Category Archives: A bit of art history

A look at pastel paintings prior to 1980 with a wee comment about them regarding colour, design, application of pastel, texture, composition, values, anything that might help us understand our own work better.

Florence Rodway, "George Whiting," 1913, pastel on paper, 63.5 x 49 cm, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Florence Rodway – Little Known Today Yet Successful Portraitist In Her Time

Tasmania, that island off the south east of Australia that many of us have heard of but really know nothing about including the fact that it produced painter Florence Rodway (1881-1971).

I think Papeeta was the first piece I saw by Florence Rodway and I was stunned by how beautiful, textured, and contemporary it looked. It’s a perfect example of Rodway’s style of focusing on the face and letting all other elements merge together. The pastel was up for auction and sold through Sotheby’s, Sydney in 2005. Have a look:

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Frank Reaugh, "The O Roundup, Texas, 1888," 1894, pastel on paper mounted on canvas, 18 5/8 x 43 7/8 in, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Frank Reaugh Estate Collection.

Frank Reaugh – Pastel Communion With The Southwest

I don’t know about you but I get intense pleasure when I discover a new-to-me artist from the past who used pastels. A few months ago it was Thérèse Schwartze (enjoy the blog written by Cora Hollema by clicking here). Today it’s the Texan artist Frank Reaugh (1860-1945; pronounced “Ray”). This artist became known for his landscapes of the West, many of which included grazing cattle. He often worked en plein air, using pastels that, get this, he formulated himself! I certainly wanted to know more!

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Joan Eardley landscape pastels

Joan Eardley And Her Pastel Landscapes

Okay, tell me straight, have you heard of Joan Eardley (1921-1963)? I was introduced to this artist’s work in 2012 and have been an ardent admirer ever since. Whether or not you know her work, I’m delighted to introduce Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes.

Although born in England, Joan Eardley is considered a Scottish painter. Her Scottish mother and her sister (her father had taken his life earlier) moved to Scotland to avoid the bombing in London during the war and with only a few exceptions of time spent in London and on the continent, Eardley spent most of her life there. In 1954, she started living in Catterline, a village on the coast of Scotland. It was here she painted her landscapes and seascapes.

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Thérèse Schwartze , "Woman Wearing A Hat (Portrait of Theresia Ansingh)," n.d. (after 1906), pastel on paper, 71 x 57 cm (27 15/16 x 22 7/16 in), Private Collection

Thérèse Schwartze – Painting For A Living

I came across the painter, Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918), a year or so ago. The piece I saw was a pastel of hers posted on Facebook. I was stunned and thought, Why have I never heard of this artist before?

Have a look at the image I saw. Look at the bravura of stroke, the softness of skin, the sheen of fabric, the life in those eyes, those skillfully painted hands.

 

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Mary Cassatt, "The Long Gloves," 1889, pastel on paper, 25 1/2x 21 in, Private Collection

Delighting in ‘The Long Gloves’ by Mary Cassatt

Big question….what post to offer just before the Christmas holidays? Something wintery? Nah, don’t need to be reminded of that at the moment. (Mind you, the Winter Solstice has just passed and we are now heading into lighter days again. Yay!!) And then I remembered a painting that I’d seen posted somewhere recently that I think is marvellous. It’s by Mary Cassatt and it’s called The Long Gloves: I’m both fascinated and also a bit puzzled by it. I thought it would be a lovely piece to share with you.

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Frantisek Kupka – Figurative Pastels 1906-1911

Back in April, a pastel was posted by Don Gardi on the Pastel Society of America Facebook page. It was by an artist that was unknown to me – Frantisek Kupka. Once I started to dig a bit, I realized I had seen his work but it was his more abstract paintings that I was familiar with whereas what had been posted was a figure done in pastels. After commenting on the post, I received an email from artist Duane Wakeham who shared an extraordinary pastel by Kupka with me. And from these two beautiful pieces, this blog was born.

Initially I had a hard time finding pastel images online. I borrowed a book, Frantisek Kupka 1871-1957: A Retrospective published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1975 (which I later discovered online – click here to see it). Inside, I found a number of pastels but they were mostly black and white reproductions. With that information, however, I was then able to track down many of the images online and in colour as posted by the various museums where they reside. (The Musee National d’Art Modern – Centre Pompidou has a large collection of work by Frantisek Kupka primarily due to a gift by his wife Eugenie.)

