Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Research Point - Landscape Drawing

Look at and research different artists depictions of landscapes. For example look at Durer's landscapes which are some of the earliest recordings of the northern Renaissance world or Claude's designed landscapes using classical proportions and finally look at Lowry's industrial images. Make notes in your learning log.

There is a huge number and variety of landscape artists. I started out looking at the suggested artists and their very different styles. I have concentrated on their drawings rather than paintings but in the case of Durer I have looked at his watercolours and engravings.

Albrecht Durer

Durer Landscape with Woodland Pool

Durer was know one of the first European landscape artists. He has many engravings but also was one of the first artists to use watercolour. I've chosen 3 drawings, all quite quite different from each other. The first, Landscape with a Woodland Pool, is actually a watercolour, This image appears to be a monochrome study but I think the original is actually in colour. The picture is very peaceful image. The technique is a mixture of detailed strokes in the trees and foreground and more broad brush strokes for the clouds and water. The picture is actually unfinished as seen in the bottom right corner which is possibly done on purpose to suggest immediacy.
Durer Landscape with a Cannon

The next landscape of Durer's is an etching and is totally different from the first. It is the largest of Durer's etchings. It's very detailed and has a huge amount of information on it, you could spend a long time studying all of the details.
In the foreground is the cannon and several figures. A magnificent tree trunk provides a border up the left side while the centre and right section is taken up by an expansive landscape. The landscape is drawn from a high vantage point and Durer has used a path to guide the eye down through a field to a collection of buildings or a small village. Beyond that in the distance are mountains and what appears to be the sea.
For the purposes of this section, to investigate fore, middle and background, this etching is very interesting. Durer has certainly included each but maybe not in the way I would have attempted. Usually the further away the subject is, the less detail that the viewer can see but in this etching, Durer has put in a lot of detail even in the furthest away areas, leaving a complicated scene which at first seems to have the wrong perspective. This is possibly a result of the technique of etching in which you can't do lighter lines.
Apparently this etching was Durer's last, possibly because he was unhappy with the technique of using an etched iron plate. He was able to achieve much more detail with engraving. In fact if you look at this etching closely, you can see that the acid used to burn the lines has left lines of uniform thickness meaning the outlines of the shapes are the same heaviness that the lines inside. This means that some details are missed when you look at it.

Durer View of the Arco Valley
Durer's watercolour "View of the Arco Valley", 1495, is one of Durer's best landscapes. It was done among 14 other watercolours, on a trip from Venice to Nuremeburg. It is though that he finished off the foreground details at a later date.

His use of pale colours and delicate detail give a much more subtle and evocative image than the engraving above. Unlike the engraving, the watercolour has allowed the further away images to appear more delicate and vague as you would see in real life. Interestingly the majority of detail is in the middle ground. The foreground is represented as an area of brown scrub ground and like in the engraving above, Durer has used what looks like a snaking path to lead the eye up to the village on the mountain which has been portrayed in great detail. On the far right the distant road and fields are shown in a much paler and lighter way with no clear lines. This clearly describes an area far away using methods of atmospheric perspective. Having most of the detail in the middle ground is an odd approach as usually the majority of detail would be in the foreground. In this instance though, Durer has ignored the uninteresting foreground and zoomed in on the area with trees and buildings only leaving a small part of the drawing for the background.
Claude Lorrain (1600-1682)

Claude Lorrain is traditionally known as just Claude in English but also known as Claude Gellée, his real name. He was a Baroque artist of French birth but later lived in Italy where he was known for his landscape painting. He was so popular at the time that a so called "Claude glass" which was a convex tinted mirror, was sold to travellers on the Grand Tour. They would turn their backs to the view and look at it's reflection in the mirror, seeing it transformed into something like a Claude painting.
The landscape and sky are the predominant focus of his paintings even though they often contain figures. Apparently he used to ask other artists to paint in the figures and would say to his patrons that he sold them the landscape; the figures were gratis.

