Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comté, Théodore Rousseau
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash and touches of green and red-brown watercolor, over graphite; roughly 7 x 10 inches (17 x 26 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version.
19th century landscape painter Théodore Rousseau, one of the key figures in the Barbizon School, here portrays a charming scene of the French village of Beurre, near the border with Switzerland.
Rousseau has captured the trees and buildings with quick, gestural pen strokes, filled in with loosely applied touches of tone. I get an impression of him sitting at the edge of the road, taking in the full essence of the scene and its key value relationships with the most economical notation at his command.
I love the way he has suggested the nature of the shallow water in the foreground without laboring over the usual visual clues of reflections and downward strokes. He simply noted it as he saw it — the reflections mere scribbles with splashes of tone — but his grasp of the immediate appearance of the area reads true as water.
Portrait of Baroness Gudin, née Margareth Louis Hay, Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Graphite, roughly 15 x 11 (40 x 29 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In this deceptively simple, sensitively realized pencil portrait, 19th century German painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter has given particular attention to nuances of value changes in the shadowed side of the face. These are actually easier to see at first in the smaller reproductions; you can then identify them in the closer crops.
Specifically, I admire his handling of the uplighting under the woman’s chin, and to a reduced extent, on her cheek — contrasted with the darker plane of the top of the cheek between the eye and the nose. The light picks up in the indentation at the side of the mouth, and again above the eye.
Also particularly appealing are the soft edges and close value relationships in the rendering of the lips and nose, where the artist has resisted the temptation to push the dark contrasts in these areas.
In the closer views, Winterhalter’s deft, confident application of tone appears to reflect a degree of tooth in the paper.
Young Woman Holding a Book, William Strutt
Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Art Gallery of South Australia, which also has an larger version on their site, though not as large as the other two.
Pencil and watercolor on paper. The sheet is roughly 15 x 20 in. (38 x 52 cm), but I’ve taken the liberty of cropping in on the drawing, even in the “full” version at top.
This does not look like a preliminary sketch for another work, but like a finished drawing meant to stand on its own. I love the careful, engraving-like hatching in the modeling of the face and hands, and the contrast between that and the more economical rendering of the texture of the girl’s hair and dress.
Light touches of watercolor enhance the eyes and lips and what looks to me to be a pencil with a holder in her hand — making me think it may be a sheaf of drawing paper she holds rather than a finished book. (If it were writing paper, I would expect her to be holding a pen.)
A drawing of great delicacy and refinement, yet bold in the rendering of the folds of the dress, and powerful in its statement of the appearance of the model. Whether it’s intended to be a portrait or a genre piece, I think we can assume from the character in the girl’s face and the superb level of draftsmanship, that the drawing is an accurate likeness of a real person.
A beautiful drawing in every respect.
Cottages and Farm Building with a Man Sketching, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Etching, roughly 5 x 8 in. (13 x 21 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image on their site.
Remarkable though they may be, Rembrandt’s etchings of Biblical scenes are somewhat formal and tightly composed. Sale of those etchings was an important part of Rembrandt’s stock in trade an an artist.
His etchings of landscapes, however, seem an extension of his apparent love of sketching on location; they carry much of the relaxed and confident charm of his landscape drawings.
In these etchings, like his reed pen landscape drawings, I get a sense of pleasure in the act of drawing — the fun of hatching in the dark tones, the joy of his needle scratching across the plate, searching out the gestural shapes of the tree and the animals, and the quiet satisfaction of spending time out sketching the countryside with another artist.