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After the Bath – Edgar Degas’ Pastels of Women Drying Themselves

In the shower the other morning, I was pondering what I could write about in my next blog post. And then as I grabbed my big fluffy towel, it came to me – I’d find images by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) of women after the bath, drying themselves. Surprisingly, I realized I hadn’t yet written about Degas’ pastels on this blog. Time to rectify that! (You can read a blog I wrote about some of Degas’ work on my gailsibley.com blog by clicking here.)

Do you have any idea how many paintings (pastel and oil) Degas painted around this topic?? Plenty! And you can find so many of these images online. What I found though was that much of the information was incomplete – no size, no location. It took me some time to weed through them – I only wanted to present to you work that I found on museum websites with the full information on each piece. All the images here were taken from those websites as I suspect they show the most accurate colour.

After 1875, Degas began to use pastel frequently, even using the medium for finished pieces. In May 1886, at the Eighth (and last) Impressionist Exhibition, Degas exhibited a series of several pastels of nude women involved in bathing – washing, after the bath drying themselves, and combing their hair. They were the talk of the exhibition with some viewers criticizing the ungainly and awkward poses while others commented on the honesty of the depictions and Degas’ use of colour. Certainly, they weren’t idealized pictures of women but rather, images of the modern woman going about her daily ablutions.

Degas continued with this interest in using pastels through the 1890s and into the 1900s. By then, his eyesight had begun to fail and the work became more abstracted and more about the formal elements of painting. The women are less individualized and more a collection of line, colour, texture, and form.

Let’s take a look at some of his pastels of women after the bath, drying themselves (earliest to latest).

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Herself After the Bath," 1876-77, pastel over monotype on paper, 18 x 23 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

1. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Herself After the Bath,” 1876-77, pastel over monotype on paper, 18 x 23 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California (This is as large of an image I could capture from the website.)

Eventually purchased by Claude Monet, this piece shows a figure and surrounding room. The woman and her towel cast a shadow on the bed and this is balanced out by the white petticoat with its highlights and shadows on the right. All the accoutrements of bathing and after the bath are visible – the shallow tub with sponge, the basin and pitcher, and various perfume bottles. The woman is completely at ease looking at herself in the mirror. The open door with its dark rectangle suggests the possible entry of someone, perhaps a client. The figure forms the central pivot around which a picture full of diagonals and parts of objects (the bed and petticoat) swirl. Don’t you love the red slippers? (This painting was painted over a monotype. Degas made a first monotype and then printed a second one over which he created this painting.)

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman in a Tub," c.1883, pastel on paper, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in, Tate Gallery, London

2. Edgar Degas, “Woman in a Tub,” c.1883, pastel on paper, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in, Tate Gallery, London

A woman kneels in the tub, drying herself. What looks like a dressing gown lies on the nearby sofa. Like the pastel above, a door is open behind her. We have no sense of this woman’s social class or if she works as a prostitute. She could be any woman at her toilette. Degas’ rendering of the soft glowing skin with its subtle colours and shadows is exquisite. The angle of the head, face hidden in shadow, hair coiled on top, is so beautifully drawn as is the rest of the body. I particularly love the reflected light on her right thigh near her knee. The woman is calm and intent on what she is doing, oblivious of being watched.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Toilet of a Woman," 1884, pastel on mounted brown paper, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

3. Edgar Degas, “Toilet of a Woman,” 1884, pastel on mounted brown paper, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Another earlier piece, this pastel feels full of movement with the blur of the towel in motion as a woman dries off. Another brown sofa with towel or dressing gown over it, it supports a kneeling woman, head down and face hidden. I find this piece has a tension in it unlike the pastel above – it comes from the action of the towel and the awkward precariousness of the figure on the sofa. My favourite parts are her feet, right over left, balancing the body, and also the floral wallpaper 🙂

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman at Her Toilette drying her left foot," 1886, pastel on cardboard, 21 3/8 x 20 5/8 in,Musee d'Orsay, Paris

4. Edgar Degas, “Woman at Her Toilette drying her left foot,” 1886, pastel on cardboard, 21 3/8 x 20 5/8 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

This pastel was one of the suite of nudes shown at the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition. Hard to believe that the critics could have found this beautiful nude to be ugly. In the quiet of her room, this young woman, hair loose, carefully dries her foot while sitting on a chair covered with her dressing gown. She is in her own world, totally oblivious of being watched by us through the open door. This side view is a difficult one to give form to and Degas has done a refined and elegant job of it.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Her Foot," 1885-86, pastel on buff wove paper, affixed to pulpboard, 19 3/4 x 21 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

5. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Her Foot,” 1885-86, pastel on buff wove paper, affixed to pulpboard, 19 3/4 x 21 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This pastel may well have been in the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition as well. Here we have the full bathtub being used to prop the bather’s foot as she dries it. Is this the same auburn-haired model as in the above paintings? It appears Degas blended areas of the pastel (her centre back, the bathtub, her right leg) as well as leaving areas of hatched lines. There seems to be a strange confusion in the area around the right hand drying the foot – do you see what I mean?

