Technique Tuesday: Linear Perspective

Welcome back to a new Technique Tuesday post! This week we’re going to be discussing something called linear perspective, also known as the Unsung Hero of Realism. Truly, this is one of the most important techniques ever to be developed in art history. It changed the game completely, but we’re really so used to seeing it these days that we don’t think about it much! So let’s take a look:

What is it?

The term “perspective” in art generally refers to the manipulation of the image so that it appears to have the depth that we can perceive with our eyes. We talked once about atmospheric perspective on this blog series, and the way that blues and cool tones in the background help to give the illusion of far distances and vast spaces. Linear perspective refers to the use of what are called “vanishing points” and the way that everything in view relates to those vanishing points, which will depend on how far those things are supposed to be from the viewer’s vantage point. Don’t worry, I’m going to use pictures soon to help explain.

Examples from art history:

Before the Renaissance–which I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned before, but it was a pretty important time for art history– (<–kidding, I bring it up in nearly every post) artists used something known as oblique perspective, which is a fancy way of saying lack of perspective, really. Think about the drawings that little kids make, especially if there are a lot of people in them or houses or trees in the far background. Instead of figuring out precisely how all these objects relate to one another geometrically (because they are children and they’re just having awesome fun drawing), the kids just kind of spread everything in the picture around on the piece of paper, usually putting something that in reality is further “back” simply closer to the “top” of the page. For a very long time, this was the way even seasoned artists rendered their works. Let’s take a look at some pre-Renaissance works of art which, while gorgeous, are definitely before the discovery of linear perspective:

from left to right, examples of ancient Egyptian, Byzantine, ancient Chinese, and medieval German artworks

Even if you don’t know about geometry or linear perspective, these images would likely still look “off” in some way to you. It wasn’t really until the Renaissance, when super genius Filippo Brunelleschi made a nifty hole-in-a-mirror device, and then some subsequent paintings and drawings to prove his point, that artists began to understand linear perspective, and the very important notion it brings with it: foreshortening.

Foreshortening involves the visual effect that objects in our line of sight will appear differently depending on the viewer’s perspective. For an example, think about preparing dinner on your perfectly circular dinner plate, and then sitting down to eat and placing that plate in front of you. As you sit there looking at the plate, you no longer see a perfect circle (even though the plate is perfectly circular!), because of your perspective. Depending on how something is angled toward you the viewer, parts of that building or person or object will appear shorter or smaller than they really are. In the example above and on the left, even a road which is the same width down its entire length will appear to get smaller as its distance from the viewer increases.

As I mentioned, this was a game changer for artists in the Renaissance. Many of the early examples from the Renaissance showing successful use of linear perspective focus on one-point perspective, viewed straight on, but artists later expanded this knowledge to work with multiple vanishing points, and higher and lower viewer angles, as we can see here:

(above, left to right) Renaissance examples of perspective, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and Pietro Perugino’s “Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter” (below, left to right) examples of perspective use from later in history, including Andrew Wyeth’s “Wind from the Sea,” Camille Pissarro’s “Avenue de L’Opera, Paris,” and Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Again, linear perspective, while crucially important, might not be the first thing you think of when admiring a work of art. We tend to take it for granted now that centuries of art teachers have passed the concept along, but it’s still so important to creating an effectively realistic scene. Because it is critically important in any work of art that involves things with straight lines like building and architecture, Geoffrey Johnson‘s solo exhibition (open now!) gives us a perfect segue to taking a look at the beautiful effect made when an artist accurately uses linear perspective. Let’s take a look at a few examples from the current show:

“Untitled”

“Skaters at the Museum”

“Station Interior”

“Study in Washington”

“Flatiron Evening”

To view the entirety of this absolutely spectacular and unique exhibition, stop by the gallery through the end of May, or check out Geoffrey’s page on our website by clicking here!

Technique Tuesday: Pointillism (Take Two!)

Welcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today we’re going to be talking about a technique we’ve already touched on in the blog, about two years ago. I actually think this is one of the most fun things about discussing these techniques– every artist’s work is so unique, so we can see the very same technique employed in refreshingly different ways! In 2015, we discussed pointillism and took a look at the work of GC Myers and his charmingly dappled skies. And, since I think my 2015 self introduced the topic pretty nicely, I’m going to go ahead and steal the beginning of this post from that older one!

What is it?

