Categoría: Research points

Part 4 The figure and the head

Research point – Research artists self-portraits historic and contemporary

Rembrandt (1606-1669)

One of the most prolific self portrait artists ever – he made over 100 self portraits (although some are disputed and may have been copies by his students) 10% of his total work.  The portraits painted throughout his life up until his final year can be viewed as autobiographical and include fashions, and changes in his features as he aged.

Van Gogh (1853-1890)

Van Gogh made over 30 self portraits in his lifetime. He could not afford models and used peasants as models and of course a mirror to make self portraits – one of the most famous being the one with his bandaged ear:

Self portrait with bandage 1889 Oil on canvas

In addition to these portraits he also made other styles of portraits using autobiographical objects of his life:

Tracy Emin (1963 – )

Tracy Emin’s controversial work which includes working blind is of interest to me as I do enjoy the freedom and surprising accuracy of working in this manner. Monoprints are new to me and perhaps something for me to explore as soon as possible.

Like Van Gogh, Tracy Emin also used autobiographical objects from her life:


Tracy Emin My Bed 1998 (Turner Prize nomination)


Frank Auerbach (1931 – )

Among the most inspirational artists for me is Frank Auerbach whose methods were very unorthodox and creative. I recently saw one of his building site paintings in Colombia. His self portraits and portraits in general interest me:

Highly creative and very different in approach. I will use his charcoal method in my submission for Assignment 4.

Part 4 The figure and the head

Project 6 The head – Research point

Contemporary artists as well as historic artists who work on the face in different ways.

For my research in this section I selected artists and their works which both interested me and relate to works on paper – drawings, watercolours, ink etc. The works also inspire me in terms of the techniques employed:

Edouard Vuillard – An artist that I admire for his paintings of interiors, he also drew/painted many portraits.

Edouard Vuillard portrait

Predominantly a line drawing which has been substantially enhanced by his addition of white chalk. The choice of a neutral coloured support acts as the middle tone.

During this course I have enjoyed experimenting with ink and have started to use gouache (something I want to explore further). Graham Sutherland is an expert in these mediums:

G Sutherland portrait
Helena Rubenstein 1957 Gouache on paper

Alberto Giacommetti has to be on my list (even though his works are predominantly oil on canvas) His style is a drawing type style which is impressive – I recently saw one of his works in Colombia.

giacometti portrait
Caroline 1961 Oil on canvas

One thing I find strange within his faces is the face itself which appears flat and overworked with lines – the model staring straight at the viewer. Normally his portraits include detailed backgrounds (usually his studio) which add depth and place the portrait within its environment – but this image is flat, no modelling and an absence of environment (very feint details in the background).

David Hockney has to be included as a favorite painter of mine – especially in terms of portraits. His works on paper include many detailed portraits using coloured pencils – see below:

After seeing a portrait of Churchill and his wife last year by William Coldstream, I have added an inspiring portrait by him of Sir Trenchard Cox:


Coldstream Sir Trenchard Cox 1967
Sir Trenchard Cox 1967 Oil on canvas


John Singer Sargent also was a master at drawing and painting in watercolour – here is a favorite of mine:

JSS portrait
Portrait of Ambrogio Raffele 1904/11

Frank Auerbach´s techniques with charcoal and also his sketches in pencil are an inspiration to me and I will explore this further:


Finally after visiting a major exhibition of the work of Otto Dix in Germany last year I have included works here by him in watercolour and pastel:

I was impressed by his masterful use of watercolour and indian ink.





Research Point – Depiction of the male and female nude over the centuries

The following are notes that I have made during the course of Part 4 after reading articles and books etc. This is an interesting and extremely involved subject that needs a much more in depth study than time would permit at this point in my studies.

John Berger’s Ways of seeing (YouTube Video and book from the 1970s)

I am not sure that I agree with all of John Berger’s opinions and find his books/videos very dated. Chapter 3 which reflects upon the subject of nudity and the nude is interesting and I agree fully with his work on this subject.

Having said this there are some female artists that have clearly challenged his work, and the traditions of western painting.  Those artists include Jenny Saville, Tracy Emin (after his book was published) and  Paula Modersohn-Becker, Kathe Kollwitz before his book was published.

