Research Point: Examples of How Artists Applied Paint

Research Point: Examples of How Artists Applied Paint

11-13/01/16

Look at a range of painting with particular attention to the way the paint has been applied.  For example, look at the paintings of Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, van Gogh and the Expressionist painters. Look at some twentieth century pastel paintings and make notes about the range of effects you find.

The link to my Pinterest board regarding this research:

Monet

I have seen the actual paintings on display in the Musee d'Orsay. There is a thick application of paint on these works, which is only really noticeable when standing in front of them. Strangely, the closer you look the less solid these paintings appear which goes to prove how adept Monet was at painting the effects of light. The fact that these effects change the nature of a solid, stone structure is difficult to comprehend let alone paint. The video linked to this pin is interesting to watc...

I have seen the actual paintings on display in the Musee d’Orsay. There is a thick application of paint on these works, which is only really noticeable when standing in front of them. Strangely, the closer you look the less solid these paintings appear which goes to prove how adept Monet was at painting the effects of light. The fact that these effects change the nature of a solid, stone structure is difficult to comprehend let alone paint. The video linked to this pin is interesting to watch.

Claude Monet - Water Lilies I have seen some of the large water lilly paintings by Claude Monet in the Kunsthaus, Zurich a few years ago in the exhibition, Monet's Garden. These vast canvases are mesmerising - I remember feeling I could dive into the ponds of painted water. From memory, they seemed to be layers and layers of paint to give an infinite depth to the water, not thickly applied but many layers/

Claude Monet – Water Lilies I have seen some of the large water-lilly paintings by Claude Monet in the Kunsthaus, Zürich a few years ago in the exhibition, Monet’s Garden. These vast canvases are mesmerising – I remember feeling I could dive into the ponds of painted water. From memory, they seemed to be layers and layers of paint to give an infinite depth to the water, not thickly applied but many layers.

Pissarro

Poplars, Sunset at Eragny (1894) - Camille Pissaro. Again I wish I could see this in person. The flecks of paint depicting the way light affects the colours, tones and shapes allows the image to become visible. I am unable to see whether the glimmers of white in the trees and undergrowth are additions of paint or canvas showing through, either way it makes the painting glisten in the sunset.

Poplars, Sunset at Eragny (1894) – Camille Pissarro. Again I wish I could see this in person. The flecks of paint depicting the way light affects the colours, tones and shapes allows the image to become visible. I am unable to see whether the glimmers of white in the trees and undergrowth are additions of paint or canvas showing through, either way it makes the painting glisten in the sunset.

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, c. 1897 by Camille Pissarro It's a shame I can't see this in the flesh - the application of paint is solid yet sketchy with daubs and dabs giving the illusion of detail. The atmosphere achieved with the colours, tone and perspective is of a night time street bathed in lamp light and of a possible recent rain shower gleaming on the cobbles. Simple and complex at the same time.

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, c. 1897 by Camille Pissarro. It’s a shame I can’t see this in the flesh – the application of paint is solid yet sketchy with daubs and dabs giving the illusion of detail. The atmosphere achieved with the colours, tone and perspective is of a night-time street bathed in lamp light and of a possible recent rain shower gleaming on the cobbles. Simple and complex at the same time.

Cezanne

Bibemus Quarry, 1898-1900. Paul Cezanne. More examples of broad brush strokes, building the shapes, colours and tones. Cezanne has also introduced some minimal dark outlining to help distinguish one object from another, a technique he often used.

Bibemus Quarry, 1898-1900. Paul Cezanne. More examples of broad brush strokes, building the shapes, colours and tones. Cezanne has also introduced some minimal dark outlining to help distinguish one object from another, a technique he often used.

Les grands arbres (1902-1904)-Paul Cézanne This painting is beautiful - it's restful, colourful and atmospheric. As I'm looking at paint application in particular, it is this aspect that has hooked me. The broad brush strokes of colour, which appear almost random, although most certainly are not, gives the impression of dappled light. The colours are not mixed but carefully placed next to each other to achieve the desired result. Wish I could do this!