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After The Bath, Woman Drying Herself," c.1884-1886, reworked between 1890 and 1900, pastel on wove paper, 16 x 12 5/8 in, Musee d'Art Moderne Andre Malraux, Le Havre

6. Edgar Degas, “After The Bath, Woman Drying Herself,” c.1884-1886, reworked between 1890 and 1900, pastel on wove paper, 16 x 12 5/8 in, Musee d’Art Moderne Andre Malraux, Le Havre

This is a curious piece, with soft and polished parts where the texture of the paper is hardly visible, and other parts where the texture of the paper is clearly evident (at the top). There is none of the hatching or cross-hatching we associate with Degas’ work. There is a fold in the paper near the top which Degas did nothing to hide. This woman sits on a sofa, reaching up to dry the back of her neck. You can see the bathtub barely shown in the background top left.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After The Bath," c.1890-93 (dated in error by another hand:1885), pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard, 26 x 20 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

7. Edgar Degas, “After The Bath,” c.1890-93 (dated in error by another hand:1885), pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard, 26 x 20 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

Like the pastel above (and below), this woman dries the back of her neck. Degas was obviously fascinated by this everyday pose as a woman goes about drying herself after the bath. The gesture creates a tension in the back which allows for more evidence of the forms beneath the skin. Face hidden, the woman is completely anonymous especially when compared to the earlier work. The focus is on the woman’s back, so much so that it’s difficult to tell what happens with the rest of the body, for instance, how do her legs fit into the picture? She appears to be seated and surrounded by colourful clothing perhaps from which she will choose. This pastel has a more abstract feeling with intense colour and various pastel textures. Notice it was created on tracing paper. Click on the link to the museum above and go to ‘See all Paintings’ to read more. (For some reason, I was unable to directly link the image above to the one on the Museum’s website.)

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself," c1890-5, pastel on wove paper laid on millboard, 40 6/8 x 38 3/8 in, National Gallery, London,

8. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself,” c1890-5, pastel on wove paper laid on millboard, 40 6/8 x 38 3/8 in, National Gallery, London

This pastel is large, almost double the size of the one above. Degas seems to have begun the piece as another close-up view of a woman’s back as she dries her neck. In the end though, he extended the composition, adding more paper to the top and bottom of the composition. One of the parts of this painting that stand out for me is the pink pastel hatched over the gray areas of her back. Delightful!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman With a Towel," c. 1893-97, pastel on blue-gray wove paper, 27 7/8 x 22 9/16 in, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachussetts

9. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman With a Towel,” c. 1893-97, pastel on blue-gray wove paper, 27 7/8 x 22 9/16 in, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachussetts

This piece really begins to show the more vigorous stroke of Degas’ later years as his eyesight continued to fail. Curiously, the towel seems to be gathered along one edge almost suggesting a piece of clothing that she is slipping on. Yet the bathtub stands in front of this woman and she appears to be drying off. Again I am in awe of the subtle variations of form in her back that Degas has managed to achieve. A close look shows hatching going every which way and lost and found edges to create the illusion of skin. Marvellous!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath - Woman Drying Herself," c.1895, pastel on paper, 26 5/8 x 22 3/4 in, Courtauld Institute, London

10. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath – Woman Drying Herself,” c.1895, pastel on paper, 26 5/8 x 22 3/4 in, Courtauld Institute, London

All those different textures! Skin, towel, tub, upholstered chair, carpet, wallpaper. It’s fascinating that Degas chose to parallel the edge of the bathtub with the woman’s left arm rather than say, hide it with the arm. An interruption is made by the awkward movement of the right arm drying her left side. It appears that Degas may have added another piece of paper along the bottom. Can you see the dividing line? (There is no mention of it in the Courtauld Institute notes.) I love the redrawing of the right knee and perhaps there is also a change in the left (raised) hand. Oh to get a close look at these pastels in the flesh so to speak!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath," c. 1896-98, pastel on paper, 26 x 24 in, E.G. Buehrle Collection, Zurich

11. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath,” c. 1896-98, pastel on paper (two strips) mounted on cardboard, 26 x 24 in, E.G. Buehrle Collection, Zurich

Definitely a later piece, Degas focused fully on the woman’s back and surrounding cloth. What looks like the bathtub is shown at the lower left of the picture. Look at that wondrous hatching of different colours, for example her lower back – greens, reds, pinks, blues! Such confidence of pastel application!

