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.


Dot Courson said...

Hypothenar eminence? Ah HA! So you WERE a thoracic surgeon or something?

Hope you never resort to terms like "fatty pads on the under side of the hand" or something so un-technical like that... so we don't have to Wikipedia your site... I'm a bit A.D.D. and spent a fun 30 minutes over there looking at hand anatomy and links to diseases ended up almost going to a link on physical therapy where I was thinking about maybe they had info on carpal tunnel....

But I always learn something here...and I love the term, "the BIG look of nature" ...Gammell stated that SO succinctly!

billspaintingmn said...

There is something in the general that speaks louder than the details

Robert J. Simone said...

The simplification of hand and coat also makes sense because those forms should be subordinate to the face. To much detail in the hand or coat would take attention away from the face rather than direct attention to the face. said...

Something else I noticed , is that the sitter is layered in values.
Dark hair, light face, dark beard, white collar, dark tie, light jacket, dark pants.

Sargent spent a lot of time setting up his sitters clothing, and positions.

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

Boy did I need this one!

Thanks for reminding us all that the master knew well that less is more.

Now, do I go back and try to "fix" my painting or forge on with an enlightened brush?

willek said...

I also love the subtle temperature difference of the sleeve between the descending upper arm and the forward projecting cuffs. and the very slight coolness of the torso of the jacket.

Brady said...

I love the curving line from the sleeve on the opposite hand up to the white handkerchief and then to the red lapel pin to the face.

And then when it is combined with the cane and other hand it's almost an arrow pointing to the face.

As someone else mentioned the white of the sleeves and hands are brighter than the face so I like how he leads the eye around.

And I just love Duran's expression! It's like he's saying to Sargent, "Okay boy, get it done already."

Debra Norton said...

I like that "wrinkles on a COAT vs WRINKLES ON A coat".......I'm gonna remember that one. Right now I have a BARN! that needs to become a barn. Thanks, uh I mean THANKS!!

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's it's name. So sue me.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes, indeed.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The head is simplified too though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I expect that besides carefully setting up the pose he manipulated the appearance of the thing to get those stacked values. He installed them too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bury your dead, they will not follow you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Shhhhh. We are getting to Sargent's color temperature soon.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes it does do that, doesn't it?

Stapleton Kearns said...

The trick to that is to paint the world first, and then place the barn within that.

jake gumbleton said...

I love you Stape. This stuff is ace mate!