John Berger discusses the difference between the representation of the male and female in western art.  In particular the representation of the female nude as an object which defines the viewers power over the model and the submission of the female object to that representation. He also offers the argument that the female is from an early age taught/encouraged to ‘survey herself‘ and to be ‘surveyed’‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’

Jenny Saville’s work is undoubtedly “female” – her women do not look like the idealised women models, painted by men, who have dominated the nude for almost all of the history of western art. Her work has included bloated, imperfect and scarred bodies.

Paula Modersohn-Becker and Kathe Kollwitz chose to combine two separate genres of visual representation – the figure of the mother and the figure of the nude. In doing so they brought together two poles of femininity which were traditionally held apart.

Kurt Kauper

In a recent interview Kurt Kauper, a Brooklyn based artist, explained about his latest work on the nude as follows:

I wanted the viewer to be in a much more unclear, ambiguous position in relationship to the figure,” Kauper says. At first, he tried painting a woman with her hands on her hips. This decision, he feared, offered too much of a “readable narrative.” That stance, after all, often clearly signifies empowerment and assertion. In his finished paintings, the figures stand with their hands hanging at their sides. “I’ve always tried to make paintings—whether they be of men or women—where the figure in the painting is actually the one who is looking at the viewer, or at least on equal footing with the viewer themselves,” Kauper says, implying that for all his subjects, power derives from more than a simple hand position, clothing, or lack thereof.

To see his work please use the link below:

Silvia Sleigh

Challenging the tradition of nudes, Silvia Sleigh paints male nudes in a carefully rendered Pre- Raphaelite manner.  In 1975 a justice of the New York State Supreme Court spearheaded a campaign to remove one of her works Double Image: Paul Rosano (1974) from an exhibition in the Bronx Museum of Arts.  The justice took offense to a few works in particular, including this detailed portrait of a naked man.  The painting in question showed the artist’s frequent model (and muse) posed before a mirror, every detail of his front and back carefully rendered with Pre-Raphaelite-like detail: soft, swirling body hair; sun-kissed skin; ruddy, hanging penis; and white buttocks. When Grace Glueck of the New York Times asked Sleigh about the backlash to the painting, the artist responded: “I wonder if the judge would object to a female nude? I don’t see why male genitals are more sacred than female.”

Her work is confrontational and challenges John Berger’s Status Quo of the male presence in a painting – that a man’s presence is dependant upon the promise of power…a power that he exercises on others – it is as if Sleigh has tamed this power and paints the man as the object. The detail however was obviously too much for the justice in 1975.

In an article about her work it is argued that “Masculine dominance cannot be displaced merely by reversing traditional motifs,”

Sleigh claimed that her intention was not to objectify her male subjects. “I wanted to paint men in a way that I appreciated them, as dignified and intelligent and nice people,”

To see her work and a recent article about her work see link below:



John Berger’s ‘Ways of seeing’ (YouTube Video and book from the 1970s)

The Intimate Distance by Rosemary Betterton





Part 3 Expanse

Part 3 Expanse

Project 3 Research point

In this research point, we were asked to compare contemporary artists working with landscape with earlier artists.

The example given in the course text was interesting and linked up with my recent reading of Margaret Davison´s book on contemporary drawing.

I liked the idea of comparing the works of Tacita Dean with Seurat because it made clearer to me the idea of INTENTIONALITY. Seurat was the first artist to intentionally make a drawing based on the surface/mark relationship (see his drawing above).

Tacita Dean´s blackboard drawings are large and her choice of medium dictates this as chalk would be difficult to manipulate on a in the same way on a smaller scale. Her subject matter works well in black and white – with the smooth matt support in black. She is able to use a full range of tones – the feel of her work is cold and stark – equal to the subject of the glaciers depicted. Other works in the series include waves and heavy seas – also cold and bleak – life threatening even. As in life one has to step back to appreciate their awe.

Tacita Dean, Chennie Huang – Chalk on blackboard (Detail)

In comparison the work of Seurat is more intimate, warm even and made on a smaller scale – one would have to inspect the drawing up close to appreciate it fully. Less detail, impressionistic but with full range of tones present. Surface of the paper used is rough and is used to assist in his impressionistic approach.

Georges Seurat, Factories by moonlight – Conte crayon on paper (23.6 x 31.2 cm)

In moving forward with this part of the course, I will need to think more carefully about my approach to intentionality, use of surface, scale and selection of medium to support and enhance the subject matter.