Eye Candy for Today: Francesco Novelli ink and wash drawing

Francesco Novelli, Diana and Her Hounds, ink and wash drawing

Frencesco Novelli, Diana and Her Hounds, ink and wash drawing (details)

Diana and Her Hounds, Francesco Novelli

Pen and black ink with brown wash; roughly 5 x 4″ (13 x 10 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum.

I don’t know much about Francesco Novelli, who was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but I find this drawing interesting for several reasons.

First, it’s simply a beautifully realized drawing. The basic ink drawing, in black, is composed of broken lines, with spaces open at many points. The brown wash fills in the form and gives the figure dimension and solidity, but the overall effect is a drawing with a loose, open feeling.

Deft value relationships add to the composition and the sensation of grace and motion, particularly in the clothing and drapery. I love the way he has use the brush and brown wash like pen hatching along the curved surfaces of the figure’s arms and legs and the bodies of the dogs.

What I didn’t notice at first — likely because the drawing is so beautifully done — is that to my eye, the proportions of the arms, particularly the figure’s left arm, seem out of proportion to the figure. The arms also look more like they belong to a male figure.

It was not uncommon for artists to employ male models for female figures; it was easier and cheaper to use a male studio assistant as a model than to hire a female model. (I believe most of the female figures of the sibyls on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling were studied from male models.)

Though it might have been intended as a finished piece, the drawing has the look of a preparatory drawing for a painting or print, but I can’t find much information on Novelli, let alone a specific work that might be sourced from this.

 
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Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Pen and ink is a medium with a long history, but despite some modern revival in interest (as evidenced by the current internet-wide exercise of Inktober), its importance has faded from its time as a major drawing medium for Renaissance and Baroque masters, and its strong popularity as a medium for illustration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pen and ink is a medium with unique characteristics — in linearity, texture and tone — that have a visual charm shared only with similar techniques in printmaking.

From the waning years of the medium’s heyday as a staple of book illustration, we have a classic volume that is simply the best book on pen and ink I’ve ever encountered: Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

The original version of the book was published in 1930 as Drawing with Pen and Ink, and versions of that volume are still available. The edition titled Rendering in Pen and Ink was created in 1976, leaving out a few of the original illustrations, adding many others and condensing the area devoted to text while enlarging that given to images.

This is a from-the-ground up treatise on drawing with pen and ink, starting with materials, basic marks and methods of making tones — hatching, cross-hatching, stipple and freeform textures — and going on through methods of rendering trees and landscapes, architecture, still life, people and more.

Much emphasis is given to making and controlling tones and suggesting light and shade, something that those learning pen and ink often struggle with, as well as conveying the textures of natural and artificial surfaces.

Many of the illustrations, particular those explaining the basics of ink drawing and rendering, are by Arthur Guptill himself, and he is no slouch at pen drawing. The book is also profusely illustrated with plates by some of the best pen and ink artists from the turn of the 20th century, a high point for the use of pen and ink in books and magazines.

The drawing may strike some as “old fashioned”, in that it has a character of classic illustration — but to others, myself included, this is a Good Thing — a welcome grounding in techniques taken from masters of the medium.

The current 60th Anniversary edition of the book, which is huge, both in page size and number, is available for under $30 on Amazon U.S. For my money, a single chapter would be worth that! (I’ll note that I have an older, well-worn hardbound edition that I’m using for my review, and I can’t speak to the binding and paper quality of the current printing.)

I’ve had the book since I was in my early 20s; I considered it a gem then, and the years have not dimmed my enthusiasm for its value. Rendering in Pen and Ink is highly regarded as a standard must-have book among illustrators and comics artists, but is less well known to other contemporary artists.

There are a lot of books available on drawing in pen and ink, but if you have any interest in working in, and hopefully mastering the medium, this one should be on your shelf.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Carlo Ferrario pencil drawing

A Natural Stone Arch Beside the Sea, Carlo Ferrario pencil drawing

A Natural Stone Arch Beside the Sea, details, Carlo Ferrario pencil drawing

A Natural Stone Arch Beside the Sea, Carlo Ferrario

Pencil on paper; roughly 8 x 12 inches (21 x 31 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, NY.

19th century artist Carlo Ferrario is known for his drawings for the designs of operatic stage sets. This drawing is a natural scene, possibly from life, and was meant to be part of a set of 27 drawings.

I love his confident delineation of the rocky shapes, his alternately bold and sensitive pencil marks and his wonderful control of value.

 
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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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