Thursday, September 29, 2011

Auction Preview: Palais Dorotheum

Peder Severin Krøyer
oil on canvas  50 X 41.5 cm

The Austrian auction house, Dorotheum, is holding its auction of 19th Century Paintings early next month at the Palais Dorotheum, in Vienna.  Among the 180 lots are a few familiar names, like Krøyer, Stevens, Bøcklin, von Blaas, Nono, Herzog, and Boldini, but many more of the artists are lesser known here in the United States.  Represented strongly in this sale are the other artists of the 19th century, those who trained, lived, and worked on the European continent (excluding France).  

The catalog is available for viewing online, and includes a nice zoom feature, and the ability to download high-resolution images of each of the lots.

Peder Severin Krøyer
Self-Portrait (detail)

Carl Julius Emil Ludwig
Entry to the Ötzthal Vally in Tyrol
oil on canvas  105.5 X 155.5 cm

Franz Roubaud
Circassian Horsemen Crossing a Ford
oil on canvas  45 X 75 cm

Alfred Stevens
The Letter
oil on canvas  70.5 X 50.5 cm

Hermann Herzog
Waterfall in the Mountains
oil on canvas  138 X 122 cm

Pal Szinyei-Merse
Hilly Landscape
oil on canvas   60.5 X 70 cm

Walter Moras
A Sunny Winter's Day
oil on canvas  80.5 X 120 cm

Arnold Böcklin
By the Edge of a Wood
oil on canvas  67.5 X 94.5 cm

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Third Painting of the Flesh: Finishing

Q.  What belongs to the third part, or finishing?
A.  It is supposed the complexion now wants very little more than a few light touches.  Instead of oiling, as preparation for the third painting, if the colours are sufficiently dry, a soft sponge with clear water may be passed over the whole, and wiped off with a silk handkerchief.

Begin with the glazing, and first, where the shadows want bringing up to their tone and colour;  improving also the half tints by a tender tone, and putting in the highest lights with a sharp and spirited touch, using the colour as dry as possible.

It must be observed that in putting in the highest lights, while the underneath colour is wet, they will sink in and lose much of their brilliancy.  It is thought that most of the great masters touched upon their pictures many times, leaving them to dry between.

Q.  Is this kind of repetition useful in all painting?
A.  It will be found so, as every colour (more especially when mixed with white) sinks into the ground on which it is painted, and, in a greater or less degree, according to the colour of that ground.  So it will be found necessary to repeat the same colour more than once, in order to bring it up to the tone required.¹

It is supposed the Complexion now wants very little more than a few light Touches;  therefore there will be no Occasion for oiling.

Begin with correcting all the Glazing;  first, where the Glazing serves as a Ground or under Part;  then we should determine what should be done next, before we do it, so that we may be able to make the Alteration on the Part with one Stroke of the Pencil.  By this Method, preserve both the Glazing and the Teints;  but if it happens that we cannot lay such Variety of Teints and finishing Colours as we intended, it is much better to leave off while the Work is safe and in good Order;  because those few Touches, which would endanger the Beauty of Colouring, may easily be done, if we have Patience to stay till the Colours are dry;  and then, without oiling, add those Finishings with free light Strokes of the Pencil.

I believe that Rembrandt touched upon his best Pictures a great many Times, letting them dry between:  It was this Method, most certainly, which gave them that surprising Force and Spirit, which is so inimitable. I find it much easier to soften the over-strong Teints when they are dry, than when they are wet;  because we may add the very Colours that are wanting, without endangering the dry Work.  If any of the Colours of the Pallet want to be a little changed to the Life, when we are painting, it is much better to do it with the Knife on the Pallet, than with the Pencil;  because the Knife will mix, and leave it in good Order for the Pencil.²

¹ William A. Pinnock, A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil, (Mentorian Press, London, 1817), pp. 17-18.
² Thomas Bardwell, The Practice of Painting, 1756, pp. 15-16.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Second Part of Painting the Flesh

