Friday, October 28, 2011

WEEK #31/ Eggs in a Wire Basket

Eggs in a Wire Basket
James Aponovich
Oil on canvas, 10" x 10", 2011

The Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi once called the egg the "ideal"form. There is much truth in that statement. The absolute simplicity of the egg form demands the utmost from the artist in order to capture it's gradations of value, but also the fact that there is no visible edge. It just keeps on turning. So, not only does the artist have to deal with light, highlight, shadow, core shadow and reflective light, but also to modify the transition of edge to the surrounding value. That's a lot of technical talk that boils down to the fact that if you can paint an egg, you can paint a lot of things.

Rogier Van Der Weyden (1400-1464)
Portrait of a Lady
0il on panel, 14 " x 11"
National Gallery, Washington, DC

Here the head of the lady conforms to the shape of an inverted egg. There is an extreme refinement and subtlety of value in the articulation of the eyes, nose and mouth, all within the general shape of the face. By framing the head with a starched white headdress the artist avoids having the central values of the face absorbed into the black background. The resulting graphic contrast is amazing.


Jacques-Louis David
Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons,1781
Detail of a Sewing Basket

David was active during the French Revolution and Napolean's rise to power. At that time still life painting was not "true" painting but only a training exercise. High art dealt with the human figure usually set in a classical context. Historical subject matter supported the Neo-Classical principals of the age. Here, amongst the intense and tragic drama,David finds relief in a small sewing basket. We will have to wait for the French painters culminating with Cezanne to fully liberate the still life.

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