Pointillism is a painting technique that popped up in the late 1800’s as an off-shoot of Impressionism. Essentially, pointillism uses small, distinct dots or strokes of different colors in a pattern to form an image. This technique relies on the ability of the eye to blend the dots of color–it’s actually quite similar to the way that computer screens and printers use tiny pixels of just a few colors (most printers have just four inks, CMYK) and posititions them all just right so that our eye blends them and sees a smooth image with normal-looking colors. So instead of mixing colors on a palette, the artist presents dots on the canvas that we mix with our eyes. To give you a very basic idea, here’s a visual example:

Seurat detail

detail of a crop from Georges Seurat’s “La Parade de Cirque”

In the close-up detail on the left, you can see a wide variety of colors–yellow, orange, red, different shades of blue, and shades of green–but take a look at the upper left corner of the crop on the right. That’s where this close-up comes from. But, when we’re a bit further away, we see the dots begin to blend into a warm shade of green. And check out how blended everything becomes when we take another proverbial step back to look at the painting as a whole:

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Georges Seurat, “La Parade de Cirque”

Examples from art history:

Fun fact: when I (Pam) was in the eighth grade, my art teacher taught us our first art history mnemonic device with the rhyme “Seurat knew a lot about dots.” Yes, indeed he did! Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is probably one of the most well-known pointillist images ever:

A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884

Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the original pioneers of the use of pointillism, referring to it as Neo-Impressionism. “Pointillism” was actually a derisive word coined by art critics, but the connotation of the word is no longer mocking. Many artists began to experiment with this technique, including Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Maximilien Luce, among many others. Later, a group known as the Divisionists would tweak the idea by using larger, more square brushstrokes to create similar blended colors and patterns.

AH Collage

(left) Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait; (middle) Paul Signac, “Le Clipper, Asnieres”; (right) Camille Pissarro, “Apple Picking at Eragny-sur-Epte”

And now, for some brand new examples from Principle Gallery this year!

We are always thrilled to introduce you all to a new artist, and this Technique Tuesday post seemed like a great opportunity to introduce you to Gilbert Gorski, who brought us some incredible, brand new paintings this week! Gilbert utilizes pointillism extensively, particularly in his very wide, very realistic landscapes of trees. (Don’t forget- you can click on the images below to get a better look!)

Gilbert Gorski, “Teneramenta”

The dots are by no means easy to see on a photo like that! Our eye visually blends them and the colors and light almost take on a shimmering quality! Here’s a detail, though, to show you what you might not see in that image:

detail, “Teneramenta”

And here’s another painting, with another close-up detail below!

Gilbert Gorski, “Rinforzando”

detail, “Rinforzando”

 

To see the rest of Gilbert’s work currently at Principle Gallery, visit his page on our website by clicking here! And if you’re in the area, definitely come by to see these beauties in person– trust  me, nothing compares to the real thing!

Technique Tuesday: A Painting Within a Painting

What is it?

Well, this week’s “technique” isn’t a difficult one to understand by any means, but it’s still plenty of fun to come across, and well worth a post! All kinds of art can be depicted in a painting– sculpture, architecture, jewelry, pottery, fashion, etc.– but today we’re going to take a look at paintings featuring paintings! (To my knowledge, there isn’t a concise term for this, but my personal vote is “paint-ception.”)

Examples from art history:

This is not a technique that’s going to go back as far as ancient times, but it does go back quite a ways and began to show up more regularly (you guessed it!) during the Italian Renaissance and in the centuries following. In fact, with the flourishing of artists and galleries in the Netherlands during the 17th century and the rise of “genre” paintings (scenes of everyday life), artists like Vermeer began to use the artwork he painted into his backgrounds to add to the message or story of the work. Let’s take a look at “The Love Letter” as an example:

Here’s a painting showing a young woman receiving a love letter, and there are two paintings visible on the wall behind her. The subjects of the paintings, it can be argued, relate to the receipt of this letter– the man walking a path in the top painting might speak of a lover who is on a journey of some kind, and the ship on a sea (often a metaphor for romantic relationships) depicting smooth sailing likely means the letter contains good news. It should be noted, however, that the artwork depicted in a painting doesn’t always have a deeper meaning; as art has become more and more a part of our lives over the years, it’s bound to show up in scenes depicting daily life! Here’s a look at a few more examples from art history (click for a better view):

(left to right) Diego Velazquez, “Las Meninas”; James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”; William Merritt Chase, “The Tenth Street Studio”; Rene Magritte, “The Human Condition”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

We’ve had many artists paint works featuring other paintings here over the years! Here’s a peek at a few:

(left to right) Lisa Noonis, “Red Couch”; Jeremy Mann, “Morning Light”; Hyseung Marriage-Song, “Studio Interior”; Philip Geiger, “Times Table”

