In the drawings of Mantegna one sees a closer return to the classic spirit. So insistent is the line that the shading is simpler and more summary in its method than the convention used by the northern draughtsmen, of whom Durer may be cited as the chief example. Durer covers his forms with lines drawn round them each suggesting a section through the mass, a convention much used by the northern engravers and etchers. Mantegna's shading consists of straight lines drawn diagonally, the easiest movement of the hand across the paper.
This convention while it does not allow of a certain over- realized, almost stereoscopic form which is seen in work produced by the northern engravers, is simple and direct and defines the planes more clearly. The tendency ever since has been to adopt it for the study of form, and mediums like charcoal, chalk, pencil and pen lend themselves to it. Even a modern pen draughtsman like Mr. G. D. Armour uses it almost exclusively.
Michael Angelo, though a giant yet learned all his academic teachers could impart, and transformed his study by his volcanic genius. When he drew it was to reveal structure, and especially the overlapping of con, tours, rather than the appearance, though if he chose he could load his surfaces with shading in the correct Italian style. He was preoccupied with the figure as his raw material in design ; he combined nudes, grouped them, flung them together in ropes, festoons and swirls, held together by his great line running round torses and along limbs. (FIG. 51.)
Rubens trained in Italian methods made numberless drawings and sketches for compositions; many of the latter however are painted in monochrome. His work shows how a man is dominated by his own temperament, and also by the tendencies of his age. Women smile, men strike flamboyant attitudes, horses prance, curtains swirl in the wind, and vivid masses of red energise the composition. The Philip and his Queen painted by him are portraits of people well pleased with themselves and in robust health. When one turns to the portraits of the same people by Velasquez, a man of their own race and therefore more likely to realize the national character, very different personalities are revealed, cold, indifferent and passive.
The drawings of Rubens show equally this exuberance of spirit. He is one of the very few who could command a full measure of vitality and action; his figures move with freedom, with an amplitude of gesture as well as of form. (FIGS. 54 55.) His study of Michael Angelo shows in his work though mingled with his own temperament; in place of the latter's elemental violence he substituted a jovial turbulence. But he drew as he painted with a mastery over his material. He exercised a strict economy of means. In his drawing of a woman's head (FIG. 53) he went far beyond a mere portrait; he is concerned with the pleasant disposition of his sitter. In other words he drew the smile rather than the features, and achieved both with the minimum of light and shade. He refused to dirty his drawing with mere masses of dark and gained his end rather by working round his lights, for to him the lights were the essence of the form.
FIG. 59. -- A drawing in pencil by Lord Leighton.
FIG. 60. -- A drawing by Lord Leighton, made with black and white chalk on brown paper.
In Holland, Rembrandt among the Italianizing Dutchmen stood alone. Here again like Durer and Holbein, his subject matter for his etchings is from the Bible, though he sat at his window and accepted the types and costumes of the Jewish folk who swarmed below as they do to this day. He like Durer was always accumulating material, though many of his so-called drawings are compositions set down hastily as they came into his head, and often with splendid emphasis on the significant lines. He is the very type of an artist. Every event, and there were some sombre ones in his career, seems to call forth from him not speech or letter, but drawings, in which he sought new ways of expressing himself, a new outlook. When his wife lay dying, he made a slight pen-drawing of her, pinched and wan in bed. After her death he wandered by creeks and hamlets outside Amsterdam drawing with simple pen strokes what he saw, the roads, trees and tumble-down houses, which latter cannot be found there any more; for in Holland all is now clean and tidy, especially the fishwives of Marken, who hasten themselves and their children into their ancient dress when they see an excursion steamer, full of tourists, approaching. These drawings are models of compressed expression, for while Rembrandt was thus trying to solace himself for his loss, he was subconsciously working out like Durer a method of putting things down in their simplest terms.
Many painters have left but few drawings, a prominent instance being Velasquez. It has been thought that he attacked his composition on the canvas without preliminary work for there are pictures by him where strips of canvas have been added, because, as he proceeded, the development of the subject demanded more space. But the absence of drawings is no reason why the student of form should neglect Velasquez for he was one of the greatest of draughtsmen. He had not the swagger of Rubens, the feeling for humanity of Rembrandt, nor the clearly defined edge of Holbein, but in his brushwork he showed a knowledge of and a means of suggesting atmosphere, which no other master quite reaches. He draws with the brush in a real sense, for he goes far beyond the earlier technique of painting, the bringing of two surfaces of paint sharply together in a contour. With some painters if the canvas is held to the light haloes appear round the forms where the paint is non-existent. But Velasquez welded his edges together so that they became one passage ; he placed accents in different degrees of intensity to suggest nearness to the eye, or by blurring edges he quietened the forms farthest from the centre of interest.