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Nape," 1898, pastel on wove paper mounted on cardboard, 24 1.2 x 25 5/8 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

12. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Nape,” 1898, pastel on wove paper mounted on cardboard, 24 1.2 x 25 5/8 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Compared to the images above and below this one, this pastel looks positively refined and delicate. I am surprised it’s dated so late! The woman sits on the edge of the bathtub and dries her neck. This time, her hair is caught up in a pnoeytail rather than loose or in a bun. I rather like the panels of different colour behind her – they form an abstracted background as it’s difficult to make out what each represents. They almost look like curtains from the ruffling at the top. And what’s that dark shape to the right? The skirt of a woman come to help her? (There are other paintings by Degas of woman being helped by another – click here to see an example – but these were beyond the scope of this post!)

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Her Hair," c.1905, pastel on paper, 28 1/8 x 24 3/4 in, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena, California

13. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Her Hair,” c.1905, pastel on paper, 28 1/8 x 24 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

From around 1905, this vigorously painted pastel shows the decline of Degas’ eyesight. He uses the female form to create a montage of movement and colour. When I first looked at this painting, I couldn’t make out where and how her limbs worked. Finally I saw it – the limb that at first looked like a badly attached right arm is actually her left leg resting on the sofa while her right arm is mostly covered by the towel. I think it’s the conglomeration of limbs and right breast with little differentiation that create the confusion. You can see that Degas is no longer attempting an accurate drawing but instead appears to be reacting to the movement and colour he sees.

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I did putting it together. I’d love to know which is your favourite piece (I have numbered them) and why.

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Regarding whether or not Degas was an Impressionist or a Realist I have taken this info from the Metropolitan Museum’s website

“Edgar Degas seems never to have reconciled himself to the label of “Impressionist,” preferring to call himself a “Realist” or “Independent.” Nevertheless, he was one of the group’s founders, an organizer of its exhibitions, and one of its most important core members. Like the Impressionists, he sought to capture fleeting moments in the flow of modern life, yet he showed little interest in painting plein air landscapes, favoring scenes in theaters and cafés illuminated by artificial light, which he used to clarify the contours of his figures, adhering to his Academic training.”

Degas exhibited in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, missing only the seventh. Click here to read more about each of the exhibitions.

 

 

 

Joan Eardley – Her Pastels Of Glasgow Tenement Kids

When I first started blogging on www.gailsibley.com, I wrote a post about an artist I had recently discovered – Joan Eardley (1921-1963). I was blown away by her work and still am. Recently I borrowed a book on the artist via interlibrary loan. I could only keep the book for two weeks and I knew pretty quickly that really, I needed my own copy. So I treated myself! The book, Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae, has arrived and now I want to share with you some of Joan Eardley’s powerful pastels reproduced in the book.

Born in Sussex in 1921 to an English father and a Scottish mother, Joan spent her childhood in England but lived most of the remainder of her life in Scotland after the family moved there to escape the bombing in London in WWII. (Her father had taken his life earlier; he never got over being gassed in the trenches during the First World War.) In 1940, Joan enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).

After her successful studies (she won a prize for her one and only self-portrait), war work with a boat builder, further studies at GSA followed by a trip to Italy on a travelling scholarship, Joan set up a studio in the tenement area of Glasgow in 1949. There she painted the local children. It was her drawings and paintings of these slum children that brought her recognition initially even though it is the work of wind and sea from her Catterline studio for she is most well-known. Below are a few of the pastels she created of the tenement kids she came to know.

 

Joan Eardley, "Boy Leaning Against a Wall," c.1955-59, pastel on paper, 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in, Private Collection. One of the earliest pastels I could find.

Joan Eardley, “Boy Leaning Against a Wall,” c.1955-59, pastel on paper, 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in, Private Collection. One of the earliest pastels of the children I could find.

