A. COMPLETE PRACTICAL TREATISE OF LANDSCAPE DRAWING IN CHARCOAL
It is undeniable that he is the best translator who can transmute the spirit of one language into that of another. To translate properly is to clothe the ideas of a foreign author with a garment of our native words which shall fit them as well as did their original robe ; to give the idiom of one language by its corresponding idiom in another ; not simply to change the French word into an English one. It is the spirit and not the letter that is asked for by the reader.
But true as these rules may be when we judge of translations of purely literary works, — history, belles lettres, etc. — they need to be applied with discretion to translations of scientific works or of technical treatises like this before us. There, exactness is more needed than elegant and idiomatic English.
If, in the chapters on the Material of the Atelier and in the Lessons from the Plates, I have sacrificed the style to a careful and close rendering of the words of Robert, I am sure that the student who makes a practical use of this book will thank me for the sacrifice. E. H. A.
Charcoal Drawing is certainly the most rapid, convenient and agreeable method of work for artists, and especially for amateurs, who desire to bring back from a journey or an excursion any notes of the impression produced upon them by the scenes they have passed through, or of the numerous pictorial effects which nature has presented to them.
The use of charcoal for landscape drawing is only of a few years' standing, but it has rapidly become popular, because, while it does not exact much study, it gives prompt and satisfactory results. For this reason we have thought it might be useful to amateurs to have a practical treatise upon the different ways of executing this new kind of drawing.
Already several very interesting pamphlets, written on this subject, have initiated the world into this manner of interpreting nature. But most of these works have either been incomplete or have treated their subject simply from the point of view of the author, generally an artist; consequently they are without those simple explanations which a student needs — not from any want of knowledge in the author, but, on the contrary, because, being an artist, he has forgotten the difficulties which beset a beginner. Few Artists would consent to undertake a work which, to be really useful, must be thoroughly practical and on a level with the student.
In the treatise which we submit to our readers, they may see that we have made every effort to be as clear as possible; we have not been afraid to enter into the simplest details, even at the risk of being charged with puerility ; for we are convinced, from our constant intercourse with amateurs and students, that it is precisely that very information which no one thinks of giving, because it appears so simple, that is really the most needful to persons pursuing any study whatever without the help of a master.
THE ORIGIN OF CHARCOAL DRAWING
CHARCOAL DRAWING AS APPLIED TO THE HUMAN FIGURE
It does not appear, from the examination of the cartoons in the Museum of the Louvre, that the ancient painters knew any thing of Charcoal Drawing. The honor derived from its use belongs entirely to modern artists; nor is this surprising, since, as we shall see further, the very invention of charcoal crayons is recent.
The first application of Charcoal Drawing was to the human figure. Certain painters made use of it, at first, in the studies for their pictures.
The School of Fine Arts (L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts) admitted it at once for the sketches submitted to the Academy; and, little by little, artists carried their charcoal drawings farther than mere sketches ; for, as they found that this new kind of crayon gave to their work a stronger character than those employed before, they adopted it for the entire picture.
The employment of the charcoal crayon dates from the years 1847 and 1848, when one of the greatest French historical painters, Adolphe Ivon* gave his earliest studies to the public ; studies, where, by the aid of charcoal crayon, heightened sometimes by water color or by oil, he succeeded in obtaining those brilliant and dramatic effects which placed him immediately in the front rank of modern artists. The Museum of Havre possesses a complete example of his finest composition in his " Seven Cardinal Sins."
* Adolphe Ivon, French painter, born at Esche-viller (Moselle), 1817, pupil of Paul Delaroche, made, in 1843, a journej' to Eusaia, whence he brought back a series of studies, which ho made use of for the beautiful drawings exhibited at the Exposition of 1847, and at that of 1848. He sent out, next, the 'Battle of Koulikowo,' in 1850; "Marshal Ney encouraging the Arriere Guard " (the Retreat from Russia), in 1855 ; " The Seven Capital Sins," also in 1855; "The Taking of Malakoff," 1857; "The Gorge of Malakoff," 1858; " The Fortifications of Mahikoff," 1859 ; and, last, " The Independence of the United States of America," in 1870. Tills last picture, much criticised, is none the less a grand page in history, where can be found the imprint of strong talent joined to learned composition. M. Ivon obtained a first medal in 1848, a second medal in 1855, the grand medal of honor in 1857, a second medal at the Universal Exposition of 1866. Named Chevalier the Legion of Honor in 1855, he was promoted to the grade of oflSeer in 1867.
Later, he succeeded in reproducing, in this manner, certain souvenirs of Russia, where he executed, after nature, a series of studies which, today, have become very valuable. He proved also, by drawings made to illustrate some works on art and on history, especially by his illustrations of the History of Russia, that this kind of design would take
the place, even for book illustrations, of almost all the processes employed before, because of its wonderful power of giving effect to military or to historical scenes.
