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Notes on R.A.M. Stevenson’s Velázquez

Annotation Summary for: velasquez-RAM-stevenson
Page 11:
Cover

Page 15:
TOC

Page 17:
List of illustrations

Page 21:
Bibliography

Page 25:
Introduction

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The true effect of art is slow.

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The energy and eloquence of a Ruskin and the sympathetic comprehension of a whistler or Carolus-Duran are needed for Madrid.

Page 27:
Delacroix; complaints of those who see beauty only in line.

Page 28:
Chapter 1

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Genius = a compound of original seeing, intellectual courage and some gift of expression.

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… 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.

Page 33:
Artist and King grew old together.

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WHAT he painted concerned him less than HOW he painted.

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YES! Transformation from hard realism to suavity of impressional beauty.?. Unrelaxing criticism of beauty distinguishes the highest order of artist alone.

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Does this refer to me?…

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Carl justi’s book… I have this, right?

Page 37:
One is apt to see too readily in a canvas what one reads in a book.

Page 38:
Chapter II
Periods of his life and work

Page 48:
V married his daughter Francisca to his pupil, J.B. Del Mazo… As V himself married Pacheco’s daughter.

Page 51:
V second trip to Rome, meets: Rosa, Bernini, Algardi, Poussin, paints Innocent X.

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Sensitiveness to form and an interest in solid and direct painting.

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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.

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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.

Page 53:
V’s second period after his first trip to Italy brought a decorative character to his art.

Page 54:
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.

Page 54:
His third period starts with Innocent X.

Page 59:
Chapter III Comparison of the three stages of Velazquez

Page 59:
The traditional cult of beauty

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“Surrender” follows the lead of his favorite Venetian masters.

Page 63:
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.

Page 63:
No subject in itself can make or mar art: subject is indifferent except for it’s favorable or unfavorable effect on the artist.

Page 64:
Simply genius: subject in painting differs from subject in literature…

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Yes!!!  Purpose determines expression, not subject!  This IS IT.

Page 65:
Clumsy drawing.  Another good description of B and even Cy.

Page 66:
Las Meninas

Page 66:
Tricks of the metier.

Page 66:
The geographer.

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Unequalled sensitiveness of this man’s eyesight.

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Formal unity vs. Impressional unity.  Could this be the same as pictorial unity and illusional unity?  Bacchus vs. Surrender.

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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.

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BRILLIANT! Force in art is an affair of relation… Strong points in a picture kill each other.

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Technique is the language of the eye.

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Chapter IV the dignity of technique

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Abstract and speculative vs. Concrete and sensuous.

Page 78:
Sentiment is not imagination; spirituality is not artistic feeling.

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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.

Page 81:
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.

Page 81:
None pursue the beauties intrinsic to their medium (until the 20th century)… All are double stars linked like Algol to a dark companion.

Page 81:
Four Principles…

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Record impression and decorate.

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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.

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… No to e so bright that a brighter can’t make it dark.

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An artist must be master of… Harmony, contrast, and gradation; but he must learn to obey e “laws of decorative effect.”

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Modus vivendi must be found between the imitative and the decorative… And this compact may be called the convention of the art of painting.

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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…

Page 83:
Drawing a line on canvas commits you to art…

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Different readings of the convention = variations: ideal form vs. Real form; local color or atmospheric, detail or general aspect.

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Technique as important to an art as the body to man; both act for two hidden questionable partners, sentiment and soul.

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Chapter V Composition of V

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Draw by the eye = one thing is not more difficult than another.

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V was not an embroiderer of given spaces but a trimmer of spaces to fit given impressions.

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The vertical direction of las meninas…

Page 89:
Analysis of Veronese, marriage at Cana…

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The surrounding must serve the figure…

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Yet another definition for “illustration”…. And even then they knew a catalog could make a painting look better than it actually is.

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Old master (renaissance) paintings built up by blocks of color.

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The dignity, the quality, the sense of artistry in the presentation of a thing depends very much upon it’s proportion to surroundings.

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It might be worth someone’s time to inquire into the sewing together of canvases…

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V and Whistler: Truth is the introducer that bids these two shake hands over several centuries.

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Hardness, confusion, and spottiness can be corrected only by a noble decorative ideal.

Page 102:
The art stowed away in las meninas…

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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.

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…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.

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Critique of Raphael’s Transfiguration.

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Titian “Assumption” = “too unmysterious” ?  Interesting!  Cover the top half to suggest the mystery!

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Explosion of color demands the sacrifice of tone… ?

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YES!  V uses the expression of space as well as expression of form to give character to his picture.

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Impressionistic style vs. Realistic style…

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V relied little on parallelism of line or whirlpools of curves leading the eye to the center…

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… To a conventional society a realistic representation of human passions appears madness.

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Two reasons why no one can lay down the law with assurance:

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PADASOR: how V paints a face… Also gradations of tone to create intimacy… Ver nice idea!

Page 112:
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.

Page 113:
V in his later work not guilty of sub-compositions.

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A study of Las meninas in England?

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Some have it that V was working from a mirror…

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Spinners was painted after Las Meninas…

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FIND: Avenue of the Queen by V.  Recalls Corot and Whistler, though neither ever saw it.

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Also, Fountain of the Tritons…

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Figures out of scale; Justi thinks they were added by Mazo.

