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Old 07-18-2017, 02:51 PM
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Grotius Grotius is offline
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Copy of Sargent's "Lady Astor" (detail)

This is a copy of a small part of John Singer Sargent's "Lady Astor" (1909), which hangs in Cliveden, the former Astor estate in southern England. Lady Nancy Astor was, among other things, the first female member of the House of Commons. She tangled politically with Churchill, once saying that if she were his wife, she'd put poison in his coffee. Churchill supposedly replied: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it."

I embarked on this copy to learn more about how Sargent made his portraits look so three-dimensional. I painted this in several sessions, spending about 10-15 hours; I didn't do much glazing, more just fussing with proportions and color temperature. Did Sargent paint this alla prima, or did he glaze?

My likeness is not perfect. My Nancy is a tad thinner, with a slightly smaller nose and mouth. It'd have taken me another 15 hours to get it just right, and the purpose of the exercise wasn't to make an exact replica but to learn. I also had trouble getting myself to make her skin tone as cool as he has it, though I did have some success mimicking his use of cools in transitional areas. Anyway, at some point, I decided I'd learned what I was going to learn, and I declared victory.

Incidentally, when photographing it, I couldn't keep glare out of the right side of the black background, so I've photoshopped that bit to make it blacker. I'm going to try again with a better camera, but in the meantime, I thought I'd post what I have. Oil on canvas, 11" x 14"; comments and constructive critique welcome.

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Last edited by Grotius : 07-18-2017 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 07-18-2017, 03:54 PM
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Re: Copy of Sargent's "Lady Astor" (detail)

Very nice study! You are off to a great start.

I will keep it simple because I'm still on my vacation with my tablet. It's painful to try and type on this lol

Few thoughts when I compare it to the original:

Original has higher contrast. Try compare the highlights on her face especially on her high cheek and her neck and the shadow of her eyes. Feel the relationship of that contrast. It's deeper.

Chroma of red - orange is much higher in the original.

Chroma of yellow is on the spot. Just some highlights are missing if you get my drift.

Face structure is pretty much on the spot. Well done!

Just something to keep in mind for later.

Photographing art like that is extremely hard! The best way I could find is to do it in after noon sun outside with canvas facing towards the building to reduce the glare. I need to draw something to show what I mean by that. Just ask if you still want to know. I might do it when I get back home from vacation tomorrow night... Or try to do it on my tablet. Lol

Either way, I can see that you have learned a lot from it! Good job!
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Old 07-18-2017, 04:12 PM
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Grotius Grotius is offline
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Re: Copy of Sargent's "Lady Astor" (detail)

Thanks for your reply, DMA! I appreciate your comments.

Interestingly, until a couple days ago, I did have more contrast in just the areas you mentioned, and I thought they were too strong, so I toned them down. Perhaps I overdid it. One of the last things I did was to tone down the shadows around the eyes (especially her left eye), for example. I still think these look about right (although I couldn't quite get the hue of the shadow under her left eye; it's a tad redder in my reference), but I'll look again.

Heh, I knew someone would comment on the neck shadows. My reference is from a book, and it has writing scrawled over the neck, so I can't really see it! (I know I can find better references online, but I prefer a print reference -- easier to prop up and look at.) Anyway, I do agree that the shadows on the neck need to be darker, but I think the value of the highlights on the neck are about right -- they'll pop more if I darken the neck-shadow a tad.

As for chroma, I thought I was using *too* saturated colors! At least in the copy I was working from, her skin looks pale and a bit washed-out, except for her noticeably ruddy ear. (In Sargent's day, pale skin and red ears were a standard of beauty.) I actually couldn't bring myself to make her as pale as that, so I deliberately warmed up her cheeks a tad. Artist-copyist license? But I'll think more about whether I could use more saturated warm colors to achieve that end.

Before I adjust that, I suppose I need a better reference photo. Or, best of all, to see the original in person. My impression of "Madame X" and other Sargents changed significantly when I saw them in person at the Met a couple weeks ago. Again, I was struck by how pale his models appear.

I think you're being too kind about her facial structure; I think I'm very close, but I've made her nose and mouth a tad too small, giving her face a slightly narrower appearance. For the purpose of this learning exercise, it's close enough for me -- it'd take me another 15 hours to fix, probably!

Thanks again for your comments!
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Last edited by Grotius : 07-18-2017 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 07-19-2017, 04:18 AM
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Re: Copy of Sargent's "Lady Astor" (detail)

Anytime grotius/Geoff (I'm not sure which you prefer me to call you by lol)

I think the values around her eyes are pretty much in the spot except like you said, it could be a bit redder. Ears too.

I understand what you mean with the paleness. I actually find it more challenging to pull off while still keeping it looking accurate without it suffering some dead colors. Lol and you can always take artistic license. That's what it is for!

Haha let's pretend that you have nailed her neck... *whistle innocently * I understand what you mean with the printed reference. Do whatever works for you. Of course seeing it in real life beats everything. I can agree... I saw Rembrandt works in Amsterdam and wow let's say the works I saw online aren't even as breathtaking as the one I saw in person.

Yeah as long you feel you have learned something from it, it counts! It's a good victory!

Speaking of master study, I should give one a try!
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Old 08-20-2017, 05:09 PM
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Re: Copy of Sargent's "Lady Astor" (detail)

I wouldnt concern too much about likeness as Sargent likeness of Nancy wasnt perfect either .
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