Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gallery Update

Before I offer an update about the fresh items listed in the galleries (which may be found by clicking on the links at the top of the page) I wish to talk briefly about what has been happening in my world in terms of principles recently addressed in the posts.

Let me explain with regard to the last post about complementary tensions in figures. Twenty-one years ago I modelled in clay a set of bookends in the form of trees (see below) intended to express a personal state of angst with my world. At this point I need to clarify that this feeling was not a profoundly upsetting type of angst but rather a little angst surrounding the need that I actually have to “do” things. Fortunately, it was a feeling far removed from my present lovely circumstance, now that I have retired, where I don’t have to do anything that I don’t wish to—a state of absolute heaven!



Getting back to my story, these modelled trees had been gathering dust on a shelf in my uni staff room waiting for the day that they could be used to prompt students suffering a similar emotional malaise to engage with the fine therapy of reassigning worries into objects. (Interestingly, no student took up the challenge of putting their inner feelings into sculptural forms in a meaningful way.) Getting back to my story once again, I was contemplating these dusty relics the other day and I decided to refresh their surface with my newly concocted recipe for lacquer. While I was applying the lacquered finish I had one of those special Proustian experiences—a reliving of past memories excited by seeing/smelling/feeling/hearing something in the manner that Marcel Proust experienced when he enjoyed a cup to tea while munching on Madeleine cakes. It arose when I was rubbing the surface of the modelled trees and my actions triggered an immediate gut reaction of literally feeling my old angst once more.

On reflection, I now see that the triggered feeling—a feeling that was a bit like Munch must have felt when painting The Scream—was all about the tensions embodied in the tree forms. Moreover, when thinking back to the time when I crafted the sculptures I can recall the level of calculation that I originally engaged with to ensure that the tensions in the trees were “just right.” In fact, the process of transcribing feeling into the sculptured trees was thoroughly predetermined. It involved careful consideration about how the tensions should be encoded in the front/foreground of each piece and how they needed to be adjusted towards the back. Indeed, this thinking process is part in my sketchbook-journal jottings in preparation for making the tree-bookends as shown below.



My memory of this very calculated translation of personal angst ridden tensions into the tree sculptures still resounds in my head and it is especially strong after rationalising in the last post how other artists use tensions in their figure drawings. I mention this niggling memory as last week I attended a series of performances at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and I couldn't help thinking during the recitals about how tensions are encoded in music.

What impressed me about the recitals was the difference that a pianist’s touch can make to my perception of tensions in a piece of music. For instance, one of the favourite pianists (and the festival’s brilliant artistic director), Piers Lane, has the remarkable ability to make the auditorium resonate with glowing rich sounds at one time and then in the next instant to physically suspend my breathing so that I can hear the lingering reverberation of a fading note. He is such a marvellous pianist! By contrast, one of the world’s rising stars on the keyboard and one of my personal favourites now that I have heard his playing on successive nights, Daniel de Borah, takes my mind to a three-dimensional field of sounds where I see/hear tensions between notes delicately cushioned in their allotted spatial zones as if de Borah were physically drawing in space.


To find out more about Daniel de Borah visit: http://danieldeborah.com

Fascinated as I was with his careful articulation of sounds in space I must add that there was another factor enhancing my involvement with listening: the scent of perfumes surrounding me in the auditorium. I do not know if smell and sound affect other listeners, but for me the smell of fragrances with notes of moss, woody decay and herbs really help me to visualise sounds and relationships between sounds very clearly.

Moving on to the important topic about the fresh items listed in the galleries shown as links at the top of the page, I have some very desirable items to consider.

In the Architecture and Ornament Gallery I have listed a stunning early and very rich etching (with engraving) by one of the very few female printmakers from the Renaissance still finding her way into the history books: Antoinette Bouzonnet Stella (1641–76). The featured print is part of a series of twenty-five plates published in 1675, titled: Entrance of Emperor Sigismund into Mantua. As a point of interest concerning this series, Sonja Hansard-Weiner, from the Spaightwood Galleries, raises the probing question in her review of the 2010 exhibition, Pomp & Power (see https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/emw/article/download/14868/11909 [viewed 17 August 2014]): Why did Stella commit herself to such a project? After all, as Hansard-Weiner points out: “some visitors to the museum might think the martial subject matter of the engravings an odd choice for a woman artist…." From my standpoint, after years of contemplating women’s interests, I believe that the subject material that many women artists are drawn towards—and of course I may be wrong (heaven forbid)—fits with Stella’s interest. Essentially, women like patterns; for instance, they tend to love the patterns of bark in trees (see my earlier post for a more lengthy discussion of this dangerous topic: Female Perception [http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2012/04/delasalle-female-perception.html]) or, as is the case with this print and the series in general, patterns involving textures that invite the hand to touch and explore them. Or to express this in a way that will probably offend many women (but said in a spirit of tongue-in-cheek): patterns that could be translated into doona/quilt covers. In short, I believe Stella enjoyed the eye-touch relationship of translating an endless procession of military folk into the flattened space of a bas-relief.

