Monday, July 18, 2011

Anatomy class

Anatomy classes are taught on Wednesday afternoon at the Academy of Realist Art, Boston. For the past 12 weeks we have been studying the upper limb. Students are encouraged to apply this new knowledge to the projects they work on in school: figure studies, cast work or master copies. Here is an analysis done from a students Bargue copy of Plate I, 23 Man's arm, bent.

It is very beneficial to make copies after master drawings or paintings. The most important part of making a master copy is not blindly making an exact copy but to take the time to think about what you can learn from it. Ask yourself if you understand the anatomy that is being described, how the general fall of light describes the form and how that affects the smaller forms, can you see evidence of the process used to make the image...

Being an artist requires advanced analysis - the more you know and understand the more you will see.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Oil Painting Workshop



MON. AUG. 9TH - FRI. AUG. 19TH 10:00 – 4:00

Instructor: Joseph Pfeiffer-Herbert

This workshop introduces oil painting from A - Z. We will be going over all the basic technical information essential to know about oil painting. We will talk about mediums, canvas, fat over lean, blendings, glazing, etc. Students will learn the 4-layer step-by-step method academy students use to make their paintings. We will provide a selection of 20 high quality master painting reproductions for students to copy. We will individually tutor each student in how to make an exact copy in oil. You will also learn about the differences in the Flemish, Italian Renaissance and Venetian painting techniques. Register online at Cost of the workshop is $975

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lucas Cranach

When I drive I have a lead foot. I’m always exceeding the speed limit and being worried that I am going to get a ticket. Each speeding ticket I’ve gotten came as a shock because I didn’t realize how fast I was going. Not a problem on the German autobahn. The speed limit is generally 75 miles an hour but the only cars moving at this speed are in the far right lane. I was driving the fastest our rental car could go on its’ “winter tires” which is 100 miles an hour. I was in the center lane. The left lane was reserved for the people who were really in a hurry. I don’t know how fast they were going but let’s just say the wind shear from some of the cars made my car vibrate as they passed. Travelling at these speeds only works if all drivers follow the rules and etiquette of the road and indeed they do. Driving here is a lot of fun.

I was headed from Cologne to Munich where I was going to attend the Lucas Cranach special exhibition “Cranach in Bayern” at the Alte Pinakothek. This was a selection of paintings that included portraiture, religious and mythological paintings.

My favorite paintings in this exhibit are the full-size female nude paintings Venus and Cupid and the Suicide of Lucretia. Cranach painted the female figure in a very limited range of values just hinting at anatomical forms. The figures appear to be almost doll-like. This contrasts with the handling of the hair and jewelry where he pays attention to the smallest of details like strands of hair and jewel settings. So we have the large simplified figure contrasting with the small well defined notes. This juxtaposition of large and small, general and specific serves to elevate the figure. She is a sensual being but she seems to rise above the carnal, she becomes an object of veneration. This idea becomes reinforced by the addition of the transparent fabric that drapes her body. It is so delicate it seems heavenly. The fact that it is so transparent seems to imply that she is otherworldly, not in need of having her sexual nature hidden from view. I adore these two paintings.

There is a U-tube video talking about Lucas Cranach and his work that was made in conjunction with the French exhibit The World of Lucas Cranach, An Artist in the Age of Durer, Titian & Metsys.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kathe Kollwitz

I like German expressionism. The black and white woodcuts of Kathe Kollwitz are some of my favorite pieces.

Today I was looking at a small street map of the historic district in Cologne, Germany when right on the left edge of the map I saw an arrow with the words Kathe Kollwitz. I didn’t know how far I would have to walk or what I would find but I headed there anyways. What luck to stumble upon the Kathe Kollwitz Museum Cologne.

This museum has an impressive collection of the artist’s work, all the important series of her prints, some multi-colored lithographs, lots of drawings and some sculpture. It was great to see such a variety of work. While the works with the most appeal for me are those with politically charged imagery it was great to see them hanging near some of her more tender drawings.

Kathe Kollwitz wanted to exert influence during her lifetime. Her art involved taking stands against war and pushing for social justice. This wasn’t without consequences. Her work fell from favor and even into the 1970’s its’ reacceptance was dampened. She was excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933, the same organization that had elected her as it’s first female inductee in 1919.

It’s inspiring to look at Kollwitz’s work. Understanding the personal fortitude required of her enhances the experience.

Boston Figurative Art Show

Come out to support our students this Friday at the Boston Figurative Art Center.

Three of the Academy's students Kate Bird, Steven Kivimaki, and Jonathan Lee all had their work accepted into the BFAC's Student Figurative Exhibition. Each has a number of portraits and figures in the show from their recent studies at the Academy.

