wire plush mat as scraper!
Put cardboard between stretcher and canvas to avoid ineradicable ridges.
Colors and choice of pigments/palette
Excellent break down on various colors.
Bituminous pigments are responsible for destruction of Reynolds paintings.
Use fresh colors every day…
Do not starve your palette.
Luminosity is the rarest quality to attain and one of the finest.
Scrape up the paints on your palette to use as greys…
Mix some masses of light, half-tone, shadow to expedite the work.
Paint quantities indicated by size of circles…
Canvas size: 24 x 20 inches… Rarely use a canvas smaller than this.
If your painting is too brilliantly lighted, the image will suffer….
Bingo! After drawing with charcoal, blow off all but the faintest indication of the line, then paint over with a sable brush with raw umber.
Starting the monochrome copy: raw umber and white; mix 3 tones.
The actual painting stage really only begins when you paint into paint!
Let breadth and simplicity be you watchwords.
Textures in monochrome…read and reread.
Chapter X Still life in Color: learning alla prima.. Direct painting… Though “serious work” should be prepped in monochrome.
Charcoal drawing, blow away unnecessary blackness, clean with bread, paint in background first.
Mix middle tones, matching colors as you would silks or wools, and cover the rest of the canvas. Then paint shadows, then highlights, then broken passages. Before adding a different color over another, remove precious color with a palette knife.
Put painting next to still life, walk back as far as possible, compare with a hand-glass.
Be content only when the apples loom eatable.
In other words, see that the high lights are exactly their right tone, and not too light, and that all other lights and light masses are subordinate to what happens to be the highest light or light passages.
The part must always be subordinate to the whole.
If at the end of the day it is not satisfactory, scrape it away with a palette knife.
Paint with greater solidity; with less oil.
I ought perhaps to tell you that, except for the backgroun and shadows, you might paint all the more solid light passages without medium, if you wish to complete your study at one sitting.
Chapter XI: silver and china in color
Keep your color pure. Lay in the whole as before directed (the still life… Do this over the verdaccio underpainting)
You will get into messes often enough, and you must learn how to get out of them.
Begin with the object stronger in light and shade to set the key.
Chapter XIi Hints on Arrangements, Solecisms in Composition.
Study particularly the placing of heads, half and full length portraits and figures, and the main structural lines and color masses of decorative designs.
Placement of a head on a 24 x 20 inch page.
EXCELLENT! All pictures should be decorative… And there should be just accident enough in their arrangement fr them not to appear obviously arranged.
Creation of Adam and the Raising of the Brazen Serpent.
Chapter XIII painting from life in monochrome.
The sense of solidity and subtle modeling are due to the relation of tones, it is well to cultivate the habit of reducing every part and every color to it’s equivalent tone value.
Study the lighting of heads by Velazquez and van Dyck… A reproduction on your easel above the canvas might well seve as your guide… Gia’ fatto! 😉
Use brush to measure, paint slightly smaller than life.
Draw and then shade with charcoal, use q dry brush to model. From time to time put the drawing as close as possible, go back as far as possible and compare with a mirror.
Make all corrections in charcoal… Which resists little to a brush and none to bread!
Much correcting in paint is fatal to lucidity.
Set palette with white and raw umber.
The pure color of raw umber should be deep enough for the initial darks…
It is food practice to make the best use of restricted materials.
On managing your edges!
The planes of Velazquez…
Mark the quality of the skin in the forehead and bridge of the nose and the contrasted pulpiness where flesh is free of bone.
Check flesh values in relation to white…
Be careful in modeling round the eyes to preserve the globular feeling beneath the lids and to realize something of the liquid quality of the eyes themselves.
If there is any objectionable hardness or thinness, soften with a large dry brush.
Look to it that map of light and shade be correct. If necessary, use a penknife to scrape away the dark.
If a part dries dead; breath on it, then wipe off with a rag.
Cover the whole with wet paint?
It’s the recovering with wet paint that confuses me… With the same color?
More to learn from honest failure than mild success.
Chapter XIV Coloring a monochrome.
Coloring a monochrome means preparing the monochrome several tones lighter than nature, as if a semi-transparent paper were laid over a normal tonal study.
Then, when dry: paint the highest lights with Strf white; the shadows with Indian red and ivory black; the Greys and halftones with all colors mentioned + cobalt and a little oxide of chromium when needed… Covering the whole with a new skin of paint.