 

Joan Eardley, "Little Glasgow Girl," c.1958, pastel, 18 7/8 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Little Glasgow Girl,” c.1958, pastel, 18 7/8 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

 

Eardley continued to paint children throughout her life (which was sadly cut short by cancer in 1963 when she was only 42 years old). In a BBC interview in January 1963, she said, “…the [children] that I want to paint I try to get them to stay still but it’s not really possible to get a child to stay very still –mostly I just watch them moving about, and do the best I can.” (pg19-20)

 

Joan Eardley, "Little Girl and Comic," c.1958-62, pastel, 6 7/8 x 6 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Little Girl and Comic,” c.1958-62, pastel, 6 7/8 x 6 5/8 in, Private Collection. I love the way the child’s right hand is barely indicated. I can just imagine Eardley trying to capture a moving target!!

 

Local children in Joan Eardley's Townhead studio, Glasgow. Photo by Audrey Walker, Dumfriesshire Educational Trust, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries

Local children in Joan Eardley’s Townhead studio, Glasgow. Dumfriesshire Educational Trust, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries. (I have seen the photo credited to both Eardley herself and to Audrey Walker so I am not sure who took it.) I can hardly imagine having kids roaming about in my studio! You can see Eardley’s primary easel in the background.

 

You can see her sympathy for these children of poverty. Yet there’s certainly no sentimentality evident. She paints them as she sees them, all grubby and yet with the charm of children.

 

Joan Eardley, "Two Children (Boys)," c.1959-62, pastel on sandpaper, 11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in, Lillie Art Gallery, East Dunbartonshire Council

Joan Eardley, “Two Children (Boys),” c.1959-62, pastel on sandpaper, 11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in, Lillie Art Gallery, East Dunbartonshire Council. Apparently Joan’s favourite models in Townhead were the Samson children and these boys may have been two of the twelve or so offspring.

 

Joan Eardley, "Girl with a Baby," c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Girl with a Baby,” c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "Sleeping Child," c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 8 5/8 x 10 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Sleeping Child,” c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 8 5/8 x 10 3/4 in, Private Collection. Asleep but still moving probably!

 

 

Photo of Joan Eardley drawing a child. Photo by Audrey Walker

Joan Eardley drawing a child. Photo by Audrey Walker. I love love this photo. It really gives the sense of Eardley attempting to capture the vitality of this child who seems to be having a marvellous time! It also exudes warmth and connection between Eardley and the child. You can imagine she had this relationship with all the kids she was capturing in her artwork.

 

Joan Eardley, "Wee Boy with a Green Cardigan," c.1961-63, pastel, 11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Wee Boy with a Green Cardigan,” c.1961-63, pastel, 11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "Girl in Orange Jumper," c.1961-62, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 5 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Girl in Orange Jumper,” c.1961-62, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 5 5/8 in, Private Collection

 

You can feel the individuality of these children – they aren’t just a ‘type’. The more I look at this work, the more I feel that.

I like what Andreae says about these portraits: “…the Glasgow slum children. They are portraits not caricatures. She had too much rapport with them for such distortion. And direct, daily experience of them meant she knew them well and painted them in their world….They were..impoverished tenement children, and Joan studied and explored their community and their place in it with great concentration and poignancy. Nor for the most part, did she let sentimentalism sift sugar over her understanding of these kids. She knowingly celebrated the vibrant character of their burstingly energetic existence. She portrayed them with a kind of fond and tough sense of reality.” (p.127)

 

Photo of Joan Eardley in her Townhead studio. Photo Audrey Walker

Photo of Joan Eardley in her Townhead studio. Photo Audrey Walker. I love this photo of Eardley surrounded by many of her pastels of the Glasgow kids. You can also see an oil painting to her right. As an aside, quite the studio don’t you think?? I won’t complain about mine!

 

And just to situate where these kids lived and where Eardley worked:

 

Joan Eardley, "Glasgow Tenement and Back Court," c.1959-62, pastel on glasspaper (sandpaper), 8 7/8 x 10 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Glasgow Tenement and Back Court,” c.1959-62, pastel on glasspaper (sandpaper), 8 7/8 x 10 5/8 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "A Glasgow Tenement," c.1959-62, pastel, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “A Glasgow Tenement,” c.1959-62, pastel, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in, Private Collection

 

When I started this post, I was going to also include images of Eardley’s pastels of Catterline landscapes but I think I will leave those for another time.