Detail of plate 15 from Antoinette Bouzonnet Stella’s
Entrance of Emperor Sigismund into Mantua

In the Figures and Fauna Gallery is an etching by Kathe Kollwitz that has become, after many hours of close examination, one of my favourite prints. I would not claim that it exemplifies the typical Kollwitz theme of bitter war-torn suffering and resilience; nevertheless, every stroke in it bears the signature of an artist fully engaged in deep thinking and feeling. For me, the treatment of the print with its myriad of fine lines pictorially weaves the portrayed naked male figure with his immediate surrounding. Going further, I view the treatment as a superb exemplar of a haptic artist visually feeling her subject into an image. Moreover, if Antoinette Bouzonnet Stella’s choice of a triumphal entrance (or adventus) subject could be justified in terms of a female’s leaning to sensuous touch then Kollwitz’s print epitomises this leaning.

Detail from Kathe Kollwitz’s Sitzender Mannlicher Akt [Seated Male Nude]
In the Landscape and Flora Gallery you will find a botanical rendering of a banana tree that not only captures the scientific details of this plant, but also embodies—at least to my eyes—the hot and humid atmosphere of the tropics. This description of the effect of this print on the senses may sound implausible, as scientific illustrations are usually coolly objective and far removed from evoking any notion of felt experience, but this one does. Perhaps it is the richness of the inked impression, or the arrangement of the banana tree’s languidly drooping fronds, but whatever magical ingredient is in this image to trigger thoughts of heat, sticky banana sap and the continuous buzz of tropical insects, this print has it!

What is also fascinating about this print is the inscription in the lower margin: “De DUDAÏM door Ruben gevonden. Gen. 30:14” [Dutch translation: The mandrakes found by Ruben].


This may at first seem a curious line of text to append to an image clearly featuring bananas rather than the hallucinogenic plant, mandrake, but the text makes sense when viewed in context with Genesis 30:14:
And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.
The element in this verse (and those following) that has given many scholars a headache is determining whether דודאים really was mandrake or something else that Rachel wanted. I should add at this point that Rachel, the infertile second wife of Jacob, wanted this “דודאים” to help her to overcome her infertility and wanted it so much that she was prepared to let Leah, her sister, sleep with her husband. Fortunately, everything must have worked out as Leah was happy, Jacob was happy and Rachel earned her דודאים and ultimately became pregnant. Herein, lies the message proposed by the bananas: the illustration is an “answer” to the riddle of what Reuben had found in the wheat. Interestingly, among the many other plants that have been proposed as דודאים are: ginseng, blackberries, figs and even the opium poppy—purportedly because word “duda'im”, according to Sir Thomas Browne in Pseudodoxia Epidemica, (ch. VII), “may be a reference to a woman's breasts” 
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandrake_(plant) [viewed 18 August 2014].)

Also freshly listed in the Landscape and Flora Gallery is what may be described as a mini exhibition of the marvellous prints of Adolphe Appian (1818­–­­­98). For me there is something eerie about the treatment of his chosen subjects. The way that he portrays trees, for instance, is full of spikes and an odd fusion of tight curves with long verticals and short horizontals. I would like to mention the word “mood” here, as it is perfect for explaining the dark feelings that his work often expresses, but sadly it has faded from the lexicon of phrases that “proper” writers use. Nevertheless, Appian’s images are ideal examples of how images can embody and project an emotional charge.

In the last gallery, I have presented two Art Nouveau jugs that caught my eye some time ago as their design is so strong and captures beautifully the spirit of the period. At the time I thought that I would become a collector of such jugs but my interest shifted to collecting ceramic Saki bottles featuring loosely laid calligraphy instead (see below) … and I do not touch alcohol at all! Fortunately I have run out of library shelf space so expect to see a crate of Saki bottles on offer soon.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Figure Drawing (Part 3): Carmean, Sadeler, Bloemaert & de Bisschop

Beyond the fundamentals of how to apply sight-size measuring to gauge a figure’s proportions, what are some of the more subtle principles guiding an artist’s hand when drawing a figure?