Begin with fluid mixture of middle tone, always higher in tone than nature, yet relatively just.
When the secon stage is dry, glaze in the yellow and red tones.
Sir Joshua Reynolds Painting method…
Reynolds obviously used his final colors with reference to the effect that was beneath them.
With the idea before him of a subsequent fuller coloring to be superimposed over a higher key in order to reduce the whole to the appropriate tone of nature.
Pure glazing may lower overmuch; add a little white with warm colors to obviate the loss of brilliancy.
Experience with this, as with all things, is a necessity.
Chapter XV Painting direct from life.
The palette for painting from life… two whites, yellow ochre, light red?, vermilion, rose madder, cobalt, emerald, oxide of chromium, raw and burnt umber and ivory black.
Star with Turp so the color dries dead and leaves the paint slightly absorbent… And that way, subsequent paintings with oil or varnish are less apt to shine unduly.
Never putdown two touches where one would suffice!
Use brushes that are awkwardly large; practice will enable you to manipulate them. They will sweep up the unnecessary detail.
Above all, assure a homogeneous skin… And look at heads by Velazquez!
Comparison of prepared and direct method…
A rich impasto, variety of texture, the beauty of underlying grey tones, a lasting luminosity, a sense oof oneness, are the distinguishing characteristics of the “monochrome.”. Vitality and spontaneity are perhaps more closely associated with direct painting.
Titian is said to have warmed his flesh with asphaltum, which is of a golden hue when applied thinly.
The grey tones are the severest test of a colorist’s capacity.
The greatest advantage of monochrome is this: if the glaze applied is not the desired hue, the glaze may be removed while leaving the underpainting in tact.
Further, if necessary to paint over, the white and light greys can only enhance the overpainting.
It is given to few to achieve a result which implies swiftness, dexterity, sureness, and just observation of color, tone and character in every touch.
Part II. Methods of the Masters
Chapter I methods of the masters.
FIND: book recs from Solomon… Mr. Hamerton’s. “Graphic Arts,” Eastlake, Mrs. Merrifield’s “Ancient Practice of Painting.”
A visit to the National Gallery… It is a sign!
Exceptional! A discussion on technical excellences… Have no counterpart in any other medium of thought.
Bronzino: Venus, Cupid, Folly, Time.
Chapter II Italian Schools
“”Luminosity” is the supreme test of the painter’s craft.
There is no caprice in Nature’s apparent favoritism.
Over-modeling is inimical to brilliancy and freshness.
Andrea del Sarto
Guido Reni – Grey Ground
Chapter III The School of Titian
Flesh initially painted with a color similar to the terra rossa ground, and the flesh was done very solidly…
The rich glazes were applied with fingers and thumb, and finally the whole was gilded either with a golden varnish or with asphaltum
Most notable achievement: the underlying grey.
Veronese on shadows and “passing clouds.” the point: invent your own shadows to move the eye and manipulate the composition.
Titian was the first to break up landscape masses with accidental light and shadow.
Madders glazed over a white ground with touches of Naples yellow like golden threads.
When oil and not varnish is used the glaze may evaporate.
Never trust in a glazing where a partial stumble is not added.
Mrs. Merrifield Titian anecdote: removal of glass frame… The glaze had evaporated and stuck to the glass!
Chapter IV the Italian school continued.
FIND: artist Paris Bordone, portrait of a lady.
Chapter V The Flemish School
Quote from Rubens on keeping white out of shadows and keeping color pure in the light.
Venus and Mars: note the warm brown shadows, broken touches of light and then the liquid melting of the scumble over the warmer ground. Liquid opalescence.
Van Dyck: witness the same scumble on the cheek of “van der geest”
Van Dyck portrait of van der geest
How best to copy this painting… Step 1. Brown grisaille; 2. Load light areas with stiff white and varnish medium; 3. Paint thinly the color of the whole, glazing the mouth and separately drawing some of the hair.
Look for grisaille study of van Dyck entitled Ronaldo and armida.
Chapter VI The Dutch School.
Rembrandt: portrait of an old lady
The woman bathing…
Note the rich unctuous properties have never been so thoroughly exploited.
Christ before pilate gives a clue to the first laying in…
An, so we are back to the woman bathing…
Here he explains how to paint the woman bathing: grey and white with loaded brush paint the shoulders and breasts, the chemise with a very liquid white added on a Greer ground with some touches of a palette knife; then shadows fairly transparent. IS HE RIGHT?