Nicole Moné
"A Lull in the Conversation"
Week 51 of The Skeleton Project
24 X 48 in. oil on canvas

Once the initial lay-in, or dead-colouring, of the flesh is dry, it is time to make the second painting pass of the skin.  William Pinnock and Thomas Bardwell, respectively, offer the following descriptions of the process:

Q.  What is the second part, or process, in the painting of flesh?
A.  The second painting begins with laying on a small quantity of poppy oil, and then wiping it nearly off with a dry piece of a silk handkerchief. 
Q.  What is the purpose of this?
A.  It is for the purpose of preparing the colours (which are now dry) to receive and unite with those which are now to be laid on.  The second part of painting the flesh is also divided into what is called scumbling and glazing. 
Q.  What is the meaning of these terms?
A.  Scumbling is when the colour is used nearly dry, with a stiff pencil, and often with a mixture of white, as it sometimes happens that a dark part is to be gone over for the purpose of making it lighter.  Again;  scumbling is the operation of going over the lights, when they are to be changed, with the light red tints, or some of their own colours, for the purpose of clearing and improving the complexion.
Glazing is always done with the transparent colours, and with more of the vehicle to make it liquid.  As scumbling is for the most part confined to the lights, so glazing principally belongs to the shadows, to which it gives a depth and a richness which no single colour can have. 
Q.  How are these two operations of scumbling and glazing applied after the first painting?
A.  The first painting presents you with the flesh lighter in the light parts, as well as in the shadows, than the life, and appears very little removed from black and white. 
In this state, you begin by scumbling with the light red tint over such parts as require to be changed to the ruddy part of the complexion;  and so of the other tints which belong to the lights, each with the colour that agrees with what is underneath, so as to approach that of the life.  The shadows may now be deepened and the drawing corrected with the shade tint, and the glazing applied to such parts as may only require this operation for the purpose of bringing them near to nature.¹

Nicole Moné
"Tiepolo Meets Busby Berkeley"
Week 52 of The Skeleton Project
20 X 20 in. oil on canvas

The Second Painting begins with laying on the least Quantity that can be of Poppy Oil;  then wipe it almost all off, with a dry Piece of a Silk Handkerchief. 
The Second Painting is also divided into Two Parts:  One I call the first Lay of the Second Painting;  which is scumbling the lights, and glazing the Shadows:  The other, finishing the Complexion, with short stiff Pencils;  but such Parts only as require it;  otherwise the Beauty of the first Painting will be spoiled, and we make ourselves double Work. 
The Light-red Teint improved, is the very best Colour that can be for Scumbling, and improving the Complexion in general.  Where the shadows and Drawings are to be corrected, we should do it with the Shade-Teint, by driving the Colour very stiff and bare, that we may the easier retouch and change it with the finishing Teints.  Some Parts of the Shadows should be glazed with some of the transparent Shadow-Colours, such as will improve, and come very near to the Life;  but be sure not to lay on too much of it, for fear of losing the Hue of the first Painting, the Ground of which should always appear through the Glazing.  Be very careful, in uniting the Lights and Shades, the more meally those Shades will appear.  Thus far the Complexion is prepared and improved, in order to receive the Virgin Teints and finishing Touches. 
The Second Part of the Second Painting, Is to go over the Complexion with the Virgin Teints:  These are the Colours which improve the Colouring to the Greatest Perfection, both in the Light and Shadows.  This should be done in the same manner as we laid them in the second Part of the First Painting;  that is, with the Reds, Yellows, and Blues;  blending them with the delicate light Touches of the tender middle Teints, without softening.  We should leave the Teints and their Grounds clean and distinct, and be content to leave off whilst the Work is safe and unsullied, leaving what is farther required for the next Sitting;  for, in attempting the finishing Touches before the other is dry, we lose the Spirit and Drawing, and dirty where-ever we touch.²

¹ William A. Pinnock, A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil, (Mentorian Press, London, 1817), pp. 15-16.
² Thomas Bardwell, The Practice of Painting, 1756, pp. 14-15.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dead-Colouring: Bardwell's "Second Part of the First Painting"

In previous posts (here, here, and here), I have discussed historical methods for painting the the first lay-in of the flesh in the human figure.  Before continuing with Thomas Bardwell's and William Pinnock's description of the second stage of painting the flesh, I wanted to include Bardwell's expanded description of the Second Part of the First Painting.

