THERE comes a time when the student leaves his school, has finished (save the word) his period of study. He is to begin his art career, whether as sculptor, painter, illustrator or designer. What is his attitude towards drawing ? Does he regard it as a discipline from which he is at last happily emancipated ? In his freedom he may be pardoned for at first feeling a little contemptuous of the methods and precepts of the classroom. He is now a professional with no longer unlimited time to build up the stages of his work, which has to be turned out with regularity and promptness. It must be done in some fashion, and whether he be a portrait painter or the merest hack advertisement draughtsman, the same bond of necessity lies heavy on both vocations. In other words, the newly-fledged art worker is in danger of becoming merely a professional, and ceasing to be a student.
But if the student's interest in form has been aroused and stimulated, if logical methods of work have been faithfully pressed upon him, he will have acquired an attitude of mind which can never be eradicated. Granted that the special conditions of his life work are onerous, that they tend to crush the artistic spirit, yet the artist rises superior to commercial and almost degrading trammels, and produces good work in spite of, perhaps because of these fetters. Of course every art worker must know his job. The portrait painter must be able to produce a likeness, the etcher must know how to bite a plate with all possible precision, the illustrator must be able to use his pen and brush freely. But beyond that, in the doing of the work, no matter how poorly paid or how uninteresting it may be, the worker, if he is an artist, will give something above what he is paid for, some touch of the art spirit within him which sustains him and reminds him that art is his career.
That is to say he studies at his craft, he remains a student and as such drawing will be his life-long companion. Take for instance the illustrator, who is asked to depict scenes and incidents often chosen by authors and editors without any eye to artistic motive and effect. But in spite of that he need not despair, for the poorest situation includes the most interesting material in the world--people----and if he has the illustrator's spirit he will not fail to be interested in his work, and make it interesting to others. His will be a busy life, for to him all people are possible subjects for his pencil. His study in the life room was only the beginning ; now he must look for his models everywhere. He will always be searching for type and character. He may use a sketch book, but his memory training will be of still more value to him. Thus the lot, the happy lot, of the illustrator is to study continually and by remaining a student, his work will show increasing character, freshness and pliability.
The designer on his part, must accept this necessity for the search for form. The flowers of the field, insects, birds, clouds, lines of land and sea, animals and people, are all his province. The methodical worker will store his studies in portfolios ; the others will make them on backs of envelopes and lose them, but it matters not if the eye is quickened, and the mind stored with form.
All branches of art exhibit the same dependence upon drawing. The numberless pencil studies of Constable show his interest in tree structure, the momentary sketches of Rodin, his search for new and unexpected movements, while the drawings of Gainsborough suggested the composition and arrangement, and enabled him to revise his ideals freely, unhampered by the fetters with which oilpaint once laid upon the canvas and left to dry binds a painter's freedom to choose and alter. The portrait heads of Holbein have been already referred to as an example of drawing put to a direct practical use by the painter, and certainly few portrait painters like to attack a canvas without preliminary studies. Reference may be made to the masterly charcoal drawings by Mr. Sargent preparatory to painting. Here the material is used with directness and force, its qualities being exploited with great skill. The evident intention of the studies is to investigate the character of the sitter, not to obtain actual outlines for tracing as in the case of Holbein, but as a means of getting into close touch with the personality, searching for the forms and accents which give at once likeness and character. Lastly one may refer to an immediately practical form of illustration. The number of publications and magazines devoted to engineering of all kinds is increasing and will increase. In regard to the illustrations required, photography once so depended upon is proving a failure, for its focus just misses the precision required, while it becomes impossible, when dark interiors have to be revealed or when exterior coverings are assumed to be removed to show mechanism.
Therefore a new convention of drawing machinery is growing up, demanding a high degree of appreciation of the appearance of things together with a sound knowledge of perspective, geometry and mechanical structure. The draughtsman by the unaided use of his pencil, without quadrants, tee squares and pearwood curves must be able to explain in his drawing how a machine works, and express with precision the relations of such mechanism as elaborate gearing and valves seen in perspective. Only the well-trained student can grapple with the formidable difficulties such subjects present, while the simplicity of the means brings about its own convention, and with it a clear articulate expression, apart from the practical value of the drawing. That is to say, a drawing of machinery in the hands of an artist becomes a work of art.
