Friday, November 5, 2010

Duran's right hand

Here is Sargent's Carolus-Duran again, sitting patiently. Below is his right hand.

And below, I have superimposed some lines on that hand.

Theses are the major lines in the passage. Do you see how rhythmic they are? They all are concave, their obvious purpose is to enclose the forms within, but they also bear a relationship to one another. As each line swirls around the hand they echo and offset the movement of the other lines.

The longest and most important line runs along the thumb side of the hand, it is juxtaposed against a straight line, the cane. Notice how the squareness of the first finger also carries out this straight line.The contrast between the two gives variety and grace. These lines were installed by Sargent to give rhythmic grace to his painting. The appearance of the actual hand was distilled and refined by the artist into an abstract arabesque of lines that set one another off, not just delineate the form.

15 comments:

Sakievich said...

I think a whole book could be written, much like Rembrandt's Eyes, on Sargent's hands. His portraits always contain the most elegant hand gestures.

b said...

Just when I think I've reached a certain level of understanding, something comes along and let's me know that I have miles to go.

For some reason this excites me!

Just the thought process behind arranging the hand in that manner cracks open fumbled at doors that I only dimly noticed before.

Painting is like a never ending pit of pure awesomeness!

Sandra Galda said...

Great interesting posts as always, Stapleton!

I suspect the treatment of the hand underscores the and echoes the head of the figure also? Somehow visually the hand and its treatment reverberates-- to my eyes anyways- the tilt and line of the head --making the head the focus....just a thought

willek said...

He has given us a terrific hand and only needed to paint a thumb and 1 1/2 fingers to do it.

billspaintingmn said...

Variety and grace/ rythmic grace/
distilled and refined/ abstract arabesque/
Stape! These will be my criterion
for the next set of hands I intend to paint.

Philip Koch said...

Beautiful painting!

In addition to the good comments about the hand itself, there is a wonderful squeezed interval of empty space between the hand and the bottom of the sitter's jacket just to the right. The whole bottom of the painting is alive with great silhouetted shapes that add personality to both the painting and the sitter.

MCG said...

There is something specific about this painting that has always jumped out at me and I wonder if it's valid? Many of Sargent's portraits have finely rendered hands, still they are often rendered as subjugated to the face, the face being the brightest light/focus.
In this particular portrait, everything seems subjugated to this right hand. Squinting way down, the right hand is the brightest passage in the painting. The other cuff and handkerchief perhaps being almost as bright as counterpoints; a triangle within a triangle. The large triangle is formed by his face and hands, and the smaller triangle of the cuffs and handkerchief within point up toward the collar/face almost to off-set the lack of light on the face itself so your eye gets to it. The canes handle points toward the face also. He could have as easily placed Duran's hand over the knob of the cane. My eyes take a few circular paths around and then stop ultimately on that hand, and then my eye usually leaves the painting downward from that hand/cane. Seems he subjugated the portraits face and everything else ultimately to that right hand... the hand being the portrait of a painter.
Maybe I am stating the obvious or imagining things. Maybe Duran was left-handed hahaa.

MCG said...

I should have said "the right hand is the brightest/largest passage". It is the spot with the most attention ultimately, no?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sakievich;
I don't think I will write it tonight though.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

b;
Sometimes it does seem infinite.
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sandra:
Thaanks. I believe you are right.
.,............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek;
Good observation.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip;
I agree about those big neutral shapes.
............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

MCG;
Perhaps you are right, that is a good observation. The hand of a painter would be pretty important to Sargent.
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill;
The hand is a puppet show.
.................Stape