Les Grands Arbres (1902-1904) Paul Cézanne This painting is beautiful – it’s restful, colourful and atmospheric. As I’m looking at paint application in particular, it is this aspect that has hooked me. The broad brush strokes of colour, which appear almost random, although most certainly are not, gives the impression of dappled light. The colours are not mixed but carefully placed next to each other to achieve the desired result. Wish I could do this!

van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night, 1889 The master of mark making in my humble opinion. He could create hundreds of tiny dots, strokes, dabs and marks to build an image with life and texture with ink and bamboo pen or paint and brush. Van Gogh used directional marks to give movement to his subjects.

Vincent van Gogh – The Starry Night, 1889 The master of mark making in my humble opinion. He could create hundreds of tiny dots, strokes, dabs and marks to build an image with life and texture with ink and bamboo pen or paint and brush. Van Gogh used directional marks to give movement to his subjects.

Vincent van Gogh - Le Soleil The application of paint in this work is very thick. Again his use of mark making is very evident with thickness of the paint giving texture and depth to a simple image.

Vincent van Gogh – Le Soleil The application of paint in this work is very thick. Again his use of mark making is very evident with thickness of the paint giving texture and depth to a simple image.

Expressionist Painters

Wassily Kandinsky, Waterfall II, 1902 A strong and bold impasto painting that literally goes with the flow of the waterfall

Wassily Kandinsky, Waterfall II, 1902 A strong and bold impasto painting that literally goes with the flow of the waterfall.

wassily kandinsky Arab Cemetry Most famous for his abstract paintings - this one is more representational but his application of paint appears vibrant and stark, however on closer inspection there is a multitude of subtlety in the colours that stops the image becoming flat and much more lively.

Wassily Kandinsky Arab Cemetery Most famous for his abstract paintings – this one is more representational but his application of paint appears vibrant and stark, however on closer inspection there is a multitude of subtlety in the colours that stops the image becoming flat and much more lively.

Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 1886 – 22 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes. Oskar Kokoschka - Melt

Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 1886 – 22 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes. Oskar Kokoschka – Melt

Oskar Kokoschka, New York, Manhattan with Empire State Building. 1966

Oskar Kokoschka, New York, Manhattan with Empire State Building. 1966

Twentieth-Century Pastel Paintings

I found a selection of pastel paintings that range from the expressive and atmospheric landscape to highly accomplished realistic portraits. Pastel is such a versatile medium that may often be overlooked.  The mark making can be soft and blurred, layered hatching to colour mix, hard lines, sweeps of expressive colour etc. I have also seen it scratched into to increase texture, I have also used brushes with clean water to extend and strengthen colour and marks. Picasso has used pastel in conjunction with gouache to great effect.

Blatant 2012 Pastel wolf kahn pastel paintings - Google Search

Blatant 2012 Pastel by Wolf Kahn. I found this to be a really unusual pastel painting and was very refreshing – the colours are vibrant and the marks are strong and direct – blatant!

pastel painting kb kitaj - Google Search
Pastel painting KB Kitaj. There is interesting texture, smudges and strong lines in this.
Dying Life Model 1978 Pastel on paper rb kitaj pastel paintings - Google Search

Dying Life Model 1978 Pastel on paper RB Kitaj pastel paintings
I particularly like this with it’s “unfinished” appearance adding to its appeal. A combination of soft and hard edges.

Boy with Dog (1905) Pastel and Gouache on cardboard picasso pastel paintings - Google Search

Boy with Dog (1905) Pastel and Gouache on cardboard. This is a lovely, sensitive image and the opaque gouache works so well with the pastel. Again texture, subtlety and harder lines work beautifully together.

Orchard Path Pastel wolf kahn pastel paintings - Google Search

Orchard Path Pastel by Wolf Kahn. Directional marks with layered colour gives an ethereal and autumnal atmosphere to this painting.