Claude's landscape drawings were very popular with the English aristocracy who where visiting France and Italy on their grand tours. Thus there are many of these sepia drawings and etching within English art collections. 
Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Country Dance

Lorrain's Landscape with Country Dance is a pen and ink drawing with areas of brown and grey wash. The subject is a group of figures dancing while in the foreground animals graze (although one appears to be caught in the moment of falling off a cliff which is a bit odd). He has drawn in the details in the pen and ink and then gone over certain areas with a wash. The figures and front area have a grey wash applied in contrast to the foreground and trees that frame the image which have a darker, brown wash (which seems to tonally encircle the area with the figure in it). I'm not sure whether this is an effect of ageing but the grey area just don't look quite right. The grey wash has made these areas seem as if there is a fog over them. The actual detail is lovely though. From the foreground, the lines formed by the cliff edge and then the foliage and bridge behind for a zig-zag thet leads the viewer toward the castle in the distance and then to the area of sky where the sun is setting. Both of these techniques (using tone to frame the area of interest and using lines to lead the eye to it) are something I would like to use in my drawings. I notice looking back that the use of a darker tone to frame the image is not a technique that Durer applied in the drawings above, but I think it works quite well.
This is one of a series of drawings in a sketchbook named "the Book of Truth" which he kept to ensure against forgeries.I've included the painting below as I though it was very interesting how he developed the composition and the changes he made. I wasn't even sure this was the painting that the sketch above refers too but it seems to be. One of the images appears to have been reversed as you can see the trees are mirror images. He has cropped the right hand side of the drawing off and he seems to have decided against the drama of the falling goat.

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with a Country Dance
The two drawing below I included becasue they both seemed more sketchy and show how Claude would carry out the drawing. He appeared have two stages, a pen and ink stage and a ink or watercolour wash either underneath or on top of the pen and ink. The first one "Landscape with ruins, pastoral and trees" shows how he has described the feature of the foreground using the pen and ink thus giving a defined edges but the more distant he has left with the wash only and thus looks further away. The focal point interestingly is the tower in the distance which is not clearly drawn but all of the other elements frame this and the eye is led to this central point.

Claude - Landscape with ruins, pastoral figures and trees
The drawing below is very different in his approach. He seems to have done a pen and ink drawing and then used a sepia ink wash over some of the foreground. It looks a bit like he'd started using the wash but then changed his mind.

Claude -  Pastoral Landscape with trees
The next drawing "Landscape with a Rider and an Idealized View of Tivoli" is a lovely and very dramatic description of a landscape with a bridge in centre. The setting sun (or rising) is breaking through clouds and a horse and rider is dramatically silhouetted crossing the bridge. Using the lighting he has been able to make this drawing exciting. The contrasts between the dark shadows and the light highlights conveys emotion and drama. 
The focal point of the drawing is central and he has framed this with trees and rocks on either side.

Landscape with a Rider and an Idealized View of Tivoli, 1642. Pen and brown ink with dark brown wash on white paper

LS Lowry

Lowry is an artist I know very little about so I was looking forward to finding out more. He has a very distintive style and is one of the most well known British artists of the 20th Century. He is well know for his depictions of working life in Manchester and his simplistic matchstick figures.

Lowry would always do quick sketchs of things that caught his eye on any paper he could lay his hands on. He would build atmosphere is his drawings by smudging, erasing and rubbing the lines on the paper. He would then compose his paintings back at home, carefully placing figures in the correct spot.

Below are some of Lowry's drawings.

Lowry - a study for the steps Irk place
Lowry - Lancashire Scene 1925
The two drawings above are quite similar in line but because of the different media are very different style. The drawing on the right appears to have been done using charcoal while the left one is pencil (I think) giving a mich cleaner line. The city subject is typical for Lowry with the ever present chimney and smoke in the background.  

