A Fleur de Peau – Visiting Henri Fantin-Latour at Musée du Luxembourg

Oil Painting

2nd Year student and De Laszlo scholar Nneka Uzoigwe took the opportunity to visit the Fantin Latour Exhibition in Paris. It has now moved to Grenoble until 18th June. I remember taking a train to the Bowes Museum to see an exhibition of his work. It was definitely worth it.

 

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Coin de Table, 1872

This Spring I was lucky enough to make a day trip to Paris. It’s purpose was to go see, ‘A Fleur de Peau’, the first and rather monumental retrospective of Henri Fantin-Latour since 1982. As a favourite artist of mine the exhibition did not disappoint. Displayed at Musee du Luxembourg were over a hundred paintings and works on paper by Latour, as well a collection of rare private photos and lithographs displayed alongside working drawings, illustrating Fantin’s amazing imagination in translating reality through to mythology and symbolism.

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One of the things that surprised me the most, was the feel of optical illusion when viewing his work in person. I spent a lot of time in the exhibition walking back and forth in amazement. Fantin’s paintings are highly detailed but only more so from a distance and when flattened in photos. So this  made it hard to photograph certain area’s, when I wanted to take some personal visual notes on his possible processes of application and layering. Up-close a lot of the brush marks were broad and rough and built up in careful layers of thin to thick, which expertly brought to light what could be achieved by simply following the same processes we’ve been learning at the studio.

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A couple of notes I took –

Figures sketched in thin wash soft grisaille – then opaque mid tones brushed on showing form and brush marks – thick dry lightest lights then applied – then colourful glazes and thin opaque darks.

Warmth of background shown through leaves and stems.

If a cold background – a warm transparent umber wash applied first – before adding on opaque greens thinly and expressively for the leaves.

Background pre-prepared for still lives – flowers built up in thin colours and darks sketched in in rich glazes – lights dryly and thickly put in.

 

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Howard Hodgkin Absent Friends at the National Portrait Gallery

Figurative Portrait

 

Howard Hodgkin; Absent Friends

National Portrait Gallery

23rd March-18th June

Yesterday I went to the Howard Hodgkin portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It would not be my show of choice but a dear friend absolutely loves his work and wanted to take a couple of us to see his work.

She was right to bring us; it was so lovely to go to an exhibition, which was just about colour and feeling. A disregard for representation and shapes and why not? If the colours and patterns of shapes work together and balance, which with Hodgkin they do, then the abstraction is rather refreshing and liberating.

This portrait of Peter Cochrane is the most figurative. I love the bold colour and patterns!

by (Gordon) Howard Eliot Hodgkin, oil on canvas, 1962
Howard Hodgkin, oil on canvas, 1962

 

Most shows zoom through an artist’s life chronologically or within subject matter. Here the show started with one of his later pieces and most abstract. It really helped put the rhythm of the subsequent paintings within a context: Seeing the end to understand the beginning. In his painting Absent Friends, is the title ironic or is it even prosaic of me to think that?

Absent Friends

During the war as a young boy, Hodgkin was an evacuee to New York City thereby having the opportunity to visit MOMA and be in a city not focused and devastated by war. This must have been a huge influence. What sort of an artist he would have been if he’d been an evacuee to Wales like my father?

On returning to England he studied at Camberwell under the tutelage of Coldstream. I love Coldstream’s paintings, not least because I was lucky enough that my dining hall at school was hung with Coldstream paintings, (apparently he partly paid the school fees with paintings).

So as with NYC and Wales… I wonder how my artwork would have differed if it had been Hodgkin’s paintings informing every mealtime rather than Coldstream.

With all of Coldstream’s measuring and observation, what they would have thought of each other.

Reclining woman

 

After Camberwell, Hodgkin went to study in Bath where the tutors were much more open to his ideas. Ironically the examples the NPG showed of his time in bath were his most figurative, some of the most wonderful and powerful portrait drawings in Pencil from around 1953, with a strong use of line and mass. I’m sure Coldtream with all his meticulousness and measuring gave Hodgkin a thorough grounding, to help the leap into abstraction.

Drawings

His philosophy on the abstraction from the figurative portrait is equally applied to his use and deconstruction of the frames. It is very playful.

To choose a favourite would be difficult, though the one that sticks in my mind is probably one of the most figurative. I just found the character leaning over very enchanting and the colours so refreshing. Perhaps it is its figurative nature that makes it memorable to me.

Figurative Portrait

 

If the paintings are about a response to people and memory, I would ask if he either has a very rich visual memory, or are his paintings an emotional response to the memory? – two very different things, and in my mind, the latter easier to access.

I wonder what was going on in his mind? Was he being playful or utterly sincere? I do hope a little playful, as this would give the work some freshness and would take away the pretense of some of the written word!

If you do go and see the exhibition it is a wonderful tour de force in colour and colour combinations, in patterns and juxtaposition of shapes.

