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beside the easel turns 2!!


Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2013


Two years ago I had an idea for a blog about art history and my favourite artists of all time, celebrating their birthdays and their great art by in-depth analysis of some of their best works. Over the course of that time I have discovered numerous artists that I never would have known even existed without this blog. I have learned so much. It is truly humbling not only to have discovered artists, but to have learned and keep learning the most important skill any artist needs in this world: observation. The ability to see. And to compose those elements into a meaningful work that truly tells a story or moves you in a unique way. The goal of this blog has been to go beyond the countless blogs out there that show all kinds of art but without context or explanation. A fresh point of view can really change your opinion about an artist, or at least see some of their work with a different perspective.

In these past two years I have written about over a hundred artists from the Renaissance right up to the early nineteen hundreds, and although I do not claim to be an art historian or scholar of any sort, my opinions are based on observations and my background as an artist and photographer of many years. Factual information and biography can be found all over the internet on many artists, but my approach has been to celebrate artists who are not only the usual Old Masters that everyone knows like Rembrandt, Velázquez or Titian but lesser known greats who deserve as much credit for their talents. Art is about discovery and in that discovery, you learn about yourself and what you really appreciate and dislike. My sincere hope in you reading this blog is that you come away with a new perspective and understanding on art that goes beyond monosyllabic words like good, bad, nice, or cool. I also want to open the minds of people who exhort "so-and-so is the best! No one else comes close!" because that mentality reduces art to a kind of sport, which is ignorance. I have my favorites and biases as we all do, but as I mentioned earlier I have discovered so many geniuses that scarcely get praised today because their value at Christies is not stratospheric or because a prominent art critic dismissed them in some way.

I invite you to explore the various entries throughout the site if you haven't already. Look for more artists and also more topics about techniques and subject matter in the future. If you enjoy reading this blog please feel free to let me know. Thank you.

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More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Old Master Drawings

Drawing is not the form; it is the way of seeing the form.
Degas



A male nude from behind, c.1630 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In this blog I talk about painting but the importance of drawing cannot be understated of course, and I believe we can learn just as much from studying their techniques of line and strokes as we can from brushstrokes...more in most cases as the drawing is more expressive and intimate. It reveals the personality and character of the artist.

The above drawing apparently comes from the period of Bernini's teaching at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of four from the exact same model. This drawing is fairly big for a study, at 55.6 x 42cm (21 x 16 inches). Consider Michelangelo's study for Libyan Sibyl, is only 28.9 x 21.4 cm (11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches), a small study for a fresco which would be painted several times larger than life size. I can only guess that Bernini was teaching a big class and that maybe his work was on display for students to study, or it ma…