"A portrait is not an identificative paper but rather the curve of an emotion" -James Joyce

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rob and Angela

     "The first of all principles is the need to make sacrifices.  Isolated portraits, however perfect, cannot form a picture.  Personal feeling alone can give unity, and the one way of achieving this is to show only what deserves to be seen."

     This was a quote from the journals of Eugene Delacroix, a book that has been providing me with much to consider.  "What is a black and white drawing but a convention to which the beholder has become so accustomed that with his mind's eye he sees a complete equivalent in the translation from nature."  The concept of a picture that lives between the painted and drawn world is one that appeals to me.  It is such an artificial world because as Delacroix reminds us "contour and touch are equally absent in nature."  His description of what he calls "touch" is definitely a component in painting that Delacroix recognizes second only to the imagination as critical for good work.

     I have been spending some time revisiting Doerner's book on materials particularly the analysis of specific master techniques, or in most of the cases, mixed techniques.  The amount of tempura used by the Dutch for example in underpainting was a surprise to me.  Doerner's description of El Greco's techniques are shockingly simplified, and it seems that all my favorite painters used something called venetian turpentine, which judging from the descriptions had some kind of flex gel or resin components I am guessing.

     Theses two books make great tandem reading especially as they relate to both of the author's favorite subject, Rubens.  Delacroix's intimation that the "idea" should be of paramount concern to the painter was a relief coming from such a technician.

     In these ditychs or this diptych, these double portraits or this double portrait; I am thinking about the triangle made between two people painted, especially when split into separate but connected canvases, and the artist/viewer.  The amount of time elapsed between the seemingly divergent events in the two sets of paintings, the time spent painting vs. viewing, as well as the curious nature of the implied simultaneity of this moment or these moments are all parts of the soup.  When I look at these, I wonder am I this good, or this bad.  "Experience ought to teach us two things; first, that we should do a great deal of correcting; secondly, that we must not correct too much." (Delacroix)

     All this has me remembering a quote from Lucian Freud.  "One thing I have never got used to, is not feeling the same from one day to the next, although I try to control it as much as possible by working absolutely all the time.  I just feel so different every day that it is a wonder that any of my pictures ever work out at all." (Man with a Blue Scarf)

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