Auction Participant Pastel Daniel Green AuctionParticipant-Dan-Greene-pastel

Auction Participant Pastel by Daniel Green. Fabulous, intense study of this man, realistic in style with a subtle nuance of colour in the flesh.

danel green pastel paintings - Google Search

Daniel Green pastel paintings

Research Point: Self-Portraits

Research Point: Self-Portraits

Do some research into artists’ self-portraits… Choose five or six self-portraits that particularly appeal to you…Does the artist portray him/herself as an artist? What is the purpose of the self-portrait? What impression is the artist trying to convey? What impression is actually conveyed?

(NB all images are for editorial use only and not reproduced for commercial gain)

As I was researching self-portraits, I built up a board in Pinterest and was particularly taken by the amount of self-portraits artists make of themselves. Not only is it a fantastic record of their lives, but also of their styles and influences as they change and evolve.  For this reason, I would like to take two contrasting self portraits of each for comparison and apply the criteria above.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Self-Portrait - Albrecht Durer, 1498 http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/albrecht-durer/self-portrait-1498:

Albrecht Durer – self-portrait 1498

 

From this portrayal of himself, I would not immediately assume this was an artist. He appears fairly affluent and has a confident air about him. I have the impression that he is building a reputation of good standing and respectability, almost as if this were the equivalent of a modern-day LinkedIn profile picture. If this is the case, he is successful if not a little arrogant in his gaze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albrecht Dürer - Self-portrait, 1500:

Albrecht Dürer – Self-portrait, 1500

 

Continuing with Dürer, moving on a couple of years, we have again, a self-assured young man. This painting is particularly interesting as he seems to have increased his fortunes and is gazing straight out at the viewer. The pose is almost Christ-like, is this a conscious decision? I feel that this young man did nothing by mistake. Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt and he is timid and self-effacing, his representation of himself is anything but.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 - 1640 Flemish : Self-Portrait c1620:

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640 Flemish : Self-Portrait c1620:

I find this painting very appealing, from the composition to the colours used to the brush marks. I don’t see any ulterior motive to the purpose of this painting, other than recording the artist at this time in his life.  It does, of course, show his skill and could very well be used as an example of his work, although, I’m guessing Rubens was safe in his reputation as a painter by this point.

This painting makes me feel kindly to  him, it’s soft and warm, yet is cleverly balanced with the cool blue background to the left.

 

 

 

 

Self-Portrait - Peter Paul Rubens 1638:

Self-Portrait – Peter Paul Rubens 1638

This next portrait is very much in contrast to the previous one. It is much more sombre and has little of the warmth shown before. Here, the artist depicts himself as an almost aristocratic figure, this being only two years before his death – is he trying to show he still has strength and standing? His gloved right hand appears to be leaning on a cane, although one can’t actually be seen, or is it he disguising arthritic joints? We know he suffered from gout that brought on a fatal heart attack. His other hand is resting on a sword, another symbol of strength? On first view, I think he pulls the illusion off, however, if you look into the eyes, he doesn’t seem to quite believe it himself.

 

 

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Egon Schiele (1890-1918), 1910, "Self-Portrait with arm twisted above head," watercolor and charcoal, Private Collection.:

Egon Schiele (1890-1918), 1910, “Self-Portrait with arm twisted above head,” watercolour and charcoal

A wonderful artist who had such a short life. However, Schiele makes you believe that he lived every minute to the full. His self-portraits, of which there are so many, are mature and confident. I do think he spent a long time studying himself in the mirror – he knew how to draw every inch of himself – literally. There is no pretence – what you see is what you get and I think it’s superb! The lines and angles describe his seemingly undernourished frame, and the facial expression has such intensity. He says “here I am – like it or lump it!”