In our time, Charcoal Drawing has been followed by genre painters. In the first rank among them we would mention E. Bayard, whose reputation has been established by his souvenirs of that year so fatal to us, 1870-71, and by his charming compositions, " Before " and " After the War " M, Gelibert has also employed charcoal with success and, by its use, has given a still greater originality to his drawings of animals and to his hunting scenes.
Painters on glass have made use of charcoal, for a long time, for their designs or patterns for their work, on account of the facility of treating rapidly the shadows of drapery or of architecture offered them bv the charcoal crayon ; but the outlines are always traced by the black crayon or the. lithographic pencil, which gives them a certain required sharpness.
The names which we have cited prove that Charcoal Drawing lends itself easily to any artistic reproductions, that it can reach up to high art as well as it can throw off a mere fantasy.
But it excels above all in landscape, as we hope to prove ; and it is for this reason that this branch of art has taken so firm a position and has spread itself so widely and rapidly among amateurs.
CHARCOAL DRAWING AS APPLIED TO LANDSCAPE
ALLONGE, APPIAN, BELLEL, LAJLANNE, REYE
As soon as the first start was given to Charcoal Drawing, the landscape painters profited most by it. Even Decamps made use of it ; by the medium of Charcoal Drawing he gave those lovely inspirations and that severe style which made such an impression on the artistic world. Troyon, Paul Huett and others followed in this new path, — and now there is not a landscaj)e painter who does not put a package of charcoal crayons with his working materials when he starts on an excursion. And he is right. - This means of rendering in a few minutes, a view, an effect, has a charm for the landscape painter, who can thus bring bixck, from even a short journey, a collection of varied studies, each one bearing the impress of nature. Moreover, the new material aids the artist in his progress by giving a variety to his work which can never be attained by those who do not make use of it.
Still, we do not mean to say that Charcoal Drawing should ever take the place of painting; we mean, only, that the study of it ought to precede the use of color, and we are ready to affirm that every artist who gives his attention to that study will, thereby, strengthen his talent.
As to the superiority of Charcoal Drawing over all other means of rendering landscape, painting excepted, we shall not here undertake to demonstrate it. M. Allonge,, in his book, which can be considered as the "Aesthetics of Charcoal," has well shown that superiority for a broad interpretation of nature, and he brings out the full value of the charcoal crayon, when he compares it with the black-lead pencil, which is thin and harsh even in rendering the smallest effects.
To appreciate the numberless resources which the use of charcoal offers, we have only to look at the works of the masters who have brought it to perfection, and to study them carefully. Messieurs Allonge, Appian, Bellet, Lalanne, each in a different style, have arrived at the most complete results. Bellet, the eldest, seems to be the one who has made the fewest concessions to modem taste. His fine and severe compositions come evidently from classic models. We feel there an innovation only in the material employed; the mode of employment remains the same, the black crayon would give the same effects. The other masters, on the contrary, have changed, if I may so express myself, the general tone of their works: if the material is new, the manner of working it is so likewise.
And all these artistically capricious methods of working in charcoal are the very cause of the variety we find in it.
Adolphe Appian, of Lyons[*], has joined figure to landscape, with a wonderful harmony. Every one can judge of his success at the Luxembourg Museum, where one of his finest compositions, " The Return from the Fields," was placed some years ago. The landscape, perhaj)s sacrificed a little to the figure, is not, for that, the less broadly treated ;
but how fine this figure is, how full of a charming and natural grace ! Certainly this is not the peasant woman of our modern realists.
* Adolphe Appian, born at Lyons, pupil of L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in that city, and of Corot and Daubigny, exhibited for the first time a design in charcoal, in 1855, and was soon publicly noticed. He put out, successively, very beautiful charcoal drawings of the borders of the Isere, of the valley of Optorez, of the environs of Nice, etc. This artist obtained a medal in Paris, in 1868, at Eochelle, at Pengireaux, at Lyons, etc., and recently, in Vienna, two gold medals, in the departments of painting and of etching.
The artist has put his heart in it, and, under this rustic dress, it is rather the mother than the peasant woman that he has tried to make us admire. Unhappily, the works of this master are not yet much known in Paris ; the people of Lyons, who admire him, have monopolized him almost entirely, and then Charcoal Drawing gains a footing in Paris only little by little, thanks to the eflForts of some merchants connected with artists.[*] Here we should like to relate an anecdote, which proves the want of intelligence of those people who are in the best position to make a new talent known to the world.
* We mention especially M. Dangleterro, picture framer, Rue do Seine, who, in 1855, divined, from the early works of M. Allonge, what that young artist would become; and, in the same way, M. Berville saw the future merit of Maximo Lalannc.
