Monday, December 17, 2012

Michelangelo's "David-Apollo" at the National Gallery of Art

On Friday I had the privilege of seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture ”David-Apollo” (1530) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  This beautiful marble sculpture is on loan from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, in Florence, to celebrate 2013, the Year of Italian Culture.  The name of the sculpture alludes to the conflicting stories that the figure is David, slayer of Goliath or Apollo, god of light and sun.

                                 Michelangelo's "David-Apollo", marble, 1530.

                                       Michelangelo's "David-Apollo" Detail

Michelangelo (1474-1564) was a master of the High Renaissance and best known for his colossal masterpiece “David” (1501-1504) which dominates the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. Michelangelo is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.  His creations in painting, sculpture, architecture and drawing are among the greatest masterpieces of Western art.

                                  Michelangelo's "David", marble, 1501-1504

While “David” is a large, highly polished piece the “David-Apollo” is an unfinished, smaller than life size sculpture.  This unfinished quality allows the viewer insight into Michelangelo’s process.  According to the National Gallery of Art,  Michelangelo used a point chisel to rough out the forms and a claw chisel to refine the figure.  The roughened areas formed with the point chisel can be seen on the back of the figure and the tree stump.  This juxtaposition of the refined and roughened marble later inspired 19th century French artist Auguste Rodin.  Below is one of Rodin’s sculptures to demonstrating this technique.

                                    Auguste Rodin, "Galatea", marble, 1889

While Michelangelo posed his “David” in a position of contrapposto, “David-Apollo” displays a twisting pose called serpentinata. 

I highly recommend a visit to the National Gallery Art before March 3, 21013 when “David-Apollo” returns to Florence.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Silverpoint Drawing, History and Technique

Silverpoint is a drawing technique with roots that go back to the time of the Renaissance.  The technique involves drawing on prepared paper with a small wire of silver sharpened to a point, much like a hard graphite pencil. As the stylus is dragged across the paper it leaves a mark of silver.  The layering of these hatched and crosshatched silver lines build up to create a soft value study. The technique is unique in that over time the drawing changes and becomes luminous as the silver tarnishes. 

         Leonardo Study of the Head of a Girl, 1483, silverpoint on brown prepared paper

Leonardo, Raphael and Durer are all Renaissance masters who experimented with silverpoint.  Durer’s father was a metal smith and likely introduced his young son to this technique. Silverpoint is a delicate, but somewhat unforgiving medium; but with some practice the results can be remarkable.  

                   Leonardo, Horse Studies, 1493, silverpoint on blue prepared paper

Contemporary artists using silverpoint begin the process, much as the Renaissance masters did, by preparing their paper with a ground.  The ground can be anything from house paint to commercially prepared grounds such as Golden’s Artists Supply “Silverpoint/ Drawing Ground”.  Watercolor can be added to the ground to create a toned surface. Using a rag paper the ground is applied with a brush and allowed to dry for at least 24 hours.

According to artist/author Juliette Aristides Lord Frederic Leighton worked on this rather large (21 x 15.5 inches) silverpoint drawing "from morning to evening for a full week".  

 Lord Frederic Leighton, Study of a Lemon Tree, 1858, silverpoint on white prepared paper

             Marie Dauenheimer, Portrait Study, 2010, silverpoint on white prepared paper

           Marie Dauenheimer, Figure Study, 2012, silverpoint on white prepared paper

             Marie Dauenheimer, Figure Study, 2012, silverpoint on white prepared paper

If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare paper for silverpoint and about this technique watch this instructional video from Golden (scroll down).

I highly recommend this technique!  It is enjoyable and the results can be brilliant!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Durer and Beyond, Central European Drawings, 1400-1700

In August while at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I saw two amazing drawings exhibitions.  One, which I blogged about last week, featured the plant drawings of minimalist Ellsworth Kelly.  These drawings were so beautiful and elegant for their simple use of line and negative and positive shape.

The “Durer and Beyond” exhibition featured many drawings also created with line.  Albrecht Durer’s energetic ink lines with layers of hatching and crosshatching were a great contrast to the Kelly drawings!

Albrecht Durer, (1471-1528) of Nuremberg, Germany, is regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance.  While still in his twenties Durer became famous for his woodcuts, such as “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.  He went on to create many masterful paintings, but his drawings are among his most famous works.  Amid his most revered pieces are “The Great Piece of Tuft”, “The Praying Hands” and “Wing of a Roller”  Many of these drawings are in the Albertina in Vienna.

          Albrecht Durer, pen and ink on prepared paper, "The Praying Hands", 1508

                      Albrecht Durer, watercolor and gouache, "Wing of a Roller", 1518

Throughout his life Durer was known for his detailed and complex self-portraits.  The exhibition drawing below “Self Portrait and Studies of the Artist’s Left Hand and a Pillow” features such a self-portrait with it’s penetrating gaze.  On the verso of this drawing is a series of whimsical drawings of a pillow.  The series almost reads like an animation!

Albrecht Durer, pen and ink, "Self Portrait and Studies of the Artist's Left Hand and a Pillow", 1493

                              Albrecht Durer, pen and ink, "Six Studies of a Pillow", 1493

The exhibition featured 100 drawings created between 1400-1700 by artists from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic among others.  A charming study of a hedgehog by Hans Hoffman (1530-1592) created with watercolor and gouache, highlights this artist’s love of observing nature down to the smallest detail!

                          Hans Hoffman, watercolor and gouache drawing of a hedgehog, 1584

If you enjoy looking at master drawings there are two current exhibitions that you might want to visit.  "The Mantegna to Matisse” exhibition at the Frick Collection, will be up through January 27, 2013 and the “Durer to de Kooning: 100 Master Drawings from Munich” is on view through January 6, 2013 at the Morgan Library.  I plan on blogging about both these exhibitions.