Tag Archive for: Velázquez

Book Note of the Day: the Importance of Instinct

Velazquez, like every great artist, tempered his method with doses of instinct.

—From Jonathan Brown and Carmen Garrido's "Technique of Genius", Yale University Press, 1998.

Notes on Copying Velázquez in the National Gallery

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

January 11th

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:

  1. Block in with raw umber and ivory black.
  2. Flesh started with vermilion, flemish white, ivory black, yellow ochre… Some touches of Lapis lazuli.
  3. Added burnt umber to palette for shadows and hair on right side.
  4. Eyes of black and some lapis.
  5. Kept edges soft!
  6. Built surface of background. Continued search for correct color. Mixed yellow ochre with ivory black to get more of the green tint.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


  1. Try T flesh mix?
  2. Try softer brush for background?

January 13th

First steps:

  1. 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??
  2. Face, check the drawing: height and width.
  3. Use test strip to check flesh color. Not sure T flesh is answer. Put V and T on test str and see.
  4. 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.

January 16th

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.

January 17th

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.

11:46 am

Okay, I think I have figure a few things out:

  1. The drawing is better: elongated the lower buttock; lowered the right shoulder; fixed the arch of the back.
  2. Used some burnt umber with the roman black and red to work the shadow where the back meets bed sheet.I
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. After building and smoothing form further with the above, use big bristle to unify.
  6. 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.

Sent from my iPad

Notes on R.A.M. Stevenson’s Velázquez

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

Page 15:

Page 17:
List of illustrations

Page 21:

Page 25:

Page 26:
The true effect of art is slow.

Page 26:
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

Page 32:
Genius = a compound of original seeing, intellectual courage and some gift of expression.

Page 32:
… 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.

Page 34:
WHAT he painted concerned him less than HOW he painted.

Page 34:
YES! Transformation from hard realism to suavity of impressional beauty.?. Unrelaxing criticism of beauty distinguishes the highest order of artist alone.

Page 34:
Does this refer to me?…

Page 37:
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.

Page 52:
Sensitiveness to form and an interest in solid and direct painting.

Page 52:
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.

Page 53:
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

Page 60:
“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…

Page 64:
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.

Page 69:
Unequalled sensitiveness of this man’s eyesight.

Page 69:
Formal unity vs. Impressional unity.  Could this be the same as pictorial unity and illusional unity?  Bacchus vs. Surrender.

Page 69:
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.

Page 70:
BRILLIANT! Force in art is an affair of relation… Strong points in a picture kill each other.

Page 75:
Technique is the language of the eye.

Page 76:
Chapter IV the dignity of technique

Page 76:
Abstract and speculative vs. Concrete and sensuous.

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

Page 78:
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…

Page 82:
Record impression and decorate.

Page 82:
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.

Page 82:
… No to e so bright that a brighter can’t make it dark.

Page 83:
An artist must be master of… Harmony, contrast, and gradation; but he must learn to obey e “laws of decorative effect.”

Page 83:
Modus vivendi must be found between the imitative and the decorative… And this compact may be called the convention of the art of painting.

Page 83:
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…

Page 84:
Different readings of the convention = variations: ideal form vs. Real form; local color or atmospheric, detail or general aspect.

Page 87:
Technique as important to an art as the body to man; both act for two hidden questionable partners, sentiment and soul.

Page 88:
Chapter V Composition of V

Page 88:
Draw by the eye = one thing is not more difficult than another.

Page 88:
V was not an embroiderer of given spaces but a trimmer of spaces to fit given impressions.

Page 89:
The vertical direction of las meninas…

Page 89:
Analysis of Veronese, marriage at Cana…

Page 90:
The surrounding must serve the figure…

Page 93:
Yet another definition for “illustration”…. And even then they knew a catalog could make a painting look better than it actually is.

Page 93:
Old master (renaissance) paintings built up by blocks of color.

Page 97:
The dignity, the quality, the sense of artistry in the presentation of a thing depends very much upon it’s proportion to surroundings.

Page 97:
It might be worth someone’s time to inquire into the sewing together of canvases…

Page 98:
V and Whistler: Truth is the introducer that bids these two shake hands over several centuries.

Page 101:
Hardness, confusion, and spottiness can be corrected only by a noble decorative ideal.

Page 102:
The art stowed away in las meninas…

Page 106:
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.

Page 106:
…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.

Page 106:
Critique of Raphael’s Transfiguration.

Page 107:
Titian “Assumption” = “too unmysterious” ?  Interesting!  Cover the top half to suggest the mystery!