If you happened to see Geoffrey Johnson’s fantastic solo exhibition last year, then you might remember “American Wing” and “American Wing II,” two paintings depicting figures observing paintings within a museum:

Geoffrey Johnson, “American Wing” (left) and “American Wing II” (right)

Well, we are THRILLED to be opening yet another spectacular exhibition from the unique and immensely talented Geoffrey Johnson. This exciting exhibition is set to open May 12th, but we already have a digital preview available, so feel free to email us at info@principlegallery.com if you’d like to see one! This year’s exhibition from Geoffrey includes several of his signature scenes of New York City, as well as several interior scenes, a Biblical scene, another museum scene, and to our delight, several scenes of Washington DC! Given the topic of this week’s post, let’s take a look at some of the paintings depicting paintings:

“The Impressionist”

“The Sitting Room”

“Alvin’s Porch”

In case you’re curious, the painting depicted in “The Impressionist” is “Boulevard des Italiens, Morning Sunlight” by Camille Pissarro. As for “The Sitting Room,” the work shown is loosely based on Rembrandt’s “Descent from the Cross.” And for the final one, the large landscape shown in “Alvin’s Porch?” Well, that’s a lovely piece out of Geoff’s own imagination; this painting is a two-fer! Two original works by Geoffrey Johnson in one!

Technique Tuesday: Movement

Let’s get back to some Technique Tuesday posts! This week, we’ve decided to tackle movement. Though this isn’t really a “technique,” it’s an aspect of art that many artists incorporate into their works and we thought we should talk a little about it!

What is it?

Movement is the way in which a piece can express a fluid motion or the possibility of it. It can be achieved in many ways, from the portrayal of a subject performing an activity to the distortion of the atmosphere within a scene. I would say that it’s easier to demonstrate action within figurative works in comparison to still lifes and landscapes, though these genres certainly can contain movement.

Depth, perspective, and painted strokes all have influence on whether a piece has movement, too. For example, the amalgamation of stroke marks aimed in a similar direction can express movement. The other two spatial factors, depth and perspective, are the means through which movement is possible. Space allows for dynamism and maneuverability of the subject, hence its affect upon a piece’s movement. What’s interesting is that it could also be stated in the reverse – that movement alludes to spatial depth.

Examples in art history:

Though movement can be traced throughout all of art history, I would just like to point out notable works that have this technique. As stated earlier, painted strokes, like those presented in Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” can create the allusion of motion. Here, the grouping of multiple painted strokes in a similar direction illustrates the movement of the wind, clouds, and night sky.

starry night

Vincent van Gogh, “Starry Night,” 1889

Another aspect that can allude to movement, specifically in figurative works, is the positioning of the human body. In ancient Greek, the concept of readjusting the body from a flat, stagnant position to a more dynamic posture became known as contrapposto. It is particularly defined as a relaxed stance where the body’s weight is shifted to one side, causing the shoulders and hips to drop on alternating sides. Not only did this make the work more realistic, but it added liveliness and dimension – key aspects of movement. Displayed below is the artistic development of contrapposto as demonstrated through sculpture, beginning with the ancient Egyptian “King Menkaure and his Queen,” then the archaic Greek “Kritios Boy,” and ending with a classical Greek athlete.

contrapposto

Each sculpture is significant in art history for they represent a culture’s perspective of ideals through contemporary craftsmanship. The progression seen above also presents a culture’s understanding of anatomical mobility and how to express it through rigid materials, like stone and marble. From the illustration above, it is evident that figurative movement was not only an artistic technique that improved through time, but that figurative movement was specifically achieved through the forward placement of the subject’s foot to a more realistic posture of contrapposto.

nude-descending-a-staircase-no-3-1353105444_b

Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2,” 1912

Jumping thousands of years ahead, movement later became a technique that was constantly manipulated from realism into abstraction. Modern artists, especially within the early 20th century, had analyzed ways in which to distort forms and generate them into familiar, abstract compositions – think along the lines of Picasso and cubism! One such example of this technique’s tranformation into abstraction is seen in Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.” Here, Duchamp used overlapping shapes and swift, downward strokes to notion the idea of a nude descending a staircase. The overlapping shapes also help define the figure’s movement and the pictorial depth – the space is not flat and two-dimensional, though the figure may seem to lay flat. If you look closely, the nude also seems to sashay down due to the different shapes’ placements, alluding to the classic contrapposto position and thus movement. I would also like to note that this piece visually relates to a series in that it uses the concept of time as well as multiple frames or individualized steps to express a subject’s progression. All of these factors, the overlapping shapes to the figure’s posture, demonstrate movement.