M. Appian, as modest as he is full of talent, wished, some time ago, to let himself be known in Paris as an artist in charcoal ; his merit as a painter being already established, as it had brought him a medal at the Exposition. He called the attention of the best known picture dealer in Paris to the study of Charcoal Drawing ; and, on offering to place one of his drawings in his shop, obtained the privilege as a great favor. A short time afterward, he found this very drawing in a loft, the glass which covered it broken, the drawing in a pitiable state. Then he determined never to make the trial again. We hope, however, that the eminent artist will reconsider this decision, which is to be regretted by every lover of Charcoal Drawing.
Maxime Lalanne is one of those landscape artists who strike at first sight by their originality. What does he need to make a charcoal sketch? A corner, an old street, a chateau in ruins. Sober in details, he treats Charcoal Drawing a little too much like etching, in which he excels, but what poetry, what perfect taste in his choice of a subject!
"Allonge,"[*]' said once F. Petit, the learned artistic expert, "Allonge is Charcoal Drawing, and Charcoal Drawing is simply Allonge." Indeed, it would seem that this master has given every effect possible to his material. Let him treat a woodland scene, the banks of a river, a group of willows, the open country, mountains or sea, we feel always the artist, born painter, who paints by the help of a single color. But what myriads of tones in this blackness of charcoal ! What a just feeling of values, what a charm in that perspective full of light, in those forms, always elegant and graceful !
* Auguste Allonge, born in Paris in 1833, papii of L*Ecole dc8 Beaux-Arts, rowarded by a medal in the School, in 1853; crowned by the Academy, in 1854 ; exhibiting, for the first time, at the Universal Exposition of 1858, a large design, " Souvenir of the " Gorge-aux-Loups ;" and after this, every year, paintings and drawings. The best known are "The Ponds of P6ray," charcoal; " Sheep in the Island of Creteil,'' a painting ; "The Fountain of Sainte-Barbe" (Morbihan), ^ charcoal ; " The Sea at Portrieux ;" " The Willow Thicket Inundated," 1866, a charcoal drawing, bought by M. Prince Stirbey; "The Valley of Gouet," 1868, painting; "The Beach at Villers," painting; "The Footpath to the Fountain " (Villers), charcoal, 1869 ; "October in the Forest," painting ; " The Valley of Hyg^res," charcoal, 1870; "View of the City of Puy," painting, bought by the government ; " Solitude," charcoal, 1872 ; the Salon of 1873, and the Exposition in Vienna, 1873, belonging to M. Delaporte, of St. Quentin; "L'Hj'ere a Crosne," painting; "The Pool," a charcoal drawing, bought by M. the Count of Audiffret. And, at the last Salon, "The Sea," a picture, bought by the government ; " A Farm of Xorniandy," charcoal, bonglit by M. Colas. Since he gained his medal at L'EcoIe dos BeauxArts, M. Allonge has obtained a large number of prizes ; at Paris, in 186G, for Fine Arts applied to Industry, his first gold medal, at Havre, La Rochelle, Bourges, etc.
To conclude, amateurs may see now, at Messieurs Goupil, Boulevard Montmartre, a new style of Charcoal Drawing ; I mean the works of M. Reye. Although we are not very partial to his manner of interpreting nature by means of an absolute white and an intense black, applied to a paper first covered with gum and spread with white lead, yet we recognize the true talent there to be taken into account, and we see that, if the artist would conform to modern tastes and ideas, he would be very near taking rank as a master. It is above all in half tints and distant planes that Charcoal Drawing has its great charm; thus any one who neglects these, becomes harsh. M. Reye is a pupil of Calame and he has not yet laid aside the mantle of his master. Now, Calame, who had a well-deserved success in his own time, is a little out of fashion in our day; and this is not surprising, landscape painting having made considerable progression in fifty years. We hope that M. Reye will pardon us our frankness, but if we permit ourselves to judge in this way his original works, it is because we are convinced that the public may discuss his talent today, and even criticise it, only to admire it tomorrow without restriction.
Considered from the amateur's point of view, Charcoal Drawing is the only study that can give a serious result to amateur work; and if every father of a family understood what resources were to be found against idleness in developing in young people a taste for drawing by this simple means, there soon would not be a man having received a certain amount of education, who would not know how to employ his leisure agreeably in the country, or even in a city, where every one would take pleasure in passing his evenings in his own family, seated before his easel.
We go out of our subject, it is true, but we have always regretted that in our schools of art the study of landscape is set aside. Certainly we do not wish to deny the utility of academic studies, but out of the hundred young men who follow a course of design, ten or twenty, perhaps, profit really by the instruction which is given, them; the others, on the contrary, taking for excuse their want of taste, become discouraged and make no progress. This would never happen if the study of landscape was admitted; then, on leaving the school, loving an art in which they had acquired a certain facility, they would devote their leisure to it.