For this final discussion about some of the subtle principles underpinning figure drawing, I will deal with a single but very important principle: complementary tensions as exemplified by the two inscribed arrows in Harry Carmean’s drawing, After Rodin (shown below) and by the opposing directional angles of the worker in Carmean’s, After Millet (shown further below). Regarding the latter drawing, the application of the principle is especially interesting as Carmean has adopted Millet’s practice—and later Van Gogh’s practice—of drawing with straight lines only to express the dynamic tensions within a figure.

© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
After Rodin, 1957
(This drawing was executed during Carmean’s sculpture class in 1957. It demonstrates the opposing tensions underpinning Auguste Rodin’s [1840–1917] practice as a sculptor.)
Charcoal on thin wove drawing paper, signed “Carmean 57”

56 x 43 cm
Condition: good condition (i.e. there are no tears, stains or foxing) but there is a light fold through the centre of the sheet.
I am selling this drawing and the three other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown below (i.e. After Rodin, After Millet, Standing Nude and Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd”) for a total cost of $302 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.






© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
After Millet, 1968 (I understand that although this drawing is inscribed as having been executed in 1968 it was actually executed in 1988.)
Turquoise pastel on tinted Canson drawing paper, signed “Carmean 68” and “Millet” in black
65 x 50 cm
Condition: Excellent condition (i.e. there are no folds, tears, stains or foxing).

I am selling this drawing and the three other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above and below (i.e. After Rodin, After Millet, Standing Nude and Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd”) for a total cost of $302 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.




These tensions are the spring-like push-and-pull forces constantly operating within the muscles that sustain a figure’s balance and provide movement. Visual expression of such tensions, however, is not limited to the physical displays of strain and relaxation in the body’s musculature as demonstrated by the focus on the body’s features under strain and a corresponding softening of relaxed features in Carmean’s superb, Standing Nude (shown below).

© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Standing Nude, 1983
Brown and white pastel on tinted Canson drawing paper, signed “Carmean 83” in black pastel
65 x 50 cm
Condition: Excellent condition (i.e. there are no folds, tears, stains or foxing).
I am selling this drawing and the three other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above and below (i.e. After Rodin, After Millet, Standing Nude and Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd”) for a total cost of $302 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.





Tensions may also be suggested by the artist’s strokes when drawing the figure. By this I mean that an artist’s can use expressive gesture within the drawn strokes (i.e. variations of pressure, direction and speed of application) to connote the complementary states of squishing and stretching in a figure’s form (see further discussion of the concept of “squishing and stretching” in the earlier post, Phrasing of Line [http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2012/10/lowe-legros-boisseau-dore-kollwitz.html]). A good example of this concept may be seen in Carmean’s Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd” (shown below along with a reproduction of Rodin’s sculpture) where the twisted body of the exhausted and forlorn Danaid creates radiating angles of hips and shoulders with corresponding squishing of her abdomen and stretching of her back. Note in particular how Carmean adjusts his marks from strongly laid short lines, to sinuous long lines and finally to broad zigzags, to visually communicate the body's tensions.

© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd”
Charcoal on thin Hammermill Bond paper with watermark, signed “Carmean”
56 x 43.3 cm
Condition: good but with tearing to pin holes at the top of the sheet and light off-setting of charcoal.
I am selling this drawing and the three other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above (i.e. After Rodin, After Millet, Standing Nude and Study of Rodin’s “Danaïd”) for a total cost of $302 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.




Reproduction (interpretative rather then an identical reproduction) of
Auguste Rodin's (1840–1917) Danaïd  
Lacquered plaster cast
6.5 x 13.6 x 8 cm (height x width x depth)
See the original marble sculpture, Danaïd (1885), carved by Jean Escoula at the Musée Rodin: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/sculptures/danaid (viewed 8 August 2014)

Rodin-Web.org offers the following concise explanation of the myth underpinning Rodin's Danaïd:
'Danaid' is an adaption of the Greek myth of the 50 daughters of King Danaos of Argos, the Danaids. To reconcile with his brother Danaos, Aegyptos, father of 50 sons, proposed his sons would marry to Danaos's daughters. Although Danaos seemingly agreed with the wedding, he instructed the brides to murder their bridegrooms during the wedding night, and all except one stabbed their husbands. As a penalty, the Danaids were forced to fill their jugs with water in the Hades; since these urns were perforated, their efforts were condemned to be in vain - another variation of the Sisyphus and Prometheus theme, whose penalties also were characterised by endless repetition. (http://www.rodin-web.org/works/1885_danaid.htm [viewed 8 August 2014])
Condition: Excellent condition (i.e. there are no chips, breaks or scratches).
I am selling this lacquered plaster reproduction for a total cost of $87 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.