In order to finish the First Painting, improve the Reds and Yellows to the Complexion, and after them the Blues;  observing, that the Blues on the Red make Purple, and on the Yellows produce the Green.  The same Method is to be understood of the Shadows;  but be sure to leave them clean, and not too dark:  Therefore Allowance should be made in their Grounds with the Light-Red;  because glazing them will make them darker.  When the Cloth is of a dark or bad Colour, there must be a strong Body of Colour laid all over the Shadows, such as will not sink into the Ground, but appear warm, and a little lighter than the Life, so that it may be of the same Forwardness to finish, as if it had been a light Ground.  Therefore the Business of Dead-colouring is, that we leave it always in the same Order for finishing, tho' the Colour of the Cloth be quite the Reverse. 
I am convinced by Experience, that the Grounds of Shadows, in what we call the Dead-colouring, should be such as will support the Character of the finishing Colours;  which Ground must be clean, and a little lighter than the finishing Colours;  I say, a little lighter, because the Finishing of Shadows is glazing;  and no other Method but glazing can leave such Brilliancy and Beauty as they ought to have:  For I find, that glazing the Shadows in the First Painting is not so proper as laying a Body of Shadow-colours, that are very near to the Life, tho' a little lighter:  These may be glazed and touched upon, when dry, with a great deal of Ease:  But if we begin the First Painting with glazing, we shall find it will stare, and be of no use;  and the solid Colours, which are laid on it, will look heavy and dull;  therefore all Shadows and Colours, that are to be glazed, should be done with Colours of a clean solid Body;  because the Glazing is more lasting, and has the best Effect, on such Colours.  Remember to leave no Roughness;  I mean such as will appear rough, and interrupt or hurt the Character of the finishing Colours;  which, by examining the Work whilst it is wet, with a soft Tool, or when it is dry, with a Knife, may be avoided, as it will easily take off the Knots and roughest Parts. 
The Light-red and White improved is superior to all other Colours for the first Lay or Ground;  which should always done with a full Pencil of stiff Colour, made brighter than the Life, because it will sink a little in drying.  The greater the Body and Quantity of Colour, and the stiffer it is laid, the less it will sink:  Every Colour in drying will sink, and partake, in proportion to its Body, of the Colour it is laid on:  Therefore all the Lights of the Flesh, if not laid on a light Ground, must consequently change a little from the Life, if there is no Allowance made.  The Shade-Teint for the Shadows should fall into the Rose Teint, as the Complexion grows delicate;  all which should be lightly united, with a soft long pointed Hog-tool, to the Lights, making out the Whole like Mezzotinto. 
I believe the great Masters very seldom sweetened or softened the Colours;  but in uniting the first Lay, they were very careful in preserving the Brightness of their Colours, and therefore did not work them below the Complexion.  For to force or keep up a Brilliancy in the Grounds, can only be done with the Whites, Reds, and Yellows;  which Method will make up for the Deficiency of the White Grounds;  Therefore, the First Painting should be left bright and bold, and the less the Colours are broken the better.  We should forbear using any Colours that will prejudice them, and be contented to add what is wanted the next Painting;  where if we fail, a clean Rag will restore the first Ground.¹

¹Thomas Bardwell, The Practice of Painting, 1756, pp. 13-14.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strength & Grace - Michelle Dunaway

Shell Seeker  oil on linen  14 X 29 in.

