Mary Sprague (update)

Mary Sprague, ink drawings, and watercolor of trees, chickens, rhinos
Mary Sprague is an artist based in St. Louis who I first covered back in 2010, and who works in ink, paint, pastel, wood and clay.

Her website emphasizes her large scale drawings of chickens, done in pastel, charcoal and mixed media; there is also a series of images of rhinos in a mix of stylistic approaches and media, but it is her more straightforward pen and ink drawings of trees that most captured my attention.

In her tree drawings, Sprague’s light touch and fluid, almost scribbled line gives the drawings some of the character of etchings. She contrasts dark areas of dense hatching with light and airy passages where the image seems to dissolve into thin wisps of lines.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Alexander Cozens ink and wash landscape drawing

Landscape with Ruined Temple, Alexander Cozens, Brown ink and wash over graphite; roughly 12 x 16 inches (32 x 40 cm); in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art
Landscape with Ruined Temple, Alexander Cozens

Brown ink and wash over graphite; roughly 12 x 16 inches (32 x 40 cm); in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art. Use the Zoom or Download links under the image on their site. Also available as a a zoomable image on Google Art Project and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

It could be that the middle ground and background are in the same ink as the foreground, just in a more diluted application, but I suspect this is actually two different inks, not an uncommon practice in 17th and 18th century ink drawings.

The difference in value in the three primary planes gives the image an appealing sense of depth, and the more subtle value gradations within each plane provide a sense of textural presence.

I love the texture of the hatching in the lighter or more dilute application of pen in the middle ground, and the way Cozens has used shadow across the right side of the foreground, suggesting even more depth in the form of unseen objects to the right of — or even behind — the viewer.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Watanabe Seitei ink and color on silk

Bird on Branch Watching Spider, Watanabe Seitei, ink and color on silk
Bird on Branch Watching Spider, Watanabe Seitei

Ink and color on silk; roughly 14 x 10 inches (36 x 26 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the Download or Enlarge links under the image on their site.

Even though the color in the image looks much like watercolor, when the materials listing for Japanese paintings on silk describe the paint component as simply “color” or “colors”, it usually indicates a paint using pigments similar to European or American watercolor paints, but with animal hide glue as a binder. This is a medium that would be called “distemper” in European painting, as opposed to gum arabic based watercolor and gouache.

The application of color in Seitei’s beautiful rendering is no less delicate and subtle that what could be achieved with watercolor, and the combination of that and his beautifully finessed application of ink is simply a marvel.

I was struck by how the leaves in the composition look so much like feathers, as well as the wonderful contrast between the detailed representation of the bird and spider, and the rough sumi-e approach given to the branches.

 
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Leo (L.J.) Jordaan

Leo (L.J.) Jordaan, anti-fascist art, andi-nazi art
Leo (L.J.) Jordaan was a Dutch anti-fascist artist and political cartoonist who was living and woking in Amsterdm at the time of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940.

Prior to the invasion, Jordaan has been working for the magazine Green. The Nazi occupiers shut down the magazine, along with most of what could be called a free press — always an enemy to fascists — and Jordaan took his work to underground publications.

Jordaan had a powerful graphic style, emphasized by his use of both dark and light hatching. He showed the Nazis a bringers of death, terror and pestilence to his beloved Netherlands, and was particularly harsh on Dutch fascist sympathizers, who he portrayed as shooting loyal Dutch in the back.

His most famous image was “De Robot” (images above, third from the bottom), which portrayed the Nazi war machine as an unstoppable robot trampling Dutch soldiers beneath its metal boots. It was published in the underground newspaper De Groene Amsterdamme (“The Green Amsterdamer”) during the occupation.

His portrayal of Hitler as a brooding Lucifer (above, second from bottom) seems to give a nod to Gustave Doré’s image of the Ninth Circle of Hell. The image of Christ in thorns above him refers to an image I’ve seen before, but I don’t actually know its origin. It may be a Gothic or early Renaissance icon.

In the image above, bottom, we find Jordaan mocking the Nazis’ attempt to appropriate Dutch culture — and Rembrandt in particular — as part of “Aryan Heritage”.

Jordaan survived the occupation, and after the war became a noted film critic.

The best source for images of Jordaan’s work is the Illustration Art blog, which has comments under some of the images that put them in context. Also good is this post on Dr. Tenge whhich features large images.

 
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Frederico Zuccaro brown ink drawing of his brother drawing antique sculptures

Taddeo Drawing after the Antique; In the Background Copying a Facade by Polidoro, Frederico Zuccaro brown ink drawing of his brother drawing antique sculptures
Taddeo Drawing after the Antique; In the Background Copying a Facade by Polidoro, Federico Zuccaro

Pen and brown ink, brush with brown wash, roughly 17 x 7 inches (42 x 18 cm); in the collection of the Getty Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image.

There is also a somewhat warmer (more reddish brown) reproduction of the drawing available as a zoomable image on the Google Art Project, and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

It is the second, warmer version of the image that I’ve used above. Not having see the original, I don’t know which is more accurate (museums are not always accurate in the posting of images of work in their collections), so I’ve simply gone with the version I like better.

This is another in a wonderful series of drawings by 16th century artist Frederico Zuccaro of his elder brother Taddeo drawing from ancient statues in Rome. This was common practice in the way that artists trained, and continues to this day in those art schools and ateliers that hew to the classic or academic training the preceded the advent of modernist doctrine.

I’ve previously featured two other drawings from this series, here and here, also from the collection of the Getty Museum.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt pen drawing of cottage and fence

Cottage with White Paling among Trees, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, ink and wash
Cottage with White Paling among Trees, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

Drawing in quill and reed pen in brown ink with brown wash and touches of opaque white and gray wash; roughly 7 x 10 inches (17 x 25 cm); in the collection of the Rijksmuseum. Image is zoomable on their page, you can also download it with the creation of a free “Rijksstudio” account.

The Rijksmuseum describes the gray wash as being added later, along with the framing line. I suspect the opaque white may have been added by a later hand as well, all in an effort to make the drawing more of a salable piece somewhere along the way, but the nature of the original shines through.

I just love Rembrandt’s landscape drawings, and my impression of them has always been that he drew them for his own pleasure, and not as presentation pieces.

Look at the beautiful way his seemingly casual lines indicating the foliage not only give the masses shape and texture, but a sense of motion as well, as if being stirred by wind across the landscape.

The little details like the hay wagon and the man sitting at the edge of the water give the drawing additional life and a sense of place.

The slats of the fence (the “white paling” of the title assigned to the drawing) are a visual treat, their thickly delineated rough edges contrasted by thinner strokes suggesting the wood’s weathered texture. The fence slats, along with some of the shapes of the foliage behind it, are beautifully set off by the tone applied to the cottage and the darker foliage.

Look at the quick indications of flowers in front of the fence — this isn’t just a building, it’s someone’s home.

The reflections in the pond-like depression in front of the fence and the soft indication of the larger body of water and shore and buildings beyond are marvels of suggestion.

I don’t know anyone, with the possible exception of Shakespeare, who can say so much in so few lines.

 
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