Eye Candy for Today: Watteau chalk studies

Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl, Antoine Watteau, trois crayon drawing, black, red and white chalk on buff paper
Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl, Antoine Watteau

Black, red and white chalk on buff paper, roughy 7 x 10 inches (19 x 25 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum. Use the Zoom feature or download link.

Watteau was noted for his “trois crayon” drawings, in which black, red and white chalks are used on toned paper, usually buff or cream, to great effect in quickly rendering figures or faces.

Here, he has succinctly captured the likeness of his subject with gestural lines, a bit of hatching for shading and some quickly noted white highlights. For all of their simplicity, the drawings have a remarkable presence.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Jean-Etienne Liotard’s Chocolate Girl

The Chocolate Girl, Jean-Etienne Liotard, pastel
The Chocolate Girl, Jean-Etienne Liotard

Pastel on parchment, roughly 20 x 32 inches (52 x 82 cm). Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.

This is the most famous of 18th century Swiss artist Jean-Etienne Liotard’s beautiful pastel portraits and genre paintings, remarkable for its sublime modeling. August III of Poland, who purchased the painting in the mid-1700s, commented on the absence of shadows in the modeling of the face and compared it to the portraits of Holbein.

I’m also struck by the beautiful effect of the delicate texture of the pastel application.

The painting (and yes, I’m happy to call pastels of this nature “paintings”) shows a maid carrying a tray with a chocolate beverage — at the time a treat too rare and expensive for any but the wealthy.

The image became the inspiration for branding images in the 19th century for Droste chocolate tins, which used a knock-off by another artist, and Baker’s Chocolate products, which licensed the painting for that use (though today it has been reduced to a mere silhouette).

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Watteau trois crayon figure drawing

Seated Young Woman,  Jean-Antoine Watteau, Black, red and white chalk drawing on buff paper
Seated Young Woman, Jean-Antoine Watteau

Black, red and white chalk on buff paper. Roughly 10 x 7 inches (25 x 17 cm). In the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, NY. Image can be zoomed or downloaded.

French Baroque painter Jean-Antoine Watteau was a wonderful and prolific draftsman and master of the “trois crayon” (three chalks) technique, in which three colors of chalk, black, red (sanguine) and white are used to draw the subject on a middle ground toned paper.

This is a remarkably effective technique for rendering the figure, allowing for a great range of value and almost naturalistic color with simple materials.

Here, Watteau has just used delicate traces of white as his highlights, allowing the tone of paper to carry most of the lighter values. The drawing is beautifully gestural and fluid, while retaining the solid geometry of the artist’s knowledge and observation of anatomy.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: J.C. Schotel chalk drawing

Seated Woman Watching a Cradle, J. C. (Johannes Christianus) Schotel, chalk drawing
Seated Woman Watching a Cradle, J. C. (Johannes Christianus) Schotel

Black chalk on paper, roughly 11 x 10 inches (27 x 25 cm); original is in the Morgan Library and Museum, NY.

There is a soft delicate feeling in both the rendering and quality of light in this drawing by the 19th century Dutch artist, who was known primarily for his marine paintings.

The seemingly casual lines used to create the tones of the folds produce a surprising degree of geometric strength. The woman’s hair is simply rendered but superbly naturalistic. The representation of the woven basket is likewise wonderfully economical but effective.

 
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Didier Graffet

Didier Graffet, fantasy and steampunk illustration
Didier Graffet is a French illustrator, recognized in particular for his fantasy and steampunk themed work. Well known in his native France, Graffet is undeservedly less familiar here in the U.S.

Graffet uses a keen sense of value relationships, a muted palette and a good amount of intricate, textural detail to create arresting images that demand the viewer slow down and linger over them, rather then scanning through them quickly. This, I think, is one of the best uses of detail in illustration — to encourage the reader to pause and reflect on the story while lingering over eye-pleasing interpretations of the text.

Though he does beautifully evocative fantasy themed work, I particularly enjoy his Victorian science fiction images, notably his illustrations for classic Jules Verne novels, and his steampunk versions of alternate times.

Unfortunately, I found the galleries in his website somewhat awkward to navigate, and not as conducive to browsing as one might hope. It’s not a language barrier, the site is nicely available in both French and English, just the arrangement.

The galleries have a drill-down structure, and the obvious path back to the top — the “Galleries” tab in the main navigation — is disabled when in the Galleries section (there is a non-obvious link on the work “Galleries” within the display area that can be used instead).

The thumbnails are small, and it’s easy to miss the links on many sets of thumbnails to subsequent pages, accessed from a small linked row of numbers at the bottom.

The effort to dig around is worthwhile, though, and you will find lots of interesting stuff tucked away. You’ll find most of the steampunk goodies in the Jules Verne section, and in the “Personal” section under “Other Worlds“.

The Fantasy section also contains some personal work and some wonderful dragons.

Most books containing Graffet’s work available in the U.S. are in French editions, a few of which are available through Amazon new, the others available used. There is also a new A Song of Ice and Fire 2017 Calendar, based on George R.R. Martin’s work, with illustrations by Graffet.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Florence Rodway charcoal and chalk portrait

Portrait of a woman, Florence Rodway
Portrait of a woman, Florence Rodway

Link is to zoomable vdersion on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the National Gallery of Art, Australia.

Charcoal and chalk on paper, roughly 23 x 18 inches (58 x 46 cm).

This forceful but sensitive portrait drawing by 19th century Australian artist Florence Rodway is a tour-de-force in soft edges.

 
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