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stlukesguild
09-22-2006, 12:35 AM
Since we have several members who have recently had the experience of exploring the work of a good number of old master painters in person I thought I might start a new thread where our thoughts might be shared... or at the very least, it'll provide a venue where Luke and I might continue our witty (?) repartee without a further highjacking of other's posts.:rolleyes:

I had the chance to visit New York and Washington in late July and again in September. In both instances I was able to explore the collections of the Met and the National Gallery, while my first trip included visits to the Frick and the Hirschhorn as well. First I might mention the art which truly grabbed my attention. This is not to suggest that I feel that in any way these were necessarily the best works in the museums or even my favorites... they were merely the ones which grabbed my attention because of the fact that seeing them in person (in a few instances, for the first time) led me to a certain re-evaluation about that artist... or about painting in general.

The artist whom both Luke and I might agree upon as being something of a brilliant enigma is Vermeer. I can't recall ever NOT being impressed by Vermeer's work in person. I'm lucky enough to have seen almost all of his paintings at the great retrospective of his work held at the national Gallery some 8 years ago. In July, I was able to see all of his paintings in New York (some 4 or 5 at the Met and a couple at the Frick), and just a few weeks ago I was able to see the works at the Met again along with his three marvelous paintings in the National Gallery. Vermeer clearly illustrates Luke's concept of old master painting: paintings produced over a great deal of time and built up in layer after layer. Some recent x-rays have suggested that certain Vermeers were first painted solely in terms of value... as a sort of grisaille. Then layers of glazes, dabs, flickers of impasto were added. The paintings are clearly masterful in terms of value and light (Thomas Kinkade... painter of light?... give me a break!). Vermeer, however, is also an absolutely brilliant colorist. The blues and oranges and reds are often incredibly subtle... and often quite shocking. It is easy to understand the Impressionists fascination with his work. His use of impasto strokes flickering in the lights is also a clear inspiration to the Impressionists. It must be admitted, however, that his use of impasto is in no means like that later developed by the Impressionists. It does not sit upon the surface. Rather, such brush strokes appear limpid... as if floating in liquid... or beneath further layers the most subtle of glazes.

One can actually learn quite a bit from what I find to be the least successful of the Vermeer paintings I have looked at, the Allegory of Faith in the Metroploitan Museum of Art:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-Allegory_of_the_Faithsmall.JPG

This painting is actually quite a bit larger than most of Vermeer's works (which often measure in mere inches)... and in comparison to the smaller works it appears almost unfinished. The patches and dabs and flickers of paint are the same... but they don't appear to exist withing the same luminous and limpid surface. Indeed... they appear to sit right on the surface... as if Vermeer had not completed the later stages of building the painting up. In the painting of the Woman with a Pitcher (also in the Met)...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-Womansmall.JPG

there are the same patches of color (especially in the cloth of the tapestry/embroidered cloth and the reflections in the silver) and the same flickers of light... but these seem to float... to be filtered through a luminous liquid. There is a glorious transluscency to the entire painting surface... and a magical subtle color which reproductions don't come close to suggesting. The woman's dress, for example, in the painting above is in now way black or dark gray... but actually the most incredible blue. This blue pervades everything... it exists in most of the objects... and it is a glowing presence in the light with luminates the scene.

Vermeer's great paintings are clearly incredibly time intensive (other little Dutch masters such as Steen or Ter Borch don't come close to the magic of his paintings). They are like fabulous jewels... undoubtedly built up of the finest materials. I have never seen them without realizing that a few square inches by Vermeer are more fascinating and hypnotic than acres of canvas by most other painters.

The second painter who truly capivated me on this trip was Giovanni Bellini... or should I say, Bellini and Giorgione? I remember reading in one of Durer's letters how he found old Bellini to be the greatest of the painters active in Venice... and unlike most others, he was not openly antagonistic toward the presence of the German as he toured the Italian city... but was actually open to the prospect of learning from the young foreigner just as he was from the Italian master. Bellini's work clearly shows his willingness to learn from younger artists... artists of the new generation... again and again over the course of his career. Bellini's early works often show the impact and the influence of Andrea Mantegna (his brother-in-law). There is a certain harsh linearity and boldness of conception... almost sculptural... which Bellini develops at this time:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-bellinizsmall.JPG

Later in his career, Bellini's work begins to develop in a more painterly and atmospheric manner. It often appears so similar in style to the work of Giorgione (and later... the yound Titian) that it is impossible to say who was influencing who. Indeed, at times its impossible to even discern who painted certain paintings. One of my absolute favorite paintings in the National Gallery is Giorgione's Adoration of the Shepherds:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-smallgiorgione.JPG

This painting is echoed in mny ways by Bellini's Ecstasy of St. Francis in the Frick Museum:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-St_Francis_in_ecstasysmall.JPG

Both paintings display a marvelous use of color... earth tones contrasting with the brilliant hues suggestive of stained glass (again, reproductions don't even come close). In both paintings there is a balanced contrast of passages of the most brilliant jewel-like detail worthy of Van Eyck (one might look especially at the foilage) with the subtle blurred edges of sfumato. If one were to look to the details, one might discover passages of still-life and landscape worthy of some of the finest paintings by masters of those genre. Bellini's painting retains a hard linear structure echoing Mantegna in some of these details (especially the rocks) which contrasts these more painterly passages to an even greater degree.

Looking at another Giorgione (the so-called Three Philosophers):

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-trefilosofismall.JPG

... I can't help but think of another Bellini painting, the Sacra Conversazione:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-0204_Bellini,_Madonna_met_Heiligen,_1505,_San_Zaccaria.jpg

Not only do we have similarly posed saints with the same thick, glowing robes... but there is also a similar mysterious self-contained quality to the figures... each appearing as if completely unaware of the presence of the others... lost in him or her self. One also notes how the glowing figures contrast with the setting in each painting... with the lush and wild landscape in Giorgione... with the classical architectural setting in Bellini.