 

Another great modern art example is Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.” Compared to the classical sculptures above, the artist integrated abstract concepts of movement similar to that seen in Duchamp’s work. The continuous, smooth planes of the figure’s arms and legs give the allusion that the subject is swiftly running through space. Like Duchamp’s piece, you can visualize the separate, individual motions though they are combined in one gesture. Moreover, the bronze material provides this fluidity of motion where the classical sculptures’ materials could not.

boccioni

Umberto Boccioni, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” 1913

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Again, many works displayed within the gallery employ this technique, but there are a few that I would like to specifically point out due to their relevance to the topics discussed earlier. Greatly inspired by classicism, it is only fitting to mention Robert Liberace in this post. He consistently creates figurative works that display a subject in motion or who appear to be in motion. Some notable paintings are “Study in Motion,” his “Metamorphosis” series, as well as “Ferryman.” Liberace is successful in portraying movement by using techniques reminiscent of classical works, such as contrapposto as well as pentimenti (traces of the original stroke marks). More specifically, pentimenti is the means through which the artist displays the figure’s previous motions.

Come see Robert Liberace’s mastery of the classics and this technique at his upcoming solo exhibition and painting demonstration on August 18th! Make sure to also check out our website for new arrivals, other events, and all of our available inventory. Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Principle Gallery’s 23rd Anniversary

We are happy to celebrate another year here in Old Town Alexandria! So far, Principle Gallery has been a part of the Alexandrian community for 23 years now. April 4th marked another year of business for us, and to celebrate, we wanted to have a walk down memory lane of good times passed!

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gallery-3

In 1994, Michele Ward, current Principle Gallery owner, had decided to open up the gallery on Cameron Street a few blocks away from where we are now. Years later, the gallery moved to its current location on King Street, otherwise known as the historic Gilpin House. To read a little about the history behind the building and its transformation over time, follow this link here!

With over 2,000 square feet of space under a beautiful skylight, the King Street location is an ideal spot to display gorgeous art in a naturally lit, large space. The domestic interior with its mantles and chandeliers also provides a unique, familiar decor, unlike the typical white cube commonly seen in other galleries. We love sharing this space with artists around the world and welcoming our guests into our “home-like” gallery.

We would like to take the time to specifically thank all of you who have continuously supported us throughout all these years! It is such a pleasure and great honor to open our doors everyday to share our love for art with you.

Thank you!

Technique Tuesday: Unblended Brushstrokes & Planes of Color

What is it?

Happy Tuesday! This week we’re looking at a style of painting in which depth, roundness, changing values, and changing colors are depicted using separate, unblended brushstrokes. If that still doesn’t sound very clear, no worries, let’s look at a visual example! Here are details from two paintings from our current (FANTASTIC!) exhibition, “Graceful Subtleties,” side by side:

(left) detail from Louise Fenne’s “Sisters”; (right) detail from Jussi Pöyhönen’s “Coconuts”

Take a moment and observe the two different ways in which these artists used the paint to describe rounded forms. Louise’s brushstrokes are blended beautifully and give a soft and even slightly blurred appearance to the roundness of the young woman’s face and shoulder, and to the body of the little bird. The colors, values, and brushstrokes are blended seamlessly, one into another, and present a more true-to-life three dimensional effect. Now look at the contrast between that and the roundness of Jussi’s coconuts. Jussi’s brushstrokes are decidedly more defined, and rather than blending seamlessly, the different colors and values present as separate brushstrokes, and visually as separate planes. It creates a fascinating three dimensional effect, that is less strictly realistic and more painterly, and serves to create a glittering effect of light on these forms. It is this unblended, planar approach to describing form with brushstrokes that we’re going to take a look at today.

Examples from art history:

For a long time, during the leap forward in realistic painting seen during the Renaissance and through many centuries after, the academic standard in painting was a detailed, fully blended, fully rendered depiction of form. This is why, during the emergence of Impressionism in the 19th century, the effect of separated, unblended brushstrokes and the focus on separated planes of color was so jarring, and at first, frowned upon. Perhaps anything less than  the academic standard to which critics were accustomed at first appeared primitive and lacking in artistic merit– but the innovation and brilliance of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist style did not take long to win many over, and today is still a popular favorite among art lovers. There is an energy in this type of painting, a glittering play of light and exaggeration of form that is visually very appealing. Furthermore, the paint itself becomes a theme of the work, rather than solely the subject which the paint depicts. One begins to see the beauty beyond the image portrayed, and finds it also in the simple application and texture of the paint strokes themselves. Some of the most notable innovators of this technique include Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh, and some excellent examples can be seen here:

top row: (left) Henri Matisse, “Derain”; (middle) Paul Cezanne, “Mount St. Victoire”; (right) Vincent Van Gogh, “The Large Plane Trees” bottom row: (left) Paul Cezanne, “Still Life with Seven Apples”; Paul Cezanne, “Portrait of Victor Choquet”