One returns to the truth that what the artist chooses to interest himself in is suitable for art expression no matter what may be its nature. We are emancipated from the sham ruins and picturesqueness of the r8th century, those mannerisms of the great Italian style from Botticelli onwards which later ages appropriated while losing its spirit. The early Italians, the Trecento and Quattrocento artists were too interested in their own time to hanker after the picturesque. They drew buildings for instance, raw new as they saw them. And to-day we may find suitable material for the study of drawing close at hand without travelling round the world for strange and stimulating forms. No longer need the world be divided into two categories, interesting and commonplace, for students are using their eyes as did the Italians of the fourteenth century, and find interest of form in the commonest material. Even to fully express a matchbox would tax the powers of the best trained artist.
THE DRAWINGS OF THE MASTERS.
THE first known drawings and paintings by man are to be found in the caves of the Pyrenees and the Dordogne district, once tenanted by the later Palaeolithic race. Much attention has of late been paid to these works, and reproductions are fairly common, a series being on view in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington. The paintings of bison and other animals on the ceiling of one of the chambers of the cave of Altamira in Northern Spain, may be instanced among the finest of the examples of this early art. They show the preoccupation of the men of this period. They were hunters, had no domestic animals with the doubtful exception of the rough ponies of the period, no pottery for drinking from, and practised no tillage. But in physical form and brain capacity they were the equal of modern races and must not be confused with the earlier beetle browed Neanderthal man of whom nothing is known other than that he fabricated stone implements, possessed fire, and buried his dead. Practically all the cave paintings, with the scratchings on bone, and the bone and ivory sculpture, represent animals, though here and there are found statuettes of female figures mostly gross in form.
Fig 45. – From an Assyrian bas-relief. [British Museum].
Fig 46. -- A brush drawing from a white Athenian vase (cylindrical). Though there are puzzling details such as the smallness of the man's hands, the parallelism of his feet, etc., yet the purity of line and the suggestion of form should he closely studied. [British Museum].
The roof of Altamira is covered with full-sized coloured drawings of paintings of animals, bison, horses, deer and pigs. They are outlined in black and washed over with red, brown and yellow pigments made from various iron and manganese earths. They show a correctness of proportion and a freedom of movement which have never been surpassed while the extremely simplified conventions used to express the structure and hair growths, have nothing in common with the childish scrawls of most living races of savages. The placing of the legs is practically in accord with photographs of moving animals testifying to the artist's quickness of eye and keenness of observation. In particular some drawings of mortally wounded bison in the last death spasm, with their legs crumpled beneath them and the tail vibrating over the back show how well the draughtsman memorized a phenomenon with which he must have been perfectly familiar.
Other famous examples are the drawings of mammoths, deer and horses on the walls of caves and on bone. The drawing of the reindeer, from Thayngen, and the three red deer crossing a river, from Lorthet, (Ancient Hunters. Sollas), show a close observation of the animals and a certain ease and freedom in representing them. They reveal the anatomical knowledge of one who has repeatedly skinned and dismembered his prey, the habits and movements of which have been his lifelong study. And these drawings were made by a man so primitive that like the beasts of the field he had to go down to the river to drink. It may be said here that though he may have had to risk the sabre-toothed tiger and the great cave bear, yet the strange, enormous reptilian creatures, with whom he is sometimes associated in certain modern humorous drawings, had become extinct ages before.
Of what we call composition we must not expect much. On the roof at Altamira the creatures are fitted in as closely as possible, some being superimposed on others, the idea apparent being to give the impression of a great herd. Elsewhere we get the usual panoramic composition of early art much as in the Egyptian and Assyrian freizes. One animal follows another, and occasionally there is a somewhat impressionistic representation of a herd of horses or deer indicated by a row of heads and foreparts much as one would see glancing along the front rank.
What strikes one is that this earliest art is representational rather than consciously decorative. It may be that the artist connected his picture with the desires of his appetite, much as children, in the absence of the object they desire say a boat or doll, will draw it and thus to some extent satisfy their craving. Apparently this early man desired his drawings in line and colour to be as like as possible, which is perhaps why Mr. Clive Bell dislikes them. They may even be symbolic of food to be used by the soul after death as in Egyptian art which also exhibits exceedingly well-drawn animals.