Another of my absolute favorites in the National Gallery is the Giorgione/Bellini/Titian painting, Bacchanale:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-bellinifeastsmall.JPG

The famous Fete Champetre... :

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-concertsmall.JPG

...(part of the temporary exhibition at the National Gallery) shows the difficulty in attribution between the 3 great Venetian masters (There are still those who attribute the work to Giorgione, others to Titian, and still more to both). In the Bacchanale, there is historical documentation suggesting participation by all three artists. The painting is imagined to have been begun by Giorgione and completed by Bellini. Titian is known to have later contributed (after Bellini's death) to attempting to unify this painting somewhat with a second painting... the Bacchanale or Andrians of Titian:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-38606.jpg

The two paintings were to be displayed as a pair, and apparently Titian's contibution was to unify the landscape elements:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Sep-2006/39499-Bacchanalesmall.JPG

With both paintings recently cleaned they could indeed have read almost as a single unified work... were it not for the clearly disproprtionate scale of the figures between the two works. Still... the presentation of these works offered a fascinating look at the relationship between the great Venetian masters.

to be continued...soon... (Hals-for Luke-:D and Rembrandt)

Nickel
09-22-2006, 07:49 PM
Just beautiful, David thanks so much for sharing and starting this thread.
Already voting to make this a five star thread.
It'd be nice to see pictures of the exterior of museums too.

saintlukesguild
09-22-2006, 08:14 PM
So this is what it comes to. Luke and Dave sitting and facing each other like two old bears much too old and fat to fight. Even viewing each other with grudging admiration. :smug: Moreover, I don't think we hijacked Cafe's thread. The question was what to look for in a visit to a meseum, and any posit was as valid as any other. With that sense of privilege in mind, I will jump right in here with some observations of augmentation and none of confrontation. My own journal of visiting the N.G. is still a work in progress and will come later.

Vermeer's Woman with Water Picture. I copied this four or five years ago, and I wish I knew then what I know now. The blue dress Dave speaks of was first underpainted in a dark earth red. And that was not novel. Some parts of Van Ecyks blackest blacks shows brown or reddish brown buried in the black, which gave rise to the noted "depth light" in his deepest shadows. Also, some rooms in the Bellini et al exhibition had wooden boxes on the walls that contained plastic cards with technical information. By sheer chance I read one that said that the blue robe in one of the Venitian paintings was done exactly the same way - red first, black and blue over. (Someone on the Cafe thread suggested the museum tripper should carry a note book to write things down, and I wish I had. Today I have no memory of which blue Venitian robe the card in the box referred to.) Back to Vermeer. The red under the blue dress extended across to block in part of the table top, the silver platter and the pitcher itself. "Flourscopy", I think it was, confirmed this red imprimatura under the dress, and microscopic examination made certain it was in the platter and pitcher. Some parts of the red "Turkish" carpet reflecting onto the pitcher and especially the under side of the silver platter are red imprimatura with no over glazing at all.

Back to the dress Dave so eloquently describes, I think part of what clutched him was the warmth of the blue dress that looks so black in a photo. And the underlying red gives that warmth. I say this with confidence even though Woman with Pitcher is in NYC and I have never seen her. But Girl in a Red Hat was right before me. I know from reading that both the blue robe on the Hat painting and the blue skirt on the Pitcher painting were done the same way - earth read imprimatura. To stand and look at that blue velvet looking robe was mind boggling. Is the underlying red really there? Something under neath is creating an ember like glow that warms the black and blue and makes it much, much less cool than any modern paint strokes of black and blue. Believe me, I rubbed my eyes more than once trying to percieve exactly what was going on in that Hat blue robe, and Vermeer's "technique" remained as illusive and ignamatic as repute holds it to be. I think Dave was saying much the same thing in his report of the blue dress at the Met.

This is a long winded intrusion for such a small detail. But my approach is three pronged. One, what I have written here reflects a little of what EYE wanted to look for and get in my visit to a museum. Two, historical precedent. When I read the card about the red under the Venitian blue robe my hair stood on end. Because I knew about Vermeer's blue garments. In fact I took a very long look at the Venitian blue robe, then made a dash on aching feet to the Dutch rooms to compare with Vermeer's tiny blue velvet robe in Red Hat. I was struck with brand new impact. What Vermeer did was what artists did a century and more before him. Reduce the cool of black/blue by underlying dark red. Tried and true. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Three, the last prong goes to the readership here. We are all hobby painters with a shared interest in "classical" painting, what ever that is exactly. Now Bard comes into the picture.

Bard, and no doubt others, have stated they intend to, or already have as the case may be, try their hands at the old method of imprimatura underpainting, then applying over glazes to see what happens. This is far different from the grisaille value build up black and white and shades of gray. As I hope my pointing out the red under the dress and platter and pitcher made clear. Vermeer's blue cloth shows what marvelous effects can be attained by building a very simple color structure over imprimatura. Another historical note will shine greater light on this. The blue that gripped Dave in NY and me in D.C. is very, very miniscule. For a very good reason. Vermeer used lapis lazuli blue from Afganistan and the stuff was as expensive as gold. (Ultra marine indeed! By the european point of view at that time, Afganistan was as far across the ocean as one could imagine.) The blue on both robes is largely illusion created by the genius of Vermeer. We see shimmers of blue that in some cases isn't even there. I point this out to point out an approach for Bard and others to keep in mind when experimenting with color imprimatura and over glazing, including opaque high lights. If the dead color and monocromatic build of a yellow dress, for example, is done bang right on, a tiny amount of pure yellow highlight will give an illusion of yellow spreading everywhere, even where there is no yellow paint at all. A la Vermeer and his blue robes. So pretend, Bard, that the cadmium yellow or whatever you want to made a yellow dress is as expensive as lapis lazuli or gold dust, and use it at the very last and very sparingly. Be prepared to be astonished at the results. You can't go wrong. If the yellow lacks the oomph you want, add more, but sparingly, like it is gold dust. Trust me on this Bard. Vermeer proved it, and I saw it with my own eyes on my visit to the museum.

A final note. The Venitians used asurite for their blue. It would have cost a king's ransom on a single figure if they had used "ultra marine." None the less, their blue had a soft foaming luminosity that made me gasp when I took my step in the first room and beheld those large paintings on the wall.

stlukesguild
09-23-2006, 01:17 AM
Luke... the warm underpainting may indeed be a a part of Vermeer's glow... as well as the lapis lazuli... but others had/have used this technique without ever creating such a fabulous effect of light and color. I looked up the Woman with Pitcher on the net and didn't find a single painting that conveyed anything near the color of the actual painting. The dress (which appears so black in reproduction) is clearly blue... but then again... the blue pervades everything. There is much more blue in the silver water pitcher and tray, on the wall, on her arm, on the hanging rod for the map, etc... The feeling one gets is that of a limpid blue light illuminating the entire scene which we see filtered through a delicate blue haze.

