12 February 2014

Portraiture course, week 5

The class met at the National Portrait Gallery and looked at some Tudor portraits and modern ones, the latter in this "new" gallery with glass panels.

This one (Lord Beaverbrook) is by Sickert, who (in the 1920s) used images cut from newspapers as the basis of his paintings - many years before this became a usual thing to do.  Beside it - but not in the photo - is a portrait of Churchill, with the pink and blue underpainting visible.
The recently rediscovered photo is one I took "last century", when this head of Osbert Sitwell (by Frank Dobson) was in a different part of the building. It was modelled in 1922 and this is a modern cast.

Walking round the gallery, I was amused by "Self Portrait with Friends watching Flying Saucers" (1988) by Derek Boshier, part of the "Imaginary Portraits" showing until 5 May -
"On moving to Texas, the artist found himself living a short distance from the Johnson Space Centre, the headquarters of NASA. Boshier had first explored the theme of space travel some years earlier with his 1962 painting I Wonder What my Heroes Think of the Space Race. The unknown territory of space held an obvious appeal for Boshier, who said, 'I am interested, like Beckett, in those areas of art that are about not knowing, rather than about knowing.'"

"The Agate" (via)
Then it was a matter of settling down to a bit of sketching. I was intrigued by a self-portrait by Joseph Southall which included his wife, Anna Elizabeth (nee Baker), herself an artist/craftsman and writer on gilding. It's known as "The Agate" and shows the couple on the beach at Southwold, collecting a few choice stones. Painted in 1911, egg tempera on linen - Southall was one of the founders of the Society of Painters in Tempera in 1901.

I started at the top left and didn't manage to include the agates on the sand (in fact she seems quite some distance away from him in my drawing) - but really enjoyed taking a close look at the clothing. My rendition of the faces shows an obvious lack of interest in this minor detail ... a hasty attempt to remedy this is on the right-hand page.

After the break, another half-hour immersed in a painting - this time, William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Wilberforce was the leading light in the anti-slavery campaign - the unfinished painting dates to 1828. On the right, I spent most of the time drawing without looking at the page - twice with an ordinary pencil just to get the "feel", then with a brown felt-tip, looking at the planes and facets, then with conte to outline the features, and again with pencil to rough out the tones and shading. After that intensive study, not worrying about the look of the drawing, the one on the left took very little time. It's hardly a copy of the painting, but at least - apart from the mismatched eyes - it looks human!

Next week is half-term, and the week after that we do a "personal project" - some people will be doing self-portraits, but that really doesn't appeal to me ... and not just because of the haircut, wrinkles, and suchlike. Basically, I don't feel my face is my "self" - though my hands might be. (Nor do I feel anyone's face, caught in one pose, is their "self" ... maybe this is relevant to my difficulty with drawing - and seeing - faces. If they are seen as planes and facets, as a thing rather than a person ... that could be another story ...)

"Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It’s all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary."

~   Chuck Palahniuk   (via)

1 comment:

Sandy said...

To be honest, the Joseph Southall work has a bit of a cut and paste look about it to me. and I think it would be easy to separate them a bit more because it doesn't really seem to depict the distance equally as your eye travels up and down the figure. (or maybe it would be different in person.)