Ever keep the big things in view. Simplicity is the greatest virtue and the last achieved in any art.
Criticism of Rembrandt’s looseness; his reply, “I’m a painter, not a dyer.”
Luscious silver grey of the underground!
When wisely and discreetly left, the deposits of a real, not assumed enthusiasm, fired spontaneously in the warmth of production– then and then only, like the moving passion of the orator, they move us to a real admiration.
The Spanish School: Velazquez!
In every sense a realist, he stated the large facts with the broadest touch.
Unerring draughtsmanship and a just appreciation of value…
Compare early Philip to the Admiral
pLog! This is it: “The Admiral is bathed in air. The solidifying force of finely contrasted values and subtle colour-contrasts is now the master’s secret, which henceforth is to be a model throughout the generations. He now knows that a living illusion is not enhanced by rigid draperies accentuated equally throughout, but that movement is imparted by free handling, that real texture of surfaces was more perfectly suggested by color and tone-relations than by minute imitation of the passages detached from the general envelopment.” Again, the word “envelope.” isn’t that also I. The Carolus-Duran document?
The Admiral is a masterpiece of construction, bigness and tonal relief…
The figure of the Venus is first prepared in white…
Venus figure prepared in white, Indian Red and Black.
The small Philip IV is one of our treasures and should be copied.
WHite and red ground?
Pink greys suggest Indian red in the ground and in the last painting.
One of the finest examples of big yet subtle modeling: Vealazquez’s dwarf!
The finest example of the French school is Watteau.
Wax, medium and cracking. Joshua Reynolds: all good pictures crack.
There is always danger of pictures suffering that are done with a thick paste of color entirely concealing the grain of the canvas.
Gilded vs. silvery
Reynolds: example of the essential vs. non-essential.
To be a painter, he must first be a sound craftsman.
Later on you may attempt Van Dyck or Velazquez’s Phillip IV…!
Aids to Composition.
You may desire to make natural effects your chief aim, and if their lies your strength, by all means do; but do not at the same time forget to make the decorative.
Dipping draperies in a mixture of clay and water so they hold their form…
Solomon’s secret: covering a mill board with aspinall’s enamel and then, after it dries, cover with ivory black water color… Then pull out the light…!
Analysis of Titian Composition.
Titian analysis continued…
…make the search for the beautiful in all things your real pilgrimage through life.
Time invariably sobers the spirit that ostentatiously dissociates itself from the powers that were.
Let this thought make you tolerant.
PADASOR: know before hand the your fancy of today will give place to a new one tomorrow…
Page 278: Dutch school continued… Fran’s Hals
Page 309: practice of oil painting Solomon Page 309
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Dogma empowers the Charlatans.
Craft empowers the Sincere.
This past Sunday, July 8th, I went to see the newly restored “Raising of Lazarus” by Caravaggio on display through the 15th in Rome’s Palazzo Braschi. This was a “must see” for me, as the painting’s actual home is in Sicily. Having just visited Malta, this would also allow me to follow another chronological step forward in Caravaggio’s development: his escape from Malta took him first to Sicily. It was also a chance for me to finally visit the Palazzo Braschi, a place I have passed innumerable times (it’s right next to Piazza Navona), but until now, have never been inspired to visit.
With great anticipation I made my way up a grand marble staircase and through a series of corridors to where the painting awaited behind a make-shift entrance of panels printed with facts and details of the restoration. The darkened atmosphere reminded me of Malta; my excitement grew as I re-imagined the way in which The Beheading of John the Baptist had been so splendidly illuminated.
When I turned the final corner to see the painting, I couldn’t believe it. Glare.
The painting was lit so poorly that it was hard to see from a distance. Worse, the closer I got to the painting, the harder it was to see, especially key parts of the painting like the raised hand of Lazarus or the beckoning hand of Christ.
Shame on the museum and the curator of the show for such incompetence. I turned to the guard next to the painting and told him as much. He smiled and held out his hand, though I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret the gesture. As I shook his hand, I heard a woman’s voice over my left shoulder say, “I agree with you entirely,” and turning to see she too held out her hand, she added, “I am the person who restored the painting.”
Wow. That might be the first time ever that I’ve carelessly run my mouth and benefitted.