 

 

 

 

 

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait, 1912.:

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait, 1912

 

 

 

This portrait of Schiele is striking for its composition. He has still gone for the tall, skinny look but of the canvas and not himself – however, I think this choice is just an extension of the self-portrait. It says, I don’t have to paint all of me to show my whole self. There is more colour in this painting, yet it has a transparency that makes you think you can see through his skin. There is a vulnerability here, but only because he wants you to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

self portrait, Paul Cézanne, 1880:

self-portrait, Paul Cézanne, 1880

 

From other images of Cezanne, he did appear to be a little stern with little time for the lighter side of life other than his appreciation of the natural world around him. Here, he’s shown himself looking content and full of health. Maybe he was just in a good mood that day? He seems to be enjoying life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cezanne - Self-Portrait with Palette c.1890:

Cezanne – Self-Portrait with Palette c.1890

 

Finally, a self-portrait depicting the artist at work! This is self-portrait that has the look of being made by someone else. Cezanne appears absorbed by his painting. The palette hasn’t changed very much, in fact nothing appears to have changed very much. I actually don’t think there is any hidden message to the world except for, this is me and this is what I do. I love the colours Cezanne uses and his brush strokes are descriptive. Another reason I chose him is because I came across  a portrait of him by another artist and will look at comparisons later.

 

 

 

 

 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)

Self portrait, 1913 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German 1880-1938):

Self portrait, 1913 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German 1880-1938)

 

 

 

This  is the kind of self-portrait I wish I had the courage to paint. Kirchner has gone for likeness, character and impact rather than realistic accuracy. This image tells you so much about him, he’s an artist, he’s an expressionist, yes he smokes, he’s pretty cool! His use of colour is striking, as is the composition – he’s got all he needs in the frame, no more no less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Self-portrait, 1925-26, Oil on canvas.:

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Self-portrait, 1925-26, Oil on canvas

 

 

This is a very different approach. It’s still stylish, more abstract yet strangely, more accurate. The palette isn’t overly different, pink still dominates, but the tones are simplified and flattened. It says that he’s moved on and evolved – there will be more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chuck Close (1940- )

amazing talent! this is a painting! learn more about the artist: Chuck Close:

Chuck Close – Big Self-Portrait 1967-68

This acrylic painting is very large and based on a photograph of himself. It took around a year to complete. Again, nothing to do with vanity, this image says this is me, so? However, the very scale, time taken, accuracy and skill says more about the artist than the image. I’m not usually a fan of photorealism (whatever that is), however, the skill involved and the sheer determination and patience must be admired. I wanted to show the path this artist has taken in his style of painting over the decades. Much is made of Close’s “face blindness” – a condition I can’t even imagine – this, it’s said is the reason for the many self-portraits and portraits that he makes.

 

 

Self Portrait-Chuck Close (interestingly, this artist has "face blindness", a disorder in which he cannot recognize faces. He paints portraits in order to help him remember even his own face):

Chuck Close Self-Portrait, 2008 Oil on Canvas

 

What a difference! This is still extremely realistic and accurate but composed of pattern and colour. Almost as if viewed through a patterned glass window but not completely distorted. I can imagine that if viewed from the correct distance the pattern would just “disappear” and the brain would make everything real again. Is he trying to fool the brain or the eyes? Is he trying to put across what it feels like not to completely understand and recognise the face?

 

 

 

 

If possible, compare your chosen self-portraits with portraits of the same sitter by other artists. What does this tell you?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Portrait of Cezanne (PORTRAIT DE CÉZANNE), 1880. Pastel on paper, 53.7 x 43.5 cm. Private Collection.:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Portrait of Cezanne (PORTRAIT DE CÉZANNE), 1880. Pastel on paper, 53.7 x 43.5 cm

Out of the artists chosen above, this Cezanne is the only one I could find had been painted by another artist. This pastel portrait is by Renoir and is absolutely beautiful. I have to say, the comparison is very close. The actual features and demeanour of Cezanne are pretty much identical to each other. Renoir’s handling of the subject is a little softer and there are less colours added into the flesh and of course, it is pastel rather than oil. It takes a little thinking about that, Cezanne’s self-portrait would be a mirror image and Renoir, would be seeing the actual model, so they are actually drawing a similar view.

This comparison tells me that Cezanne, painted what he saw, not his impression of his own image – it also tells me that observed and separated the perception from the reality. Other than that, Renoir had the same illusions?!