Monday, February 16, 2009

dow's COMPOSITION part 2


Great architects and designers were not the only ones to use this simple line- idea; mere doing of the work recommended here will be of little value if the only thought is to get over the ground, or if the mind is intent upon names rather than principles. The doing of it well, with an artistic purpose in mind, is the true way to develop the creative faculties.

These tracings from a variety of compositions, old and new (No. 36), show that this combination was chosen either to express certain qualities and emotions, -- majesty, solemnity, peace, repose, (Puvis de Chavannes) or be- cause such a space division was suited to tone-effects (Whistler's Battersea Bridge), cut a space finely by landscape shapes; or to color schemes (Hiro- shige). These should be copied exactly in pencil, then drawn enlarged. Find other examples in museums, illustrated books, or photographs, and draw in the same way.

puvis de chavannes himself played an interesting side-bar role in dow's life. according to dow's biographer johnson, puvis was seen by both dow and fenollosa as "the fusion of occident and orient. they discovered him for america and had much to do with his obtaining the commission to paint a series of murals in the boston public library.

"puvis came to america and to boston where he was received with cool and unintelligent criticism." dow even wrote a letter to the boston evening transcript, on jan. 2o, 1893, protesting that reaction. i am trying to find that letter....

all well and good... but... i could find no record of puvis coming to america (please feel free to correct me!), and i found this, written on the occasion of weir's death: Mr. Hassam's intimate remini- scences of Weir bring to notice many interesting traits and incidents. One of his anecdotes seems to amount to a claim that Weir was the first man to suggest the commissioning of Puvis de Chavannes to paint the mural decorations for the Boston Public Library. It appears that Weir, being in Durand-Ruel's Paris gallery, one day, met Stanford White there. "McKim's doing a library for Boston," said White. "Who's the man to make a big mural painting?" "Why, Puvis, of course," exclaimed Weir. They went from there to the Place Pigalle, found Puvis de Chavannes, "and we know the rest. He painted for Boston one of the most beautiful decorations in the world.'' 1

and this: Puvis was first approached with a request to paint murals for the staircase of the newly built Boston Public Library in 1891 Despite the generous terms offered ... complete freedom in the choice of subject matter, as much time as he wished and a vast fee of 250,000 francs ($50,000 far in excess of any other commission he received ... it took two years of patient negotiations to overcome Puvis misgivings about painting murals for a building he would never see. A plaster model of the staircase was made for him and samples of the stone used sent so that he could establish a colour harmony. In Puvis own words he chose to represent in emblematic form, the ensemble of intellectual riches, united in this beautiful monument .

The first and most impor- tant of the panels Les Muses Inspiratrices, was exhi- bited at the Salon du Champ-de- Mars in 1895 before being shipped to Boston. Over the next year or so it was followed by eight smaller panels depicting La Poesie des Champs (Virgil), la Poesie dramatique (Aeschylus), la Poesie Unique (Homer), L Histoire, L Astronomie la Philosophie, La Chimie and la Physique. As the last of them crossed the Atlantic, Puvis remarked that he felt like a father whose daughters had entered a convent. 2

did puvis visit boston? who were more important in getting his work there? just think -- in 110 years, when we try to figure out who said what to who, given that we have immediate 24-hour reporting and commentary, we still will be no better in learning who was right.

EXERCISE: To discover the best arrangement, and to get the utmost experience in line and space composition, the landscape should be set into several boundaries of differing proportions, as shown in the examples, keeping the essential lines of the subject, but varying them to fit the boundary. For instance, a tree may be made taller in a high vertical space than in a low horizontal space, (No. 37). After working out this exercise the pupil may draw a landscape from nature and treat it in the same way. Let him rigorously exclude detail, drawing only the outlines of objects.

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