I spoke to Anna Marcone briefly about the restoration and in particular asked about how Caravaggio prepared the canvas, the composition and the pigments. Here are my notes:
- The darks were made up mostly of a Sicilian version of Terra Brusciata (“Burnt Sienna”) and black;
- The canvas was not first covered with a lead white base. Instead he covered the canvas with a mix of the Terra di Sicilia Brusciata and black and then scraped the drawing in with the tip of the brush handle;
- Ochre for yellow, Vermilion for red. His blue was an Azurite;
- The red of the robe on the right differs from the one on the left in that it is painted with a combination of Vermilion and Lead Tin Yellow (Naples Yellow with Lead).
After my extraordinary chance encounter, I took some time to try to try and get a better view. Perhaps what struck me most about the painting was how easy the darker moments of the painting could deceive my eye: just when I thought it couldn’t get any darker I would stumble across an even blacker patch of paint, like the moment under the lower hand of Lazarus.
I suspect that Caravaggio had by this time acquired a significant understanding on how to manipulate the lower range of his palette. It would be interesting to know how much the diversity of that palette was the result of premixed values or if it was achieved through multiple layers of the same color.
I did spend some time visiting the rest of the museum. I was struck by two other artists and their work:
Annotation Summary for: velasquez-RAM-stevenson
List of illustrations
The true effect of art is slow.
The energy and eloquence of a Ruskin and the sympathetic comprehension of a whistler or Carolus-Duran are needed for Madrid.
Delacroix; complaints of those who see beauty only in line.
Genius = a compound of original seeing, intellectual courage and some gift of expression.
… That you may not think at all,or act for yourself, is to add the very zest of piracy to experiment in life and originality in thought… A chest with a false bottom… The audacity of private thought.
Artist and King grew old together.
WHAT he painted concerned him less than HOW he painted.
YES! Transformation from hard realism to suavity of impressional beauty.?. Unrelaxing criticism of beauty distinguishes the highest order of artist alone.
Does this refer to me?…
Carl justi’s book… I have this, right?
One is apt to see too readily in a canvas what one reads in a book.
Periods of his life and work
V married his daughter Francisca to his pupil, J.B. Del Mazo… As V himself married Pacheco’s daughter.
V second trip to Rome, meets: Rosa, Bernini, Algardi, Poussin, paints Innocent X.
Sensitiveness to form and an interest in solid and direct painting.
Learned to model with surprising justness b ut for a long time he continued to treat a head in a group as he would if he saw it alone. Only slowly slowly he learnt the impression of a whole scene as the true motif of a picture.
Comparison of early Velazquez with the Venetians: he lacks unity of aspect. That aspect may have been more remote in it’s relation to nature, but it was certainly ampler and more decoratively beautiful.
V’s second period after his first trip to Italy brought a decorative character to his art.
Exceptional analysis: V relaxed his naturalism (meaning what, exactly?); not that he slackened his grip upon form, but he seems to have accepted in Italy the necessity for professional picture-making. His colors became a shade more positive or less bathed in light, and his unity to some extent an adopted decorative convention.
His third period starts with Innocent X.
Chapter III Comparison of the three stages of Velazquez
The traditional cult of beauty
“Surrender” follows the lead of his favorite Venetian masters.
Excellent analysis of Surrender: V combines decorative splendor and historical clearness with the subtle mysteries of real tone and the impressionistic unity that lift truth into poetry.
No subject in itself can make or mar art: subject is indifferent except for it’s favorable or unfavorable effect on the artist.
Simply genius: subject in painting differs from subject in literature…
Yes!!! Purpose determines expression, not subject! This IS IT.
Clumsy drawing. Another good description of B and even Cy.
Tricks of the metier.
Unequalled sensitiveness of this man’s eyesight.
Formal unity vs. Impressional unity. Could this be the same as pictorial unity and illusional unity? Bacchus vs. Surrender.
The unity of work of art should be organic and pervasive, like the blood in a man’s veins, which is carried down to his very toes.
BRILLIANT! Force in art is an affair of relation… Strong points in a picture kill each other.
Technique is the language of the eye.
Chapter IV the dignity of technique
Abstract and speculative vs. Concrete and sensuous.
Sentiment is not imagination; spirituality is not artistic feeling.
We are all spirits; it is not in spirituality that theai ter differs from us, but in that sensitive perception of visible character which enables him to imagine a picture all of a piece, all tending to express the same sentiment, all instinct and alive with feeling.
Pure art = music… Every shade of complicated emotion in a symphony by Beethoven depends entirely upon technique-that is to say, upon the relations established amongst notes which are by themselves empty of all significance.
