Jackdaws At Dusk

Jackdaws At Dusk

Monday, 28 February 2011

Eugene Carriere

Eugene Carriere 1849-1906, Maternity. Oil on Canvas. 44 by 54cm. Location Musee des Beaux-Arts, Reims, France. From the Bridgeman Education Site.

I've seen one of Carriere's paintings in the National Museum and Gallery of Wales around three years ago, and the image was so striking for the deep shadowy areas and the piercing section of light.

I saw this image on the Bridgeman site and had to put it here. My portrait project at the moment is taking elements from Carrier's work, most notably the tonal contrast, limited palette, hazy light and the subject of children. Mine is of my son asleep so the lighting conditions are perfect for creating this kind of hazy effect, especially as I've been using my daughters night light torch to highlight areas of his face. The painting is more than life size and is interesting for the challenges it poses.

This painting of Carriere's is captivating for the swirling movement in the forms of the figures, creating a perfect curve up and around and back again. Swimming in a sea of sepia toned background the highlights of the features stand out like ghostly forms.

I've seen several versions of this composition, some are called studies and some look like a "finished" painting, so this image obviously captivated him. What I also love about his paintings, which I'm bringing out in my version too (after having painted most of my project with really thick paint recently), is the thin use of paint and how the canvas shows through in areas. It creates such a strong contrast between the areas of the figures and faces that have been painted so beautifully life like and then breaking through that illusion of life is the flicker texture from the canvas.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Augustus John (1878-1961)

Edwin John by Augustus John 1911. Oil on Canvas. Owned by the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, from the Davies Sisters Collection. Painted when Edwin was about six years old.

Edwin John 1940 by Augustus John. Oil on canvas. 52 by 48cm. Owned by the Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge University. Copied from the Bridgeman Education site.


I've recently been to the National Museum and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff to get a flavour of the different portrait styles there that could be incorporated into this portrait project. Thanks to a new wing having been recently opened in the Museum there is now a huge section of paintings from the 1900 onwards that are available to view.

Augustus and Gwen John stood out as the highlights for me of this new section. It was wonderful to see the paintings by Gwen on display having previously only seen them in the vaults of the museum when I visited there in May 2010. It's charceristic to see the backgound only partly blocked in, indeed it's unusual to see one of his paintings that has all of the canvas covered in paint. The 29 years that seperate these two paintings here don't show much stylistic differences, the later is slightly more loose, but there is still the emphasis on observation coupled with expressive application of paint. It's these elements that I will aim to bring out in my own painting for this project.

A separate room was also filled with drawings and etchings by Augustus John and I copied a couple for my logbook. The sketches and etchings also show elements of closely observed draughtsmanship coupled with free and loose use of line.

The top painting of Johns son Edwin is on display in the museum in Cardiff, along side several others of Johns family, friends and admirers. What struck me about this image was the vivid colours and the confident pose of the young boy. Information on the wall said that his mother, Ida John, thought of the boy as ugly with small blue eyes. In another room at the museum there is a sculpture of Romilly John, Edwin's brother, carved by Eric Gill. Romilly also shows the characteristics that his mother thought of as "ugly" but it strikes me as strange that what she viewed as ugly, his father and Gill thought of as art, enough that they created paintings and carvings of them. When I was in the museum I sketched the images of these two boys, one by John and one by Gill, for my logbook.

The second painting of Edwin above shows him at the age of 35, a handsome and striking man. A further historical fact about Edwin is that it was his aunt, Gwen John, who encouraged him to become a watercolour artist after a brief career as a middleweight boxer. After her death "he inherited the estate of his aunt Gwen and did much to secure her posthumous reputation." (From the Museum of Wales website, link below.) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/art/online/?action=show_item&item=902

The Museum in Cardiff owns 126 paintings by Augustus, including a further 2000 works on paper by both Augustus and his sister Gwen. Born in Tenby West Wales it is fitting that the Museum of Wales is justifiably proud of these Welsh artists.