Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N

Y

One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.

 

 

 

here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).

 

mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.

References:

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

 

New Sketchbook

Doing so much reading about art and no ‘doing’, I’ve started a sketchbook. I haven’t had a sketchbook (or really a desire for one) since I did my A-level art about 20years ago. I’m really enjoying it too. I’ll have more time for it once the course finishes obviously but I try to get to it every few days. I’ve even gone to a couple of drop in life drawing classes. At the moment there’s lots of half-finished things in there. Now I’m coming up to my final assignment and see the light at the end of the book reading tunnel I’ll be able to go back to it.

I kept a visual diary of for July, trying to see or do something visually interesting every day. I’m not planning to submit it for the course (I still plan on a digital only submission) but I thought I’d mention it as a positive affect the course has had. I also have a pin hole camera to start playing with once the course ends. It will be really interesting to go back to those chapters in the WHA and re-evaluate in light of practical application (but again this will be once the course finishes for my own development).

Fauvism experiment

I was finger painting with my daughter (who only has primary colours) and tried a little experiment to paint her in a fauvist manner. It turns out to be really hard. The dodgy brushes notwithstanding, choosing the colours for the face from primary colours is quite alarming.

Hadleigh Castle Revisited

So following on from the first watercolour experiment I thought I’d have another go. I reviewed my reflection notes and to combat the curling sketchpad paper problem I raided the stationary for these —>

There was nothing I could do about the time limit issue, but to combat the cold and unpleasant outdoor experience I painted indoors from a photo I’d taken of a place I know very well, the ruins of 13th Century Hadleigh Castle. I was able to paint over 3 lunchtimes that way. Here is my finished picture:

Hadleigh Castle, Watercolour on paper
I was standing right on the edge of a drop here so Constable’s view no longer exists

In the eighteenth century ruins were a very popular topic for artists. Constable and J.M.W. Turner were among those who toured Britain in search of ruins and picturesque landscapes. I picked on Hadleigh because it is one of the locations that Constable had painted at. This view point isn’t exactly as his was because the area has changed quite a bit in the last almost 200 years. Whatever high viewing place he was situated on no longer exists. Neither does the large tree or half of the castle ruins. It also looks as though we’ve reclaimed a lot more land because I could only see the sea as a tiny blue line in the distance from where I stood.

Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night. 1829
John Constable, 1776–1837.
Oil on canvas
48 x 64 3/4 inches (121.9 x 164.5 cm)
© Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Reflection:

My paining is not as true to life as the photo. It would have been easier to paint if i hadn’t added the clouds but I thought it needed something other than blue sky. Also, Constable always had interesting skies in his pictures. He took scientific study of clouds to get them more accurate. Also, the colour of my sky is wrong, too deep. I enjoyed experimenting with the brush to create the different textures for the greenery but this wasn’t very 18th C of me because they were painstakingly meticulous and would have drawn it all much more accurately than I have the patience for unfortunately. I think this sketch was more successful than the last one (of St Pauls), because I am more comfortable indoors generally. I would not have had the time to paint this scene from life because it’s too far from London for a lunchtime jaunt and at the weekends I have my toddler with me. Also, the clips (and lack of wind) really helped with curling paper situation. I toyed with the idea or adding some people but in the end decided against it.

Constable’s Castle

Constable also didnt do his giant canvas in the field, he created this pencil sketch in 1814, the only time he visited Hadleigh.

He wrote to his future wife Maria: ‘At Hadleigh there is a ruin of a castle which from its situation is a really fine place – it commands a view of the Kent hills, the Nore and North Foreland & looking many miles to sea’ (letter of 3 July 1814; in R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable’s Correspondence, II, Ipswich 1964, p.127).(Tate, 1998)

Hadleigh Castle, near Southend
Pencil, Page from a sketch book. Pencil drawing of Hadleigh castle.
8.3 cm x 11.1 cm
Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From that he made some oil sketches such as this one in the Tate to work out any kinks in the compositional details:

Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c.1828-9 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased 1935 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04810
© Tate 2017, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

As an aside, the technical paper on this sketch is very interesting. Explaing how they know that someone other than Constable has extended the canvas to add to the sketch and composition on the left (and slightly less on the right). Even in the small reproduction, once its been pointed out, you can clearly see the slightly yellow tone to the edge of the sky on the left and far right.