Beyond this discussion of Vermeer... I must jump back a bit to your portrayal of the two of us as two bears too fat and old to fight... and of all of us as "hobby painters" with a shared interest in classical art. I should really bristle at this discription:rolleyes:. OK... OK... I could stand to lose a few pounds:o... but I'm hoping 43 is not really "over the hill". As for my artistic aspirations... I can't speak for the others here, but I most assuredly do not think of myself as a "hobby painter". I maintain a 1000+ square foot studio space:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Sep-2006/39499-001P-Dave_and_Chris_in_Studiosmaller.JPG

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Sep-2006/39499-001P-Dave_and_Tom_in_Studiosmaller.JPG

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Sep-2006/39499-75Lamentations_Framed_Studio_Viewsmaller.JPG

While I surely am not able to quit my day job and live solely off my art work at present, I work regularly at my art... putting in a great deal of time in the studio in actual art production... and a good deal more in studying art, reading about art, etc... For all my admiration of "classical art" I am a firm believer in the notion that my art must be of its time... and of me. This is perhaps where Luke and I diverge. I've recently re-read Emerson's great essay, "Self Reliance", and cannot help but find myself nodding in agreement with many of this "bard's" precepts:

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide...

I shun father and mother, wife and brother when my genius calls me...

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today- Ah so you are sure to be misunderstood? Pythgoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton... To be great is to be misunderstood.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think", I am", but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or blowing rose. These roses under my window make no references to former roses or to better ones...

We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see.

Insist on yourself. Never imitate.

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.

No greater men are now than ever were...

WV.Artistry
09-23-2006, 02:29 AM
A final note. The Venitians used asurite for their blue. It would have cost a king's ransom on a single figure if they had used "ultra marine." None the less, their blue had a soft foaming luminosity that made me gasp when I took my step in the first room and beheld those large paintings on the wall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azurite

http://www.iconofile.com/storefront.asp?page=Azurite

http://www.mineralgallery.co.za/azurite.htm


Robert Doak's Blue Ochre in combination with Smalt over a Green Umber (Raw Umber Green Shade, Turkey Umber, etc.) underpainting, produces deep spectacular blues . . perhaps something like was done by Vermeer. I've also seen this color (Blue Ochre) scattered throughout Bouguereau's works, but used differently, which makes sense in his choice of fast drying paints, i.e., painted over a white underpainting or used with white, Blue Ochre then has a light crystaline blue sea color.

(Bouguereau) Color example of when lightening Azurite (Blue Ochre) or painting over white underpainting.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/85439-Bouguereau_Le_secret_detail.jpg


My study (interpretation) of Thayer's "Roses", as example of Blue Ochre in Combination with Smalt over Raw Umber Green Shade underpainting.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/85439-roses.jpg


I've never attempted a study of Vermeer, because I'm unable to paint that small, and have too much respect to butcher it :) But I do like to look at the publications and learn from them what I can.

Thanks for posting these.

saintlukesguild
09-23-2006, 11:54 AM
oooooooh foot in mouth disease! My sincere apologies Dave. Cyber spacing does trecherous things to the mind. There is the impulse to kid around with someone who is only a virtual reality, and miss the mark by a mile. For some reason I thought you were retired. Hobbiest missed the mark too, for you. But not necessarily for the rest of us. Again, I apologise for remarks that inadvertently had a barbed edge. I will exercise caution from now on. Except for Nickel. There is no question she is pretty and that is my position and I am sticking to it.

Vermeer used smalt too, Richard. There is a tree, or vine, with blue leaves in the courtyard in in "Little Street." The blue is thought to be smalt. The blue leaves are there because the yellow glaze - likely a "fugitive" lake of some type - disappeared. The yellow over the blue would have given an optical green, without any need to mix a green on the palette and apply it to the leaves. This became all the more fascinating for me when I read about restoration of a stained glass window in a cathedral. (Don't ask where. I don't keep a file of nuggets I find in reading.) The restorers found that the sparkling green in the window was the result of double panes - blue glass outside and yellow glass inside. (Or was it the other way around? I don't remember.) Better yet, they found a "green" of three panes: clear glass sandwiched between blue and yellow glass. Did the clear glass somehow alter or intensify sunlight passing through the blue and on through the yellow? What quality of green did that produce compared with only two panes of blue and yellow? There are mysteries in pre 1699 art undrempt in all our internet links.

bjs0704
09-23-2006, 06:25 PM
David - That must have been a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing the images. In spite of the limitations, they still are incredibly beautiful!

Bellini's work is amongst my favorites. I copied Fete Champetre a few years ago as a pastel. It is an incredible image and I learned so much from the project. Ok, I could rave on and on, I like Bellini's work so much!:D


This is about the set of four painting commissioned by Duke Alfonso. While the paintings are separated now, it's interesting to think about them as a group.

http://webexhibits.org/feast/location/camerino.html

Thanks so much, it's really brightened this rainy day in Dekalb!

Barb Solomon:cat:

stlukesguild
09-24-2006, 01:46 AM
I know I'd promised Hals and Rembrandt next... but I really MUST write about Turner. His works were clearly one of the biggest impacts upon me during my recent museum visits. Besides... I might note that I had always thought o Turner as something of an inverted Rembrandt. Whereas Rembrandt structures his paintings upon the areas of light smoldering out of the overall gloom or shaddow, Tuner's paintings are structured upon the few darker passages within the field of blinding light. Clearly I'm not the only one to notice this link. Two of Turner's greatest landscapes hang in a place of honor in the great hall of the Frick Museum and act as anchors or centerpieces at one side of the hall in much the same manner as Rembrandt's great Polish Rider (and I'm sorry... I refuse to image this painting as being by anyone but Rembrandt:mad:) does further down.

JMW Turner was perhaps the first artist to lead me into believing that the landscape might rival or equal figure painting. His grand scenes were a visual equivalent to the Romantic views of nature as portrayed in the poetry of Keats, Shelley, and Wordsworth, as well as the atmospheric writings of Poe, Baudelaire, Bronte... and certain pieces of atmosperic music or musical "tone poems" by Beethoven (think his 6th Symphony), Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Bruchner, Wagner, Sibelius, etc...

I first fell in love with Turner while experimenting with watercolor in art school. The watercolor "master" par excellence as championed by the art schools at that time was Cezanne. All the teachers were enthralled with his elegance and simplicity... and with the ammount of paper he left untouched as virgin white. I could appreciate this work to an extent... but then again... I had recently befriended a Chinese student (he is a studio partner of mine to this day) who introduced me to the Asian manner of watercolor and sumi ink painting, and it appeared plain that Cezanne had nothing on them. But Turner!... Turner was something entirely different. He presented a manner of watercolor painting that was built up of numerous transluscent washes of color (almost like glazes) resulting in an incredibly atmospheric painting:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-D36211_9.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-65-10.jpg

Turner was one of the first artists whose life I read about in some detail... and he was undoubtedly a fascinating figure. He was capable of producing paintings ("potboilers" he called them) to satiate the conservative market of the time (making a good living) and yet created some of the most advanced paintings of the time... often verging on abstraction. He squirled his money away but preferred to live among the lower classes; he was often filthy, unshaven, dressed shabbily, and carousing among women of questionable reputation (at best). He had a notorious temper and a flare for the theatrical. The annual salon exhibitions of the Royal Academy allowed for three final days ("varnishing days") during which artists might apply the final touches to paintings. Turner was known to have used these sessions to virtually produce entire paintings before an audience... almost as early performance art. Several of my favorite anecdotes about Turner relate to "varnishing days".