Some of the dwarf and jester portraits painted with less of the decorum and stiffness of the court portraits, as if he did them to please himself, show the height of his powers as a draughtsman.
In France during the Renaissance, the artists looked largely to Italy for inspiration and guidance. But it was Jean Clouet from Flanders who founded a great school of portrait drawing. He settled in Paris and with his descendants painted a vast series of small portraits. For these, as did Holbein some years later, he first made drawings in black and red chalk, the latter medium being already much in use in Italy. The Clouets and their followers made numbers of these portrait drawings, justly famed for their delicacy and precision.
Later Watteau and other artists of his period used the method with more vigour applying it to figure composition generally.
Mr. W. Strang, followed by other modern draughtsmen, has revived the method for his series of portrait heads.
Claude is noteworthy as one of the first painters to study or sketch outdoors. But these drawings made mostly with the brush, are rather studies of composition-- how the light falls on groups of trees and tree trunks, and divides the composition into masses of shade, though he certainly drew twining ivy and slender branches of foliage against the sky.
One, wishes but vainly for some drawings of still life by Chardin, to note how he indicated the volume of his fat bottles, and their effect against his quiet backgrounds.
Watteau left numberless drawings mostly with the red and black chalk handed down from the Clouets. Here was an artist who valued drawing for what it was worth to him. He wanted above everything movement easy and langorous perhaps on the surface but suggesting a hidden fire, vivacity and alertness. (FIG. 24). The lady seated on the ground with her hand on the arm of the gallant is about to rise. The impression of movement is conveyed, while the contrast of the rising torse with the scrumpled legs hidden in the voluminous skirt is stated with conviction. Watteau used the chalk rather than the brush in making his studies, because he knew that the hard point enabled him to deal more trenchantly with structure and movement. It is preeminently painter's drawing or rather drawing for painting. How often does the student make his studies for a picture, in say water-colour only to find that this medium has its own convention, demanding the disregard of everything not essential to it, with the result that the watercolour study contains little that is of direct use and worse still has not impressed on the mind facts of structure and line required for the carrying out of the work? Drawing with charcoal or with the point would have helped him to arrive at the essentials, without imposing on him conventions clashing with those special to the material which he proposes to use.
The modern era is now reached. Jean Dominique Ingres, the upholder of the academic banner against the romantic movement had perhaps the most skilful pencil of any draughtsman early or recent; His cleverness approaches legerdemain, so that there are those who declare that to place his drawings before the student is to court disaster, luring him to attempt by trickery what no one but Ingres could accomplish. His methods however, are plain in his drawings, reproductions of which may be seen in Newne's edition (now out of print). He surveyed the pose, sketched in the leading lines, studied the structure beneath the clothes with light strokes before he concentrated on details. He made many portrait drawings while in Rome for a few francs apiece, and as time was short, gave most of it to the head, the remainder of the drawing being left with the first strokes showing. The finish he gave to the surface forms of the face is of course possible only to himself, though well worth the keenest attention, for it could have been compassed only by a close study of the structure. (FIG. 57.)
Jean Francois Millet is to be noted among the Barbizon groups for his drawings. He was a type of artist who painted in series. A picture was influenced and suggested by an earlier one, to which it formed a corollary, and as it were completed it. He wished to depict the whole life of the French peasants of his time, their labours and privations and how these varied during the year. His mode of study required first and always close observation rather than actual painting from the model and scenery, which he despised as tending to triviality. Consequently he made numberless notes of figures engaged in rural occupations, mainly from memory. His drawings show without finicky detail the character and bodily structure of his subject; even the drapery seems to have its appropriate weight and coarseness of texture, while the action leisurely and untlieatrical is expressed with a sombre strength. (FIG. 58).
Puvis de Chavannes worked after the great schools of art in Paris had established themselves and settled their methods, and therefore made the studies for his great mural decorations with charcoal the implement commonly used for drawing from the life. His drawings are excellent, so solid and weighty are his figures, the feet firmly planted on the ground and the structure cared for throughout. Mr. C. H. Shannon has one squared off for transferring to the canvas.