Artful manipulation of the figure’s immediate surroundings (i.e. the background) in the hands of an insightful artist can also significantly enhance the expression of tensions inherent in figures. For instance, in Johan Sadeler’s (1550–1600) engraving, Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness (shown below), the angles of the figure are echoed by the same angles found in the features of the background (see diagram shown further below with related angles highlighted in colour).

Johan Sadeler (1550–1600)
Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness, 1533–78
after Hieronymi Muciani, after a drawing by Girolamo Muziano at the Pinacoteca in Bologna, after Cornelis Cort
(note that this print is a copy in reverse of Cornelis Cort’s engraved copy of Girolamo’s drawing [see: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3078206&partId=1&searchText=Hieronymi+Muciani+&page=1] but the BM does not possess a copy of Sadeler’s print)
Engraving on thick laid paper with large margins
State 1 (of II before the inscription “Gravé par Sadeler, à Paris chés Daumont Crépy ex.”)
Inscribed in the image (lower left): "JSadler excudit Coloniae.”;
(lower right): “Hieronymi muciani inve[nt]”
Inscribed below the image margin: QVI AUTE[M] SVNT … CoNCvPISCeNTIIS”
(sheet) 44 x 29 cm; (plate) 26.7 x 19.5 cm
Bartsch 7002.052 (vol. 70, part 3, pp. 246–47); Nagler 1835–52, no. 133.; Le Blanc, no. 129; Wurzbach, no. 101; Bierens de Haan, p, 127, no. 116, copy b; Sellink, no. 116, copy a.
(see also The Metropolitan Museum of Arts description of the same print but titled Saint Jerome Penitent in a Grotto: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/420945?rpp=30&pg=1&rndkey=20140808&ft=*&where=Netherlands&who=Johannes+Sadeler+I&pos=27)
Condition: a superb impression of this rare print. The sheet is in excellent condition for its age, nevertheless, there is light toning to the outer edges of the sheet.

I am selling this print for a total cost of $167 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.














Relationship of angles in Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness
Beyond expressing a figure’s opposing physical tensions by visually echoing them as directional rhythms in the background, artists often use the repetition of the same key angles as a way of suggesting the figure’s psychological mindset. Again, in Sadeler’s engraving, the relationship of the figure’s angles to those repeated in the background serves to visually amplify Saint Jerome’s state of spiritual transcendence. From a personal viewpoint, the repetition of angles found in the walls of the grotto and the tree on the right are read as a shape like a speech-bubble that is upwardly stretched (see diagram below); a shape that for me is an analogue for the saint’s prayers (see diagram of this background shape below). In short, repetition of a figure’s key angles of tension in the background can express both the physical tensions within the figure, as shaped by muscle and bone, and the figure’s mindset as an analogue of the figure’s psychological tensions. (For further discussion of the use of analogues see the earlier post, Three Analogues: http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2012/06/brown-kollwitz-three-analogues.html.)


Relationship of angles in Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness as an analogue
Whether this principle is employed by any or all of these means described above—viz. representation of the muscles in action; use of expressive marks to connote tensions; artful manipulation of the surroundings—an artist’s application of the principle invests a figure drawing with the mercurial element which I describe as “vital life”—the hard to define aura of physical presence. Interestingly, the idea of using this principle is not restricted to figure drawing. Indeed its application extends to most subjects. For instance, a brief glance at the detail of the tree behind to the right of Saint Jerome in Sadeler’s engraving exhibits strong dynamic shifts both upwards and outwards. More exciting in terms of overt displays of dramatic tension in rendering trees, however is Frederik Bloemaert’s (c. 1616–90) magnificent engraving after his father’s (Abraham Bloemaert [1564–1651]) design, Landscape with a hermit kneeling before a cross next to a huge gnarled tree growing on a hut (shown below), where the row of trees embody similar convoluted tensions as those shaping the kneeling hermit.

Frederik Bloemaert (c. 1616–90) after Abraham Bloemaert (1564–1651)
Landscape with a hermit kneeling before a cross next to a huge gnarled tree growing on a hut, 1631–90
Engraving on fine laid paper
(sheet) 27.7 x 21.1 cm; (plate) 25.3 x 18.8 cm
Inscribed in Latin lower margin: "O! vere felix, fugiens ... / In sylvis vitam …. / Abraham, Bloemaert invent. Fred: Bloemaert Sculp; N: Visscher exc."
Condition: Very rare, crisp impression (i.e. there are no signs of wear to the plate) with margins. There is a light fold bottom-left otherwise in superb condition (i.e. there is no foxing, tears or signs of handling).
I am selling this print for a total cost of $264 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.









