Franz Xavier Winterhalter 1805-1873 Madame Rimsky Korsikov
I am illustrating tonight's posts with the art of Franz Winterhalter, who was a fashionable portrait painter to the royalty of 19th century Europe. He has been derided as superficial and overly flattering to his sitters, but I have always enjoyed his technical virtuosity. He paints flawless textures and I like his color. I can't claim he has anything to do within tonight's subject but I like to show art in nearly every post.The images were, of course, provided by our friends over at art renewal .org.
I am going to write tonight about selecting canvas sizes on which to paint .
I suggest that you paint only about six different sizes and stick to stock sizes when you paint. The advantage of stock or common sizes is that you don't necessarily have to have all of your frames custom made, but can instead buy them off the rack. Here are some of the most common stock sizes for frames. Artists specify frames using the height first by the width, they would say for example, 24 by 36. A 36 by 24 is a vertical. My friend from Maine, painter Scott Moore insists "if God had meant for us to paint verticals he would have placed one of our eyes above the other".
Here are the smaller sizes;
- 5 x 7
- 8 x1 0
- 9 x 12
- 1 1x 14
- 12 x 16
- 16 x 20
- 18 x2 4
- 20 x2 4
- 24 x 30
- 24 x 36
- 30 x 40
- 14 x 18
- 22 x 28, Sargents usual non-portrait size
- 20 x 30
- 30 x 36
- Sometimes artists use what are called double squares such as 12 x 24, or 24 x 48, etc. There isnt really a standard size double square, but they are nice for panoramic pictures.
There's another Winterhalter, isn't that lovely? Shes a countess, looks real high maintenance to me.
Artists I know often paint these sizes but you can't generally expect to find a premade frame for these sizes. You will save a lot of headaches by limiting yourself to six sizes. Having interchangeable framing is real handy. I have actually considered this summer only painting three sizes. 16 x 20, 18 x 24, 24 x 30.
Often times the proportion you choose for a painting is a function of how deep the view you are painting is. In the woods I am liable to choose a more square shape. Along the shore where there is a great expanse of distance I am likely to choose a wider shape.
When you hear hucksters on the radio advertising "over the sofa" sized oils, they mean a 24x36. That's a great landscape size just the same..
There's a story I heard concerning painting sizes. A well known artist visited one of his galleries unannounced and his painting wasn't hanging. But his frame was. The unscrupulous dealer had taken the frame he had bought for his own painting and put it on a painting by another artist. After that he often sent galleries odd sizes, instead of a 24 x 36 he would send them a 24 x 34, and that solved that problem!
I should tell you, that I don't quite obey this six size rule myself, I paint 26x29 canvasses. I have done lots of them. That's a size I got from Willard Metcalf. I find it designs really well for me and it has a delicacy of size and shape that I like. I usually have to special order those 29 inch stretchers. I have never seen a 26x29 from anybody else except for Metcalf. Wetcalf was raised in a spiritualist family. That was a common religion in the late 19th century. Often they would hold seances and try to communicate with the dead. They were interested in mystical numerology too. I think this size may have come from Willards interest in numerology, but I don't really know that. But 29 is a prime number and 26 is twice 13, another prime number. I just like the way I can design the shape, maybe it is magic.
Empress Marie Alexandrova of Russia. Love the dress. I wish women dressed that way today. I don't guess its ever coming back though. What fun it must have been for portrait painters then.
I make between 40 and 70 paintings a year, I throw about a third as many more away unfinished because they have some sort of an irredeemable flaw. So if I paint too many sizes it really gets complicated and expensive having many dedicated frames that only fit one painting.
Tomorrow I will talk more about things to paint on.