None pursue the beauties intrinsic to their medium (until the 20th century)… All are double stars linked like Algol to a dark companion.
Record impression and decorate.
An artist must study how the eye takes in nature, and how it takes pleasure in a canvas; and he must learn to reconcile these two ways of seeing when they disagree, as sometimes may.
… No to e so bright that a brighter can’t make it dark.
An artist must be master of… Harmony, contrast, and gradation; but he must learn to obey e “laws of decorative effect.”
Modus vivendi must be found between the imitative and the decorative… And this compact may be called the convention of the art of painting.
Yes! To object to the conventionality of art is to believe in absolute realism, which, if possible, would be a science not an art. Continue…
Drawing a line on canvas commits you to art…
Different readings of the convention = variations: ideal form vs. Real form; local color or atmospheric, detail or general aspect.
Technique as important to an art as the body to man; both act for two hidden questionable partners, sentiment and soul.
Chapter V Composition of V
Draw by the eye = one thing is not more difficult than another.
V was not an embroiderer of given spaces but a trimmer of spaces to fit given impressions.
The vertical direction of las meninas…
Analysis of Veronese, marriage at Cana…
The surrounding must serve the figure…
Yet another definition for “illustration”…. And even then they knew a catalog could make a painting look better than it actually is.
Old master (renaissance) paintings built up by blocks of color.
The dignity, the quality, the sense of artistry in the presentation of a thing depends very much upon it’s proportion to surroundings.
It might be worth someone’s time to inquire into the sewing together of canvases…
V and Whistler: Truth is the introducer that bids these two shake hands over several centuries.
Hardness, confusion, and spottiness can be corrected only by a noble decorative ideal.
The art stowed away in las meninas…
PADASOR: the rule was and still is that every space must co-operate in the effect, but not necessarily by lines, agitated colours and defined forms… Top of las meninas as grand as the alps.
…an art that fits the eye. PLOG: My art is a testament to the pleasure of seeing… No, the intimacy of looking at another and knowing that you are looking.
Critique of Raphael’s Transfiguration.
Titian “Assumption” = “too unmysterious” ? Interesting! Cover the top half to suggest the mystery!
Explosion of color demands the sacrifice of tone… ?
YES! V uses the expression of space as well as expression of form to give character to his picture.
Impressionistic style vs. Realistic style…
V relied little on parallelism of line or whirlpools of curves leading the eye to the center…
… To a conventional society a realistic representation of human passions appears madness.
Two reasons why no one can lay down the law with assurance:
PADASOR: how V paints a face… Also gradations of tone to create intimacy… Ver nice idea!
Holbein vs. V. “while a painted Holbein differs very little in method and aim from a holbein drawing on paper, a picture by velazquez belongs altogether to another branch of art. Drawing vs. Painting. Mine. Barnes was right. Find fluidity I have in my drawing.
V in his later work not guilty of sub-compositions.
A study of Las meninas in England?
Some have it that V was working from a mirror…
Spinners was painted after Las Meninas…
FIND: Avenue of the Queen by V. Recalls Corot and Whistler, though neither ever saw it.
Also, Fountain of the Tritons…
Figures out of scale; Justi thinks they were added by Mazo.
V’s landscapes owe in part to a hazard of nature and to an accident of the way he looks at nature.
Of many qualities possible to painting and useful in composition, proportion is at once the most enduring in it’s effect, and the most unobtrusive in its compulsion to the eye.
A work of art should charm us both when we examine it and when we dream over it half-consciously.
Extraordinary! Proportion, like a fine day, puts us into a pleasurable frame of mind without conscious effort on our part…
… V’s art is less evident, less exciting at first, and less fatiguing afterwards. The more you know his work the more you see in it, and what appeared the most wonderful effort of artless realism becomes the most consummate finesse of art.
It is impossible to discriminate between good and bad color with scientific certainty.
Extravagant Venetian color vs. Natural poetry and sober dignity of a fine Velazquez.
Yes! … As this is so, I need scarcely apologize for speaking of my own feelings; art is meaningless without personality and its action can only be studied inits effect upon oneself.
Breda: unnaturally bright and spotty coloring.
THIS IS WHAT I THINK ABOUT TITIAN’S ARIADNE: To show strong color thus governed by the tone of the ensemble is not the same thing as to play with strong color in an artificial scheme of decorative harmonies, and you may count on your fingers the men who have done it with success.
All art is a convention… Use of color does not treat the mystery of real lighting with poetic insight.