The Exhibition will be at William Scott Gallery, 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston this Friday July 8th from 6pm until 9pm. The Show will also have a live model posing for anyone willing to pick up a pencil and try their hand at drawing from the figure.

For more information check out their website at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Everyone loves to visit an artist’s studio. It seems to offer a glimpse into their private world, it’s intimate, making us feel as if we know them better after being there. Unfortunately the house and studio of Peter Paul Rubens, “Rubenshuis” in Antwerp has little to help conjure up the artist. The house has been extensively renovated and doesn’t resemble the way it looked when Peter Paul Rubens lived there. Only the portico and the gardens look as they did originally. Despite this I learned a lot about Rubens during the visit.

Rubens only painted 4 self-portraits during his lifetime (what a contrast to Rembrandt), He never painted himself with a palette in hand, as a painter. He chose to represent himself as a gentleman. He did travel in distinguished circles, served as a court painter, made a couple of diplomatic missions and was knighted. He was married twice and on choosing a “commoner rather than a lady” for his second wife he is said to have remarked that he didn’t want his wife to be shocked seeing him with a paint brush in his hand.

Rubens owned one of the largest collections of art in the region. He had an astronomical collection of Roman sculptures. He lived daily with imagery that could inspire and educate him artistically. How great it is to be able to walk around a sculpture, see the gesture and anatomy from all sides. I’m sure he spent time looking and analyzing the form description the sculptors used, learning from the choices they made, searching to find what they exaggerated and what they edited out. As artists we should be going to museums regularly to look at and draw sculpture.

Today I traveled to the medieval center of Antwerp seeking out Peter Paul Rubens. I was looking to see his two famous triptychs "The Raising of the Cross” and "The Descent from the Cross”. These two works are in the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal).

When we got to the cathedral we were surprised to find that it was full of altarpieces that were on loan from the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten during its’ renovation. There were about 20 altarpieces in the central nave of the cathedral. They were commissioned by a multitude of trade Guilds and were painted by a variety of accomplished Dutch artists. The paintings in these altarpieces were great but they were truly foreshadowed by the absolute genius shown in the two Rubens triptychs.

What made Rubens paintings stand above the others? His paintings are lush and active compared with the others but the most distinct difference was the very solid cohesive composition in the central panel and the central panels relationship to the two side panels.

When you look at the central panel of The Raising of the Cross the diagonal line of Christ’s body and the cross are very apparent. The strength of this diagonal could be overwhelming if Rubens hadn’t set it within the triangular arrangement of figures who are raising the cross. At the apex of this triangle we see the all-important face of Christ. The figures radiate out from the apex of the triangle. This alone is an impressive compositional feat but Rubens doesn’t stop there. He integrates this with the two side panels. The three panels together form a diamond shape that keeps our eye circling around the tryptych, it helps to contain the action of the central panel. The diamond starts at the bottom of the central panel at the foot of the dog, it carries up through the women and children on our left, changes direction at the center left edge, carries up the heads of Mary and John, follows Christ’s hands, changes direction and heads down the tree trunk to the horses head, changes direction down the side of the horses leg to the figure at the bottom right of the cross, hits his foot and we’re back at the dog.

There are no words to express how I felt standing in front of these paintings. Rubens rocks!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I am traveling in Belgium and Germany visiting cities that have paintings and architecture that I have wanted to see “in situ” for a long time. I feel fortunate to have a large collection of art books that I can reference in my endeavor to learn more about art and artists. My books coupled with the internet make for a large art resource. But this doesn’t come close to matching the experience one has in front of an original piece of artwork. This really hit home yesterday as I visited St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent to see the great Ghent altarpiece painted by the early Flemish artists Hubert and Jan Van Eyck in 1432. (Sint Baafskathedral)

All but one of the 12 panels are original, one panel was stolen, hence a reproduction sits in its’ place. This altarpiece is so exquisitely painted that I was dumbstruck in front of it. The first thing that hit me was that at 579 years old the colors and painted ornamentation are crisp and vibrant while the flesh tones are soft and translucent. Most noticeably different when viewing the altarpiece in person rather than in a book is the trompe-l'oeil effect of the figures of Adam and Eve. Adam especially seems to be a three dimensional being tightly enclosed in a niche. His shoulder rests again the left edge of the niche while his arm and elbow project right out towards the viewer. The effect is enhanced by the illusion that his right foot is hanging over the bottom edge of the niche.

Being able to view this well preserved altarpiece is all the more amazing considering it had to be rescued from Protestant church-wreckers in 1566, parts of it were removed by French soldiers in 1794, some parts were sold in 1816 and then it narrowly escaped a fire in 1822. I now believe in divine intervention!