But in Egypt had grown up an ancient civilization where the priesthood ruled and prescribed minutely the conventions of the forms in the paintings which ministered to the national religion. Reference has been made already to the way in which man was portrayed in the Egyptian canon of form. Apparently however the animals had escaped the attention of those who laid down the rules of representation, and in consequence as we see if we consult the book of the Dead, reproduced by the British Museum Authorities, or the wall paintings and drawings, the cats, dogs and especially the baboons and birds are lifelike in their proportions, structure and movement, drawn as they are in much the same simple convention as was used by the cave men.
FIG. 47 -- A chalk drawing by Durer. Full of weight, movement and structure. Every mark
has a meaning, expresses a form. Durer has appropriated the position of the legs in a trotting
horse for use here in the slowest of paces, probably because it gave him more sense of movement than the walking position. [British Museum].
FIG. 48 -- A drawing b) Holbein. Great care has been given to the eyebrows and the line between the lips. The far eye appears somewhat too large. [British Museum].
FIG, 49 -- A drawing by Holbein. Certain forms which were evidently deemed essential to the likeness have been carefully redrawn with a hard point on the thin films of charcoal or chalk. These are the eyelids, the nostrils and the line separating the lips, [Windsor Castle].
FIG. 50 -- In this drawing by Leonardo da Vinci the 'features have more veracity than the fanciful armour, and bear a great resemblance to the elder Tedeschi, a model known to a generation of art students. Such a profile could only have been drawn of an Italian by an Italian. [British Museum].
Assyrian art runs a parallel course. The bas-reliefs in the British Museum are cut in soft gypsum or alabaster, the work of a victorious people in a hurry, and often the relief is so slight that the work may be considered as a drawing. Here again there is a convention of the human figure, with swollen muscles on a brawny frame, and again also the sculptors seem to have looked at animals with a clearer eye than when they attempted men. Their horses are good, and their lions better, the most famous being the slab whereon is depicted a lioness dragging herself along the ground, her hind quarters having been paralysed by an arrow. (FIG. 45.) She is roaring, the skin of her nose wrinkled in agony. The relief is little more than I inch, and again one can say that the artist must have witnessed this sight, and set down with convincing clearness his memory vision of it.
Following the line of successive nationalities one inquires what drawings were made by the Greeks. Fortunately their drawings are plain to see on their vases. At last the artists have become interested in the forms of man and though we may assume that the vase painter was little more than a workman yet the best vase paintings lag but little behind the best Greek sculpture. It will be convenient to examine the white vase paintings, where the backgrounds are not painted in. They are called paintings but they are really brush drawings and done with an ease, and fluency of expression that makes them worthy of the closest study. The draughtsman must have worked with some speed; he had to turn out a quantity, and his convention arose out of the necessities of his occupation. He used his line with the utmost economy, but his eye, his draughtsman's soul was all the time concentrated on the point of his brush, which produced a line of the utmost flexibility and sensibility. (FIG 46.) From the Greeks to the medievals is a long step both as regards technique and sentiment. Once more drawing has been grasped by the priesthood to serve religion. The figure has to express hope, fear, reverence. The features are expanded until they fill the face ; the hands stretched out with stiff fingers implore, deprecate, or command. The figure is hidden in the long lines of the draperies. The line is still there but it is now the convention of a craft of which the conditions are necessarily stringent to a degree--that of stained glass. The form is subordinated to the leads of the window, the angularity of the medieval forms being associated with the special quality of the material--glass.
Another step, and one comes to the man who stood at the parting of the ways--Albert Durer--who inherited the gothic tradition of angular forms, piped draperies and scriptural subject matter, yet reached out to the Renaissance, with its renewed interest in the unclothed figure as seen in classic myth, and in the mass of architectural and other forms which accentuate the new style.
Fig. 51 -- A chalk drawing by Michael Angelo for one of the figures of the Medici tomb.