Constable started painting his 6 footers in 1818, and he submitted his Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1829, the year in which he was elected an Academician.

Constable’s wife Maria died in November 1828, and the sombre, desolate tone of the work is generally assumed to reflect his mood at this time. In a letter of 19 December of that year, he wrote to his brother Golding: ‘I shall never feel again as I have felt, the face of the World is totally changed to me‘ (in C.R. Leslie, ed. Hon. Andrew Shirley, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., London 1937, p.234). (Tate, 1998)

References:

Duff, N. ‘Constable’s Sketch for Hadleigh Castle: A Technical Examination’, Tate Papers, no.5, Spring 2006. At http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/05/constables-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-technical-examination (Accessed 9 May 2017)

English Heritage. (2006) History of Hadleigh Castle At: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadleigh-castle/history/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)
Tate. (1998) Constable Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/constable-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-n04810
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

V&A. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, near Southend Drawing Constable At: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/british-watercolours-landscape-genre/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

Yale Centre for British Art. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night, Constable At: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1669233
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

Exercise: Sixteenth and Seventeenth-century portraits

“Today a painted portrait can be compared with other sorts of images, notably photographs, but we have no such points of reference (apart from written descriptions  and  further  portraits)  for  portraits  created  before the  mid-nineteenth century” (Course notes p 93)

This exercise is to research portraits and make your own version. The text specifically mentioned some by name so I thought I’d start with those.

Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus paintings

Firstly, Holbein’s various Erasmus paintings. He made several versions.

WHA (p.463) describes Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus as showing him: … standing beside a pilaster delicately carved with Classical motifs and resting his sensitive fingers on a book inscribed in Greek ‘The Herculean Labours’ and in Latin ‘of Erasmus of Rotterdam’. The origins of  his scholarship  are  thus  made quite explicit,  but the  purity and truth of his Christian humanism are also alluded to (in the decanter of clear  water). It is  the image of  a new  and peculiarly  Renaissance type of man, the aristocrat of the intellect. (Course notes p 93)

 I found several online, the one in the National Gallery and the one in the Met are of a similar ¾ length pose and half turned to the viewer, although the NG one has all the ‘props’ to reference to the man’s personality. The third one currently in the Louvre in France, shows him in portrait, again ¾ length but almost with his back to us, an action pose, a man of letters writing away.

 

Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1532 Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London) (and Workshop(?)) Oil on linden panel, 18.4 x 14.2 cm Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1532
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London) (and Workshop(?))
Oil on linden panel, 18.4 x 14.2 cm
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
Erasmus, 1523, Hans Holbein the Younger Oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm © Longford Castle Collection https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus
Erasmus, 1523,
Hans Holbein the Younger
Oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm
© Longford Castle Collection
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus Image from http://www.hans-holbein.org/Portrait-of-Erasmus-of-Rotterdam-1523.html

 

Hans HOLBEIN II (Augsburg, 1497 - London, 1543) Erasmus H. 0.43 m; W. 0.33 m © 2011 Musée du Louvre/Martine Beck-Coppola
Hans HOLBEIN II (Augsburg, 1497 – London, 1543)
Erasmus
H. 0.43 m; W. 0.33 m
© 2011 Musée du Louvre/Martine Beck-Coppola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther Paintings

“Martin Luther, on the other hand, is shown without any visual clues at all, but this is significant in itself. What the viewer sees is a plain but resolute man, free of the trappings of the Catholic Church or Renaissance academic life; by implication, he has rejected all this in favour of a focus on man’s eternal soul.“ (Course notes p 93)

Again, I found several online. The one in the Met is as stated above, however in the one in Vienna, he is holding a prayer book.