Page 107:
Explosion of color demands the sacrifice of tone… ?

Page 107:
YES!  V uses the expression of space as well as expression of form to give character to his picture.

Page 107:
Impressionistic style vs. Realistic style…

Page 108:
V relied little on parallelism of line or whirlpools of curves leading the eye to the center…

Page 111:
… To a conventional society a realistic representation of human passions appears madness.

Page 112:
Two reasons why no one can lay down the law with assurance:

Page 112:
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.

Page 113:
A study of Las meninas in England?

Page 114:
Some have it that V was working from a mirror…

Page 114:
Spinners was painted after Las Meninas…

Page 118:
FIND: Avenue of the Queen by V.  Recalls Corot and Whistler, though neither ever saw it.

Page 122:
Also, Fountain of the Tritons…

Page 122:
Figures out of scale; Justi thinks they were added by Mazo.

Page 122:
V’s landscapes owe in part to a hazard of nature and to an accident of the way he looks at nature.

Page 122:
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.

Page 122:
A work of art should charm us both when we examine it and when we dream over it half-consciously.

Page 123:
Extraordinary!  Proportion, like a fine day, puts us into a pleasurable frame of mind without conscious effort on our part…

Page 123:
… 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.

Page 124:
It is impossible to discriminate between good and bad color with scientific certainty.

Page 124:
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.

Page 124:
Breda: unnaturally bright and spotty coloring.

Page 125:
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.

Page 125:
All art is a convention… Use of color does not treat the mystery of real lighting with poetic insight.

Page 128:
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.

Page 128:
Venetian art ( I.e. Use of color) is a triumph of artifice, not a great victory of the emotions.

Page 129:
To some, V appears to be a decorator with an unaccountable taste for certain cold harmonies of a restrained kind… Black and grey.

Page 129:
To the unthinking, color is absolute.

Page 129:
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.

Page 130:
A good way of comparing realism to Impressionism.

Page 130:
Interesting: three categories: decorative, realistic, impressionist.

Page 134:
… No traces of glazing or saucing… V’s pictures are among the few that have not gained with time.

Page 134:
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.

Page 134:
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.

Page 134:
A change of plane on which a color lies tends to make it not only lighter or darker, but also changes it’s hue.

Page 135:
Analysis of Moenippus…

Page 135:
V flushes blacks with a greenish light… Like in the background in his crucified Christ.

Page 138:
Analysis of Vulcan: the rest of the picture consists of originally Gregory colors, drowned in brown vehicle.

Page 138:
Angel in christ at pillar is same as Apollo in Vulcan.

Page 139:
The Spinners: where real atmosphere plays upon the widest range of color.

Page 142:
Chapter VII His Modeling and Brushwork

Page 142:
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.”

Page 142:
Impressionists are the descendants of the perspectivists; they fight not to show how things are but how they seem.

Page 143:
V passed from piecemeal modeling to impressionistic modeling.

Page 146:
Yes! V expressed form with the sorcery of truth… Vs. arbitrary modeling.

Page 148:
V taught himself not to over-model… Read this more carefully.

Page 148:
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.

Page 149:
Proportion, tone and the ensemble of the whole!  Read from “it is said that in France…” to end of paragraph.

Page 149:
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.

Page 153:
Analysis of V’s Crucifiction

Page 157:
Handling is always discreet… Does not seek an effect of bravura dexterity.  (Not sure I agree.)

Page 157:
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.

Page 160:
One cannot easily fathom the depth of his insight nor weary of his endless variety.

Page 161:
Chapter VIII
Notes on some pictures

Page 162:
Martinez montanes reminds one of Carolus Duran.

Page 163:
Yes! Aesop’s head supports the legend of “swaggering dexterity.”

Page 163:
Moenippus: accessories all bathed in liquid depths of air.

Page 166:
Analysis of las meninas…

Page 172:
FIND: J. B. Del Mazo

Page 172:
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.

Page 172:

Page 173:
V’s style changed according to the aspect of each picture and not by preconceived principles.

Page 173:
PADASOR No lines are wanted to bring out the shapes; the painter’s science of values is all sufficient.

Page 177:
Chapter IX His relation to older art.

Page 177:
V taught himself to picture the impression made by any sight upon his brain.

Page 180:
… All true art originates in the personal predilections of an individual mind, and in personal sensitiveness to nature.

Page 180:
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.

Page 180:
Scotch painter, John Lavery, “six months of copying Vwas not sufficient.

Page 181:
It is in the last dozen years of his life that V makes the most marvelous use of paint.

Page 184:
… You seem to be behind his eye…

Page 184:
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.

