Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More adoring shepherds and some commentary thereupon

I still have some Shepherds left in the bottom of the bag. Above is a Rubens. I am fond of Rubens but this one doesn't carry as well to the modern eye as that Rembrandt we saw last night. Those putti flying above with their roll of Charmin just seem corny to our contemporary eyes. But the figure of Mary lifting the swaddling clothes to reveal the Christ child is beautiful. Like the Mary in the Rembrandt, she is illuminated by the source of light which seems to be the child. Her arm cuts in front of that illumination, like the figure I discussed last night. Thats a nice touch. It establishes space in there and amplifies the effect.

About the Christ child are a pinwheel of limbs formed by the leg of the kneeling shepherd, Marys raised arm, the woman in the hats arm, and then the shepherds arm. The baby is in the center of a maelstrom of converging arcs.

The painting above is by Gerit Von Honthorst, who lived at the same time as Rembrandt but was a few years his senior. Honthorst was a wildly successful artist and studied in Rome to learn the Carravagiast style. That is, he painted scenes using the chiaroscuro style of Caravagio. Rembrandt too was a follower of that style but became so unique that the label was to small to fit him.

I think the darks scattered about this painting are less well designed than those or the Rubens above or that Rembrandt from the other day. The same illuminated by a baby against a dark field ploy goes on in all of these pictures and Gerit isn't quite as good at it. Squint at the picture and notice the following slightly clunky little darks.
  • The dark behind the praying shepherd on the lefts hands.
  • The dark below the chin of the cow
  • and the dark shape to the right of Marys head.
All of these were put in to relieve the light shapes against a dark, but they seem a little artificial.Also the distribution of the light is sort of matter of fact. In the Rembrandt from yesterday the light is dramatically arrayed to pick out the things that carry the story, in the Honthorst the light is sort of everywhere. It illuminates the yellow sleeve of the shepherd on the right, for instance nearly as much as the face of Mary. Try covering it with your hand and see if you don't agree that Mary "lights up". Lastly the shepherd on the left of Mary has his nose jammed against the top of the praying shepherds head, a Rembrandt or a Rubens wouldn't contain an annoying little tangent like that.

Above is a Bernardo Strozzi who was born just a little before Rembrandt is playing the same theme too, with the illuminated shapes set against the darkness. Marys gesture is lovely and there is a silvery cast to this painting that is a little different than the golden glow of the dutch paintings we have been seeing. Squint way down on this one and see what fine shapes Strozzi has made. The radiating spoke like shapes formed by the draperies supporting Christ work really well. The two vertical staffs on either side of Mary are a great counter to all of the ovoid shapes in there. Thats a neat design idea too.


Sidharth Chaturvedi said...

It's really great how many artists I've learned about from your blog, today's no different. It's interesting to look at what made Rembrandt and Rubens stand out at the time.

The Academy's a good school for sure- very much on the pricey side, but there are some fantastic teachers. It's very far from comprehensive though. There are large, rather important chunks of my education that I've only gotten online, chiefly from conceptart.org and your blog. Cheers for that by the way :). I really hope to take one of your workshops someday.

billspaintingmn said...

"Shepherds left in the bottom of the bag.."
I'm going to grin for a year!
This has all been helpful & fun.
They seem to have covered every way
to depict the birth of Christ.
Stylized, dramatized, and taylored
fasions for the day.
Daytons has changed hands several times, but still have a display.
I have'nt been down there since they took out Moby Dicks.
(That was a whale of a time!)

Robert J. Simone said...

This series is a great way to celebrate the season and focus attention on the birth of Christ. Smartly evangelistic! Thanks.

Deborah Paris said...

Wonderful design analysis as always, Stape. Feeling better?

CM said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS STAPE Get Better! and may you be your feisty self for Christmas morning.
I love the Rembrandt...Do you think painting by candlelight helped him to create such contrast and the wonderful darks and lights that are so alive?
Maybe we should try it.
Corinne McIntyre

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you . I get a number of visitors from concept.org. I always find that sort of funny as I am their polar opposite. I am sort of old timey classical and they are real CG. I appreciate the link though and hope I am useful. That's what the goal is here. I want to be useful.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I spent some time in Moby Dicks. Long ago "a whale of a drink" also used to go to the artists quarter a lot. I lived in several apts around the art school area and over at 24th and Lyndale. I lived a long time in the old Oak Grove Hotel.When it was still a dorm for the Guthrie.I remember when the Depot had busses in it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I was trying to be kind of low profile, posting all that scripture you know.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes I am, I am left with only a scratchy throat .Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have had problems painting in dim light, things look off when seen in more light. I think he was just wicked smart.