Eye Candy for Today: Alfons Mucha portrait drawing

Jaroslava Mucha, pencil portrait drawing by Alfons Mucha
Jaroslava Mucha, Alfons Mucha

Link is to Wikimedia Commons. Pencil and white (presumably gouache) on toned paper, roughly 13 x 10 inches (33 x 25 cm).

This lively and sensitive drawing by Czech painter, poster artist and decorative designer Alfons (Alphonse) Mucha is a portrait of his daughter, Jaroslava.

The high resolution version available from the Wikimedia Commons page gives us a nice view of his drawing technique. Some of the drawing seems almost casual, but there is wonderful finesse in the delicate lost and found lines with which he’s indicated the nose, the sharply defined eyelids, and the tonal rendering of the lips, hair and garment.

The Wikimedia image is sourced from a Dorotheum auction listing (which no longer appears to be available), so my assumption is that the drawing is currently in a private collection.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Peter Lely trois crayon portrait

Peter Lely trois crayon portrait
Portrait of a Lady, Peter Lely

Black, red, and white chalk, on gray laid paper; roughly 9 1/2 x 8 inches (24 x 19 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, NY.

Peter Lely, known for his sumptuous and sometimes erotic portraits of royals, nobles and courtiers in the 17th century court of Charles 1, here gives us a sensitively realized portrait drawing in the “trois crayon” method.

This is a method of drawing with three chalks — black, red (sanguine) and white — on toned paper, often cream or buff, but in this case, gray. It’s an approach particularly suited to figure and portrait drawing.

Though it’s difficult to tell if the drawing has faded to any degree since it was done, Lely’s use of white and red chalks are judicious. His application of white is just a hint of tone, subtly raising the value of areas of the face and neck and a few curls of hair.

You can tell he started the drawing of the face with the red chalk, which remains the only outline of the forehead, lower face and nose, though the eyes and brows have been reinforced with black.

I haven’t been through the hundreds of portraits attributed to Lely and his very active workshop in enough detail to know if this was a preliminary for a finished painting, but Lely evidently thought enough of the drawing that he signed it.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt riverfront drawing

View over the Amstel from the Rampart,  Rembrandt van Rijn, ink and wash drawing
View over the Amstel from the Rampart, Rembrandt van Rijn

Brown ink and wash, roughly 3 1/2 x 7 inches (9 x 18 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, DC.

Though a number of Rembrandt’s drawings, particularly those of figures or religious scenes, can be identified as preliminary to particular paintings of graphic works, his landscape drawings seem to have been done for their own sake.

No one can say with certainty what Rembrandt’s intention or state of mind was in regard to a particularly drawing, of course, but I can’t look at a drawing like this without thinking that it was done purely for the pleasure of drawing.

This feels to me like the work of someone who could take up pen and paper and let the burdens of the world fade into the distance while focused on the scene in front of him.

There is evidence throughout of keen, clear observation (like the blades of the multiple windmills), yet Rembrandt in his mastery makes the notation seem casual and relaxed.

I love the effect of distance he achieved by using thicker, heavier strokes (perhaps with a different instrument or ink) in the foreground.

Though the term would have been meaningless in Rembrandt’s time, to our modern sensibilities, the aspect ratio of the image could be described as cinematic — capturing a panorama of riverfront structures and activity in addition to the city beyond.

Don’t take my detail crops above be the only view you get of the image at a large size. Go to the Google Art Project or National Gallery page and view the drawing zoomed in at full screen. Perhaps, like me, you can project yourself onto the bank at Rembrandt’s side, and feel the wind push the sails of the ships along the river as his pen captures the moment.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Claude Lorrain drawing of an oak tree

Study of an Oak Tree, Claude Lorrai
Study of an Oak Tree, Claude Lorrain

Roughly 13 x 9 inches (33 x 22 cm), pen and brown ink, brown wash, over graphite.

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable version here, as part of this article on the Claudian Landscape; original is in the British Museum.

17th century French painter Claude Lorrain was one of the most influential landscape painters in Western Art, and his classical landscapes inspired painters for generations after. His influence on John Constable, for example, was considerable, and this drawing may have been direct inspiration for one of Constable’s own location oil sketches (as seen in this post on Constable, in the seventh image down).

Claude composed his large landscape paintings in the studio, but based their naturalistic details on field drawings. This one is perhaps more finished than most, with a beautiful composition of its own, a keen observation of detail and a wonderful sense of atmospheric perspective and distance.

I love how he has “turned” the form of the tree trunk, with the dimly lit ivy on the left edge leading into deeper shadow, through the subdued middle tones and out to the brightly lit bark at the right.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Van Gogh cottage drawing

Two Cottages at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Vincent van Gogh, ink drawing
Two Cottages at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Vincent van Gogh

Reed pen and brown ink over pencil, roughly 12 x 18 inches (315 x 473 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image.

There is also a zoomable version on the Google Art Project and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

The attention given to the brilliantly colorful paintings of his later career often obscure the beauty and charm of Van Gogh’s drawings.

His drawings are wonderfully textural; his use of lines, dots and patterns of ink marks of varying weights give them a remarkable feeling of color, beyond his use of brown inks.

In this drawing of cottages in a Mediterranean fishing village where Van Gogh went specifically to draw in the the summer of 1888, he uses a variety of line weights, types of marks, and indications of texture to capture the cottages and their surrounding vegetation.

He has suggested bright sunlight with the shadows of the extended roof beams on the face of the cottage at right, and noted incidental details like the simple broom leaning against the wall next to the door. Quick strokes of lighter ink convey the lay of the land.

It’s interesting to compare Van Gogh’s drawing to this Rembrandt drawing of a cottage, which also uses a variety of line weights, but employs wash rather than linear or dotted textures to describe the forms.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt lion drawing

Lion Resting, Turned to the Left; Rembrandt van Rijn; ink and wash drawing
Lion Resting, Turned to the Left; Rembrandt van Rijn

Pen and brown ink, brown wash; roughly 5 1/2 x 8 inches (14 x 20cm).

Link is to WikiArt, which has a downloadable file (choose “Original, 1600×1067”); there is also a cropped version on Wikipedia. The original is supposed to be in the Louvre, Paris, but the Louvre website is so terrible, I can’t find it, only a reference to a show in which it was included.

Rembrandt’s drawings are among my favorites in all of art history, and this seemingly simple drawing of a lion is among my favorites of his drawings.

Rembrandt did a number of lion drawings, presumably of the same animal. This one stands out, however.

It has the calligraphic elegance of Chinese ink painting, but over the classical draftsmanship of the premiere Dutch master.

The rough, gestural application of wash succinctly defines the lion’s head and mane, giving them an impression of texture, as well.

I love the implied geometric strength with which he’s noted the lion’s rear leg, suggesting the structural anatomy of the skeleton, the fluid sweep of the tail and the fierce but composed expression of the captive animal.

I’m sure to Rembrandt, this was just a sketch, a visual notation of something he found interesting, but it’s completely satisfying as a finished work of art.

 
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