Saturday, July 11, 2009

Impressionism - Mary Cassatt

To the Impressionists, color was not an art property, but a property of light and atmosphere.

Édouard Manet used really very little color, and strong black. He worked with cool and warm [as in classical composition].

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in his early work, used lots of white, working back in with tints.

Renoir's composition used units of people played against each other.

Whistler and the American Impressionists were subtle, sophisticated, tasteful.

Mary Cassatt's work was light and aesthetic. 

Cassatt used different theme colors in different paintings.

Cassatt was a master of both line and paint:

In color, the complement was hidden around in small quantities.

In line, Cassatt contrasted long lines to detail areas.

Good color is based on underlying structure

The artists we know as master colorists still balance their composition first, building up a need for their color accents, i.e. Degas, Gauguin, Redon, Toulouse Lautrec, and the Nabis. In other words, the composition one at first notices from their use of color is based on an already-established compelling composition.

Degas' art is made of a strong tone picture overlaid with a color picture. See, for example, "At the Theater". 

In fact, Van Gogh and all the top colorists were tone artists in the beginning (as were all classically-trained artists at the time).

Les Nabis

Vuillard was a master of nuances of color. His color combinations actually start to vibrate. The way to get Vuillard's effect is to start with wash, then add dry colors.

Bonnard  is special for the silvery quality of his color and light.
Bonnard doesn't repeat how he treats objects across picture.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I'm not a huge fan of any of the art we just reviewed (except Caravaggio for his use of light and interesting viewpoints). It feels too static and staid compared to modern art (to me). 

But we will see that a lot of modern artists based their compositions on the classical composition of earlier artists. However, they often hid it subtly under brighter colors, more splashy brushwork, and/or more contemporary themes. 

A very strong example of the use of underlying composition is the art of Edgar Degas (1834–1917 - Impressionism). Although a master of 3D modeling, his work also always eventually becomes a strong 2D composition. Degas had both strong subjective interest (subject matter, emotion, story-telling), and strong abstract interest. 

One example of this is Degas' "Woman in the Bath" of 1886. Without the hoop, this would have been a flat picture.

Degas used none of the Renaissance rules of foreshortening i.e. the woman's back is not in classical perspective, not does it use the play of angles to curves.

And Degas' composition is not the clumping of figures used in the Renaissance, nor the running rhythm of Mannerism, nor the spiral of the Baroque. Picture after picture, Degas made strong use of diagonals, circles, and planes to add dynamism to a scene.

Also notice how his repetition of and within forms builds on the eye's natural movement to parallels on repeated forms.

Even when one doesn't notice it because it fits the theme, Degas cultivated his two-dimensional composition. For example, in this picture, the figure's legs, which would not have fit well with the 2D scheme Degas was developing (a sideways V), are putout of the way with the placement of a table. Or one can use an area of shadow for a similar purpose.

Ingres - modeling 3

More examples of Ingres' long line on one side, with curves and angles on the other.

Ingres - modeling 2

Here are some examples of how Ingres modeled his figures.

"Long line" on one side, angles to curves on the other:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ingres - modeling 1

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) is also considered a Neoclassicist, but in the areas of drawing, modeling, and composition, his work is of special interest.

Ingres is the master of the "long line" - the line that never ends, but instead becomes something else. Here are examples of using the "long line" in drawing:

Composition - Neoclassicism

Neoclassicism went back to the Renaissance (i.e. Michelangelo) for their composition.

Gericault (1791-1824) packaged his figures into larger shape with no beginning or end, i.e. "The Wives of the Sultan," and "The Raft of the Medusa":

Gericault's composed were often based on X diagonals, or what some see as intersecting triangles.

Delacroix (1798-1863), a Romantic, admired Gericault for composition but he wasn't really that good. Delacroix went back to the Renaissance for his composition.

Delacroix painted back into areas to get brush strokes  i.e. still life.

Van Gogh got this idea from Delacroix.

Corot (1796-1875) built up an all warm painting, then added a warm blue, 

which therefore appears very cool, very colorful and brilliant (or vice versa).