Martin Luther (1483–1546), probably 1532 Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar) Oil on wood, 13 1/8 x 9 1/8 in. (33.3 x 23.2 cm) Gift of Robert Lehman, 1955 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
Martin Luther (1483–1546), probably 1532
Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Oil on wood, 13 1/8 x 9 1/8 in. (33.3 x 23.2 cm)
Gift of Robert Lehman, 1955
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580 © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580
Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Popes…

I was researching Titian’s Pope Paul III when I came across an article covering Papal portraiture by Joseph L Goldstein. Basically Raphael revolutionised the world or portraits of popes with his ¾ pose on the Papal throne in the Papal finery. Before 1500 the portraits were a mixture of him kneeling in prayer or with his cardinals. This pose has been repeated since then.

“Titian adopted Raphael’s general model in terms of pose and tenor but departed from it in a radically original way. Titian used color and light to produce the luster of the velvet, the stiffness of the linen and the vigor of the flesh (Fig. 1b). The secret to Titian’s technical innovation was his use of a bare minimum number of hues— two in this case, red and white—applied in the subtlest of gradations.” (Goldstein, J, 2009)

Velázquez next took up the job with Pope Innocent X.

“Innocent X was arguably the worst of all popes; he was hot-tempered, paranoid, ruthless and unscrupulously duplicitous in taking the name of Innocent. What’s remarkable about Velázquez’s portrait is how he paints Innocent X in the Raphael-Titian tradition, thus satisfying his demanding client with a flattering portrait, yet at the same time conveying a hint of the pope’s explosive personality and corrupt character (Fig. 1c).“ (Goldstein, J, 2009)

 

Figure 1. Papal portraiture from Raphael to Titian to Velázquez. (a) Raphael. Pope Julius II. 1511. Oil on wood. 108 x 80.7 cm. National Gallery, London. (b) Titian, Pope Paul III. 1543. Oil on canvas. 106 x 85 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capondimonte, Naples. (c) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome.
Figure 1. Papal portraiture from Raphael to Titian to Velázquez. (a) Raphael. Pope Julius II. 1511. Oil on wood. 108 x 80.7 cm. National Gallery, London. (b) Titian, Pope Paul III. 1543. Oil on canvas. 106 x 85 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capondimonte, Naples. (c) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome.
Figure 2. Three portrait versions of Pope Innocent X. (a) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome. (b) Francis Bacon. Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953. Oil on canvas. 153 x 118.1 cm. Nathan Emory Coffin Collaboration, Des Moines Art Centre. (c) Glenn Brown, Nausea. 2008. Oil on panel. 155 x 120 cm. Tate Liverpool.
Figure 2. Three portrait versions of Pope Innocent X. (a) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome. (b) Francis Bacon. Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953. Oil on canvas. 153 x 118.1 cm. Nathan Emory Coffin Collaboration, Des Moines Art Centre. (c) Glenn Brown, Nausea. 2008. Oil on panel. 155 x 120 cm. Tate Liverpool.

 In 1953, Francis Bacon reinterpreted Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X by placing him in an electric chair, surrounded by a yellow hexagonal rail. There are vertical lines that run up and down the painting like bars of a prison cell. He is dressed in bloodstained clothes and gripping the chair arms and screaming.

In 2008, an artist called Glenn Brown, reinvented this yet again by making his canvas glossy and smooth like a magazine and turning the pope on his head.

“Brown distorts the image of Pope Innocent X by removing his cape and cap, painting his hands gangrene green and rotating his body 180 degrees. Only the white apron and the Ring of the Fisherman are retained. In this painting, Brown literally turns the 500-year-old field of papal portraiture upside down and on its head.” (Goldstein, J, 2009)

 

screenshot_2016-01-22-22-51-47.png
In the introductory blogposts I researched portraits and self-portraits too, I noticed then the prominence of the ¾ length pose turning to the viewer during this period and made a copy of this Rembrandt self-portrait with an app on my phone.