 

To see more wonderful photographs of Joan Eardley, at work and in her milieu, click here then open the pdf. Also, to see a large selection of Eardley’s oil paintings, click here.

 

Photo by Joan Eardley of kids looking out a window. Can you see it as source material in two of the paintings on the National Galleries website?

Photo by Joan Eardley of kids looking out a window. Can you see it as source material for two of the paintings on the National Galleries website?

 

What do you think of Eardley’s portrayals of the Glasgow slum children? Are you as taken with the directness and energetic interpretation in pastel as I am?

 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Until next time, keep pastelling!

~ Gail

 

PS. The FABULOUS book I reference:

To buy in Canada click on image:

To buy in USA and international, click on image:

Childe Hassam, "Poppies, Isles of Shoals," 1891, pastel on paper, 9 3/4 x 12 1/4 in, Private collection

Childe Hassam, American Impressionist And Master Pastellist

A couple of days ago, I was flipping through a book I have on the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, Childe Hassam: Impressionist, when the pages opened to a couple of delightful floral pastels. I’m not sure about you, but I only vaguely knew he had done some pastel work. So I thought I’d share a few pieces with you.

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Giovanni Boldini – “Girl In A Black Hat”

 

Back in April of this year, Don Gardi posted a portrait on the Pastel of America Facebook site – “Girl in a Black Hat” by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Not only was this a stunning pastel but it was by an artist I was only vaguely familiar with. I was so impressed with the portrait I thought I’d share a close look at it with you. Here’s the portrait:

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl In A Black Hat," 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl In A Black Hat,” 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

 

Stunning isn’t it?! The combination of energetic marks and the delicate work in the face took my breath away. It has a very contemporary feel to it yet was done in 1890! And have you noticed how much black pastel he used?!

Boldini was born in Italy but after studying in various countries in Europe, he made his home in Paris. He is most known for his portraits of elegant and beautiful women, becoming the foremost portrait artist in Paris in the 1890s. In 1933, he was dubbed the “Master of Swish” in a Time magazine article.

Okay, back to the “Girl in a Black Hat.”

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour below.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour beneath.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the pony where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicates the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the place where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicated the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a purply pastel, Boldini indicates the material that wishes around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade in front as seen in the next image.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a light purply pastel, Boldini indicated the material that wrapped around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade down as seen in the next image.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of material. Although it's unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency!

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of material. Although it’s unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency. Boldin delicately inscribed the pale purple pastel like a veil over the black to give us the sense of the fabric.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's hair and eyes. How easily Boldini creates the  red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s hair and eyes. How easily Boldini created the red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applies the same light purple pastel used in the highlights of the dark fabric to the neck and to the left side of the face, revealing light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applied the same light purple pastel to the neck and to the left side of the face as he used in the highlights of the dark fabric. On her cheek, it reveals the light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

 

I couldn’t find any information about the painting other than the basic facts regarding medium and size. Who is this young woman? Was the pastel produced in preparation for a full scale painting? I’d sure love to know! In 1890, Boldini painted two portraits of John Singer Sargent who was living at the time in London. This would suggest that Boldini was in England when he produced the “Girl in the Black Hat” so perhaps the young woman is an ‘english rose.’

Well that’s it for now. I’d love to hear what you think about the portrait. Are there things you’d like to point out that I haven’t? I encourage you to do so!

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Fearful of the Nazis, a young woman fled her Parisian apartment, locking it up and apparently never returning. In 2010, the executors of a will discovered the existence of the apartment and had it opened. In it, they found many artworks and most importantly, an unknown painting by Boldini. To read more, click here and here. You will note some conflicting dates: the date Marthe de Florian fled Paris and the date the painting was created. I have taken the date of the painting as 1888 when Marthe de Florian was 24 years old. Apparently, she and Boldini were lovers (which might explain the rather sensuous quality of the painting!) And yes, Boldini would have been 46 years old.

Here’s the painting they found. It will certainly give you an idea of Boldini’s style – such lush and vigorous brushstrokes!

Giovanni Boldini, "Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888?, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection. The darker area at the bottom of the painting and the placement of Boldini’s signature suggest to me that the painting was originally cropped under his name, cropped by wrapping the canvas around the stretcher bars rather than being cut. As with the “Girl in a Black Hat,” I was unable to find much info on this painting, not even where it was auctioned.