Category Archives: Watercolor and Gouache

William Trost Richards small watercolors at PAFA

A Mine of Beauty: William Trost Richards small watercolors at PAFA
American painter William Trost Richards, known for his seascapes and landscapes, was also a fantastic watercolorist. While traveling abroad in the late 19th century, he sent a series of small watercolors of his travels back to a patron, George Whitney, who was sponsoring his travels and looking to review scenes for possible larger commissions in oil.

These “coupons”, as Richards called them, were somehow largely kept together after Whitney’s death, and in 2012 the collector in possession of them, Dorrance Hamilton, donated them to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The watercolors were put on display in 2012 (my review here), but, like most works on paper, they are not ordinarily on view.

There is another rare chance to see them now, as the Academy has an “Encore” showing of them. If you can go, get there early enough to let your eyes acclimate to the dimmed light in the gallery. They are in the Furness building with the permanent collection.

These watercolors are astonishingly beautiful, and only slightly more amazing given their small size — most are roughly the size of a postcard. Many were painted in England, along the coast and in London.

For those who can’t get to the show, or would like a preview, you can view them online on PAFA’s website. There isn’t an online gallery specifically for them, but you can go to the Search the Collection page and enter “Richards” for the artist’s last name and “watercolor” for the keyword. That will turn up a few other of Richard’s watercolors, but most will be from this set.

Hopefully, this link will work for you.

Encore Presentation Of A Mine Of Beauty: Landscapes By William Trost Richards will be on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia until July 30, 2017.

For more, see my post from 2012 on A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards.

 
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Gurney Journey at 10

James Gurney's Gurney Journey art blog at 10
Congratulations to James Gurney for 10 years of authoring his superb blog, Gurney Journey.

What started as a modest intention to chronicle his travels on a book tour — in a way mirroring the journaled adventures of the character Authur Denison in Gurney’s popular illustrated adventure series, Dinotopia — has grown over time into not only a superb blog among art blogs, but one of the most in-depth and useful sources of art information and instruction on the web.

Gurney has been unstintingly generous in sharing his experience as an illustrator, author, plein air painter, instructor, model maker, videographer, and restless experimenter and investigator of artistic topics.

Over the course of time his posts on painting techniques, equipment, paints, color theory, drawing, and related topics have been turned into instructional books, YouTube videos, and most recently, a series of full-length instruction art videos.

Gurney has been a proponent of misunderstood and often overlooked painting mediums like gouache and casein, and Gurney Journey remains one of the definitive sources on the web for information and instruction in their use.

Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know I’ve long enjoyed Gurney Journey and recommended it often, along with Gurney’s other projects.

For those who may be new to Gurney Journey, I will recommend that you take a look at the post he did in 2016 on the landmark of 4,000 posts. In it he links to a quick overview of some of the most prominent topics. You can also explore using the list of topics in the blog’s left column, or the search feature at the upper left of all pages.

If you take the plunge, I will issue my Timesink Warning, and point out that I fell down that rabbit hole myself for a couple of hours while preparing this post, bookmarking along the way numerous articles I had forgotten about for future reference.

 
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Eye Candy for today: Aurthur Robinson watercolor of Alfred Gilbert sculpture commission

Aurthur Robinson watercolor of Alfred Gilbert sculpture commission
Drawing for Alfred Gilbert’s project for the tomb of a the Duke of Clarence, Aurthur Robinson

Watercolor, roughly 24 x 35 inches (89 x 61 cm). Link is to zoomable version on the Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Musée d’Orsay.

This is a painting by English painter Aurthur Robinson commissioned by sculptor Alfred Gilbert as part of an album to record an elaborate commission for the tomb a royal. The tomb took longer than expected to complete and the watercolor album was never finished, but we have this beautiful example of Robinson’s work for the project.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Christian Schussele illustration of sea life

Ocean Life, Christian Schussele, watercolor and gouache
Ocean Life, Christian Schussele

Watercolor and gouache, roughly 19 x 28 inches (48 x 70 cm), in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This illustration was painted by 19th century painter Schussele for inclusion in a scientific pamphlet, and likely under the guidance of the pamphlet’s author, James M. Sommerville, an amateur naturalist.