Girl in Bed

Tim’s talk on the American Illustrators

An example of one of his characterful illustrations

Tim Daost has been studying with us for some years. He has received both the De Laszlo Scholarship and was awarded Artist in Residence at Leighton House Museum. We have been fortunate that he has given a series of lectures at the studios on perspective and most recently on the American Illustrators. Here is a brief synopsis of his fascinating talk.

 

One of the main reasons I wanted to study traditional drawing and painting techniques was to improve my ability to tell stories visually.   I have always loved the way a good illustration can transport you to another world, and admire artists who can use realism in imaginative ways.

 

Although slightly less famous in the UK, the American Illustrator Norman Rockwell has long been considered a master of visual storytelling by the US public.

Norman Rockwell

 

The more I practiced traditional figure drawing the more I wondered how Rockwell and his contemporaries became such amazing figurative artists and illustrators.  I decided to explore this topic more in a talk I gave at the studio in November 2016.

A large part of the story of American Illustration comes back to the Art Students League in New York City.   Every time I found an illustration from the early 20th century with amazing figurative work and researched the artist’s background I discovered that they spent some time at the Art Students League or in Paris at Academie Julian.

 

Arts Students League

Researching a bit about the training at the Art Students League around the 1900s explains how its students became so influential.  At the time the League had three incredibly influential teachers:  George Bridgman, Robert Henri, and Frank Dumond.  All three of these teachers had trained at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts or Academie Julian, some directly under the tutelage of France’s foremost academic artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

 

Here are a few images of students training at the Art Students League – the setup should seem familiar to anyone who studies here at London Fine Art Studios.

 

 

 

Frank Vincent Dumont in Class

One of the longest standing teachers at the Art Students League, George Bridgman, wrote some of the most influential books on figure drawing that are still in wide use today and can be bought at the studio shop Lavender Hill Colours. Here you can see examples of the work from his class.

From a George Bridgeman class
From a George Bridgeman class

 

Robert Henri, another instructor at the League, wrote the highly influential book The Art Spirit.

Robert Henri Art Spirit

Frank Dumond, who exhibited at the Paris Salon and won a medal, can be seen in the photos above teaching cast drawing.

 

Frank Dumond

 

 

It is no surprise that instructors of this calibre were able to turn Norman Rockwell into one of America’s best illustrators by the time he was 20. Rockwell matured as an illustrator at a very fortuitous time, since the technical circumstances of the time made illustration the dominant form of advertisement.

 

 

During the 19th century lithography, photography, and printing were making it possible to mass produce black and white images cheaply.  Colour printing was a more complicated process, but by 1904 rotary offset lithography made it possible to mass produce colour images.  Although colour printing was possible, colour photography was still a challenging process until 1935 when Kodak introduced Kodachrome film.  This meant that mass produced colour advertisements required an illustrator from the early 1900s until about 1935.

 

This opportunity was taken up by many other Art Students League students:  Walter Biggs and Howard Pile were all former students at the forefront of American Illustration.

 

Illustrators from outside the League were also popular; a little research tends to reveal that they also had an academic background.  J.C Leyendecker was America’s leading illustrator before Rockwell.  He studied under John Vanderpool, the Dutch-American artist and author of the book “The Human Figure” which is still widely used in art schools today. Leyendecker continued his studies at Academie Julian in Paris.

 

Leyendecker’s images for Saturday Evening Post defined the modern look of Santa (often mis-attributed to a subsequent Coca-Cola campaign that clearly references these images), and his work for Arrow Shirts advertising helped define the fashion sense of the 1920s.

Leyendecker

N.C Wyeth is also considered one of America’s greatest illustrators.  He trained under Howard Pyle, who was in turn trained by F.A Van der Wellen from the Antwerp Academy of the Arts.  It is hard to find exact details on how Pyle was trained, but it is clear the Van der Wellen had his students draw from casts.  Pyle also briefly trained at the Art Students League, and it is reasonable to surmise that Pyle trained Wyeth using the classical techniques that he learned from the league and Van der Wellen.

N C Wyeth

Wyeth completed an incredible 3,000 paintings (an average of 6 per month during his working career)  and illustrated 112 books (2 -3 per year)  during his career.  Maintaining such a pace would require spending no more than 25 – 35 hours per painting.

Dorothea Tanning: notes from a student’s talk on the artist.

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Last term I had the opportunity to give an art lecture. My chosen artist was Dorothea Tanning.

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I first came across her work at the Alison Jacques Gallery on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition entitled Web of Dreams. It was named after one of her paintings and spanned the periods 1939-89. She has since become one of my most favourite artists, from whom I draw great inspiration. The title, Web of Dreams, really sums up what I love about her work: the jumble of fractured ethereal spaces, tangled bodies, prismatic surfaces and rich colours. Together, they deliver a deeper emotional richness and at times a dark eeriness that I really enjoy.

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Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) lived until she was 101. She was an American artist who, to begin with, was closely associated with surrealism; over time she developed a more individual style. In addition to her work as a painter, she wrote two autobiographies and several novels, launching a second career as a poet in her 80s. She won the Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets. Dorothea Tanning was married to Max Ernst, the German painter and pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

‘Family Portrait’, oil on canvas, 1977

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An evening in Sedona, oil on canvas, 1976

To my mind, the series Insomnias, beginning in 1955, is amongst some of her most poignant work, described by her in unpublished notes: all of my pictures of this period I felt you should discover slowly and that they would almost be kaleidoscopes that would shimmer and that you would discover something new every time you looked at it.