Lowry - Pendlebury1936
In the drawing above he has chosen a more countryside scene with the industrial buildings on the horizon. His use of line and tone is really interesting. He seems to change the pressure applied to the pencil to give lines that are thick and dark in places and light in others. This is a geat technique for creating interest and useful for defining objects in the foreground from those in the middle ground. Unlike Claude's drawing above (and indeed in Lowrys other sketches above) where he depicts the objects in the distance using a much lighter touch and more vague outlines, Lowry has shown his industrial skyline as one of the darkest and most defined areas of the drawing. It works though and does not seem out of perspective. In fact you get the impression that the buildings are on the top of a hill and the middle ground is a valley.

Lowry also manages to convey emotion in his drawings. The figures often seem to be stooped and battling against the cold. The countryside above shown a bleak winter landscape.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Research Point - Pentimenti

Mistakes in master drawings are known as pentimenti and the drawings are often more valuable if they contain pentimenti - find out about pentimenti and restatementsand find examples of them in famous drawings. Log your findings.

Wikipedia - 
A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word derives from the Italian pentirsi, meaning to repent.

Most information regarding pentimenti is of those discovered in paintings. These pentimenti are usually hidden beneath a subsequent paint layer and are often discovered because this top layer of paint becomes more transparent with time but many are now being seen in paintings since the advent of such methods as x-ray and infra-red which can detect different pigments in the underpainting due to their different chemical compositions.

I couldn't find much about pentimenti in drawings on the net (maybe becasue they are so obvious and common) so I decided to have a look at some drawings myself. I found many small pentimenti in Michelangelo's sketches. His study of Adam shows clearly multiple lines over the top of his left thigh where he has altered the width of his leg. Also there are fainter marks showing his left hand much lower. Whether this is a true pentimento or just another sketch of Adam's hand I'm not sure. In the second study (I'm not sure of the title of this) it is possible to see lines of the models arm slightly to the left of the final drawing where the srtist seems to have repositioned it.

Michelangelo's sketch of The Lamentation over the Dead Christ shows many pentimenti according to the British Museum (they're not all visible looking at the image on the screen). They can be seen in the knees and in the face (the latter are turned more towards the viewer) and they indicate a change of the artist`s viewpoint in relation to the model. There are also marks in black chalk around the hip area which are though to be adjustments by Michelangelo.

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ - Michelangelo
Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress by Da Vinci (although this is a matter of contention) apparently shows numerous pentimenti but annoyingly I haven't been able to find out exactly where these are and as they were detected using infra-red, they aren't visible to the naked eye. Wikipedia have kindly circled a fingerprint in the image below - don't think this is classed as pentimenti but is quite interesting!

Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress - Da Vinci

I also found a great pentimento surfing for more Leonardo drawings. I'm not sure what the title of this study is but it's really obvious how the artist has completely changed the position of the sitter's hands and lifted the right hand much higher instead of clasped together.

Below are some paintings with pentimento are below. The portrait of Jacques de Norvins by Ingres was
painted in 1811–12. The sitter was at that time Napoleon's Chief of Police in Rome and the painting originally was thought to have the bust of Napoleon's son on the left of the sitter. The bust has been painted out and covered by the curtain on the left but it is still possible to see the bust, it's chin level with the sitters head. Because of the reason for the change, it could be argued that this change is not pentimenti however.

Jacques de Norvins by Ingres
 In Caravaggio's, The Cardsharps there are a number of small changes which were revealed with infra-red reflectograms. They show that the artist changed the position of the figure on the right. Caravaggio was known to have composed his paintings straight onto the canvas without the aid of preliminary drawings. Such artists tend to have more pentiment in their paintings due to this.
The Cardsharps by Caravaggio
One of the most famous examples is a double hat brim in Rembrandt's "Flora". I think this is the right picture below but there are several versions of Flora. It is possible to see a darker area which is possibly the change to make the hat much smaller.

Rembrandt - Flora