Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sargents broad handling
Here is our Sargent portrait of Carolus-Duran again. Below is the hand I discussed last night. I want to return to that for further analysis.
What I want to point out is the amount of simplification in the hand. There are no tendons or extraneous detail and very little contrast except between the light and the shadow. The modeling in the back of the hand presents the large forms, they ARE there, but they are presented with enormous subtlety. For instance the dome-like swelling where the wrist arches over and connects to the back of the hand is clearly expressed. Sargent expresses how the back plane of the hand sits on a lower plane than the back of the arm. This arch connects the two, like a bridge. To the left and below that the value drops almost infinitesimally and the color warms ever so slightly to show the hypothenar eminence ( that's the group of muscles between the wrist and the littlest finger). The large forms of the hand are expressed enough to make them read but no more. They don't disrupt the larger unit of the hand at all. The point of this is that Sargent has painted this hand, and indeed the whole picture BROADLY. Below is a detail from the portrait again, this time of his coat.
This coat is broadly painted. That is the detail has been subordinated to a minor decoration to the larger form. It says "wrinkles on a coat" rather than "wrinkles on a coat". Rather than chopping up his large shapes with distracting and design killing detail, he simplifies the detail until it is merely a decoration to the larger form, rather than internal competition for attention detracting from the larger bulk of the form itself. My old teacher, Ives Gammell would have called this the BIG look of nature.