Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More about Sargent's Luxembourg Garden picture

I was writing about this picture the other night and talking about it's tonalist leanings. But I noticed another thing about it that I want to mention. You who have read this blog for a while know that I often advocate linking shadows together. Look at the image of the painting below. I have fooled with the contrast in Photoshop to make the linkage here more obvious.

This painting has pretty much one big shadow shape. Even the little guy with the lady on his arm and a tasty tobacco product in his mouth, is linked to the background trees by a couple of strategically placed bushes.

If you were to place your finger on a dark in this painting you could travel all about the darks without having to lift it. This is useful for two reasons. First it guides the eye around the painting via a simple, plainly visible pathway. Secondly, every time you link one shadow to another, you reduce the number of shapes in your painting. If you can make of all your shadows a single linked shape, gerrymandered as it may be, it is a single shape. Usually a very interesting shape at that.

I was asked in the comments

"Think Sargent would have set his subject up with those props and colors in mind before hand?, or would he have translated the color scheme and the subject into what he painted?"

I think that Sargent imposed his color schemes on the paintings, but he based that on the props he found useful. He would have altered the color of things to get his dominant note spread around the way he wanted. For instance in this piece below;

The chair and the carpet may have had that rose color but I expect that Sargent "forced" it into the dress. I think all of those rose colored shadows in the shawl like thing that hangs from her shoulder must have been installed too carry his color scheme around the painting. Those hot shadows around the back of her lower leg look to have been pushed into that heated note. It would have been easy for him to force that note up into the upper left hand corner too. I am assuming that he liked the color of the chair and the rug and sewed the whole painting up in it.
Tomorrow night, a tangent.


Jesse said...

I remember reading that he would tell a lady to wear a certain dress, or buy it for them. So I'm sure he was making some conscious color decisions.

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

My guess is that he tried to compliment each of his subjects by choosing a predominant color that was complimentary to their skin tone. This lady looks like a rosy-cheeked lass.

I've seen the painting of Lady Agnew (yesterday's blog) in person and her skin tone was like glowing alabaster. Sargent's push in this one was toward lavender (yes I know it looks blue in the photo, but it is really much more purple in real life). I remember wondering at the time if he used that particular color because it made her look so lovely.

billspaintingmn said...

Even the little guy with the lady on his arm and tasty tobacco product... that's poetry Stape! I'm
going to remember that.
Your posts are like dynomite,they are opening up and breaking through
my rock hard head :) Thanks!

Robert J. Simone said...

Interesting coincidence, I am working a painting to promote my upcoming lecture on tonalism at the Boca Grande Art Alliance. My painting's design is very similar to Sargent's, only it involves a stern view of a cargo ship at port, back lit with cloud cover. The whole painting is suffused with blues ranging from blue-green to blue purple.

I'll have to review your tonalism articles and see if their is anything I can pirate. Happy Thanksgiving, Matey! said...

I used that "linking the shadows and darks at a critique last week end" and got a lot of oohs and ahhs. I credited you, of course. It's a very effective device even in stll lifes.

MCG said...

Happy Thanksgiving Stape to you and your family! I am thankful for your blog.

Philip Koch said...

I suspect old Sargent lied a lot about the actual colors he was observing. The thing is he was sharp enough to make his new color choices look so natural and believable. He put a ton of shapes and colors in and then cooked them up so they flowed together into a simplicity that's often astoundingly beautiful. Thanks so much Stape for this series on Sargent. I'm enjoying it immensely.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Too bad dresses like that aren't in style today. The were so beautiful!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Maybe, but he might have bent their skin tones to his purpose too. I think he did just about whatever he wanted, he was so well regarded that he could.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks as always for your encouragement!

Stapleton Kearns said...

They are back there somewhere.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Linking darks, I learned from Charles Movalli. I don't know where he learned it. It is an OLD idea.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

All of those old guys lied so much. They did it in such a believable way that many artists can't be convinced that they didn't paint exactly what they saw.