Page 184:
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.

Page 184:
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)?

Page 184:
V’s influences: Caravaggio, Greco, Ribera, Sanchez Coello, Titian and Tintoretto.

Page 185:
V praised Titian’s execution and Tintoretto’s rendering of light and the just depth of space. (source? How do we know this?)… Here!…

Page 185:
Great anecdote of V talking about the Italians…

Page 186:
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…

Page 186:
FIND: “Mary Tudor” by Antonio More

Page 187:
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.

Page 190:
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.

Page 190:
For what great thing can be done in art with only patience, method, and accuracy of eye?  (And yet that is the spring board!)

Page 194:
Chapter X

Page 194:
Writers of V: Pacheco, Palomino, Sir W. Stirling Maxwell, Richard Ford, T. Thore’, Carl Justi…

Page 195:
A “realism of general aspect” that approaches the “convincing truth” of V

Page 195:
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.

Page 195:
According to Duran, the whole art of expressing form should progress together and should consist in expressing it, as we see it, by light.

Page 196:
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.

Page 197:
pLog: as in Greece, so in later Europe, it was portraiture that keptvart sincere and vital.

Page 197:
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.”

Page 197:
His name (V) was for ever in the mouth of Duran.

Page 197:
… 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.”

Page 200:
Reference to “Manual of Oil Painting” by John Collier!

Page 200:
When truth of impression became the governing ideal, V became the prophet of the new school.

Page 200:
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.

Page 202:
Duran’s studio described in the Nineteenth Century… You have this.

Page 202:
One point to make on flesh tones…!

Page 202:
Read this again…

Page 206:
Corot and Millet

Page 206:
FIND: the painter Henner.

Page 208:
Chapter XI

Page 209:
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?

Page 209:
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.

Page 212:
Interesting… Similar to what I wrote as my recent thesis…

Page 212:
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.

Page 212:
It was not only his immediate subjects but the whole art of seeing that V dignified in his paintings.

Page 213:
Seeing like a child…

Page 213:
The modern painter should concern himself with what seems and not what is… Toy horses

Page 216:
…vulgarity of the cheap method which exaggerates outlines, and replaces tone and gradation by false explanatory definition.

Page 216:
Silly lines in portraits…

Page 217:
More on las meninas…

Page 220:
Leonardo… And painting on a plane of glass.

Page 221:
The problems of modeling, widths, depths, and fulness of interest are to be solved by artistic feeling!

Page 222:
Analysis of the meanings of Impressionism and realism…

Page 223:
The difference between a realist and impressionist…

Page 226:
Until every part of the picture has been observed in the subservience of the impression of the whole, completeness can never be even begun.

Page 226:
Shadows that fill with color when looked at alone…

Page 227:
The tricks that confound when trying to finish a picture…

Page 227:
YES,  Hats that block the sunset… And change the color of the ground.

Page 228:
They expected you to begin a thing by finishing.

Marked up using iAnnotate on my iPad

pLog Pith X

Where Velázquez is Grace, Caravaggio is Guts.

Where Velázquez is Economy, Caravaggio is Ambiguity.

The Holy Grail of Flesh Tones, Part II: Velazquez

A funny thing happened the other day as I was googling through the web universe in search of greater enlightenment on flesh tones… Read more

The Library of Velazquez

Often before I leave on a trip I print and assemble a packet of articles to read along the way.  In the Summer of 2010 I collected a series of essays and investigations on Velazquez.  These included:

  • “Sargent after Velazquez” by Richard Ormond and Mary Pixley pulished in The Burlington Magazine in September of 2003;
  • “Velazquez as Connoisseur” by Enriqueta Harris published in The Burlington Magazine in July of 1982;
  • “Two Letters from Camillo Massimi to Diego Velazquez” by Jose’ Luis Colomer and Enriqueta Harris published in The Burlington Magazine in August of 1994;
  • “Velazquez’s Portrait of Camillo Massimi” by Enriqueta Harris published in The Burlington Magazine in August of 1958;
  • “Velazquez and the Queen of Hungary” by Enriqueta Harris and John Elliott published in T The Burlington Magazine published in January of 1976;
  • “The Problem of Velazquez’s Drawings” by Gridley McKim-Smith published in Master Drawings, Vol. 18, No. 1 in the Spring of 1980.

But there was one last essay that revealed a piece of information I found intriguing to the point of intoxication… and have headily dwelt on it these past several months.  In fact, I’ve even written (via email) to the Prado museum asking for further information.  I have yet to get an answer.