In sculpture the concept of complementary tensions is an essential hallmark of a classically posed standing figure where the weight of the figure rests more on one leg than the other. This weighting creates a gentle “S”-shaped curve to the spine. Importantly, it also produces a tilt to the angle of the hips and a countering tilt to the angle of the shoulders. This arrangement of an “S”-shaped curve and countered angles to the hips and shoulders is termed contrapposto (Italian for "counterpose"). The stance of Michelangelo’s, David, for example, epitomises the contrapposto pose (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Michelangelo)#mediaviewer/File:David_von_Michelangelo.jpg [viewed 4 July 2014]). It may also be seen in Jan de Bisschop’s (1628–71) etchings of antique sculptures: Plate 38: Female Statue, restored as a Nike and Plate 81: Aphrodite (two views) (shown below). Interestingly, the pose of the latter sculpture showing Aphrodite’s vain attempt at modesty in her state of undress is often described as “Venus pudica.”  (For an interesting discussion about this pose see the blog, Be it Art: A Reflection about Art and all its Meanings:  http://beitart.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/the-power-of-the-venus-pudica-pose/ [viewed 11 August 2014].)

Jan de Bisschop (also known as Johannes Episcopius) (1628–71)
Plate 38: Female Statue, restored as a Nike, 1668/70
from Signorum Veterum Icones (1668)
etching on fine laid paper
(sheet) 31.6 x 22.7 cm; (plate) 23.4 x 13 cm
Description of this print by the British Museum: “Female statue wearing a garment looking at left holding out a laurel wreath in her right hand and a palm-leaf in her left hand; front view directed to left”
Description by the BM curator:
This statue is regarded as a decorative Roman work of the second century A.D., based on a Hellenistic prototype of the third or second century B.C. The statue was depicted from two different angles, each on separate plate. For all two plates see: 1850,0810.691-692. The etchings, of which the second plate was more freely etched, show the statue completed with its modern additions the right way round. This means that De Bisschop must have worked from counterproofs. No draughtsman's name is mentioned, but to judge from the differences both in details and in the general rendering, the drawings must have been by different artists, probably even of different periods. Neither these drawings have been traced, nor have any intermediary drawings by De Bisschop. In his list of contents and locations De Bisschop incorrectly called the statue 'Flora in hortis Matthaeorum'.
Hollstein 6; Van Gelder I.119.38-39
and Harvard Art Museums: http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/243402 [viewed 30 July 2014])

Condition: good impression with a light wrinkle/handling crease to the left side of the sheet outside of the plate area and minor toning to the right side of the sheet. I am selling this etching and the other etching by Bisschop shown below (Plate 81: Aphrodite [two views]) for a total cost of $193 AUD for the two prints as a combined purchase including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.









Jan de Bisschop (also known as Johannes Episcopius) (1628–71)
Plate 81: Aphrodite (two views), 1668/70
from Signorum Veterum Icones (1668)
etching on fine laid paper
(sheet) 31.7 x 19 cm; (plate) 21 x 13.3 cm
Description of this print by the British Museum: “Statue of an Aphrodite in a pudica pose with a cloth lying on a rock beside her left leg; front view and side view directed to left shown side by side”
Description by the BM curator:
The statue was lost during the fire of 1762 in the Uffizi in Florence. This type belongs to the Venus pudica type, which may have been a Hellenistic repetition. Its base and support may have been modern. The draughtsman's name is not mentioned. In his list of contents and locations de Bisschop says that the statue is "in aedibus Mediceis", a location which he otherwise used for statues inside the Villa Medici in Rome. He obviously had a drawing with the inscription 'Medici' at his disposal and did not know that the statue was actually in Florence. He further says that it is not very different from the Greek Venus "in the same palace" and that according to Cavalieri, III.IV,67, it seems it was previously in the Farnese collection (which was not the case); Cavalieri's plate in fact shows another version.
Hollstein 6; Van Gelder I.166.81

Condition: good impression with minor toning and signs of handling to the right side of the sheet. I am selling this etching and the other etching by Bisschop shown above (Plate 38: Female Statue, restored as a Nike) for a total cost of $193 AUD for the two prints as a combined purchase including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.








At this juncture I wish draw to a close this final post regarding principles at play in figure drawing. Sadly, the list of principles that I could—perhaps even should—address stretches out before me tempting me to keep writing, but hopefully when I discuss principles related to other subjects in future posts the application of these principles to figure drawing will be clear.