In one instance Turner was to exhibit his painting, Regulus, some ten years after its initial exhibition, at the British Institution (Royal Academy). Turner is supposed to have spent an entire day brushing nothing but flake white into every nook of the painting surface until the sun became as embossed as the boss of a shield and the painting took on the look of a blinding light, overwhelming every other painting on exhibit:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-Regulussmall.JPG

In another instance, Constable was showing his masterful Waterloo Bridge opposite a Turner. The Turner painting was something of a lovely Claude-like landscape in cool colors which most certainly couldn't compete with Constable's fiery red Thames for drama. Constable left the gallery confident of having finally "one-upped" his rival. Turner, upon arriving, looked from the Constable to his own painting and back again. He then promptly left only to return with a dollop of chrome red which he applied to the middle of his cool sea creating a floating life buoy. And then he left again. Shortly thereafter, Constable returned and was immediately shocked to discover that even his vermillion water seemed tame compared to the red that screamed from Turner's painting. He immediately exclaimed: "He's been here... and fired a gun!"

Of course Turner could be surprisingly considerate at times. Old Raeburn (or was in Gainsborough?) was to exhibit at the Royal Academy but had the poor luck to find his work placed opposite a brilliant Turner landscape. He sadly realized that Turner's painting all but drowned him out, but he lacked the nerve to say anything. A friend of Raeburn expressed his concerns to Turner... fearful of his notorious temper. Turner, however, graciously took it upon himself to tone down his entire painting by covering it with a layer of lanp black shoe polish that he might readilly remove upon the completionof the exhibition.

Perhaps my favorite Turner tale involves my favorite Turner painting in the National Gallery, Mortlake Terrace:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-a000073f.jpg

The story is related that during "varnishing days" Turner had stepped out of the galleries at the Royal Academy, whereupon the painter Edwin Landseer came upon his painting. He admitted that the work was quite marvelous, but suggested that it lacked a focal point. He proceeded to cut out a small black dog from black paper and attached it to the painting. Everyone awaited Turner's expected explosive reaction upon returning. The artist, however, approached the painting unconcernedly, adjusted the dog slightly, varnished over the paper and proceeded to then paint it. John Walker, former director of the National Gallery of Art, admitted that he thought the story to be appocryphal until such time that the painting was brought into the lab for cleaning. Careful examination revealed the dog to be indeed painted upon paper, and Walker refused to allow cleaning of the painting for fear of losing the paper dog.

It is too bad that more museum directors were not so careful with their Turners... waiting for more modern technologies before scrubbing up their paintings. Turner's watercolors echoed the use of glazes in his oil paintings... but his oil paintings were also informed by his watercolors. Unfortunately... it appears that Turner often utilized watercolor washes as even more subtle glazes within his oil paintings. These were forever lost when paintings were cleaned in the traditional manner before restorers were aware enough to look out for this practice of Turner's, and had the technical capabilities to analyze the make-up of the surfaces of his (or anyone else's) paintings.

While the warm and atmospheric Mortlace Terrace, with its accent of trees receding into the distance like a simple but powerful musical motiff (the da-da-da-dum! of Beethoven's 5th) is clearly my favorite Turner among the holdings of the National Gallery, I must admit to a great admiration for two other paintings.

The Keelmen Heaving Coals by Night is marvelously evocative:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-a00004e1.jpg

The scene glows marvelously in a shimmering cool moonlight, while ghostly ships fade away into the distance. To the right, smoke and bursts of red and yellow fire appear almost like a scene of naval warfare. I have oftenbeen fascinated with the effects of glowing lights in the night... the headlights and tail lights of cars... the neon lights and glow of TV screens in windows... but I have been stumped as to how to render such. Turner clearly shows that such lights in the night are indeed a subject capable of producing the most magical of paintings.

Another favorite of the National Gallery has long been the Venice of 1834:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Sep-2006/39499-a0000740.jpg

One must credit Turner as much as anyone else with creating the image of the magical city on the water that is Venice. In this painting creamy... even encrusted white architecture glows forth magically between the azure sky and crystalline waters. Light... suggestive of sunrise... throws shados diagonally across the waters of the lagoon in the foreground. Ships and buildings are magically mirrored in the waters which appear incredibly transparent... built up of layers of scumbles, paint flicks, and glazes. The entire painting has such an incredible incandescent, mirror-like feeling of space that I am almost shocked at the rather small scale of the work.

The Turners that made the biggest impact upon me, it must be admitted, were not those in Washington (fine as they are) but rather three works in New York. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art I came across the marvelous Whalers:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Sep-2006/39499-BW0612whale_ship.jpg
(unfortunately, I can't find a larger reproduction:()

Turner would have been the perfect artist to have illustrated Herman Melville's classic novel. His painting plainly presents the act of whaling as a grand struggle between man and nature. The whale bursts forth from golden yet turbulent seas in a blur of black and blood red. The whaling boats are tossed in disarray before the ghostly mother-ship on the horizon. A rather scumbled surface suggests a sparay of water everywhere ("water, water everywhere...") The outcome of this epic battle is nowhere certain.

The two greatest Turners I have yeat to see in person are both in the collection of the Frick Museum. These paintings, The Harbor at Dieppe:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Sep-2006/39499-dieppe.jpg

and Cologne, Arrival of a Packet Ship; Evening:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Sep-2006/39499-98696984_f5d240792c.jpg

Both of these paintings are quite large in comparison to any other Turner painting I have seen. I imagined them as being something around 5x7'... although they might be a bit smaller. Examining the paintings closely I was fascinated with the variety of paint handling. The architecture in the background is painted in a transparent manner... almost as if it were watercolor. Certain details (such as the figures) are rendered in an almost "deadpan" manner, while elsewhere rough scrumbles and gestural brushstrokes can be found among the sky and water. The colors were quite fabulous, ranging from oranges, golden yellows, and delicate roses, to blinding white and pitch (but transparent) black. Of course the effect of light is overwhelming... blinding at times. Where I was most stunned, however, was in the handling in the water. Layers of paint weave over and over. The shadowed areas never appear as dark paint sitting on the surface... but always as a transparent area where we can see into the depths below. Most incredible were the passages portraying the water's surface in which the layers of paint appeared as if scraped away with a :"squeegie" in the manner of Gerhardt Richter's abstract paintings... and yet so much more masterfully. I spent more time looking at these paintings (as well as the great Bellini, Esctasy of Saint Francis and the absolutely amazing Ingres portrait, Comtessa d'Haussonville, than anywhere else. As I am currently pondering something of a return to oil painting... involving (perhaps?:confused:) landscape, Turner offered the greatest possible lessons and inspiration.

