Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt pen drawing along the Amstel River

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash
A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash (details)

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn; pen and brown ink with brown and grey washes, heightened with white bodycolour on oatmeal paper; roughly 5 x 10″ (14 x 25 cm). Original is in the collection of the Chatsworth Estate.

It would be easy to glance at a drawing like this — a sketch really — take it in briefly, and pass on by, on the the next, more colorful artwork. But to me, these pen and brown ink landscape drawings by Rembrandt are among my favorite works in the entire history of art.

Many of them, on more devoted looking, reveal themselves to me as transcendent and poetic.

Perhaps it’s because I can project myself into them — even better than with a more “realistic” painted view — and picture myself sitting there on the bank in the shade with my own sketchbook and pens, immersed in the day, the smell of the river, the sounds of water lapping at the boats, the gentle clop of the horses passing by, perhaps a gentle breeze waving through the sun-topped line of trees.

Just as easily, I can picture Rembrandt sitting there — a sheaf of paper in his lap, reed pen and brush in his hands with perhaps two bottles of iron gall ink at his side, one full strength, one diluted for washes — immersed in the scene and his drawing while his troubles (of which he certainly had his share) recede into the distance.

As far as can be determined, these pen, brown ink and wash drawings were created simply for Rembrant’s own benefit, either as practice, or (I think) simply for pleasure. There is no known connection identifying them as preliminary for paintings or even for any of his similarly handled etchings.

Many of these, and other Rembrandt drawings in brown ink and wash, are listed as drawings in bistre ink (made from wood-burning soot), but chemical analysis indicates that a high percentage of them may have been drawn with darker iron gall ink, usually made from oak galls, iron salts and tannic acid. I’m guessing that may be the case here.

Renbrandt’s notation is breezy, economical and seemingly effortless. Just a few gestural lines — but brilliantly sweeping, lightly touched with tone — produce a solid line of trees, a river and its bank, boats and horsemen. Their sun bathed and shade dappled textures are created almost entirely in our mind’s eye.

Because it has happened to me on occasion, I have the distinct feeling that drawings like this might have felt to Rembrandt like they were flowing directly from nature, into his eyes, and out through his pen onto the paper — while he observed. There is little feeling here of artifice or the construction of a drawing as a work of art.

You’re unlikely to see what I mean from the small image and detail crops I can present here. Go to this link and view the drawing as large in your monitor as you can to get the feeling I’m trying to convey.

 
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Julia Hill

Julia Hill pen and ink
Julia Hill pen and ink

Julia Hill is an illustrator based in Devon, England who works primarily in pen and ink, using fine-line markers. Her main subject is animals, both domestic and small wild. She also indulges in whimsical fantasy illustrations with animals in human clothing and situations.

Her website is basically her store, so her primary online gallery appears to be her space on DoodleAddicts.

Some of the entries on the DoodleAddicts site include process step-throughs, and more information about her choice of pens and paper. She works with a lot of fine hatching to create tones and textures.

The DoodleAddicts website also offers a short interview with the artist, in which she also talks about her materials.

Etsy UK

https://www.doodleaddicts.com/juliahillillustrator/

Interview on DoodleAddicts

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Fragonard wash drawing

View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind, Jean-Honore Fragonard
View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind (details), Jean-Honore Fragonard

View of an Italianate park with figures, a villa behind, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, brown wash over brown ink lines and black chalk, roughly 13 x 11″ (33 x 47cm); link is to Sotheby’s past auction, large image here.

In this beautifully sensitive drawing, 18th century French painter, draftsman ad printmaker Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who specialized in such things, gives us an idealized view of an idealized park on an ideal day.

I love how delicately and vaguely some elements are suggested, like people, architecture, stairs and background foliage, and yet how definite and complete the overall drawing appears.

This is one of those drawings in which the vague word “wash” is used to describe the medium, leaving me in question as to whether it is ink wash or watercolor, both of which can be used to similar effect.

 
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Drawings of Andrew Fisher Brunner

Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings
Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings

Andrew Fisher Brunner was an American artist active in the late 19th century. He is noted for his landcape watercolors and for his drawings, particularly those in pen and ink.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a nice collection of his drawings, visible online in reasonably large images. Many of these are of Venice.

He has a seemingly casual style of ink rendering that belies the solid draftsmanship on which his drawings are based.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington also has a smaller collection of some of his graphite drawings.

 
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Bing image search vs. Google, Yahoo & Tin Eye

Bing image search interface

As you might imagine, in the course of writing Lines and Colors I do a fair bit of searching out art images on the web — whenever possible searching for the largest examples of images of artwork that I can find.

One of the ways I do this is to use the “image search” features of the major search engines. Unfortunately, Google Image Search, which used to be the standard, has been diminished in its usefulness, as Google, perhaps nervous about copyright issues, has gotten namby pamby about searching for large images and taken away the ability to search for images in extra large or custom, viewer chosen sizes.

I have of late switched the majority of my art image searching to another search engine.

Bing Image Search

OK, I hear you snickering (Bing, really? BING?). Yes, Bing, Microsoft’s seldom used (but actually decent) competitor to Google’s overwhelming dominance of the search arena.