Currently on view at the M Gallery of Fine Art in Charleston, South Carolina, is a new solo show from New Mexican painter, Michelle Dunaway.  Titled Strength and Grace, the exhibit features nearly two dozen new works from the dedicated young artist.  If you are near the gallery, stop in and see the show before it comes down at the end of the month.

Autumn's Daydreams  20 X 16 in.

Lara's Legacy  40 X 26 in.

Mother and Child  charcoal  11 X 8 in.

Remembering Home  oil on linen  20 X 15 in.

Poetry monochromatic oil study  14 X 11 in.

Among the Aspens  oil on linen  40 X 26 in.

Dunaway painting from her model en plein air outside her New Mexico studio

“There's nothing as exciting and honest as painting from life to me,” Dunaway admits. ”To paint with 
the person or subject directly in front of you, well, there is a communication going on… it is a 
shared moment and is alive and filled with truth.”

Morning Light  8 X 6 in.

Malibu  6 X 8 in.

Strength and Grace - Her Grandmother's Quilt  oil on linen  28 X 18 in.

The title piece for the show Strength and Grace, actually came to Dunaway
in a dream.  She woke up one morning with the vision of her cousin Justyne
wrapped in her grandmother’s handmade quilt. The painting is of a girl, “on 
the brink of womanhood, wrapped in the creative gifts of the woman who 
came before her,” explains Dunaway.  In the painting, strength seems 
particularly visible in the young girl’s eyes, while grace is represented by 
the grandmother’s loving spirit that is implied through the quilt.

Mucha and Peonies  oil on linen  34 X 16 in.

A Moment's Glance  charcoal on watercolor paper  24 X 18 in.

Thistles  oil  8 X 6 in.

Illuminated Marble -  Portrait of a Sculptor

Nude in Window Light  15½ X 10 in.

At the Rodin Museum  oil  25 X 19 in.

Akeba  16 X 20 in.

Thoughtful  oil on linen  26 X 16 in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Symbols in Art: The Thyrsus

The Honourable John Maler Collier
The Priestess of Bacchus
oil on canvas
58 X 44¼ in.

Common to many Classicist paintings of the late 19th century is the thyrsus, a staff, often of giant fennel, topped with a pine cone.  With its phallic shape, the thyrsus has been considered to be specifically a masculine fertility symbol, with the fennel shaft representing the penis, and the pine cone at its apex representing the seeds issuing forth.  In Pagan religious rites, it is carried by the followers of Dionysis (Bacchus), and is most often associated with the Maenads and Satyrs.  Victorian viewers spotting the thyrsus in a painting would have immediately understood the reference to Bacchanalia, a festival of drunkenness and ecstatic dance antithetical to the strict mores of their own society.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
The Women of Amphissa
oil on canvas
48 X 72 in.

Amphissa was the capitol of the annual festival honoring Bacchus.  Here, the female citizens of Amphissa
are greeting the Bacchantes who are waking after a long night of revelry.  Fearing for the safety of
Bacchantes, the women of the city protected the stuporous celebrants from harm as they slept through
the night.

Oddly, the pine cone finial, which, in the thyrsus, was a male symbol, was also considered a female symbol to the Greeks.  As the emblem of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, it represented feminine purity, while for Aphrodite it was likely a symbol of female fertility.  Even in many of the Bacchanalian rites, participation was limited only to women.  Perhaps this dual nature of the pine cone was the impetus behind the change of visual representation of Bacchus in art;  early images show a mature, bearded male, while later images show a beardless, naked or half-naked, sensuous youth with a nearly feminine beauty.

For Christians who likely co-opted the symbol from the Pagans, the pine cone represents fertility, and as the fruit of the evergreen, also represents immortality.  Not only does it form the crown of the Tree of Life, but is very common in all Christian art, especially in that of the Catholic faith.  In fact, the largest pine cone representation in the world stands in the Court of the Pine Cone in Vatican Square.