WV.Artistry
09-24-2006, 02:40 AM
. . He squirled his money away but preferred to live among the lower classes; he was often filthy, unshaven, dressed shabbily, and carousing among women of questionable reputation (at best). He had a notorious temper and a flare for the theatrical.

Hard to not like the fellow.

WV.Artistry
09-24-2006, 07:54 PM
Recent visit to Australia . . Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney)

John Waterhouse
"Diogenes"
c.1882
oil on canvas
208.3 x 134.6cm stretcher; 249.0 x 177.4 x 15.0cm frame
Art Gallery of New South Wales
http://collection.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/results.do?view=detail&db=object&searchMode=simple &id=4259 (http://collection.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/results.do?view=detail&db=object&searchMode=simple&id=4259)

Diogenes of Sinope
He used to stroll through the Agora at full daylight with a torch (or, as legend sometimes has it, a lantern). When asked about it, he would answer, "I am just looking for an honest man".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope

Full-size image from : http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com...house/hi/9.jpg

http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com/images/content/waterhouse/hi/9.jpg

My partial photos :

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609446ul.jpg http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609185ul.jpg

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609444ul.jpg http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609184ul.jpg

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609166ul.jpg

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c11/r601020/Photos%202006%20Oz/200609167ul.jpg

saintlukesguild
09-25-2006, 05:29 PM
I went to the National Gallery with a more or less fixed two part agenda. One - how did the painters apply their paint? Two - how could I do the same thing when I returned home?

What did I learn? To a large degree, I found confirmation of what I thought I understood going in - the use of hatching, stippling, and pointillism. But I am not so dumb as to turn what I observed into self-fulfilling prophecy. Questions danced on and leapt off of every oil painting I looked at. And for many I was unable to supply a satisfactory answer, even to myself. It is one thing to channel graze to Bob Ross to see him stipple in with a house painters brush leaves on happy trees and happy bushes. It is something else to stick your nose as close as the guards will allow to a Titian painting and examine stippling. Much of what I saw in Titian wasn’t stippling at all, but very dry brushing of color over rough canvas weave. Paint particles sat on top of the canvas nubs and gave off a subdued sparkle of color at the bottom. Sometimes this was over laid with a brighter lighter paint sparkle on the same canvas nub. Sometimes this 1, 2, or 3 layers of texture sparkle covered large areas, sometimes it was discretely and deliberately place among contiguous areas where the color was mostly original ground tone.

Language is our primary means of communication, and I am a stickler for words having meaning. What does “stipple” mean exactly? Is the meaning tied to the manner of application of paint to the surface, and is that manner decided by the type of hair in the brush - hog bristle instead of sable? Is stipple a very deliberate and focused technique with a pretty much foreseen outcome? Meaning a mass of tiny dots, albeit tiny dots much smudged and distorted by the movement of ends of bush hairs. Could stippling also be applying single dots, one at a time, in a concentrated mass, on a specific area to shape an object? Or air in the background for that matter… If so, what exactly, distinguishes stippling from pointillism? (Seurat, for one thing. But that was exactly my agenda in going to the National Gallery, to obliterate Seurat and all 19th and 20th century definitions, and see with my own eyes what painters did in the 16th and 17th centuries.

At this point you may ask, if any reader is still here, why do these questions have any importance? What difference do they make? They make a very big difference if anyone wants to paint in 17th century manner, as I do. At this point I will excuse myself from posting photos for the reason Dave emphatically stated above - the very best of high resolution photography doesn’t even come close to revealing the intricate paint layers on a canvass. You will have to rely on my prose, which is lucid by all accounts. :)

The importance of what I am trying to describe has great impact when you enter the Bellini et.al. exhibit. The colors dazzle you. It is like some never seen before lighting configuration as been switched on. This is the point when the painting and the viewer interact. For that moment, brief or long, the viewers gaze at a single painting gives him an emotional reaction that he doesn’t fully understand, and that reaction has nothing to do with art history or poetic interpretation written by anyone. It is totally subjective. But the totally subjective must have a base. The base I knew was there, and closely examined, was the way/manner/scheme the paint was applied to the support - canvas or panel. This is all the more intriguing when you understand that pre 1699 painters did not have a single color theory to follow - at least none written down and found by historians sifting the archives. There might in fact be one, or a partial one, floating around somewhere, but I have never come across it. Today we are blessed with what… 10, 30, 100 color theories? Back then dazzling color was achieved by choice of dazzling pigment itself, at the very last. Primaries, blacks, whites. But the dazzling effect of light and color was supported broadly and pervasively by a quieter chorale of under paintings - stippling, hatching, pointillism, and scumbles - in sum, by the way the paint was applied to the canvas.

What is “scumbling,” exactly? What distinguishes scumbling from stippling? We all know what hatching is: straight parallel lines boldly marked in with dry sticks or wet ink to suggest a shaded area in Old Master drawings. But so many of the artists, including tempera painters of the 15th and 16th centuries, and especially Rembrandt, stacked single dots of paint in a column, side by side, which suggest “hatch” lines. And I can think of no reason not to call them such. But these columns of dots could also be called “pointillism,” or something very close to it. To complicate matters, some of these columns of dots were gone over with a very fine brush tip, thus making a broken vertical line of “hatch” by anyone’s reckoning. Where this happened was deliberate, and it was fascinating to ponder their decision making in doing this. For one thing it broke up the pointillist pattern and averted any visual boredom with it. It also, by accumulation on so many parts of the canvas, contributed to “sparkle” seen at 30 feet away. Keep in mind, what I am describing here could fill an area as small as one square inch. Small indeed on a canvas 4 x 5 feet. I had to put my nose within 5 inches of the painting to see it at all. But that was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to see when I planned my visit to the gallery.

WV.Artistry
09-25-2006, 11:58 PM
. . At this point I will excuse myself from posting photos for the reason Dave emphatically stated above - the very best of high resolution photography doesn’t even come close to revealing the intricate paint layers on a canvass.

Override sub-routine.

I can only see this as a temporary lapse into absurdity (no offense). We know these truths as self-evident re: images, but to venture into words describing pictures without the pictures, is the equivalent of a book on "how to draw", explaining everything, without an example of the finished result to be reversed-engineered. What's the point? It's merely a dog howling to hear itself howl.