Of the drawings of the great French master Degas, only the studies of the ballet dancers are familiar to English students, and these mostly from reproductions. Degas, and not without prolonged study, achieved an extraordinary degree of intimacy in his drawings. His people never look like models stuck on a throne, and so quietly and naturally do they move that the artistic mastery is only observed after careful scrutiny. This feeling of what one may call "at homeness" though Degas did not always seek his subjects at home, is not easy to analyse and account for. His drawings are the opposite of diagrams or maps of form. His figures are always depicted in relationship with their surroundings and one of the secrets of his pow'er in this respect may lie as has been pointed out, that he drew as it were with a wide angled lens, not as if he were surveying a stage or scene from a distance, but as if sitting among those he depicted so that one would have to turn the head to take in the width of space taken up by the drawing. And as one might expect Degas was very careful over the placing of his accents, and equally so with his non-accented passages, those where the form merged into the back-ground. The Burlington Magazine recently published some illuminating articles on the master by Mr. Walter Sickert, and also reproduced three views of a head.
In Germany Adolf Menzel during a long life made more drawings than any other painter. They are all painter's studies, that is for use in his pictures, which were mainly historical in character and needing the closest attention to details of costume, architecture, etc. They are highly realistic and made mostly with black chalk and charcoal. A characteristic selection is reproduced in Newne's series, but there are very few originals to be seen in Britain. In his insistence on structure and in his tenacity he reminds one of Durer, though with an almost photographic vision, a result attained however not by stippling, but by direct and summary methods. There is a chalk drawing of the two reclining female figures from the Parthenon which must have been made at top speed and yet everything is there. The figures were indicated and their ample forms suggested by smudges of chalk, the accents of the drapery etc., being set down firmly on this preparation. Holbein must have used a similar method, for several of his portrait heads show the silvery shading done with stump or finger the pen drawn accents of the features for some reason having been omitted.
FIG. 61 -- A drawing in red chalk by Alfred Stevens.
FIG. 62 -- A drawing in red chalk by Alfred Stevens. Red chalk should be avoided by students. The colour distracts their attention from the form.
Menzel's methods must have aroused much interest on the continent which perhaps account for the exclusive use of charcoal, a favourite medium of his, in the art schools. Menzel spared no pains to get on intimate terms with his subject material, the current military and court life of Germany, the most exacting in details of equipment and social custom. His importance as historian was acknowledged, and on several occasions important conferences suspended their business, while Menzel took out his sketch book and made notes of costumes or grouping.
In England, of the brilliant group of portrait painters, Gainsborough is most famous for his drawings, perhaps because he had more time. He obtained a beautiful silvery quality but the portraits are rather quick sketches for composition than studies of form, and the same may be said of his landscapes.
The illustrators of the sixties the magazines of which period should be bought and treasured by every student of figure composition, Millais, Charles Keane, Fred Walker, Sandys, and many others, by their enthusiasm made that decade perhaps the brightest in the history of British art. The illustrations are really drawings though at second-hand through the medium of the engraver. The ignorant and youthful student on turning over the pages of these magazines glances at the pegtop trousers and crinolines, and pronounces the illustrations old-fashioned. The fashions however are nothing, the art is everything, and the student must look beyond the one to absorb the other. The period is not yet far enough removed as is the dress of the eighteenth century, to seem romantic.
It must be remembered that these draughtsmen had not the freedom of the present-day men to draw to what scale they liked, but drew on the wood the actual size of the print and in reverse, which sometimes added immensely to their difficulties.
Turner left the nation thousands of sketches, an astonishing number when his output of what he considered finished work is considered. He influenced Ruskin who emphasized the need for close study of growth and structure. Of late his art teaching in this direction has been somewhat ignored partly because he advocated the copying of bits of Durer etc. But he gave reasons for all his exercises and not a few have never acknowledged or perhaps even understood their debt to his teaching. Turner himself as Ruskin has pointed out, in his drawings of landscape displayed extraordinary knowledge of the structure of natural form ; the lie of the ground, the cleavage of rocks, the folds of the hills he made clear, and was equally at home in showing the perspective and arrangement of cloud forms and the movements of water. He had a keen perception of rhythm and a profound understanding of composition. He made the salient points of his masses whether mountain, trees, or city wall conform to large invisible curves, and was master of the art of leading the eye into the picture to some desired point.