57-1-01midietdemithumb‘Midi et demi’ (Half Past Noon), oil on canvas, 1957 –
Full of hidden forms, the colours in these paintings seem almost crystalized in their fragmentation.

 

 

 

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Alongside Insomnias, and bearing the same intensity are her ‘living sculptures’, completed towards the end of the 60s, and her matured paintings in the 70’s. The latter encompasses her series of flower paintings exhibited this year in London – the first time since 1999.

 

‘Asclepius formidabilis’ (Griefbane), oil on canvas, 1997 – Dorothea Tanning: Flower Paintings, September/October 2016, Alison Jacques Gallery

I prepared feverishly for the talk and in the end it paid off, I enjoyed sharing sharing, and in some cases introducing, the work of Dorothea Tanning to my peers. The time spent researching was beneficial in enriching my own knowledge and understanding of her journey as an artist. This was aided by the fact that Dorothea Tanning was a proloific writer as well as artist who left behind a wealth of fascinating and insightful material. It felt as if I were receiving a guided tour into her life.

For those keen to learn more I would recommend her autobiography, Between Lives: An Artist and Her World, 2001 and her novel, Chasm: A Weekend, 2004. A Public Space is a NY based literary and cultural magazine that this year featured a short story by Dorothea Tanning, Dream It Or Leave It, along with extracts from her personal journal, rough sketches and letters written to friends while she resided in Sedona. These can be found in Issue 24, Spring 2016.

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‘Pounding Strong’, oil on canvas, 1981

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Fine Art Studios at the Affordable Art Fair

Affordable Art Fair | London Fine Art Studios

LFAS returns to the Affordable Art Fair for their autumn show in Battersea Park, this year taking on a delicious foodie theme.  In keeping with the this LFAS will be leading Still Life workshops and Ann Witheridge will be exploring the interrelation of art and wine, both as subject matter and sustenance for the artists!

All events listed here, tickets here.

Wednesday 19 & Thursday 20 October, 7pm: Art History & Wine Tasting with Ann Witheridge

Thursday 20 and Friday 21 October, 4pm: From Palette to Palate a gastronomically inspired Still Life Workshop.

Artist Framed: Lord Leighton

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From live drawing demonstrations to figure drawing workshops, London Fine Art Studios has developed a strong relationship with Leighton House Museum and a great affection for the house and its original owner.

Now, one of our own students and artists shares his interest in Lord Leighton’s life and work and offers a different perspective on this leading light of Victorian art.

Artist Framed talks are informal, student led discussions.  All proceeds go towards our Next Generation Scholarship Fund, helping support students in their training at the Studios.

London Fine Art Studios is committed to offering rigorous training within the figurative tradition, drawing on classical techniques as represented by, amongst others, Lord Leighton, PRA.

£3 on the door, refreshments provided.

Art fettered, fetters the human race

by Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas, 1779-1781

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Poetry fettered, fetters the human race. Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish.

 

William Blake

 

 

London Fine Art Studios, based in Battersea, is part of a long history of atelier training and has an on-going commitment to classical art courses and the figurative tradition.

 

London Fine Art Studios is the sum of many talented teacher-artists, all trained at the school and represented nationally and abroad.

 

From Foundation through to full time courses across a range of genres, including figure, portrait, still life, landscape and sculpture, students of all backgrounds and levels are catered for. Each receives clear instruction as well as the support of their peers.

 

Over time, students develop the skills to forge their own particular path as artists. Some will remain within a representational lineage; others will transition into the world of animation, Matissegraphic design, concept art – even body art.

 

London Fine Art Studios artists have successfully found their niche across the creative industries and as individuals.

 

In keeping with this ethos the Studios have embarked on myriad projects with organisations from across the arts. As a London atelier it would seem contrary to do otherwise for the city is home to a rich and diverse artistic community that constantly offers up new and exciting possibilities. In the words of Samuel Johnson: when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

 

This week Griselda Murray Brown, Commissioning Editor for the FT Arts Desk, explores the synergy of art forms with specific reference to the representation of music in art. Cross-pollination is hardly a new idea the European Masters were long ago looking to their brothers in arms for inspiration.

 

Music to their Eyes originally took the form of an article written by Griselda and featured in the Art Quarterly magazine. She now takes up and develops the theme further, playing extracts of music and soundscapes originally commissioned and now generously shared with us by the National Gallery. The evening will be punctuated by an exquisite selection of images drawn form across the history of art and bringing us right up to the present day.

 

Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea 1871 James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903 Bequeathed by Miss Rachel and Miss Jean Alexander 1972 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01571

London Fine Art Studios maybe a south London institution, nestled on Lavender Hill, but it reaches well beyond its physical boundaries bringing learning and opportunity to all those with a love of fine art and a desire to broaden their horizons.

 

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