Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sketching Cezanne's landscapes

On Friday I met up with the group I go sketching London with at St Martins in the Fields. As it was very cold I decided that I needed to do a spot of landscape sketching - in the warmth and comfort of the National Gallery!

Part of my Art of the Landscape Project is about learning more about how past masters constructed their landscape paintings. I've found that a good way of doing that is to actually sketch them - because in looking at them intently to sketch you learn about the composition, their predisposition to work with mass or line and how they worked with colour - and anything else which mattered to each individual as an artist.

It's not about reproducing their work exactly so much as getting a better sense and understanding of it.

On Friday I sketched two works by Cezanne and started on Het Steen by Rubens - but the latter is a BIG painting and I need to go back to that one.

After Cezanne - Avenue at Chantilly
(L’Allee a Chantilly), 1888

National Gallery, London
8" x 6", coloured pencils in Winsor & Newton Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One of the things I've learned about Cezanne in constructing this post is that once he found a motif he liked he had no hesitation about painting it repeatedly. I knew about Mont St Victoire but wasn't aware that the Alley at Chantilly was another favoured motif. Here's another couple of paintings of the same subject - each treated slightly differently
It's interesting that we can think sometimes that somehow if we've painted a subject once we've said all we have to say about it and we now ought to move on to aother subject. However, I'm more and more convinced that artists that keep painting the same subject learn more and more about their subject, themselves and their art.

I sat on the bench in the middle of the room to sketch this and didn't take a close look at how he had put down the paint until I'd finished. One of the things I've found is that I very much identify with the way Cezanne lays paint down in hatching strokes of the brush - while I hatch with the pencil.

I found an interesting quotation from Lawrence Gowing on the Tate website

Cézanne’s method, as he once said, was ‘hatred of the imaginative’, and we can feel that the hatred extended to all that was implied in the derived, fictitious contour of the early works.

His task was to hold in equilibrium the two conceptions which were vital to him, the conception of reality and of the picture.

This second sketch is of a painting which isn't in the National Gallery's listings which I assume means it comes from whoever has currently got Les Grands Baigneuses as that's out on loan.

? (not sure and forgot to note it down!)
National Gallery, London

8" x 6", coloured pencils in Winsor & Newton Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've also discovered that there is a book which reviews how he constructed his paintings - Cézannes Composition: Analysis of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of His Motifs - which I might try and get hold of.

More about Cezanne

2 comments:

vivien said...

you learn so much by revisiting places in different light/seasons/weather/times of day - one look at my work shows that I love to do this :>D so I totally agree.

It's a shame to constantly do one painting somewhere and move on, ignoring all the changing nuances, making the painting a totally different experience

Sometimes I've spent all day at the beach painting from the same place, taking an hour to 90 minutes on each work. The colours vary so much, the tide moves, weather and light change and it makes a great series about time - anything from 5 to 8 paintings

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I so agree!

Of course it also has the benefit of you don't have to pack everything up and go move somewhere else! :) Which also means you get more painting done.....

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