Eye Candy for Today: Hubert von Herkomer’s Miss May Miles

Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer
Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer

Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer

I have not seen the original of this painting, but my experience with comparing art images on the web with their originals — in the case of paintings I have seen in person — gives me the impression that some well-intentioned but misguided individual along the way has increased the saturation of the color, likely thinking this would make the image more appealing. I’ve taken the liberty of color correcting the image back to what I feel would have been the more naturalistic intention of the artist.

This portrait by the late 19th century Bavarian/British painter Hubert von Herkomer seems to me like a pull-out-the-stops example of directing the eye to a single area in a painting.

The darker values at the edges of the painting produce the effect of a vignette; within which the high-chroma/high-value forms of her face, arms and hands stand out from the low-chroma/low value areas of the wall behind her to striking effect. This is accentuated by the dark shape her gown, which is almost zero chroma and zero value.

The woman’s face is close to the horizontal center of the composition; the rest of her figure is not. She looks directly at the viewer with gaze that could be seen as either engaging or confrontational, perhaps both. Her arms point inward in the direction of her neck and face, as do the arm of the chair and the large fold in the cover.

The dark of her dress and the dark of her hair, accented by an extra darkened passage on the wall just behind her, form a kind of dark halo around her face. The flowers above her right hand are echoed by smaller counterparts in her hair, further reinforcing the effect of framing.

The patterns of the wallpaper and the folds of the cover swirl around her, as if caught in a gravitational field.

Amidst it all, the dotted highlights in her pupils shine out like distant beacons. The color of her eyes appears greenish, an intensifying compliment to the ruddy cast of her skin.

How could a viewer standing in front of this painting not be drawn immediately and irresistibly to the woman’s face, and more specifically, to her eyes?

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Homer’s A Basket of Clams

A Basket of Clams, Winslow Homer, watercolor and gouache
A Basket of Clams, Winslow Homer, watercolor and gouache (details)

A Basket of Clams, Winslow Homer, watercolor and gouache, roughly 11 x 10 inches (29 x 25 cm). In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has both zoomable and downloadable versions of the image available.

The museum lists the materials of this early watercolor by Homer as simply “watercolor on wove paper”. Why there is no mention of the obvious use of gouache is surprising to me. Usually, museums will indicate the use of gouache with watercolors or drawings, even if it’s just “touches of gouache”.

Here, Homer has used opaque white quite liberally, not just in the obvious highlights on the ship, the ship’s rigging, the children’s clothing and the shark and stones on the beach; I think the pale blue of the vest on the figure at left looks like a scumble of light opaque color over a darker tone.

 
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Eye Candy for the Summer Solstice: Walter Moras, Summer Idyll

Summer Idyll (Sommeridylle), Walter Moras, oil on canvas
Summer Idyll (Sommeridylle), Walter Moras, oil on canvas (details)

Summer Idyll (Sommeridylle), Walter Moras, oil on canvas, roughly 31 x 47 inches (80 x 120 cm)

Link is to a page on Wikimedia Commons that offers a large file; I don’t know the location of the original.

German landscape painter Walter Moras (active n the late 19th and early 20th centuries) gives us a bucolic image of a small stream on a summer day.

Happy Summer Solstice!

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Dante Gabriel Rossetti graphite portrait

Portrait of Mrs. William Morris, née Jane Burden, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, graphite on paper
Portrait of Mrs. William Morris, née Jane Burden, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, graphite on paper (details)

Portrait of Mrs. William Morris, née Jane Burden, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, graphite on paper, roughly 13 x 11″ (33 x 29 cm). In the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both zoomable and downloadable versions of the image on their site.

I’m intrigued, in this drawing, by the Art-Nouveau influenced curves of the outlines, and how subtly they’re indicated. I’m particularly fascinated with the tight range of the overall value scale. The only areas that are truly dark are the pupils of the eyes.

Starting with what appears to be cream paper, and drawing with predominately soft graphite lines and soft tones of shading, Rossetti has managed nonetheless to make the forms feel crisply indicated by of the precision of the line. In this respect, the drawing reminds me of some by Degas.

Even the edges of the composition are defined with a gentle line that is reminiscent of the edges left by impressions of etchings.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Adelaide Palmer still life

Still Life with Oranges, Adelaide Palmer
Still Life with Oranges, Adelaide Palmer (details)

Still Life with Oranges, Adelaide Palmer, oil on canvas, 16 x 24″ (40 x 60 cm). Link is to a page on Wikimedia Commons. I don’t know the location of the original.

I can’t find very many images or much information on Adelaide Palmer, a painter from New Hampshire who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The brief bio on Vose Galleries indices that she studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and later with John Joseph Enneking.

Her take on this seemingly simple still life subject is rich with tactile suggestion and interesting variation in color.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Degas’ Woman on a Sofa

Woman on a Sofa, Edgar Degas, oil with touches of pastel ofer pencil
Woman on a Sofa, Edgar Degas, oil with touches of pastel ofer pencil

Woman on a Sofa, thined oil paint with touches of pastel over graphite, roughly 19 x 17″ (49 x 43 cm). Link is to image on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, which has both zoomable and downloadable images.

The Met’s page for the piece indicates that it was not a preliminary work for another painting, but a work in itself. Drgas was apparently interested enough in pursuing the original drawing as larger and more complete that he expanded it by adding additional strips of paper to three sides.

I love the contrast between the delicately defined face of the woman and the rough, textural marks with which her form is indicated.

 
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