Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Fun Facts on Whistler

Honestly, I haven't forgotten about Whistler this month. I have actually finished reading John Walker's biography of him. The other night I wanted to finish the book, but told myself that I had to create something for the blog first. Here's that attempt. As I said before, I am not good at setting up still lifes. Had I done this at a better angle, that would have helped. But, I got so entranced by translating the values in the painting to my monochromatic drawing that I wanted the whole cover in it. I think this drawing also reveals that I need to do more work in spotting angles - the book is not shaped like that.

A few fun facts on Whistler:

  • He made a science of his palette. He would spend at least an hour preparing his palette, before doing anything with the canvas. In fact, for a short while he taught students. He would examine their work by examining their palettes, instead of their canvasses. He defended this teaching practice by saying, "If you cannot manage your palette, how can you manage your canvas?" (Walker, p.141)
  • Here's a quote from a lady who watched him paint: "His movements were those of a duellist fencing actively and cautiously with the small sword...He advanced; he crouched peering; he lifted himself, catching a swift impression; in a moment he had touched the canvas with his weapon and taken his distance once more. This would go on for an hour or two, most of it in silence." (Walker, p.93)

From other ancedotes in the book, it does appear that Whistler was very deliberate in his work and a perfectionist. He could easily work for a few weeks on a pair of hands and consider them not done. Also, apparently he destroyed alot of his work that he felt had failed.

That description of his painting reminds me of the descriptions we had of Sargent back in January. Almost anyone you read will tell you that drawing or painting something involves 90% looking at the subject and 10% looking at your own work. But maybe it is the mark of a master to be able to know just how to make a mark to render one small area.


Katherine said...

Another really interesting post Rose. I've been looking for insight into the painting and I guess I've just not got to that bit in my reading as yet.

I'd heard the bit about his palette before but had forgotten all about it.

I was the same as you re the manner o his painting - it instantly reminded me of JSS!

I am however currently reading the book about his Venice etchings and Venice pastels..........

Rose Welty said...

Katherine, you've made my day! You are the one with interesting posts! I'm glad to hear that my instincts are improving, I'm sure that your blog has alot to do with that. You are my first read of the morning.

I hope that we'll hear about what you've been reading...are we going to see some of Venice?

Katherine said...

Well I's still reading - but most certainly later in the month. Plus one about his portraits I think..........