Category Archives: Gallery and Museum Art

Eye Candy for Today: Theodore Rousseau pen and wash drawing

Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comte, Theodore Rousseau
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.


Eye Candy for Today: Franz Xaver Winterhalter pencil portrait

Portrait of Baroness Gudin, nee Margareth Louis Hay, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, pencil portrait
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.


Stephen Magsig (update)

Stephen Magsig, cityscape and industrial landscape paintings, NYC and Detriot
Maybe it’s because I grew up next to a steel mill in Northern Delaware, or from my current wanderings in and around Philadelphia, but like many who live in the industrial northeast or upper midwest, I find a particular appeal in the industrial landscape of warehouses, factories, refineries, bridges and railways that were created during the manufacturing heyday of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Painter Stephen Magsig, who I initially profiled back in 2008, has long been mining these subjects in his paintings of Detroit and New York City.

To say that his paintings have a strong geometric basis is something of an understatement. But it’s more than just the the visual power of geometric shapes that can make these scenes attractive to a painter; it’s also their rich array of textures and colors, particularly in the older structures that have become rusted and weathered. Magsig embraces both in his explorations of industrial subjects.

In his latest series, he focuses on storefronts and building facades in New York City. He often features buildings that appear to have the kind of fascinating architectural details offered by the cast iron fronts that were common in cities like New York and Philadelphia in the 19th century, prior to the widespread use of modern structural steel. These are sometimes brightened with modern paint and at other times show the weathered and graffiti marked fate of less well maintained buildings.

These subjects, along with a number of other scenes of New York, will be highlighted in the show of Magsig’s work that opens at the George Billis Gallery on May 2 and runs until May 27, 2017.

The gallery has a selection of his paintings online, most of which will presumably be in the show.

You can find more of them on Magsig’s own website, along with a section on paintings of Detroit — in which you will find more of the industrial landscape subjects — as well as western landscapes (also strongly geometric), pantings from Italy and prints in drypoint, mezzotint, monotype and linocut.

On Magsig’s his long running painting blog, Postcards from Detroit, you will find hsi small, immediate daily paintings, as well as in the related section on his website and on his store on Big Cartel.


Eye Candy for Today: David Cox – The Opening of the New London Bridge

The Opening of the New London Bridge, David Cox

Watercolor, roughly 15 x 9 in. (38 x 24 cm).

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Yale Center for British Art.

British landscape master David Cox, who I admire in particular for his watercolors, gives us a view of the celebration for opening the new London Bridge in 1831.

I like his use here of shadows cast by bright sunlight — against the walls of the inset buildings, under the awnings on the buildings and the rims of the tents, and defining the space under the arches of the bridge.

I find it interesting that the shadows in the foreground — those under the bridge — are uncharacteristically lighter than those against the more distant row of buildings on the river bank, (as a commenter has pointed out — likely catching light reflected from the water).


Eye Candy for Today: Johannes Franciscus Christ ink and wash drawing

View of the Bottom Gate at the Old Port at Nijmegen, John Franciscus Christ
View of the Bottom Gate at the Old Port at Nijmegen, Johannes Franciscus Christ

Ink and wash over a chalk underdrawing, roughly 9 x 7 in (23 x 19 cm); in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

This early 19th century drawing of the port gate of the Dutch city of Nijmegen is a beautiful example of the powerful notation possible with the simple medium of ink and wash.

It’s also a wonderful case of clear, unhurried observation, confident draftsmanship and surprisingly economical rendering — given the “finished” appearance of the drawing.

I love the textures of the brick and stone, the shadow against the sunny side wall and the gestural indication of the reeds and trees, as well as the simple but effective suggestion of low clouds in the distance.


Otakar Lebeda

Otakar Lebeda, landscape, still life and figurative paintings
Otakar Lebeda was a 19th century Czech painter whose tragically short life and career have been compared to that of Vincent van Gogh.

Lebeda began painting at an early age, and had the opportunity to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with noted landscape painter Julius Mařák.

He started out in a similar realist style, comparable to the French Realists of the time, and was introduced to the outdoor landscape styles of the Barbizon School while later studying in Paris.

In his later work Lebeda introduced more figures into his compositions and his style became more painterly and even expressionistic.

Lebeda is not well known here in the U.S. and online sources for his work are limited, but the images available show a painter of considerable interest — certainly worth following up on as resources hopefully expand in the future.