Howling that serves a purpose would be the hunt, warning the master against an invader, answering another cry from a distant hill . . but I would shoot a neighbor's dog for such inappropriate noise. So, besides the fun of hearing ourselves boast in verbosity, keep the pictures in it, giving some credibility or at least substance to the observations.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Sep-2006/85439-turner_dog.jpg

IMO: scumbling should be removed from the art verbiage of the general populace since it is misunderstood as a technique and highly misused as a word. When artists say they are scumbling, I look at the work, and wonder what they are talking about -- where exactly were they scumbling? When I use this technique (and I do), I don't use that word, even though I know it is exactly what I am doing. To date, a faux finish on a plaster wall is probably the best example I've seen to describe scumbling.

If you have more accurate examples of scumbling, please post their links. Otherwise, let it fall away into obscurity, a vague description, replaced by words of precision.

Scum·ble (skhttp://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/ubreve.gifmhttp://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/prime.gifbhttp://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/schwa.gifl)
tr.v. scum·bled, scum·bling, scum·bles
1. To soften the colors or outlines of (a painting or drawing) by covering with a film of opaque or semiopaque color or by rubbing.
2. To blur the outlines of: a writer who scumbled the line that divides history and fiction.
n.
1. The effect produced by or as if by scumbling.
2. Material used for scumbling.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Possibly from scum.]

saintlukesguild
09-26-2006, 10:14 AM
Absurdity? Howling dog? Please don't shoot me Richard!!!!!

My best reason for not showing photos is I don't have any. I didn't take a camera with me. I could probably find some examples in the library, but they still wouldn't come close to showing what I looked for and saw. (We note that you wrote out definitions of "scumble" and didn't supply a single photo to illustrate. However, that doesn't turn you into a howling dog deserving to be shot. Your demand that "scumble" be expunged (oops!) from modern day artistic vocabulary was a bit absurd though.)

I am not offended. The silly arrogance of your tantrum is quite funny. I could be funnier than that by parsing the motives of your outrage, but it would really be unfair. Scroll on down photography lane, or hit the back button. No more need be said.

WV.Artistry
09-26-2006, 07:52 PM
I am not offended.

No offense intended (and no howling dogs have been shot, yet). I've throughly enjoyed reading the posts in this thread, and now wonder if I was in error by posting. I thought it was an open thread for all users who visited a museum.

re: Turner

Someone in another forum posted that Turner had a odd habit of bending over and looking between his legs at his paintings. I thought about it, and it didn't seem odd except for the position he chose to do it with, because I have sat on a bench and leaned over backwards to look at sunsets -- this reveals a different world to a fresh set of eyes. The same is true with looking in a mirror while doing portrait work, but if watching someone use a hand-held mirror for this practice, it's somewhere between disturbing to hilarious for the casual observer. At a glance, it looks as if the painter is a narcissist.

stlukesguild
09-27-2006, 01:03 AM
Hals

SLG- Frans Hals, I must admit, has never been one of my absolute favorite painters. His work, however, did make something of an impact upon me during my recent museum visits due to the fact that one of my studio mates was so taken by it. My own preferences lean more toward Rubens and Van Dyck if we are speaking of Baroque virtuoso painting. It must be admitted, however, that there is something almost disturbingly modern about Hals. Perhaps it is the angularity of his hatching (quite different from the more organic brush work of Rubens or Van Dyck) combined with the starkness which lends the work something of a "harsh" edge which is echoed in many more modern painters. I couldn't help but notice the similarity with the work of Manet (and the National Gallery has a brilliant collection of Manet's work) or even (Dare I say it, Luke?!), that of Lucian Freud.

Looking, for example, at this portrait of a man with a book by Hals, I am immediately struck by the fresh and often broad brush-strokes... yet I am equally impressed by the manner in which these combine into the illusion of the most incredibly solid sculptural forms:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-HalsMansmall.JPG

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a000101a.jpg

One can't help but notice and admire the similar painterliness... yet solidity as found is the work of Manet:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-manet009.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a0002c7a.jpg

This shouldn't come as to great of a surprise... Manet, after all, was greatly influenced by the Dutch painters during a trip to Holland, as well as by the equally "stark" and painterly Velazquez. Lucian Freud, on the other hand, has admitted a great admiration for Hals... and such appears plain to me when looking at painterly solidity that he often achieves in his work:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-Freud_quattro.jpg

Luke- This brought a big smile to my face... That Lucian Freud... by design, or accident, or if at all, suggests Frans Hals, and not the other way around, seeing as how Hals died 400 years before Lucian was born. But your misconception is really human nature. Indeed, people of any era know and understand all there is to know and understand by their sensory perception of their immediate world. That is in fact reality by any definition. That would excuse Egytians in 1 A.D. thinking the glories of Carnack suggested the architectual splendor of their own mud and straw huts with reed roofs. That might explain your inability to see "pointilism" outside the frame of reference of crude dots and blobs by Seurat. Pointilism was employed by the tempera painters and continued in oil painting to 1699, after which I couldn't care less.

SLG- To my mind, the greatest art always has something timeless about it. As Degas declared, paintings should not "smell of the museum". T.S. Eliot observed that a truly "new" work of art affected the art of the past just as certainly as the great art of the past impacted the art of the future. I have no problem recognizing the debt that modern and contemporary artists owe to their predecessors. At the same time I can appreciate the (at times) shocking freshness and "modernity" of the old masters. To look at the old masters after having spent time with certain moderns with imilar interests can be an eye-opening experience... allowing one to see what may be "old" with new insights. Of course, if one lives with blinders on... imagining that all art somehow slipped into decline after a certain "golden age"... that all the art of the modern world is nothing more than poor mud huts in contrast to the architectural splendour of the world pre-1699... well then I can understand the inability to see the new in the old.

But back to Hals...

Looking at several of his paintings I am more than certain that the artist did indeed work quite rapidly. I wouldn't suggest that the paintings were produced solely ala prima... that is... all is one step. There are passages that suggest the artist built the paint up in two or more layers... Nevertheless... there are many areas which are clearly produced a a single "wet into wet" manner. Are these mere surface details added at the vey end, as Luke has suggested? Degas often worked in such a manner... layering quick, gestural, spontaneous strokes over the pastel drawing which has been slowly and methodically built up. With Hals, however, it appears clear that there are entire passages of clothing, hair, and flesh that have been worked up quite rapidly. If we look closely at the rougish portrait of Baltasar Coysmans , we find a great variety of brush-work:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-coymansmedium.JPG

The face suggests several layers of paint... even a hint of glazed color...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a0001022.jpg

... but the underpainting is rapidly sketched in... the forms carved out with his quick hatching. Other areas... such as the hair, the hands, and the embroidered clothing, are created in a most virtuoso manner... the paint dancing across the surface rather like the foil in the hand of a master swordsman:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a0001024.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a0001025.jpg

To my mind, the strength of this particular painting lies in the manner in which the form is so brilliantly wed with the subject. Coysmans has the look of someone with a cocky, devil-may-care attitude that is perfectly suited by what may at forst seem such a "slap-dash" manner of painting. Indeed, the weakness of Hals' paintings in comparison with Rubens, Van Dyck, and definitely Rembrandt, is that his subjects often seem to lack much by way of a personality. There is surely nothing to suggest the emotion-lade eyes of Rembrandt's great self portrait or his [I]Lucretia:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a0001136.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Sep-2006/39499-a000114b.jpg

Indeed... one must admit that both Rubens and Van Dyck can match Hals' virtuosity in paint manipulation, while surpassing him in conveying personality and emotion. And then the have the added advantage of color! Nevertheless... at his best, Hals is indeed quite a strong artist and the angularity of rigidity of his hatched brush-work, and the starkness of his color keep his paintings from every degenerating into mere fireworks at the fairground... and accusation that might be validly levelled at many other Baroque painters at times... Rubens and Van Dyck included.

