Elizabeth Shippen Green (update)

Elizabeth Shippen Green
I will admit that I’ve gotten a bit spoiled by the general tendency of the web to increasingly provide wonderful art images. If there is an artist whose work was not very accessible five or six years ago, chances are good that more resources are available now, or will be as time goes on.

(Hopefully this will continue, provided the web as we know it is not taken from us and handed over to big media, as they are constantly pushing for — and apparently succeeding, in light of the current legislative threat to net neutrality here in the U.S. — sigh.)

At any rate, I was somewhat disappointed to find that resources for Elizabeth Shippen Green, one of the wonderful artists from the Golden Age of American Illustration, do not appear much more extensive today than when I wrote about her back in 2006. There have been a few additions, but there is still not enough online to do her work justice.

Green was a student of Howard Pyle, and formed a fascinating bond with two of his other students, Jesse Willcox Smith and Violet Oakely, about whom there are somewhat more resources available than Green.

Though she occasionally painted in oil, like Pyle and many of his students, and sometimes worked monochromatic illustrations in charcoal drawings, her primary approach, shared with Smith, was to work in charcoal and watercolor.

An initial charcoal drawing was laid down, that was then fixed, and painted over with watercolor. This process was often repeated, with another layer of charcoal drawing, fixative, and then additional watercolor. The results could be luminous (particularly when seen in person), and often exist in that wonderful twilight between drawing and painting, with some of the best characteristics of both.

I’ve listed what current resources I can find for Elizabeth Shippen Green’s work below; but as I pointed out, they are more limited than I would like.

Fortunately, there is a new book on the artist, as far as I know the first to collect her work: Elizabeth Shippen Green, American Illustrator, by Paul Giambarba, author of the long running and excellent blog, 100 years of Illustration (my post here).

For more about the artist, see my previous post on Elizabeth Shippen Green.


Eye Candy for today: Hassam’s peach blossoms

Peach Blossoms - Villers-le-Bel, Childe Hassam
Peach Blossoms—Villers-le-Bel, Childe Hassam

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s collection pages have changed somewhat; the controls to zoom and download are now available directly under the image.

A beautiful, direct and deceptively simple painting by one of the foremost of the artists known as American Impressionists.


Some thoughts on eyes in early Renaissance portraits

Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet, Rogier van der Wyden; Portrait of a Woman, Robert Campin; Lady with an Eermine, Leonardo da Vinci
This started out as just an Eye Candy post on Rogier van der Wyden’s beautiful Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet (alternately known as Lady Wearing a Gauze Headdress, or simply Portrait of a Young Woman), shown above, top, with detail.

In the course of preparing the images for the post, I once again became fascinated by the subject’s eyes, as I had when writing my 2007 post on Rogier van der Wyden. In writing that post, I had the temerity to suggest that the artist had represented the shape of the two eyes as essentially the same, when in fact the eye to our right should be more foreshortened due to its position on the curve of the skull.

I further suggested that this might be an example of artists of the period in general coming to grips with more sophisticated representation of reality than their counterparts in the Gothic period, and still struggling with some aspects of accurate seeing.

Many contemporary artists, yours truly included, struggle with the same thing — accurately drawing what we really see as opposed to what we know, or what we think we see.

I certainly can’t say I’ve conducted a survey of any percentage of early Renaissance artists in this respect, I just noticed it in this particular portrait, which I think is nonetheless one of the most striking and beautiful in the history of art.

Van der Wyden’s portrait was painted around 1440. For comparison, I’ve included images of a three-quarter portrait by his teacher, Robert Campin: Portrait of a Woman, from roughly 10 years earlier (which I’ve flipped left-to-right here, third and fourth down), and another striking portrait, Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, from some 50 years later.

In Campin’s painting, I think something of the same problem exists, even if expressed slightly differently; and in Leonardo’s portrait, the issue is resolved — the eye to our right correctly turned in its socket, and the two eyes distinctly different in shape.

Arguments might be made that Campin’s portrait is turned slightly more toward us, and Leonardo’s slightly more away, but I don’t think in either case the difference is that significant.

I think Leonardo, the later and more brilliant observer, has simply worked it out correctly, and, along with his contemporaries, passed on his knowledge to those who followed.

Whether I’m right or not, I think it’s worth a look.

For more, see my previous post on Rogier van der Wyden, in which I initially suggested the same thing, and discussed it at greater length.


MicroVisions 2014

MicroVisions 2014: Robert Hunt, Iain McCaig, Gregory Manchess, Nicolas Delort, Tran Nguyen
MicroVisions is a yearly event in which established illustrators pay it forward by contributing small original artworks to be auctioned off on eBay, with proceeds to benefit the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Fund.

This year’s auction is in progress, and features some wonderful pieces. Participants include Richard Anderson, Steve Belledin, Nicolas Delort, Eric Fortune, Robert Hunt, Greg Manchess, Iain McCaig, Tran Nguyen, and Karla Ortiz (links to my posts).

The 2014 MicroVisions auction ends on May 28, 2014.

(Images above: Robert Hunt, Iain McCaig, Gregory Manchess, Nicolas Delort, Tran Nguyen)


Eye Candy for Today: Degas’ portrait of Manet

Edouard Manet, Seated, Holding His Hat, Edgar Degas
Edouard Manet, Seated, Holding His Hat, Edgar Degas

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click on the image on the Met’s page for a zoomable version or use the download arrow.

I remember being struck by seeing this drawing in one of the volumes of the old Time Life Library of Art (The World of Manet) when I was a teenager.

It seemed to me to be a perfect example of an honest, direct drawing: no showing off, no frills, no excess — just incisive clarity of observation and superb draftsmanship; simultaneously accomplished and casual.