Posts Tagged 'portrait'

Dashing Paint

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1982.35

On an afternoon in London, a two-year-old girl posed for the American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Dorothy Williamson was the granddaughter of one of Sargent’s American patrons, and sat before one of society’s greatest portraitists. But how long could a toddler sit still? What might that studio visit have been like?

Sargent would have painted Dorothy in his Tite Street studio in London (Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler had also lived on the street). Behind the imposing bricks, the room was packed with antique silks, Chinese screens, and a gramophone to play music for clients.

Dorothy herself was perched on one of the chairs the artist kept around the studio. Sargent was already familiar with painting upper-class children: to keep them entertained and holding a pose, he might bribe them with oranges, whistle a tune, or recite a limerick.

First, he would place the easel next to Dorothy so he could step back and visualize sitter and canvas together. Sargent advised his students to place lots of paint on the palette in order to create a thick layer on the canvas. With the brush, he would start to add flesh colors, apply dark tones for contours around the eyes and mouth, and finish it off with white highlights along the nose and rosy cheeks.

Rather than create preparatory sketches, he often worked ideas out on the canvas—even painting a portrait in one afternoon. To capture the wriggling toddler, Sargent set up a fast-paced sitting, seen in his sketchlike brushwork. As he looked at tones and shadows, suddenly a face would miraculously emerge from the background. He tried to use the fewest strokes, perhaps a single mark for Dorothy’s bangs or pursed lips. He dashed a blue line for a shadow under the pudgy cheeks and left bits of the cream canvas untouched to suggest voluminous feathers on the hat. Sargent also added a single mark of white to the hat for a flamboyant detail.

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He took breaks to play a song on the piano, and then jumped up to finish a few brushstrokes. Sitters described how he would run toward the canvas with a loaded brush of paint, balance a fragrant cigarette in his mouth, and suddenly make a single stroke on the canvas. Looking closely, you can almost see Sargent’s gestures, when he arched his brush, twisted the wrist, and finally made a stroke on the canvas. He described wanting to create portraits that were “alive”—capturing a sitter in the midst of moving or speaking. The result is Dorothy’s hand—energetic and vibrating strokes for the fingers.

Sargent would hold his brush in the air and then place it down upon the canvas exactly where he wanted it to fall. As described by one of his students, “The stroke resounded almost like a note in music.” My personal favorite is the gray line that travels down the pinafore, just one stroke to suggest the folds of the dress.

Finally, he added the finishing touch—the signature. On the upper left side of the canvas, Sargent playfully signed his name with the butt-end of the brush by scratching into the paint layers. Come visit little Dorothy in the Level 4 galleries and marvel at Sargent’s dazzling skill.

Lea Stephenson is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Communication Through Portraiture

One of the best things about working in the Center for Creative Connections is getting to see all the hard work of redesigning the spaces come to life. Over the last few weeks, staff and visitors alike have watched some new faces pop up on our walls in the front gallery.

 

Today, technology makes it easy to snap hundreds of photos of ourselves on a front facing camera phone. But for centuries, portraiture has played an important role in how we study and interpret subjects through aspects like environments, surrounding props, clothing and even color and lighting. All of these things are visual clues shown to us by the artists to communicate an underlying narrative about the subject. Even the way an artist chooses to capture their sitter can reflect on their relationship with them. Observing Chuck Close’s “Phil/Fingerprint” from a distance, you might not realize that Close used his own fingerprints to create an intimate portrait of his close friend, composer Phillip Glass.

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Chuck Close, ‘Phil/Fingerprint’, 1981, Lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund

After viewing and reading more about all the artists and subjects that fill the gallery, we’re inviting visitors to put their own methods to the test when capturing a subject. We’ve been watching over the last few weeks how visitors have excitedly sat at one of our tables in the gallery to sketch themselves or a friend…

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…or at the C3 Photo Studio to find the right pose for their own compelling portrait.

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Strike a pose when you stop by C3 on your next visit!

Kerry Butcher
Center for Creative Connections Coordinator

DMA Snapshot: American Portraits

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Sometimes visitors will ask me what they should see if they don’t have much time to spend in the galleries. Generally, I like to tailor my suggestions to the visitors’ preference for a particular style of art, but sometimes I just really like to show off a few of my favorites. One of the sections that I like to visit is the wonderful (and impressive) portrait collection on Level 4 in the American Art Galleries. During a quick visit  you can see celebrities such as George Washington, whose portrait was painted in 1795 by Rembrandt Peale when the artist was only seventeen years old. It wasn’t until 1823 that Peale decided to improve on the original painting.

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation

The sitter in John Singer Sargent’s Dorothy was the granddaughter of one of Sargent’s first American patrons, George Millar Williamson. Dorothy was selected to be a part of the Art Everywhere US campaign to celebrate American history and culture nationwide. Be on the lookout for her on outdoor displays this August.

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc.

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc.

You don’t want to miss the beautiful portrait of Theodore Roosevelt’s first cousin, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer).This portrait is stunning and perfectly exemplifies the practices of John White Alexander that put him on the map, not just as a portrait artists but also as a muralist and illustrator.

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

The American Art Gallery features the finest portraits and decorative arts from the 18th and 19th centuries that America had to offer and is a definite must-see. If you’re yearning for more information, visit the DMA.mobi tour to learn interesting facts about more works in the collection, like John Singleton Copley’s portraits Woodbury Langdon and Sarah Sherburne Langdon. Then don’t forget to check in to the DMA Friends program to get your points!

Maegan Hoffman is Assistant Manager of the DMA Partners Program at the DMA.

C3 Artistic Encounter Field Trip!

This past Sunday, we took a field trip to The Fairmont Dallas to visit artist Riley Holloway in his studio. The Artist-in-Residence program initiated by The Gallery at The Fairmont hosts artists from all over the nation for three months. During their residency, the artist works in an on-site studio on level zero of the hotel on a body of work that will then be shown in the gallery upstairs. Guests of the hotel and anyone walking through downtown are invited to stop by and visit the studio. The program was established in 2010 with the goal to support the arts community and has hosted twelve artists to date.

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The current artist-in-residence is L.A. born and Texas raised artist Riley Holloway. Holloway developed a passion and hunger for the arts from his artist mother, who gave him magazines and tracing paper at a young age to teach him proportions. His parents believed in his dreams of becoming an artist and encouraged him to study portraiture at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy in 2011. His passion and dedication to his craft is evident in his work. Often, he can be seen exploring the collection at the DMA to inform his work.

I brought a group of twenty adults from the Center for Creative Connections adult audience to Holloway’s studio to meet him, ask questions, and look at his artwork, his studies, and his incredible sketch books. They were amazed at his talent, his humility, and his ability to explain his artistic philosophy and influences. We were also very captivated by his poetry, which is written all over the studio walls and even in his latest work. Holloway will have his first-ever solo show at The Gallery at the Fairmont on June 28. To hear more about Holloway, check out this video or visit him in the studio before he leaves on the 28th.

We are excited to announce that Riley Holloway will be leading a C3 Artistic Encounter life drawing workshop on July 21st from 1:30-3:30 p.m. here at the DMA as part of our DallasSITES: Available Space programming. Click here to register for the class.

And I hope to see you at our next C3 Artistic Encounter on June 27 for lively conversation and an interesting hands-on project with guest artist Brittany Ransom.

Amanda Batson
C3 Program Coordinator


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