There must be some who feel with me that many bright colors of extreme chromatic difference confound the perception of tone, and give the picture an air of insincerity, shallow pomp, and decorative flashiness. The solemn mystery of nature is lost for the sake of a costumier’s taste for courtly splendor.
Venetian art ( I.e. Use of color) is a triumph of artifice, not a great victory of the emotions.
To some, V appears to be a decorator with an unaccountable taste for certain cold harmonies of a restrained kind… Black and grey.
To the unthinking, color is absolute.
When we call a single color beautiful or ugly we unconsciously compare it with the general hue of nature as a background. Such is the power of relations within a key.
A good way of comparing realism to Impressionism.
Interesting: three categories: decorative, realistic, impressionist.
… No traces of glazing or saucing… V’s pictures are among the few that have not gained with time.
The general principle that unites the colors in hs late pictures is not a feeling for decorative fitness (which governed his middle period) nor is it a love of dark hues as seen in Ribera.
The principle instead revolves around a broader and more imaginative outlook upon the values of color as they are affected by juxtaposition, by atmospheric conditions and, above all, by their inclination to the source of light.
A change of plane on which a color lies tends to make it not only lighter or darker, but also changes it’s hue.
Analysis of Moenippus…
V flushes blacks with a greenish light… Like in the background in his crucified Christ.
Analysis of Vulcan: the rest of the picture consists of originally Gregory colors, drowned in brown vehicle.
Angel in christ at pillar is same as Apollo in Vulcan.
The Spinners: where real atmosphere plays upon the widest range of color.
Chapter VII His Modeling and Brushwork
Yes! What is the convention? Which is to say, what is the technique… “modeling is the basis of the art of painting, the master-trick of the craft, since it is imposed upon the painter by the very convention which compels him to express depths of space and inclinations of surface by shades of color laid on one plane.”
Impressionists are the descendants of the perspectivists; they fight not to show how things are but how they seem.
V passed from piecemeal modeling to impressionistic modeling.
Yes! V expressed form with the sorcery of truth… Vs. arbitrary modeling.
V taught himself not to over-model… Read this more carefully.
In a difficult passage of naturalistic modeling, painters are apt to take refuge in line, which contradict and destroy the consistency and mystery of revelation by true light.
Proportion, tone and the ensemble of the whole! Read from “it is said that in France…” to end of paragraph.
The ensemble of a scene hypnotized and fascinates an impressionist as if it were a real, personal, and indivisible entity and not a mere sum of small quantities.
Analysis of V’s Crucifiction
Handling is always discreet… Does not seek an effect of bravura dexterity. (Not sure I agree.)
V inclines to brush in the obvious direction… In some cases he smudges so subtly as to convey no sense of direct handling. The limb or object treated seems to grow mysteriously out of dusky depths and to be shaped by real light.
One cannot easily fathom the depth of his insight nor weary of his endless variety.
Notes on some pictures
Martinez montanes reminds one of Carolus Duran.
Yes! Aesop’s head supports the legend of “swaggering dexterity.”
Moenippus: accessories all bathed in liquid depths of air.
Analysis of las meninas…
FIND: J. B. Del Mazo
PADASOR: In all the best canvases of V, you will find the accessories vitalized by just degrees of force instead of being killed by an equal realization all over the canvas.
V’s style changed according to the aspect of each picture and not by preconceived principles.
PADASOR No lines are wanted to bring out the shapes; the painter’s science of values is all sufficient.
Chapter IX His relation to older art.
V taught himself to picture the impression made by any sight upon his brain.
… All true art originates in the personal predilections of an individual mind, and in personal sensitiveness to nature.
V was one who tampered the least with the integrity of his impression of the world.Every one of his pictures was a fresh effort, less at finding a new and striking subject than St realizing more absolutely a way of seeing things in general that was personal to him.
Scotch painter, John Lavery, “six months of copying Vwas not sufficient.
It is in the last dozen years of his life that V makes the most marvelous use of paint.
… You seem to be behind his eye…
In a word, his work is resembles the fine writing in which style is so docile a servant of matter, that it never draws attention to itself; you read as you might eat a meal in the Arabian Nights, served by invisible hands.
PADASOR Not nature, but man’s impression of nature should be complete and definite… In the hands of V these accomplishments never became mechanical, never degenerated from inspired seeing to trained labor.
