Eye Candy for Today: John Hamilton Mortimer pen drawing

Reclining Female Figure in an Italian Landscape, John Hamilton Mortimer, pen and ink drawing
Reclining Female Figure in an Italian Landscape, John Hamilton Mortimer

Pen and black ink on cream paper; roughly 9 x 12 inches (22 x 32 cm).

Link is to original in the Yale Center For British Art, which has both zoomable and downloadable versions on the website. There is also a zoomable version on the Google Art Project and a downloadable file of that version on Wikimedia Commons. The latter two are somewhat larger, but my instinct is that the color of the ink and paper are truer on the Yale site.

This 18th century drawing classically posed figure has some of the feeling of Renaissance figures, particularly in the elegant pose of the hands. In areas where the ink is applied more fluidly and is semi-transparent, there is an additional feeling of delicacy and softness.

I find it interesting that Mortimer has augmented the hatching lines with small areas of stipple in the modeling of the face and hands.


Robert J. O’Brien

Robert J. O'brien, watercolor
Robert J. O’Brien is a painter working in watercolor, originally from New York and now living and working in Vermont.

O’Brien has a particular focus on architectural and floral subjects. The apparent perfection of flowers are contrasted with his choice of architectural subjects, which are often intimate, close-in views of buildings or other man-made objects that are apparently abandoned or dilapidated. In these he revels in their weathered textures and contrasting angles, finding beauty in rust and dry rot.

In all of his subjects there is a fascination with the play of light and shadows, the latter often marking a counterpoint to the main elements of his composition.

The galleries on his website are divided into paintings of New England, France and Flowers.

O’Brien leads workshops in the New England and New York area, as well as online courses through Artists Network University.


Didier Graffet

Didier Graffet, fantasy and steampunk illustration
Didier Graffet is a French illustrator, recognized in particular for his fantasy and steampunk themed work. Well known in his native France, Graffet is undeservedly less familiar here in the U.S.

Graffet uses a keen sense of value relationships, a muted palette and a good amount of intricate, textural detail to create arresting images that demand the viewer slow down and linger over them, rather then scanning through them quickly. This, I think, is one of the best uses of detail in illustration — to encourage the reader to pause and reflect on the story while lingering over eye-pleasing interpretations of the text.

Though he does beautifully evocative fantasy themed work, I particularly enjoy his Victorian science fiction images, notably his illustrations for classic Jules Verne novels, and his steampunk versions of alternate times.

Unfortunately, I found the galleries in his website somewhat awkward to navigate, and not as conducive to browsing as one might hope. It’s not a language barrier, the site is nicely available in both French and English, just the arrangement.

The galleries have a drill-down structure, and the obvious path back to the top — the “Galleries” tab in the main navigation — is disabled when in the Galleries section (there is a non-obvious link on the work “Galleries” within the display area that can be used instead).

The thumbnails are small, and it’s easy to miss the links on many sets of thumbnails to subsequent pages, accessed from a small linked row of numbers at the bottom.

The effort to dig around is worthwhile, though, and you will find lots of interesting stuff tucked away. You’ll find most of the steampunk goodies in the Jules Verne section, and in the “Personal” section under “Other Worlds“.

The Fantasy section also contains some personal work and some wonderful dragons.

Most books containing Graffet’s work available in the U.S. are in French editions, a few of which are available through Amazon new, the others available used. There is also a new A Song of Ice and Fire 2017 Calendar, based on George R.R. Martin’s work, with illustrations by Graffet.


Eye Candy for Today: Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror; Francesco Mazzola, called Parmigianino
Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror; Francesco Mazzola, called Parmigianino

Oil on curved wooden panel, roughly 9 inches (24 cm) in diameter (without frame). Link is to zoomable version on the Google Art Project; there is a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, which also has both zoomable and downloadable versions.

There are plenty of precedents for the use of curved mirrors in art, as well as their use in self-portraiture, but this strikingly intimate and true to life self-portrait by the 16th century painter Parmigianino is notable for its simultaneous strength and delicacy, and for the fact that Parmigianino painted it on a convex wooden block, further adding to the illusion that the painting itself was a convex mirror.

The effect of the convex surface is difficult to see in straight-on photographs, but I found a couple of examples from the side of the painting hanging in place on Flickr, here and here. You can also see it in this video about the painting from the Khan Academy.

This was a painting that the young, 21-year-old Parmigianino intended to be an example of his skill as a painter, to be used to showcase his abilities to potential clients.

The artist presented it, along with two other small works, to Pope Clement VI in an effort to gain commissions from the Vatican. Though it didn’t accomplish that goal, it did help cement Parmigianino’s reputation in general as an exceptional painter.

The painting was mentioned in Giorgio Vasari’s seminal book of artist biographies, Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. The painting was also the inspiration for a noted poem and collection by contemporary poet John Ashbery.

Many of Parmigianino’s paintings have a kind of trademark styleization, a graceful elongation of figures, but this self-portrait is directly observed with an almost hypnotic sense of accuracy, including the optical distortion of the artist’s hand due to its proximity to the mirror.

I find it interesting to compare this to another iconic portrait in a curved reflecting surface, M.C. Escher’s Hand with Reflecting Sphere.


Donald Jurney (update)

Donald Jurney, landscape paintings
Donald Jurney is a Boston-based painter who I have featured previously on Lines and Colors.

Jurney paints landscapes that have something of a subtle, 19th century European feeling, while still being assuredly contemporary. His paintings are enriched by his masterful command of color, texture and value relationships.

It’s the latter, I think, that is the strongest aspect of his paintings. His compositions are tour-de-force examples of how value can make quiet scenes rivetingly strong. I particularly enjoy those scenes in which we view fields and mountains through screens of foreground trees.

Jurney’s work will be on display in a solo show at the new Quidley & Company gallery, at 12 Wilton Road, Westport, CT, opening October 22nd, 2016.

You can find a gallery of Jurney’s work on the Quidley & Company’s website.

Jurney’s own website is not regularly updated, most of his current news is posted to Instagram, where you will also find instructive works-in-progress.

I believe Jurney paints most of his work in France and Ireland, having traveled there on many occasions.

With the thought of paying back some of the opportunities afforded him in painting in Europe, Jurney and his wife have established a new Fellowship, designed to allow the awarded fellow the opportunity to likewise travel and paint in Europe.

The Donald & Kim Jurney Traveling Fellowship

The Fellowship was established in cooperation with the Newburyport Art Association, and is open to painters working in a traditional, representational manner, though they need not be a landscape painter.

The Fellowship grant for the chosen applicant is $5,000.00.

Applications must be received by December 15, 2016 for travel in 2017.

You can find out more about the Fellowship on the dedicated website. If you feel that this endeavor is worthwhile and would like to contribute to seeing it go forward, there is the option to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project through the Newburyport Art Association, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.


Eye Candy for Today: Willem Kalf’s Still Life with Ewer

Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate, Willem Kalf
Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate, Willem Kalf

Link is to the original in the Getty Museum, which has both zoomable and downloadable versions. There is also a zoomable version on Google Art Project, and a downloadable version of that file on Wikimedia Commons.

I have not had the pleasure of seeing the original in person, but my instincts tell me that neither of the high-resolution online images are likely to be true in color and value.

The Getty version seems overly dark, which is often the case in images museums post of works in their collections, perhaps in a misguided attempt to discourage image reuse. The Google Art Project image, on the other hand, seems artificially much too bright and saturated.

I’ve taken the liberty of making adjustments to a copy of the Getty’s image to bring it to a best-guess state, based on the Willem Kalf paintings I have seen in person. I may or may not be close to the original of this work.

There is something in Kalf’s softly painterly rendering of light playing across the texture of the ewer, the delicate transparency of the wineglass and the subtle reflections in the silver tankard that put me in mind of the still life elements in Vermeer’s exquisite interiors.