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V’s landscapes owe in part to a hazard of nature and to an accident of the way he looks at nature.

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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.

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A work of art should charm us both when we examine it and when we dream over it half-consciously.

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Extraordinary!  Proportion, like a fine day, puts us into a pleasurable frame of mind without conscious effort on our part…

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… 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.

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It is impossible to discriminate between good and bad color with scientific certainty.

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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.

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Breda: unnaturally bright and spotty coloring.

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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.

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All art is a convention… Use of color does not treat the mystery of real lighting with poetic insight.

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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.

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Venetian art ( I.e. Use of color) is a triumph of artifice, not a great victory of the emotions.

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To some, V appears to be a decorator with an unaccountable taste for certain cold harmonies of a restrained kind… Black and grey.

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To the unthinking, color is absolute.

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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.

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A good way of comparing realism to Impressionism.

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Interesting: three categories: decorative, realistic, impressionist.

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… No traces of glazing or saucing… V’s pictures are among the few that have not gained with time.

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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.

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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.

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A change of plane on which a color lies tends to make it not only lighter or darker, but also changes it’s hue.

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Analysis of Moenippus…

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V flushes blacks with a greenish light… Like in the background in his crucified Christ.

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Analysis of Vulcan: the rest of the picture consists of originally Gregory colors, drowned in brown vehicle.

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Angel in christ at pillar is same as Apollo in Vulcan.

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The Spinners: where real atmosphere plays upon the widest range of color.

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Chapter VII His Modeling and Brushwork

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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.”

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Impressionists are the descendants of the perspectivists; they fight not to show how things are but how they seem.

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V passed from piecemeal modeling to impressionistic modeling.

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Yes! V expressed form with the sorcery of truth… Vs. arbitrary modeling.

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V taught himself not to over-model… Read this more carefully.

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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.

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Proportion, tone and the ensemble of the whole!  Read from “it is said that in France…” to end of paragraph.

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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.

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Analysis of V’s Crucifiction

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Handling is always discreet… Does not seek an effect of bravura dexterity.  (Not sure I agree.)

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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.

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One cannot easily fathom the depth of his insight nor weary of his endless variety.

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Chapter VIII
Notes on some pictures

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Martinez montanes reminds one of Carolus Duran.

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Yes! Aesop’s head supports the legend of “swaggering dexterity.”

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Moenippus: accessories all bathed in liquid depths of air.

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Analysis of las meninas…

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FIND: J. B. Del Mazo

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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.

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Sargent

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V’s style changed according to the aspect of each picture and not by preconceived principles.

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PADASOR No lines are wanted to bring out the shapes; the painter’s science of values is all sufficient.

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Chapter IX His relation to older art.

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V taught himself to picture the impression made by any sight upon his brain.

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… All true art originates in the personal predilections of an individual mind, and in personal sensitiveness to nature.

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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.

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Scotch painter, John Lavery, “six months of copying Vwas not sufficient.

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It is in the last dozen years of his life that V makes the most marvelous use of paint.

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… You seem to be behind his eye…

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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.

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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.

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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)?

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V’s influences: Caravaggio, Greco, Ribera, Sanchez Coello, Titian and Tintoretto.

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V praised Titian’s execution and Tintoretto’s rendering of light and the just depth of space. (source? How do we know this?)… Here!…

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Great anecdote of V talking about the Italians…

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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…

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FIND: “Mary Tudor” by Antonio More

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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.

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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.

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For what great thing can be done in art with only patience, method, and accuracy of eye?  (And yet that is the spring board!)

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Chapter X

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Writers of V: Pacheco, Palomino, Sir W. Stirling Maxwell, Richard Ford, T. Thore’, Carl Justi…

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A “realism of general aspect” that approaches the “convincing truth” of V

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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.

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According to Duran, the whole art of expressing form should progress together and should consist in expressing it, as we see it, by light.

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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.

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pLog: as in Greece, so in later Europe, it was portraiture that keptvart sincere and vital.

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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.”

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His name (V) was for ever in the mouth of Duran.

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… 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.”

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Reference to “Manual of Oil Painting” by John Collier!

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When truth of impression became the governing ideal, V became the prophet of the new school.

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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.

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Duran’s studio described in the Nineteenth Century… You have this.

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One point to make on flesh tones…!

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Read this again…

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Corot and Millet

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FIND: the painter Henner.

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Chapter XI

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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?

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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.

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Interesting… Similar to what I wrote as my recent thesis…

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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.

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It was not only his immediate subjects but the whole art of seeing that V dignified in his paintings.

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Seeing like a child…

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The modern painter should concern himself with what seems and not what is… Toy horses

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…vulgarity of the cheap method which exaggerates outlines, and replaces tone and gradation by false explanatory definition.

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Silly lines in portraits…

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More on las meninas…

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Leonardo… And painting on a plane of glass.

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The problems of modeling, widths, depths, and fulness of interest are to be solved by artistic feeling!

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Analysis of the meanings of Impressionism and realism…

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The difference between a realist and impressionist…

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Until every part of the picture has been observed in the subservience of the impression of the whole, completeness can never be even begun.

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Shadows that fill with color when looked at alone…

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The tricks that confound when trying to finish a picture…

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YES,  Hats that block the sunset… And change the color of the ground.

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They expected you to begin a thing by finishing.

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