PADASOR Need we fear to advance towards truth and accuracy, when he who adventures farthest seems to encourage us by the grandeur and surpassing sentiment that rewarded his devotion to the metier (craft)?
V’s influences: Caravaggio, Greco, Ribera, Sanchez Coello, Titian and Tintoretto.
V praised Titian’s execution and Tintoretto’s rendering of light and the just depth of space. (source? How do we know this?)… Here!…
Great anecdote of V talking about the Italians…
PADASOR … We could not wish artists otherwise; were they tepid to the beauties they see in the world, they could arouse in us but a feeble response to their works. Art without personal prejudice…
FIND: “Mary Tudor” by Antonio More
The Dutch, in their day, preferred Van der Helst to Rembrandt… It was in the cause of beauty that these great artists sacrificed the accurate map of the features that pleases family friends and the provision of hard accessories that ministers to family pride.
A painter may not with impunity take the free generous style of Titian and Rembrandt and correct it with a dose of patience and accuracy of tamer spirits. Grandeur and carefulness will usually quarrel like a medicine of I’ll-mixed ingredients in a patient’s stomach.
For what great thing can be done in art with only patience, method, and accuracy of eye? (And yet that is the spring board!)
Writers of V: Pacheco, Palomino, Sir W. Stirling Maxwell, Richard Ford, T. Thore’, Carl Justi…
A “realism of general aspect” that approaches the “convincing truth” of V
ECCO! Carolus-Duran: Duran set himself to teach art less on the venerable principle of outline than on a method adapted to his own fashion of looking at nature–by masses and constructive planes.
According to Duran, the whole art of expressing form should progress together and should consist in expressing it, as we see it, by light.
Duran regarded drawing as the art of placing things rightly in depth as well as in length and breadth; and for this purpose he would call attention to various aspects of form–the intersection and prolongation of imaginary lines, the shape of inclosed spaces, the interior contents of masses, the inclination of planes to light and the expression or characteristic tendency of any visible markings.
pLog: as in Greece, so in later Europe, it was portraiture that keptvart sincere and vital.
Analysis of Leonardo’s chiaroscuro, which he “describes too often consisting of an arbitrary passage from dark to light by the use of two or three stock tones brushed together.”
His name (V) was for ever in the mouth of Duran.
… The influence of Corot at the time was great.. I have heard Duran say, “when you go into the fields you will not see Corot; paint what you see.”
Reference to “Manual of Oil Painting” by John Collier!
When truth of impression became the governing ideal, V became the prophet of the new school.
Carolus-Duran teaching method: planes made with big brush strokes with the proper flesh tone. No preparation in color or monochrome, but the face must be laid in directly.
Duran’s studio described in the Nineteenth Century… You have this.
One point to make on flesh tones…!
Read this again…
Corot and Millet
FIND: the painter Henner.
pLog: The test if a new thing is not utility, which may appear at any moment… The test is the kind and amount of human feeling and intellect put into the work. Could any fool do it?
The modern idealist whose whole cause seems to be hatred of matter, of the truth, of the visible, of the real and a consequent craving for the spiritual, the non-material.
Interesting… Similar to what I wrote as my recent thesis…
EXCELLENT: The true artist’s thought is of his material, of its beauties, of its limitations, of its propriety to the task proposed. He has to achieve beauty, but under conditions–of fact, of decoration, of a medium.
It was not only his immediate subjects but the whole art of seeing that V dignified in his paintings.
Seeing like a child…
The modern painter should concern himself with what seems and not what is… Toy horses
…vulgarity of the cheap method which exaggerates outlines, and replaces tone and gradation by false explanatory definition.
Silly lines in portraits…
More on las meninas…
Leonardo… And painting on a plane of glass.
The problems of modeling, widths, depths, and fulness of interest are to be solved by artistic feeling!
Analysis of the meanings of Impressionism and realism…
The difference between a realist and impressionist…
Until every part of the picture has been observed in the subservience of the impression of the whole, completeness can never be even begun.
Shadows that fill with color when looked at alone…
The tricks that confound when trying to finish a picture…
YES, Hats that block the sunset… And change the color of the ground.
They expected you to begin a thing by finishing.
Marked up using iAnnotate on my iPad
Where Velázquez is Grace, Caravaggio is Guts.
Where Velázquez is Economy, Caravaggio is Ambiguity.
Many thanks to Charles for his gracious hospitality and inspiring exuberance.
(And thank you, Venchi, for what may be the best gelato ever.)