... next: Rembrandt

saintlukesguild
09-27-2006, 12:34 PM
I've throughly enjoyed reading the posts in this thread, and now wonder if I was in error by posting. I thought it was an open thread for all users who visited a museum.

Now I fully understand your difficulty with prose, mine or any. :thumbsup:

jdadson
10-03-2006, 07:59 PM
I like the Hals tronies quite a lot. I've seen maybe half a dozen. I do not get the impression that he worked quickly or haphazardly - economically, yes. I feel that I can almost count the brush strokes. To me everything looks quite deliberate and exquisitely controlled.

I am also a big fan for Rembrandt, particularly the later works. Why compare the two painters? They are as different as sherbet and roast duck.

jdadson
10-03-2006, 08:03 PM
Can you point out where Hals used hatching? I know what "hatching" means in a line drawing, and I've heard the word applied to oil painting, but I don't know what it means in the latter context.

saintlukesguild
10-04-2006, 02:10 PM
Young David is seeing, and expounding on, what every modern art educator sees and expounds on - surface effects. All the virtuosity and fabulous brush strokes that Hals painted on cuffs, ruffs, and zany stitching in jacket sleeves was the absolute last thing he painted on any picture. It is understandable the modern eye sees these final dazzling effects as the definition of the whole, and takes them and runs with them straight to Lucian Freud. :evil:

Frans Hals painted exactly like all his cohorts... UP TO A POINT. Long before he applied his final VIRTUOSITY on any painting, he did what other artists did. Chose a tonal ground, blocked in and built up forms with shadow and light, all with painstaking deliberation. This was the way he was taught; the way all his cohorts were taught. And he did so. Of course his personal vision and sense of style came to influence his process, but that did not radically depart from the basic instruction he and his cohorts were taught.

The final brush work virtuosity of Hals should not be extrapolated to stand alone. It sits on a methodically structured foundation and is inextricable from it. Otherwise, the Hals painting loses its meaning. To extrapolate the final virtuousity of Hals and use it to automatically validate the likes of Manet and Lucian Freud streaks far beyond the meaningless. It is like comparing... I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.

stlukesguild
10-04-2006, 09:16 PM
Oops! My mistake. I forgot that every modern art educator and every artist painting after 1699 (it must have sucked to have been born that year... knowing that it was all downhill from here:rolleyes:) has been unable to see what Luke alone percieves. And of course all those art historians are wrong too. Forget the fact that most of their analysis of the painting processes of Hals and others were based upon access to the actual paintings... Luke sees more in mere reproductions than an entire army of poor, deluded moderns. It might be noted that I never suggested that Hals didn't begin with a tonal underpainting. Of course Manet used the same method and I have been known to utilize it in my own paintings as well. This, in no way, contradicts the notion that Hals (and other old masters) was able to rapidly execute his paintings. I guess that Luke has never witnessed a truly talented portraitist at work. I don't see what the fear of the virtuoso is all about, in any matter. I don't think that that I will find Rubens, Hals, Van Dyck, Delacroix, Sargent, Manet, etc... to be any less of the artist because of their often rapid execution. I suppose it might disturb some artists to imagine that another might be able to produce something of a real virtuosity without undergoing the proper "painstaking" deliberation. I know that I surely envy Rubens facility. I surely don't see how Hals (or any artist) loses his/her "meaning" if it is not the the product of slow, lumbering deliberation. If anything, I might be more impressed at such virtuosity. As for the need to "validate" the work of a later painter by comparison with an old master, this is an absurdity that shows a complete lack of understanding of inpiration and artistic influence. Michelangelo was influenced/inspired by Giotto and Massaccio. To point out this influence does not lessen his achievement. Almost all art, at one level, is a sort of dialog with one's predecessors. Manet was undoubtedly inspired/influenced by Hals, Vermeer, Velazquez, Delacroix, and many other artists. What made him a strong artist (in my opinion, a more important painter than Hals... but that's just my opinion, and neither here nor there) is that he was able to take these influences and create something new... original... something truly his own. This is something that the academic painter always forgets. Or as I posted earlier (R.W. Emerson... and I know... he wrote post-1699, so he is probably of no worth whatsoever:p):

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide...

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think", I am", but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or blowing rose. These roses under my window make no references to former roses or to better ones...

Insist on yourself. Never imitate.

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.

No greater men are now than ever were... (or vis-versa:wave:)

stlukesguild
10-08-2006, 07:59 PM
Rembrandt
(part 1. The National Gallery, Washington D.C.)

I have always felt that Michelangelo was the greatest artist ever, bar none, for reasons I have gone into elsewhere. Rembrandt, however, has ever been the artist who could move me most. His strength (or shall I say his greatest strength?) it seems to me, is his ability to invent human characters that seem as "real" and as profound as anyone we might know from literature. In this sense, I have often thought of him as something of the artistic equivalent of Shakespeare.

My recent trips to Washington and New York put me into contact once more with several of Rembrandt's greatest paintings (an experience I must admit I have yet to have with Michelangelo), as well as an entire cluster of his prints and drawings. On the first of my two trips I was accompanied by an artist friend (and one of my studio co-horts) who has never been fond of Rembrandt. Indeed, he was rather dismissive of both Rembrandt and Turner who shares a similar painterly technique. He felt the work was "fudged"... in other words, the application of the paint was often overly loose, the edges blurred, and the image over-all was atmospheric rather than clearly defined. These are indeed legitimate criticisms... it is merely that I don't feel that they are necessarily something negative. Of course, it should be acknowledged that artists like J.L. David, William Blake, Ingres (and Michelangelo, had he known Rembrandt) were not overly fond of the great Dutchman for the very same reasons: he is clearly of the painterly as opposed to the draughtman's school of painting, and his drawing, no matter how spectacularly fluid it is, remains more gestural and atmospheric than sculptural in form. Indeed, looking at some of Rembrandt's marvelous brush drawings...:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-LionRembrandtsmall.JPG

... I cannot help but be reminded of some of the wonderfully calligraphic ink drawings of any number of Chinese and Japanese masters.

