Thursday, October 21, 2010

Academie Drawings: Alexis Bafcop and Paul Chameron

written by Allana Benham
We are very pleased to share this group of original 19th century academies. These are marvelous examples of the diversity of academic approaches to drawing the figure through the mid-19th century.

The first three drawings are by French artist Alexis Bafcop (1804-1895). Each of these drawings is finished to a different degree, likely using charcoal, black chalk, and in some cases, white chalk. In the above example, circa the late 1830's or early 1840's, he has chosen a warm-toned paper, blocked in the figure, and refined the forms in the upper body. The lower legs and feet remain loose, giving a good indication of his starting process for the drawing as a whole. Bafcop used a sharp point to refine the line quality in the upper body and begin the tonal development of the shadows, and he has begun to add white chalk to develop the light mass.

In this second example, we see a bit more development than in the first, although Bafcop has retained the looseness of the feet here as well. It appears that the head and upper torso are essentially finished, while he has left himself the opportunity to change his mind about the exact placement of the feet. This drawing is on an off-white paper and done entirely in charcoal or black chalk, without the addition of any white. The deep tone in the background is very effective to isolate the whites of the paper within the figure, and his halftones are developed with the utmost sensitivity.

In the final example, we see a fully finished drawing, dated 1846. This drawing was done on a blue paper, reminiscent of Prud'hon a generation before. With the passage of time, the paper has become a more muted greyish blue. The surface of this drawing is carefully worked, likely with some kind of stump first and then a reapplication of tone using hatch marks. In places, the light and dark chalks are blended together; in others, one or the other is predominant.
Every part of the background and the figure is treated to give a clear impression of a solid, muscular body moving through an atmospheric space. Once again, the forms of the figure are represented in perfect focus, yet with a certain looseness about them. This drawing shows Bafcop's virtuosity and profound understanding of the human body, representing the pinnacle of his achievement in this genre.

Finally, we see another remarkable approach by Paul Chameron (1865-1918) in a drawing made while he was a student of Gerome, likely in the 1880's:

This drawing bears the stamp of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a concours d'emulation, a contest among the students for the best rendering from a live model. Chameron placed 6th, indicated by the large '6' in red on the left of the page, which may even be in Gerome's hand. This drawing was considered of high quality by Gerome, and we can appreciate Chameron's deft balance of precise linear drawing and soft, atmospheric tone. The varied tones in the background serve to give relief to the body and imply the space surrounding it.

verso of the drawing:detail:
These drawings have much to teach us about approaches to drawing the figure in the mid-19th century. We often think of academies as somewhat stiff or monolithic in approach, but for both of these artists, we can see that this is not the case. Both Chameron and Bafcop have chosen to emphasize the linear quality of their drawings in some places and de-emphasize it in others. But, each artist retains an open quality that breathes life into these figures. Each of these drawings is made according to the principles and taste of their times, and each is done in a unique way, representing the skill of these artists.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Workshop with Dorian Vallejo - October 15, 16 & 17, 2010

We are looking forward to a portrait painting workshop with professional portrait artist Dorian Vallejo. Dorian plans to work from the live model with an alla prima approach, using a full palette of colour. He will demonstrate his painting technique and help each student as they work from the live model.

This is a unique opportunity to learn from an artist who combines a fluid style of painting with acute accuracy in his observation of form, colour, and emotion. His portraits communicate deeply with the viewer.

We only have a couple of places remaining in the workshop; if you are interested, please contact us by email. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Master Copies by Atelier de Bresoles Instructors

Making a copy of a painting that you admire is a wonderful way to learn about another artist, and to develop skills and individuality as a painter. The following paintings were made by Atelier instructors Eric Mannella, or Allana Benham.

Eric Mannella, after Caravaggio's 'Torment of Christ' of 1602 / 1604.

Above, Eric Mannella's copy of Alma-Tadema's painting, 'Ask me no more.' from 1906.

Allana Benham, after a portrait of an unidentified woman by William Owen Harling in 1874.

Above, Allana Benham's copy of Van Dyck's Portrait of Cornelius van der Geest, 1620.

and below, Allana Benham's copy of Antoine Guillemet's (1841-1918) Le Moulin

Much can be learned about mixing colour, paint application, compositional choices, and the personal art-making process in making a copy of a painting that moves you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drawing by P. Chameron, student of Gerome

I recently found this cast drawing of a young flute player from the mid-1880's by Paul Chameron (1865-1918). This drawing was likely done while Chameron was a student in Gerome's private atelier. However, it is possible this drawing was executed while Chameron studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gerome's tutelage. It is in charcoal on off-white paper, 18x24 inches, with only the white of the paper used to represent the most intense illumination.

Chameron's approach is typical of late-19th century French academic drawing. He finished the face and most of the figure to a very high degree; the tonal gradations are very sensitive, giving the drawing a strong optical effect. At the same time, the shadows are relatively uniform in tone, and the deep background gives a brilliant quality to the light effect.

In contrast to the degree of finish in the face, the feet and lower legs are less developed. Here we see Chameron's preliminary approach, with masses of tones in the light and loose shapes to indicate the structure of the ankle, the arch of the foot, etc.

Chameron tried for the Prix de Rome in 1886. After his study in Paris, he returned to his hometown of St. Maur and began teaching drawing and painting there. His daughter Andree also became a painter.

I was inspired to make the drawing below following Chameron's example:

I used Fabriano Roma paper with vine and compressed charcoal. I utilized the tone of the paper to represent the highest lights in the figure, and carefully applied the tone to represent a range of half-tones in the light, while keeping the shadows more uniform in tone, following Chameron's, and hence Gerome's method. It took me approximately 9 hours to finish the drawing to this degree.

The sculpture is an ecorche figure by Eugene Caudron (1818-1865), called l'Ecorche combattant, from 1845. Caudron conceived of this figure as an instructive model for sculptors and it became very influential as an example of a dynamic composition within the figure. It has been reproduced in many academic drawings, paintings, and instructional lithographs of the 19th century.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Female Écorché Head

written by Allana Benham

Here is a new écorché sculpture I am currently working on. This is a female head with a neutral expression. I have chosen to develop the bone structure of the skull, cervical spine, and first two ribs to emphasize the forms and proportions of the skull, the facial features, and the neck. This sculpture is 12 inches tall, modeled in plasteline on a metal armature.

The sculpture progresses in finish; the photos above are from an early stage of development of the skeletal structure. Upon this bone structure, I added the deep layers of facial musculature, followed by superficial facial muscles on the right side only.

Finally, I developed the superficial musculature on the left side of the neck, leaving the intermediate layer exposed on the right.