While the drawing has solidity and volume, the great interest is in flow of line. Each stroke
is a rhythm echoing the great, ample curving lines. Compared with this the rhythm of
the Raphael drawing overleaf seems slow and broken.
Fig 52. -- A chalk drawing by Raphael. The interest in form should be noted. It is full of overlapping contours. The drawing is but little concerned with the photographic aspect of the model.
Fig. 53 -- A drawing by Rubens in black and red chalk. He drew more by the lights than the darks. We may be certain that there was more tone under the chin than is shewn by him. But he wanted this to be not a light and shade study merely ; the expression of the sitter, alert, listening, arch, is what he has achieved. The drawing is full of vitality. The face seems alive. [British Museum].
Fig 54. -- chalk drawing by Rubens. The fine line descending from the head to the knees should be noted as also that uniting the arms. [British Museum].
The conditions of Durer's career as an artist made him the very type of a draughtsman. He was to be the world's great illustrator, and as such he had an intense curiosity in the forms of things. He drew the ancient roofs of his native town, horses, men in armour, everything he might want in his engravings and woodcuts, and as an illustrator he makes use of all his drawings. Like the Japanese he drew and redrew his subject until he was line perfect, and like them he was always simplifying, refining his line down to its lowest terms, often until it became a mere decorative motive, a trick of the pen. But this simplification forced him to study structure, with the result that every stroke of Durer's represents a definite fact; his simplest drawings are full of anatomy, whether they be of plants, animals, or persons. (FIG. 47.) Walter Crane must have studied Durer, and his mannerisms came from his efforts to make his line express as much as possible of the form, .the bend of the wrist or ankle, the twisting of the neck, and the radiation of the toes or fingers, with the result that people who were not interested in structure cried out that he was deforming the figure. The criticism shows the necessity of a draughtsman constantly comparing his convention with natural form, of self criticism. He should avoid, and it is the most difficult thing to do so, falling into ruts of expression, mannerisms, that is unnatural form. It is the young student curiously enough whose work is full of undigested conventions for he seems to absorb them from the nursery onwards. He unconsciously abstracts from the work of the artist he admires, its tricks of handling, rather than the good qualities revealed only on close study. That is why copying is to be deprecated, for this practice does not always imply study. What study is and what it involves students will do well to ponder over.
Of Holbein much has been said in these pages. Like Durer he was a great pen draughtsman, and could design with facility in the new style, with its classical mouldings, capitals and acanthus. But when he confronted his sitter he put all the new forms and conventions aside, and looked at his model with an eye cleared of Italian motes and beams. (nos. 42, 48, 49.)
In Italy Giotto broke away from the more formal Byzantine manner. His figures have weight and power, though his accessories, his hills, trees and animals are the merest recollections. But he took the turn towards naturalism and all through the fourteenth century the Italians were examining nature and trying to draw and paint like the model, though not knowing quite how it was to be done. Botticelli has been referred to as one who used the nude figure constantly with much poetic grace, yet without a clear knowledge of its structure and articulations. It was Leonardo da Vinci with the inquisitive scientific spirit and full measure of the organizing faculty who did everything to form what may be called the academic convention, especially in regard to light and shade, except actually to set up a school of art. (FIG. 5o.) The study of perspective, involving shadows and reflections, and of anatomy with its dissections did much to direct the study of art in the same path.
FIG. 55 -- This unassuming drawing by Rubens shows beautiful rhythm of line. The pose quiet as it is, is full of action. The feet should be noted, drawn as one form, and the difficult turn of the head has been attacked. Many students do not realize the loss of length in such a pose and make their sitting and crouching figures much too high. [British Museum].
FIG. 56 -- A very simple and direct example of drawing made with the brush from the school of Rembrandt. The lines flow from the head and shoulders down the arms to the legs and feet. The accents of dark are well placed. [British Museum].
FIG. 57--One of Ingres' portrait drawings of which he made a great number while at Rome. Full of search for form and rhythmical line. Note how the two arms have been unified. Every fold in the clothes tells of the form beneath.
FIG. 58--A chalk drawing by J. F. Millet which shows his method clearly. He has been quick to seize the forms which emerge from the heavy, hanging garments. The drawing has a rhythm of its own.