As a fun side note, the separation of rounded forms into more geometric planes, particularly in Cezanne’s work, also gives us an exciting glimpse at an art historical movement still to come in the early 20th century, Cubism! Playing with paint in this new way truly opened up the minds of so many artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, and of this century as well!

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Many artists that we show  here at Principle Gallery make use of this technique of unblended brushstrokes and planes of color, some in more subtle ways, and some in more obvious ways. Jussi Pöyhönen and Paula Rubino, however, are two of the most striking examples, and their works featured in the current Graceful Subtleties exhibition are excellent samples of how lovely the effect of this technique can be. Take a look below, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the entire exhibition on our website here!

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Coconuts”

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Jasmine”

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Tomatillos”

Paula Rubino, “Laji”

Paula Rubino, “Summer Clouds”

Paula Rubino, “Universal Pleasures I”

Technique Tuesday: Etching

Technique Tuesday: Etching

Another Tuesday, another technique! With our upcoming Friday exhibition Graceful Subtleties displaying works inspired by the Old Masters, we thought it only fitting to touch on a technique prevalent during the Renaissance era – etching.

What is it?

Commonly considered as a method of printmaking, etching is the process in which an acid or mortant is used to carve into a metallic material, such as copper, zinc, or steel. More specifically, etching is a form of intaglio, an ancient Italian method where a design is incised into a surface and the resulting depressions then hold a wet medium. To put it in perspective, intalgio is the opposite of relief printmaking. Remember covering a coin with paper and coloring over it to see its impression? That’s relief printmaking in the simplest of forms!

Now back to etching! Usually the metal is primed with a wax material, or “ground,” that acid cannot disintegrate. From there, the artist creates a design with an etching needle or a concaved, scooping utensil called an echoppe. After the image is made satisfactory, the metal is dipped into an acidic solution and dissolves, deepening the incised lines and cuts. The remaining ground material is wiped away, revealing the ultimate design. Ink or another wet medium is then poured into the depressions of the metal; thereafter, paper is placed on top of the metal plate and pressed together typically by a high-pressure printing press. The result is an ink design on paper that can be replicated a number of times without any variation in design.

Examples in art history:

There is much debate on where and when etching exactly originated. This technique is said to have been brought about when the Italians, and later Germans, began to create intricate designs on their armor during the Middle Ages. However, the majority believe Daniel Hopfer to be the original discoverer of etching placed on paper in the 1500s, having been inspired earlier by Johannes Gutenburg’s printing press in the 1450s. Later, it became a form of craftsmanship for blacksmiths and other artists whose work revolved around collectible, refined houseware, like fine silverware.

Typically when you think of engraving and art history, Albrecht Durer is the first artist to pop in your head. Though he is deeply associated with engraving and other printmaking methods, there are many other Old Masters who specifically practiced etching as opposed to engraving. For example, Rembrandt produced etchings, often times  for self-portraits. Other examples include Leonardo da Vinci and Antonio Pollaiuolo, whose work titled “Battle of the Nude Men,” you may recognize.

 

Another prominent figure to have produced etchings is the Spanish Romantic artist, Francisco Goya, who is considered to be the last Old Master. The most notable work of his is “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” where he has visually translated a dream symbolizing his frustration and torment of Spanish society. Below is his prepatory drawing alongside his ultimate etching.

 

Examples at Principle Gallery:

On the rare occassion, Principle Gallery has the pleasure of displaying works on paper, and lately, they so happen to be etchings! Paula Rubino and Charles Weed both have dipped into this technique in such a masterful way that we highly encourage you to view their works in person. For our upcoming show Graceful Subtleties, Charles Weed has prepared an etching titled “Man in Profile,” which features a style similar to those of the Old Masters’.

WEED Man in Profile ed 12 72

Charles Weed, “Man in Profile,” 3×3, etching on paper

Now that you have an understanding of etching, come apply your newly acquired knowledge to the pieces at the show this Friday at 6:30PM! All are welcome and free to enjoy the art, fine refreshments, and hors d’oeuvres. Feel free to contact the gallery if you would like any more information regarding the show, our artists, or their works!