Sommerville was also an artist and was a trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Schussele was a professor in drawing and painting.

Schussele’s sensitive but bold rendering of the strange undersea life makes for a lively tableaux of complex and colorful forms.

 
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The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum
As I mentioned in a post in 2014, I’ve long been impressed by the mid-20th century illustrations of MacCauley “Mac” Conner, an influential artist whose work was a prime example of the Madison Avenue advertising culture showcased in the Mad Men television series. This was a period that also represented last great heyday of magazine illustration in America.

Rather going into more detail here, I’ll refer you to my original post on Mac Conner, and concentrate in this post on the exhibition of his work currently at the Delaware Art Museum.

My admiration for Conner’s work was based largely on seeing it in reproduction — for an illustrator, that’s how it’s actually meant to be seen — but seeing his original art in the show, in a large and very well organized retrospective, just knocked me out.

I was frankly even more impressed than I expected to be. Throughout the show, I was wowed by Conner’s masterful handling of gouache and his consistently daring and inventive compositions.

Conner (who is still with us at over 100 years old) is an artist who was clearly not content to sit within the limitations of his field, but always pushing at the borders (both literally and figuratively) of what could be done with the printed page.

He experimented with novel points of view, referential repetitions of colors and images within the theme of an image, suggestions of elements not present (like walls, floors and horizons), daring crops, simultaneous representations of multiple views of the same scene, jarring juxtapositions of size and distance and sharp projection of emotional content.

Concurrent with his explorations of composition (in which negative space played a huge role) was his experimentation with the use of his medium, usually gouache on illustration board, at times augmented with pastel, ink or pencil.

His style evolved from Norman Rockwell influenced realistic rendering to the almost flat modernist style that came to exemplify 1950s and 1960s magazine illustration, in which rendering, if present, was often confined to the edges of forms. He also experimented with both rough and fine lines, textural effects and color palettes from monochromatic to duotone to full color, often with clever use of a contrasting color within an almost monochromatic composition to both highlight important elements and tie the composition together.

Underlying all of his inventiveness and restless exploration was his keenly developed draftsmanship and an unfaltering grasp of perspective, anatomy, facial expression and spatial geometry.

The exhibition at The Delaware Art Museum was developed by the Museum of the City of New York, which apparently has a superb collection of Conner’s work, and is similar to some degree to previous exhibitions in New York in 2014 and at the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2016.

The Delaware Art Museum has a selection of images from the show on their website, but they are disappointingly small, though there is a brief video on the page that shows some of the images in more detail.

Also disappointing is the inexplicably small printed volume that accompanies the exhibition. I do have an understanding of the economics of printing, but why take illustrations often meant to be double page spreads in magazines that could be almost 11 x 14 and print them in a book less than half that size? (Sigh.) The book was prepared by the Museum of the City of New York to accompany a previous exhibition and is apparently no longer available except at the exhibition venues, so if you want it, pick it up at the museum.

The best image source for Conner’s work online is this article from 2014 in The Guardian, in which the images are large enough that you can begin to get a feeling for the character of Conner’s beautifully handled gouache paintings. There is an unofficial Tumblr blog but few other online resources for his work.

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner is on view at the Delaware Art Museum until September 14, 2017.

This is a tremendous show — stunning work, beautifully presented — and fans of illustration, daring composition, gouache painting (or the Mad Men TV show, for that matter) should not miss it.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Giacomo Guardi gouache painting of Venice

View of the Rialto Bridge, Giacomo Guardi, gouache on paper
View of the Rialto Bridge, Giacomo Guardi

Gouache on paper, roughly 5 x 9 inches (13 x 24 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum.

On the Morgan’s page, you can use the Download link under the image, or the Zoom tab above it. When using the zoom, it’s helpful to know that in the controls under the image, the last one on the right opens the zoomed image full screen.

When viewed in detail, the wonderful economy of Guardi’s notation becomes evident. Abbreviated brush lines delineate the windows, splashes of opaque gouache form heads and bodies, and brief indications of value change give the buildings dimension. Look at the way the reflections are indicated under the buildings at right.

 
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