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3 ways to look at…figure

3 Ways to look at… The beauty of art is how artists approach the canvas from their individual thoughtful perspective. The result is great art from different perspectives and a range of styles.

Here are three artists, three perspectives of the same topic.

Jane Hart wrote a great synopsis of the evolution of figurative art in Art Business News in 2009. It really sets the groundwork for the 3 artists selected for this weeks’ blog entry.

“Figurative art has evolved through centuries of rich tradition and experimentation. From ancient stick-figure drawings to the Realist works of the early masters, the human form has captured artists’ attention for thousands of years. Today, the intrigue of figurative works continues, and artists are free to unleash their imaginations, putting a contemporary twist on the human form.

“The human figure holds an irresistible attraction for most people; it has from the beginning of time and always will,” says Tim Collins, director of Titus Fine Art, “It is the subject of some of the most powerful and memorable paintings, such as Manet’s ‘Olympia’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.'”

  1. Portrait of Amasa M Eaton and Charles F. Eaton, James Sullivan Lincoln (1811 – 1888), 1852, oil on canvas 54” x 48”  $9,500.

Amasa and Charles Eaton, children of the Providence lawyer Levi C. Eaton and Sarah Brown Mason shows two boys who would grow to become successful men. Amasa, the older of the two, would study law at Brown and Harvard Universities, going onto a life of serving his state and his country as a soldier in the Civil War, and then as a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Charles, the younger boy, would travel to Paris to train as an artist. After returning to the United States Charles would participate in the Arts and Crafts movement and he would instill a live of art into his daughter, Elizabeth Eaton Burton. The portrait shows the then eleven year old Amasa to look much older than his ten year old brother. Amasa wears his hair short and has his socks and shoes on. His brother Charles has longer hair and is shown barefoot, with his shoes discarded behind him, giving him a younger and more playful look.

James Sullivan Lincoln, who was a prominent figure in the Providence Art world painted this portrait in 1852. Landing a commission from the Brown Family spoke to the status that Lincoln commanded in Providence at the time. Bringing his expertise in oil painting to bear in the creation of this portrait, with the use of shadows on Charles’s face displaying an incredible, almost photographic level of realism. Lincoln would continue to paint portraits of the notable people of Providence, and would also incorporate photography into his workshop.

Biography James Sullivan Lincoln was the leading portrait painter in Providence during the 19th century. During his long career he chronicled the lives and time of Providence dreamers, thinkers, educators, families and politicians. Over 4,000 images were generated including oil portraiture and photography. The painted and photographed likenesses created by this master portraitist convey the history of an American region during a critical period of change and growth. A review of Lincoln’s images provides visual representation of well-known Rhode Island names, like Samuel Slater, Betsey Baker and Ambrose Burnside. This prolific painter dutifully recorded in his log book, owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society, most of his sitters. The log book begins at 1837 and is a treasure trove of information about the patrons and business of his career, as Lincoln recorded prices paid for likenesses after 1863. Lincoln’s work was typical of the style of the day, highly delineated likenesses with a limited pallette. His early training had been in engraving and he did spend some time under the tutelage of C. Hinckley. Most characteristic of Lincoln’s work is the methodical and exacting brushstrokes he used. An exhibit of his works is currently on view at the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Aldrich House at 110 Benevolent Street. A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

     2. Odalisque, James Drummond Herbert (1873 – 1941), Watercolor 6” x 11”, $1,200.

Sorting through the endless number of sketches, drawings and watercolors of James Herbert it is clear that he was determined to master the figure study. Herbert spent hours upon hours sketching models and systematically studying the human form. This foundation was instrumental for his costumed dance paintings where the anatomical movements of ballerinas across the stage are carefully orchestrated and evocative.

Biography Born in New York City, Herbert lived in Manhattan and studied at Columbia University during his youth. He attended the Art Student’s League of New York from 1920-1923, and again from 1926-1929. While there he studied with eminent artists such as Frank Drummond and Kenneth Hayes Miller. He joined a “coterie of intelligent, socially interested and humanly alive artists” such as Reginald Marsh and Isabel Bishop. As Reginald Marsh was attracted to painting of the social theatrics of New York daily life, Herbert painted from a more personal and psychological perspective, capturing the “performances” of individuals. Dancers and theatrical figures were his subject matter.

  1. After the Bath, 1932, Eliza Gardiner (1871 – 1955), Woodcut 9.6” x 12”, $850.

Eliza Gardiner is among the most significant artists to emerge from Rhode Island. This native Rhode Islander’s fame is a result of her pioneer work in block printing. She was one of the first American artists to achieve national recognition in the medium of color block printing. It was not only her technical ability which won such acclaim, but her special interest in studies of children at play or people on holiday. In her work she was able to communicate a simple, direct statement with a serenity of feeling. In a 1929 Providence Journal review of her Vose Gallery Show the critic commented, ” I had never realized how much the feeling of childhood, tenderness, contentment or sadness could be revealed in flat spaces of color, until I saw Eliza Gardiner’s wood-block prints.”

Eliza Gardiner was a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and taught there for 30 years. The special affection and tenderness expressed in her wood block prints reveal the very nature of Miss Gardiner. She was very popular among students and her studio at Pawtuxet Cove was a mecca for students during her lifetime.

While Eliza achieved recognition as a block-print artist, she was also a good water colorist. Her landscapes, still lifes and portrait sketches demonstrate integrity, however these never achieved the attention accorded her wood-block prints.

The wood block prints of Eliza Gardiner are represented in museum collections both in the United States and abroad. She exhibited these block prints at the American Wood Block shows in Chicago, New York and the Philadelphia Academy. She was represented in the International Print Show at Utizza Gallery in Florence, at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, 1928, the International Society of Print Makers in California, The Springfield Public Library, Detroit Institute of Art, The Philadelphia Print Club and the Rhode Island School of Design. She was a member of the Providence Art Club, The Providence Water Color Club and The California Print Maker’s Society. She also exhibited in Paris LOC in 1944, the Art Institute at Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Cathy @ 10:55 am

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