The Court of the Pine Cone, Vatican City

William Adolphe Bouguereau
La Jeunesse de Bacchus
oil on canvas
331 X 610 cm

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Faun and Bacchante
oil on canvas
21 X 26 in.

John William Godward
At the Gate of the Temple
oil on canvas
63⁵⁄₈ X 28 in.

William Adolphe Bouguereau

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
The Vintage Festival
oil on panel
51 X 119 cm

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Auction Preview: Christie's NYC

Hugues Merle
Romeo and Juliet
Oil on canvas  25½X16¾ in.
Lot 65
From the collection of Fred and Sherry Ross

On October 12, 2011, Christie's Auction House in New York City will be hosting its sale of 19th Century European Paintings.  There are 108 lots in this season's sale including pieces by Bouguereau, Alma-Tadema, Sorolla, Boldini, Corot, Lord Leighton, and several fine marine paintings by Montague Dawson.  Though this sale does not contain any singular masterpiece destined to shatter auction records, it does contain many fine artworks worthy of closer inspection.

As always, if the opportunity presents itself, visit Christie's during previews to get a closer look at these wonderful pieces.  Many, if not all, will not find their way to public collections, so these pre-sale exhibitions are often the only open display these works have had or will have for years.

Christie's Manhattan is located at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, across the street from NBC Studios.  The previews are in effect for the following dates and times:
  • October   8  10:00 AM  -  5:00 PM
  • October   9    1:00 PM   -  5:00 PM
  • October 10  10:00 AM  -  5:00 PM
  • October 11  10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The actual auction of all 108 lots will take place October 12th, at 10:00 AM.

François Alfred Delobbe
A Moment of Reflection
Oil on canvas  21¾X18¼ in.
Lot 66

William Adolphe Bouguereau
The Muse (Philomèle)
Oil on canvas  53¼X37½ in.
Lot 69

Eugen von Blaas
A Pensive Beauty
Oil on panel  21¼X14 in.
Lot 74

Giuseppe De Nittis
Portrait of a Gentleman on a Parisian Boulevard
Oil on panel  16¼X10½ in.
Lot 17

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida
Portrait of Carlos Urcola Ibarra with his Daughter, Eulalia
Oil on canvas  66½X37³⁄₈ in.
Lot 9

Henri Delaborde
Apparition de Beatrix à Dante
Oil on canvas  39½X26¾ in.
Lot 72

George Elgar Hicks
A Summer Bouquet
Oil on canvas  20X16 in.
Lot 60

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
The Mirror
Oil on panel  14X 9³⁄₈ in.
Lot 58

Frederic Lord Leighton
Sketch for 'Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession'

Oil on canvas 11¾X25¾ in.
 Lot 57

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Head study for 'Le Gué'
Oil on canvas  16¼X13 in.
Lot 68

Head study for 'Le Gué' (detail)

Lady Laura Alma-Tadema
The Tea Party
Oil on canvas  48X36 in.
Lot 62

Gustave Dore
La famille du saltimbanque:  l'enfant blessé
Oil on canvas  76¾X51½ in.
Lot 63

William Adolphe Bouguereau
La Vierge à l'agneau
Oil on canvas  45 in. diameter
Lot 64

Charles Dubreuil
An Oriental Beauty
Oil on canvas  47¾X29 in.
Lot 80

Eugen von Blaas
A Venetian Beauty
Oil on panel  16X12¾ in.
Lot 8

François Brunery
An Eminent Gathering
Oil on panel  27¾X36 in.
Lot 16

Emilio Sanchez-Perrier
Fishermen on a Tranquil River
Oil on panel  10X20¼ in.
Lot 19

Montague Dawson
Taking a Northwester:  'The Thermopylae'
Oil on canvas  40X50 in.
Lot 104

Montague Dawson
Eddying Foam:  'The Young Australia'
Oil on canvas  24X36 in.
Lot 106

Aime-Nicolas Morot
Reclining Lions:  a Pair
Oil on canvas 46X103½ in. (2)
Lot 88