FIG. 63 -- A drawing on dark paper of an old woman's head by Matthias Grunewald. A work of great vitality and force. The skull high at the back as in women shows clearly through the head covering which, though the draughtsman must have been quite familiar with, he draws with inquisitiveness as if he had seen it for the first time--the right attitude for a student of drawing. [British Museum].
FIG. 64 -- The reproduction does not give a good idea of the delicacy and silvery quality of this silver point drawing by Lorenzo de Credi. [British Museum].
FIG. 65 -- A drawing in red chalk by Giorgione of a nude in strong action. The dominant line of the pose starts with the head and then travels down the neck along the spinal column to the legs. The head, hands and especially the feet shew less observation than the torso and limbs.
FIG. 66 -- A composition by Fragonard. An example of drawing with the brush. The abrupt square rhythm of stroke is very evident. The drawing is full of movement, secured by giving the "directions" their full degree of obliquity. [British Museum].
Of drawings by modern masters those by Lord Leighton are well known by reason of their frequent reproduction, and exhibition in schools of art, His early drawings of plant forms were in line with Ruskin's teaching.
Delicacy and precision are shown in FIG. 59, yet a full range of curve and movement is given to the stalks and leaves. The emphasis though not insisted upon is sufficient to detach the forms. The subtly varying lines of the flower stalks should be noted. The arrangement of the flower heads has been observed. No two are on a level and the spaces between are unequal.
Leighton's drapery studies (FIG. 6o) show a technique which has been widely adopted. They were made with black and white chalk on brown paper. He took pains to understand the forms under the drapery, sometimes making a preliminary drawing from the nude. The study must be looked upon as a working drawing, to be used in a painting, and therefore giving the fullest possible content of forms, which accounts for its over accentuation.
Alfred Stevens has already been referred to. FIGS. 61, 62, should be studied carefully. In FIG. 61 movement and structure were the pre-occupation. of the master. It should be noted how the curved form grasped by the model, dominates the pose, a curve repeated in reverse by the figure. The joints are well marked. The line of the arms is continued across the shoulders and back. The repeated attempts to place the right arm and hand show that the involuntary movements of the model were seized on to give increased vitality to the pose. Stevens was one of the few draughtsmen who give all the movement the human figure exhibits.
In FIG. 62 the shade lines are used to suggest the planes, and to give the weight and solidity of the body, which is insisted upon as much as in any "cubist" drawing. A curious instance of academic "shading" occurs in the rendering of the left shoulder. In the arm repeated below, the linear method is reverted to. The amplitude of the forms should be noted.
Whistler is said by Cuneo to have deprecated the study of drawing as practised in the art schools yet his numerous drypoints and lithographs which are essentially drawings prove him to have exploited drawing to the utmost. He cannot be called a skilled draughtsman, and the structure and details of the hands in his portraits gave him great trouble, yet he will always be studied for his delicate perception of the sinuous and flexible in line, of the gradation of tone and the value of the right place of accent. According to Mempes he once described his method of drawing which however went on all fours with that of other masters. He first placed his focus of interest, it might be a figure, tower or bridge, where he wanted it. From this he threw lines establishing the masses of his composition, and his mind at ease' he went on to express in detail whatever part he chose to work at. Reference is made elsewhere to the way he trained his memory.
FIG. 67 -- A sketch in pen and ink and wash by Guercino. Everything is subordinated to the action and rhythm of line and the placing of the accents of dark. [British Museum].
FIG. 68 -- A wonderfully detailed drawing by David Loggan. The head seems too low in the oval. " Dynamic Symmetry " might be able to show that this is so because the features do not happen to coincide with important divisions of the rectangle enclosing the ellipse. [British Museum].
While so many masters must be omitted necessarily, one may barely mention Vierge that master of line and of the placing of darks. His work should be closely studied by all illustrators.
This chapter will close without any reference to living masters or to new movements in the study of form, though the student will take a keen interest in the controversies of to-day and will certainly admire and perhaps found himself upon the work of those whom he feels most in sympathy with. The omission must not be taken as implying that there are no great draughtsmen living, or that the new movements are negligible.
But all in these pages has been concerned with form in its three-fold aspect of movement, structure and appearance as revealed by light. If the student has been well grounded on some such lines, the new theories of form will have no terrors for him, nor will he be confounded by their results; but it is evident that in this book only those methods which have been sanctioned by the practice of the long line of masters could have been dealt with.