While Google hamstrings its image search, Bing offers a full featured image search, that not only allows you to search for extra large images, but offers a few features Google’s version never did.

Unlike Google’s typically spare opening page, Bing Image Search is crowded with suggested images of pop stars, cute animals and a bunch of other pop culture garbage you’re sure to be fascinated by. (I think if you’re logged into a Microsoft account, it may remember your own recent searches.) The simple search field is at the top.

In the initial search term result (images above, with detail crop; I’ve searched for “Dutch landscape painting”), click on “Filter” to the right, and in the sub-navigation that drops down, click on “Image Size” at the left. You’ll have a choice for Small, Medium and Large, as with Google, but in addition you can choose “Extra Large”, or enter custom size parameters in the provided fields. I often search for 2000 x 2000 pixels. (The little icon in the right side of the search bar is for “search by image”.)

The filtered page will show large images with the size displayed over them. If you click on the hamburger menu at the upper right, you’ll have the option to display information from the page under the images.

Clicking on an image gives a close up. In the column to the right, the first two entries are ads, the third is the link to the originating age for the image, Under that are buttons for “Visit site”, “Pages” and Image sizes”, and below that similar images (related, but not the images in question) and related searches.

Clicking “Pages” produces a list of pages that display version of that image.

Clicking “Image sizes” organizes the image sources by the size of the image (largest is not always best as some may be watermarked or less accessible than others, you can also have multiple choices for the same size image).

The little icon in the search field at the top of the page (that I assume is supposed to be a camera) opens a Visual Search box. It offers you the option to upload an image, or enter a link to one, and search for other, hopefully larger, versions of that same image. It also allows you to search for a page with additional information about an image you’re trying to identify.

Google Image Search

Google image search interface

The Google Image Search initial returns on a search is similar to Bing’s. A link for “Tools” on the right drops down a sub-navigation from which you can choose “Image Size” on the left, with choices only for Small, Medium and Large as well as “All”.

The filtered returns show page location under them, image size is not available.

Google image search interface

Clicking on an image shows a preview in a right hand column, with the page name and link below it. In this case, the size is available by rollover. Under that are “Related images” (similar but not copies of the same image), and “Related Searches”.

Google image search interface

The Camera icon in the search bar is for visual image search. Upload or paste the URL of an image (the image itself, not a page containing an image), and returns an array of copies of the image with the source page underneath.

If you right click (or Control-click on Mac) on an image in Google Chrome, you will see a choice to “Search Googe for image”. There are plugins that provide the same functionality for other browsers.

Yahoo Image Search

Yahoo Image Search interface

Yahoo Image Search exists. Why, I’m not sure.

The initial search term results look much like Bing or Google, but there is no page or size information. Clicking on “Advanced” at right provides filters for color, size and image type. Sizes are S,M,L. (The others let you search by color as well, from the sub-menus.)

Clicking on an image returns a detail panel with the page and size info and the option to “Visit page” or View image”. There is no visual image search that I can find.

Tin Eye reverse Image Search

Tin Eye reverse Image Search interface

Tin Eye is a venerable visual image search engine that provided that service before the big guys, um… borrowed the idea. I mention it primarily out of respect for that. It still does a good job in its initial mission, but there is no provision for image size choices. Tin Eye offers plugins to put their reverse image search in browser menus. Tin Eye offers a service to track your own images and notify you if it finds they’re being used elsewhere, but the service is expensive, probably mostly of use to corporate intellectual property holders.

Tip for searching by site

All three of the above major search engines allow you to search for images (or other content) from a particular site. In the regular search bar, enter the search terms, followed by a space and then the word site, a colon (no space) and the URL of the site. For example: “dutch landscape paintings site:sothebys.com”. This will return a page with results for that topic only from the Sothebys auction site.

Other sources for high res art images

General search engines are just one avenue for searching out art images on the web. Another, often more fruitful way to find large art images is to do local searches on the sites of major museums, or on art image agglomeration sites, such as the Google Art Project, Wikimedia Commons of the Art Renewal Center. These should be the topic of another post.

Happy image searching!

(Oh yes, and Time Sink Warning!)

 
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Charles Dana Gibson

Charles Dana Gibson, pen and ink illustration
Charles Dana Gibson, pen and ink illustration

Charles Dana Gibson was one of America’s great “Golden Age” illustrators, and one of its finest proponents of pen and ink illustration.

He is particularly known for his drawings of the “Gibson Girl”, an idealized example of what at the time was becoming known as the “New Woman”. The Gibson Girl became a symbol of women who were coming to the fore and taking on new roles in society. Gibson’s drawings also made the Gibson Girl a fashion icon.

There are a number of remarkable pen and ink artists from that period, toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, but few had the same combination of delicate subtlety and bold freedom that exemplified Gibson’s command of the pen.

His illustrations ranged to many other subjects. The Library of Congress has a nice online exhibition feature that outlines some of his major areas of interest, while focusing on the Gibson Girl.

Many of the reproductions of Gibson’s drawings appear to reflect the discoloration of the paper on which they were drawn, but they are still highly enjoyable.

For more, see my previous posts on Charles Dana Gibson.

 
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