Re: MARCH Painting with the Masters 2011 - THOMAS EAKINS
MORE NOTES ABOUT EAKINS’ METHODS (from Thomas Eakins, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001
As a student Eakins was puzzled by color, according to letters he wrote to his father from his school in France. He preferred indirect painting, the development of modeling and layering of glazes and scumbles over a strong and solid underpainting. Eakins’ method of indirect painting differed from that of other artists in one specific way. He used glazes and scumbles across entire areas of a painting to adjust color! He was not afraid of wasting paint. Let me repeat that for those of you who will want to squeeze only tiny amounts of paint out onto your palettes and conserve the paint for another painting. He was not afraid to use a lot of paint!
Close examination of his paintings reveal huge areas of bright color that were neutralized with layers of darker or more subdued opaque color. His paintings were multilayered and archivists have found that progressive color adjustments throughout the painting process, in particular the lowering of color intensity and key, is a consistent and characteristic feature of his technique. P. 345,346
Notes from Eakins’ trip to Spain: “Indirect, layered painting is the only way, in my opinion, that can give delicacy and strength at the same time.” He resolved to establish strength in his work by first painting solidly, quickly and always putting in as much light as possible at the beginning of the painting. Doing this he believed would help him “establish high key” and emphatic contrasts at the outset. The objective of all subsequent layers and adjustments would then be to temper and counterpoise that strength with delicacy- ever finer gradations of modeling and contrasts, leading to an ultimate goal of refined total effect.
Another quote from his teaching days: “Every detail of color will be auxiliary to the main system of light and shade.” P. 357
Translated into today’s language this simply means that value will always trump color when it comes to realistic painting. Eakins lived during the time of the Impressionists, when color was king, yet he preferred to paint in the manner of the old masters. What this means for our purposes is that we will use a lot of earht colors and we will noT even think about the color if we are having problems-- we will simply KNOW it is a value issue. Right?
Eakins was an early adopter of photography, which he used to develop complex compositions.
Eakins’ work was characterized by a gritty sense of reality. More than one of his commissioned portraits was rejected because he refused to flatter the sitter. In contrast to many of the society portrait artists of this era, he was more interested in revealing the inner depths of the people he painted.
The work I have chosen to copy is “Mrs. Thomas Eakins”. I have always admired this piece and it is the reason I chose Eakisn as the March Master. There are untold depths inside this woman as she looks into the eyes of her husband while he paints her. An artist herself, Susan McDowell Eakins met her husband as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, and after his death she saw to it that Eakins’ paintings were preserved until they received the recognition they deserved.