To return to my museum visits I might note that the National Gallery of Art in Washington holds some dozen or more Rembrandts... including several of his very finest. One of these paintings is always the first and last work I go to on every visit. I am speaking here of Lucretia:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-lucretziasmall.JPG

This painting has always struck me as one of the most moving of Rembrandt's creations. He has wonderfully captured the sorrow of the young Lucretia moments before plunging the sword into her own breast as a result of her feelings of shame after having been raped by the cruel Sextus Tarquinas (you may read the story from Livy in more detail here:
( http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ROME/RAPE.HTM )

Rembrandt has captured such an expression in the young woman's eyes that one cannot fathom that they are not actually quivering as they fill up with tears:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a000114b.jpg

His handling of paint is astounding. While Vermeer might leave one slightly befuddled as to how he achieved certain effects of light, one leaves Rembrandt completely at a loss as to how the artist made the decisions in building up his paintings. The canvas surface varies from thin washes where one can almost see the raw canvas or the first washes of paint, though the most subtle veils and galzes of color, on to the richest and creamiest of impastos and even encrustations that suggest the textures of shimmering embroidered gowns or glittering jewelry:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a000114c.jpg

Several years ago I had the chance to see the second version of Lucretia:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-Images_Gallery_22_rembrandt_09.jpg

... usually housed in the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. The two paintings were beautifully installed side-by-side. This second painting is no less emotionally wrenching than the first... indeed, it may be more so. This time Rembrandt presents the teary-eyed Lucretia in the moment after she has pluged the knife into her heart. She staggers... clutching onto the bedside curtain rope so as to maintain her balance. In this instance one is astonished by the flow of blood which seems almost wet some 400+ years later and the marvelous encrusted gold chain which encircles her body much like that in the famous Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer

Probably my next favorite painting by Rembrandt in the National Gallery is his deservedly famous Self Portrait of 1659:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-sp1659.jpg

This painting is almost equal in emotional impact to the Lucretia as the now aged Rembrandt stares at himself (and us) with sadness and perhaps no lack of apprehension at his own impending mortality. His eyes are all-telling:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a0001136.jpg

These are the eyes of someone having known the profound depths of sadness... someone who has been beaten down by life... but not destroyed. Formally, this is the painting in which I truly recognized just what Rembrandt was doing... just how he was organizing his paintings as a manner of conveying how we actually see. His is not the sort of equally tightly rendered details painting that one might find in Van Eyck or most of the Italian masters. Rembrandt, undoubtedly recognizes that our focus ranges from tight at the center of what we are looking at or focusing upon, while things become less distinct or blurry as our eyes move to what is peripheral. The face,,, the eyes of his portrait is built up thickly with very crisp elements. As we move away from our supposed focal point (the eyes) the details become less distinct. The hands which almost desperately clutch each other are suggested by but a blur... but my God! What a blur!:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a0001138.jpg

One can imagine the artist having painted this again and again until he hit it just right... until it maintained just the perfect balance of spontaneity and definition which perfectly defined the form just enough... yet sat in space to just the right degree in relationship to the rest of the picture. One finds something similar in Velazquez' Needlewoman, also in the collection of the National Gallery:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-velazquezsmall.JPG

In Velazquez' little painting one can clearly discern the rapid manner in which the blur of the dancing fingers was laid in... and yet, one can also plainly see the ghostly remnants or pentimenti of the earlier attempts at painting this detail which were scraped off again and again.

continued...

stlukesguild
10-08-2006, 08:00 PM
Rembrandt
(The National Gallery, Washington D.C. pt. 2)

There are quite a few more truly magnificent paintings by Rembrandt in this collection. The famous "The Mill" :

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a0000e86.jpg

...was once thought by many afficianados to have been one of Rembrandt's most magnificent. A recent cleaning removed much of the yellowish glow that leant the painting something of a tragic Romantic atmosphere. The cleaning revealed that the painting had a much broader range of colors (surprise! Rembrandt actually used blue!:rolleyes:) but the work is still quite magical and somber.

There is also a wonderful painting of Saint Paul:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a0000e84.jpg

... a lovely little Descent from the Cross:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-rembdescsmall.JPG

... and the magically atmospheric Philemon and Baucis:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-rembrandt46small.JPG

Any one of these paintings might have been an incomparable treasure in a collection not so obscenely rich as that of the National Gallery. They are paintings I have often spent more time with upon a second of third visit to the collection during a more extended stay in Washington.

There are also two more truly masterful paintings. The first is one of a pair of portraits of a husband and wife: Portrait of a Woman with Ostrich Feather:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-ostrichsmall.JPG

This painting is marvelously simple...stark... (dare I say "minimal" without raising the ire of Luke and his fear of any reference to art post-1699?). The composition rather simply presents two opposing triangular areas of light (the woman's head and shoulders and her hands and feather). One senses an almost equal importance and character afforded to both the face and the clasped hands. Where the portrait of this woman rises above that of the portrait of her husband is in the profound depth of personality this painting conveys. One senses a wonderful intelligence... a sensuality that cannot be masked by age or by the stark Puritan setting... and something of a hidden... perhaps deep abiding sadness:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-a0001193.jpg

One of my absoulute favorites in the collection (I have a reproduction of it... along with the Lucretia and the Self Portrait hanging on my studio wall) is the lovely little Jacob and Potipher's Wife:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Oct-2006/39499-potipharsmall.JPG

Whereas many Mannerist, Renaissance, and Baroque painters drew upon this theme in order to focus upon the erotic drama of the seductress... (often rather hypocritically embracing the very eroticism and sensuality which they were supposedly rejecting), Rembrandt focuses upon the later, quieter, sadder drama of the accusation. Potipher's wife is magnificently dressed in glittering pearls and jewels and a lovely salmon robe which opens to reveal a brilliant white nightgown that she clutches (to great effect, no doubt) to cover her breasts. She is no doubt deeply hurt... and angered... that this young servant has dared to reject her advances... after all, she is still quite attractive. Potipher, standing in the shadows, seems stunned with disbelief as he lays one arm on his wife's shoulder. She gestures toward Jacob... her gesturing hand the central focal point silohetted against the starched white sheets. Jacob, however, shows no fear nor makes no protest as he stands dutifully awaiting the verdict of of the king.

bjs0704
10-08-2006, 10:07 PM
The Rembrandts are wonderful! I've always felt that his ink drawings were particularly lovely!

Barb Solomon:cat: