Eye Candy for Today: John Sell Cotman graphite and wash drawing

East End of Saint Jacques at Dieppe, Normandy; John Sell Cotman; graphite and brown wash
East End of Saint Jacques at Dieppe, Normandy (details); John Sell Cotman; graphite and brown wash

East End of Saint Jacques at Dieppe, Normandy; John Sell Cotman; graphite and brown wash; roughly 12 x 9 inches (29 x 22 cm). LInk is to zoomable version on Google Art Project, downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Yale Center for British Art.

English painter, printmaker and illustrator John Sell Cotman, who was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was prolific and left a trove of drawings in addition to his paintings and graphics. Here, he confidently delineates the intricately decorative structure of a large Renaissance church with graphite, augmented with subtle washes.

The drawing exhibits both the substantial accuracy of a careful architectural drawing, and the liveliness of a more casual sketch.

In part, this is likely due to the loosely free rendering of the roof of the lower structure, but I think it’s also due to an approach I have also noticed in the wonderful architectural drawings of Canaletto.

In both cases, lines that over their course are ruler straight, are along the way wavering and often lightly broken. It’s a wonderful technique.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: M.C. Escher lithograph: Reptiles

M.C. Escher, Reptiles, lithograph
M.C. Escher, Reptiles, lithograph (details)

Reptiles, Maurits Cornelis Escher, lithograph, roughly 13 x 15 inches (33 × 38 cm)

Link is to an image sourced from this article on the website of WBUR radio, reviewing a 2018 Escher exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Here, we find the ingenious Dutch printmaker M.C. Escher indulging in a number of his favored themes: tessellated patterns, the relationship between the a two dimensional surface and three dimensional space, a shift between the graphic and the “real”, circular visual logic, geometric solids, and keenly observed still life subjects that may hold symbolic meaning.

This is one of my favorite Escher compositions; it plays with the very nature of illusionistic art — the representation of a three dimensional world on a two dimensional surface.

I see a potential play on words in the title, Reptiles. (Whether this translates into Dutch, or whether Escher spoke English, I don’t know.) The reptiles are represented as elements in a tessellation — as flat, interlocking patterns on the drawing surface. The repeated elements in a tessellated surface are called “tiles”. If you want to carry it further, “Rep” can be short for “repeated”. But then, I’m just projecting into Escher’s work, as its enigmatic nature makes it fun to do.

Also, I love the snort of smoke from the lizard on top of the dodecahedron.

For more, see my previous posts on M.C. Escher.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Heinrich Reinhold pencil drawing

Heinrich Reinhold pencil landscape drawing: A View of Civitella from the Serpentara next to Olevano
Heinrich Reinhold pencil landscape drawing: A View of Civitella from the Serpentara next to Olevano (details)

A View of Civitella from the Serpentara next to Olevano, graphite on paper, roughly 9 x 12 inches (23 x 30 cm), in the collection of the Getty Museum, additional zoomable image on Google Art Project, downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

This drawing by German painter Heinrich Reinhold, who was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, gives us a wonderful view of a landscape in Tuscany. I think it demonstrates how effectively graphite can be used to convey the textures and atmospheric effects of a grand landscape.

Look at how subtle but effective the difference in value is between the distant mountain and the foreground rocks and trees. I also admire the way the directional hatching blends into areas of tone, but retains the visual charm of the pencil marks, in much the same was as “painterly” brush strokes can in a printing.

 
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Jakob Matthias Schmutzer

Jakob Matthias Schmutzer chalk drawing

Jakob Matthias Schmutzer chalk drawings

Jakob Schmutzer Was an Austrian artist active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was primarily an engraver, and also a painter, but what I find most appealing, and what you will find most often if you research his work on the internet, are his chalk drawings.

His drawings sometimes of figures, but often of portraits; in them, Schmutzer’s hatching follows the form and crosses lines in the manner of the hatching in engravings, but his secondary line work is often loose and gestural, giving the drawings a particular visual charm.

 
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Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

Austin Briggs, The Consumate Illustrator

I initially encountered the work of Austin Briggs (see my previous post) in his role as a comics artist — working as an assistant to the great Alex Raymond, and eventually ghosting Raymond’s Flash Gordon newspaper strip, and taking over in a credited role on Secret Agent X-9.

Briggs’ work in comics was a sideline, however; he was primarily known as one of the great American illustrators of the 20th century. He started in advertising illustration, but moved into editorial illustration, which is where he made his mark, providing illustrations to prestigious magazines like Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Briggs was a relentless experimenter; he was always pushing the boundaries of his approach to illustration, and expanding the language and range of that art form in the process.

I was delighted to receive a review copy of a new book from Auad Publishing that showcases the work of Austin Briggs from all phases of his career.

Austin Briggs: The Consumate Illustrator is an absolutely beautiful volume; nicely sized at 9×12″ it features 160 pages crammed with Briggs’ illustrations in both color and black and white. Briggs exceled in both areas, his black and white and tone drawings are remarkably economical given their power and expressive nature. His color work is simultaneously bold and subtle.

The range of his work, its dynamism and nuance is captured beautifully in this volume from Auad. They already have a reputation for presenting the work of great illustrators with high production values and great attention to detail and selection, and this book continues in that fine tradition.

The book includes a knowledgable and fascinating text by David Apatoff, that drew on an interview Apatoff was able to conduct with Briggs’ son, Austin Briggs Jr., who also contributed the forward.

Apatoff has two posts about the book on his own, always excellent blog, Illustration Art: here and here.

I had seen some of Briggs’ work in pieces here and there, but to see a collection like this upped my impression of his accomplishments even further. I recommend the book highly and suggest that if you’re interested, you should order sooner rather than later. Auad Publishing limits their print runs and does not do reprints.

Austin Briggs: The Consumate Illustrator is available direct from Auad Publishing for $34.95 plus $5 domestic shipping.

There is a small set of preview images on the Auad site if you click on the book cover image. I’ve added general links to Austin Briggs material below. You can find more if you do an image search for Austin Briggs.

 
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John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal at the Morgan Library

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

John Singer Sargent is known for his bravura society portraits in oil, as well as his masterful watercolors. The latter were painted largely for his own pleasure as he traveled. The former, which were his stock in trade, came to weary him late in his career, and at one point he simply stopped doing formal portraits in oil.

He continued creating portraits, however, but in the form of charcoal drawings. These are wonderfully economical, deceptively simple but insightful and evocative of personality. They are also beautiful examples of the power of charcoal and of chiaroscuro.

The Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which has a history of presenting wonderful shows of drawings, has mounted a show of Sargent’s charcoal portraits drawings in cooperation with the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal, will be on display at the Morgan Library until January 12, 2020. The exhibition will then move to the National Portrait Gallery, where it will be on display from February 28 to May 31, 2020.

The Morgan Library has a small set of preview images, which I’ve used for my examples, above, and I’ve linked to another source on Wikimedia Commons, though the quality of the reproductions there varies.

There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition. For those on a budget, there is an unrelated Dover paperback of Sargent Portrait Drawings.

See also my previous post on John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings.

 
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