The work is entitled “New Facts About Velazquez,” written by F. J. Sanchez Cantón and published in The Burlington Magazine in December of 1945.  (If you are wondering how I got so much material regarding The Burlington Magazine, check out your friendly neighborhood JSTOR.)  In it, the author reveals that upon Velazquez’s death, an inventory was taken of his worldly belongings, which included his library.  Mr. Sanchez Cantón had the opportunity to view this inventory in 1925 and then goes on to say: “In 1942, I succeeded in publishing the inventory in full.”

Despite my reasonable research skills, I have not yet found this.


Read more

pLog Pith V

If you want Warhol
walk the aisle of a supermarket

If you want Koons
watch VHS porn

If you want Hirst
visit the morgue


If you want Caravaggio
build a bonfire in a cave

If you want Velazquez
plan a trip to the moon with a sliderule

If you want da Vinci
hike the highest mountain in Abruzzo in May


A Story About Jan

Here is what happened: I just listened to the story on NPR about Plato, which mentions Pythagoras, which makes me think “Art = Math”, which makes me think Velazquez, then Las Meninas, then I remembered mentioning that in a short story I wrote while rafting through the Grand Canyon in 2008.

Here is that story:

A Story About Jan

The First of Many

(Changed from the previous title: How Unspeakable Acts of Wickedness Shape my World View.)

Jan denied me an M&M again today.  As her boat came along side mine I said:

“Hey, Jan!  Throw me an M&M!”

She shook her head.  “Only for my boat,” she said, and drifted past.

Of course, it is important to keep such moments of pain and unrequited pleasure in perspective, but I am slow in doing so.  I reluctantly hear the voice of my father float back from down stream, from a past, not a future, and it reprises the irritating truth:

“In twenty years, who’s going to care?”

But in a river of walls that has seen its share of twenties, truth begs revision.  How deep yet subtle our solipsism sets its roots and shapes our thinking.  From now on I’ll say:

“In a billion years, who’s going to care?”

From now on I will begin discussions on precious art with the preamble that ten billion years from now our sun will explode–so Meredith says–and the finger of Thomas will melt away in the wound of Caravaggio’s Christ and the angelic face in Velazquez’s Meninas will incinerate.  From now on I will tempt others with the unpopular:  When measuring the probabilities of miracles, the most probable is the one you are living.

If nothing else, these ruminations are a satisfying distraction.  A good way to keep my head up, to keep looking down stream, to the future, not the past.

Ahead I see Jan’s boat.  Maybe tomorrow she’ll give me an M&M.

On the Colorado River, Grand Canyon
August 17th, 2008

PS  Later in the afternoon I read Jan my story.  That night she gave me a beer.

Note to self:  write more stories about Jan.

V for Velázquez

I’ve begun reading the essays included in a catalog I picked up last May while visiting the Prado and so far the first one is truly fantastic (if only all art analysis were written with such grace and clarity!).

The catalog is called Velázquez’s Fables and the first essay is entitled “Velázquez as History Painter: Rivalry, Eminence and Artistic Conciousness” written by Javier Portús (I’m guessing that whoever translated should be given credit for a wonderful translation, though perhaps dear Señor Portús also writes in English?).  Please note, I’ve added this catalog to the Bibliography.

I’d like to share two excerpts, first an anecdote:

Antonio Palomino published the first in-depth biography of Velázquez in 1724.  This account, which promplty served to distinguish the artist as a unique figure in the history of Spanish painting, still proves an indeispensable reference work on Velázquez as an individual and on the context in which he developed his work.  One of the paragraphs in this Life that merits attention is the one in which the author elucidated the reasons behind the painter’s unrivalled position in the Spanish court: “He was very pithy in his remarks and repartee: His Majesty said to him one day that there were not lacking poeple who declared that his skill was limited to knowing how to paint a head; to which he replied: ‘Sire, they favour me greatly, for I do not know that there is anyone who can paint a head.’  What a remarkable reaction to jealousy in a man who had proved his universal command of the art….”

Second, a keen analysis:

… another crucial aspect of Velázquez’s career and of the history of painting itself, namely, that formal conquests advance narrative discoveries.  Hence, the more sophisticated the tools of representation the artist has at his command, the greater the means at his disposal to construct a complex narrative plot… whereas in the aforementioned early work the elements that can be imbued with meaning (the old woman and the young maid, the objects on the table, adn the background scene) are independent of one another and their integration proves somewhat awkward, in the Fable of Arachne there is a very fluid interrelation between the different elements and they all serve to make up a coherent whole.

Exceptional writing, exceptional insight.  Thank you, Javier!