Currently I’m readying a David Hockey’s Secret Knowledge which got me inspired to try a Camera Lucida to make my copy, seeing as I cannot afford a real one (they seem to sell them on ebay for just under £100!) I thought I’d go digital again and try one of the many apps you can get which uses the camera on your phone to give you a Camera Lucida’s experience of an image you already have. Ie, it overlays a ghost image on your page, so you look at the screen but your pen is under the phone on the paper. I tried to make a pencil copy of Pope Innocent X (the Velázquez version). Here it is, I took a picture with the pencil in the frame so you can see how tiny it turned out! You can still disern his meaness though.

20161025_161853-01.jpeg

I think it would take a bit of practice and skill to use a real one. Issues include knocking the device or the paper and then the image goes out of alignment. The real one, obviously allows you to draw from life but also would need you to be viewing from a certain constant angle or you’d lose the image.

Todo: when the book on signs and symbols I’ve reserved from the library comes in I hope to revisit this post. I was wondering what props I would use if I were to make a portrait of my tiny daughter. She has a suitable pink spotty chair, which perhaps I can drape her play mat behind as a “curtain”, not sure she’d sit still enough for the traditional ¾ length turning to the viewer pose though (even for a photo, she’s almost one and a half). I was thinking maybe I could use a balloon to represent her innocent joy or my hopes and dreams for her? A clear glass of water seems to represent purity. Perhaps some favourite toys? She has a good sense of humour, how would I interpret that? Will have a think.

Edit: So my book on symbols arrived. Its mostly religious and classical stories which is a bit disappointing. Thinking on the above problem I was able to glean that unicorns symbolised purity which is why the Christians commandeered it to represent Jesus and female chastity (which has kind of ruined them for me now) since the unicorn is usually seen with the Virgin. Innocence is represented by a lamb. Children blowing bubbles represents to brevity of life in ‘Vanitas’, which is just super depressing! I might try and go for my original ideas of her with a balloon, clear water and now a lamb.

 

 

References:
Goldstein, J. (2009) ‘Lasker Awards and papal portraiture: Turning fields upside down‘In: Nature medicine Vol 15. Number 10. [online] At: http://www.laskerfoundation.org/new-noteworthy/articles/lasker-awards-and-papal-portraiture-turning-fields-upside-down/
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Habsburger. (2016) Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580 At: http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Hall, J. (1979) Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (introduction by Kenneth Clark). John Murray Publishers
 

Lourve. (2016) Erasmus At: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/erasmus
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Met Museum. (2016) Erasmus of Rotterdam At: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Met Museum. (2016) Martin Luther (1483–1546) At: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

National Gallery. (2016) Erasmus, 1523, Hans Holbein the Younger At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Exercise: Draw Some Classical Figure Sculptures

On p68 of the course notes we are tasked with drawing some classical figures, preferably from life.

I undertook this task during the visit to the British Museum.

LG-H815
Lely’s Venus (Aphrodite), sculpture 1963. 10-29. 1.
LG-H815
Sketch of above
caption of statue above
caption of statue above
LG-H815
LG-H815
LG-H815
LG-H815

Reflection:

“Do your images help you to understand classical figures? Have you noticed how each figure is represented – skilfully, accurately, clumsily, idealised, caricatured, etc.? How do you interpret the figure? What’s the significance of the figure’s pose, for example?
Does drawing or copying a work of art give you insights that you can’t get simply from annotating an image? If you want to put this to the test, annotate one of the images you’ve copied. ” p68 of the course notes.

I found the experience of drawing in the museum relatively unpleasant. I usually find drawing relaxing and peaceful but with all the other visitors shuffling past and around me I felt self conscious and way out of my comfort zone. I had a foldout chair to sit on (which they kindly supply but the information desk) so I wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s probably just knowing my drawing skills are pretty bad and that many people were glancing over my shoulder.

I was lower than everyone standing, which while disconcerting, gave me a different viewpoint of the sculpture than when I’d looked at it standing. I would say that the two positives of drawing the figures were, it made me slow down further, look for longer and I had a greater understanding of how the gallery lighting affected the look of the sculpture. This would not have been the same lighting the original owners of the sculpture would have used (pre-electric) so the folds and shadowy sections would have appeared differently to them.

The figures here were very skillfully rendered. From the position I was sat in to observe Being Veins was a little heavy in the trunk but that might be cultural (maybe they liked more pear-shaped women in those days) or perhaps it was altered the translation from the Greek original to this Roman marble copy? The marble would be a lot heavier so some adjustments to the composition may have had to have been made. As the caption points out, the original would have been made to view from all sides but this is less well rendered on the back.

It’s difficult to comment so much on the man because of the damage to him you can’t really tell what his pose would have been. His torso is beautiful carved but the folds of the cloth on his shoulder seem a bit basic when compared with the care taken over the hair carving on Venus. She’s crouched down (washing) but bashful of her nudity where as the man just has it all on display (what’s left of it). Greek athletes used to compete in the nude so it would have meant nothing to them but women were rarely depicted nude.

They both seem idealised but the man seems to have more personality to his face, that strong jawline, than the more generic beauty of Venus face.

Seeing the sculpture in person was invaluable, being able to look and walk around it. However I don’t think drawing it was any better than say annotating a postcard would have been while being about to observe in person. Perhaps if I drew at home from photos I’d personally taken it would have more benefits. If I get a chance I’ll test this out with some photos from this visit. Todo.

Looking through sketching: The Ambassadors

In my sketchbook (a real paper one this time) I’d had a go at drawing Jean de Dinteville from The Ambassadors, admittedly rather badly.

20160219_152423-01.jpeg

but I wanted to try the anamorphic skull from a method I saw in a video 20160219_152600.jpg(1:10 in the video below), where light shines though a drawing on transparent paper to
create a distorted shadow. Do you think I could get it to work? I tried all sorts of light from lamps to torches to daylight and all sorts of levels of darkness in the room. The only think I could conclude is that the picture wasn’t big enough for the effect to work. The original is massive, and mine is only tiny to fit into my A5 sketchpad.

 

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References (retrospective list):

Canal Educatif à la Demande (CED). (2013) ArtSleuth 6: HOLBEIN – The Ambassadors (final version) – National Gallery London [user-generated content online] Creat. http://www.canal-educatif.com 5 Oct 2013 At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MR-sKVRPdg
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

National Gallery. (2016e) ‘The Ambassadors’,1533, Hans Holbein the Younger At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-the-ambassadors
(Accessed on 4 February 16)

National Gallery Podcast. (2009) Excerpt from Episode 33 – Professor Philip Steadman and Louise Govier discuss ‘The Ambassadors’ {audio podcast, online} July 2009 At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-the-ambassadors
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

National Gallery YouTube. (2010a) Excerpt from ‘Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian’ – Symbolism in Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’ [user-generated content online] Creat. National Gallery, London 13 July 2010 At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReF2O8rzpb4
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

National Gallery YouTube. (2010b) Excerpt from Making & Meaning: Holbein’s Ambassadors – Holbein’s skull – Part one [user-generated content online] Creat. National Gallery, London 13 July 2010 At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KiVNIUMmCc
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

National Gallery YouTube. (2010c) Excerpt from Making & Meaning: Holbein’s Ambassadors – Holbein’s skull – Part two [user-generated content online] Creat. National Gallery, London 13 July 2010 At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mczs4muSUHc
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

Smarthistory. (2012) Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533 [user-generated content online] Creat. Khan Academy 2 April 2012 At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQZUIGzinZA
(Accessed on 5 February 16)

Stebbins, F. A.. (1962) ‘The Astronomical Instruments in Holbein’s “Ambassadors”‘ In Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 56, p.45 [online] At: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/1962JRASC..56…45S/0000045.000.html
(Accessed on 7 February 16)

The Anne Boleyn Files. (2010) Holbein’s The Ambassadors: A Renaissance Puzzle? – Part One: Context At: http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/holbeins-the-ambassadors-a-renaissance-puzzle-part-one-context/6516/
(Accessed on 7 February 16)

Wyld, M. ‘The Restoration History of Holbein’s “The Ambassadors”‘. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 19, pp 4–25.
At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/technical-bulletin/wyld1998
(Accessed on 7 February 16)