Monday, August 27, 2012

Olga Orlova, by Valentin Serov.

Go check out this post on Gurney Journey about portrait artist Valentin Serov. Quoth the Ruskie,
"For my part, each time I appraise a person’s face, I am inspired—you might even say carried away—not by his or her outer aspect, which is often trivial, but by the characterization it can be given on canvas. That is why I am accused sometimes of having my portraits look like caricatures."
Detail, Portrait of Princess Olga Orlova by Valentin Serov. 1911. [Image: head, shoulders and torso of a middle aged white woman wearing an enormous Gilded Age / My Fair Lady black hat with an off-the-shoulder brown fur stole, a strand of pearls and some rings. She is pictured in profile with her face turned three quarters toward the viewer, leaning slightly forward and clasping the fur stole languidly to her chest. The hat and its translucent bits contrast lusciously with the pale pinkish background, the wall of an elegant paneled room. A painting in a big gold frame is in the top right corner. She leans from the bottom left hand corner to the center of the cropped image, her face marking slightly above center. The dark fur stole, tilted hat and dark painting create a diagonal thick dark line from bottom left to upper right. The oil painting is realistic and fluidly applied.]
Gurney's post reminded me of a remark I've been wanting to make but is too inconvenient and involved to say in passing in real life (but luckily I have a blog!). People at the Farmer's Market sometimes ask me about portraiture, often aspiring artists who are just starting out. Unfortunately I don't have any helpful advice to offer in a 20-second window to a complete stranger who is interested in learning portraiture, except for this:

If you're trying to learn about portraits by questioning a portrait artist, you're barking up the wrong tree. Pay attention to cartoons, animation, illustration, dance, acting, anatomy, the anthropomorphism of animals, fashion, literature*, graphic design and psychology. That will teach you a lot more about portraiture.

*Especially recommended for portrait-reckoning: anything by Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters; The Hours by Michael Cunningham; any story by Flannery O'Connor.


Ariel said...

I think this advice ties in very nicely with your previous post on the definition of art. But I think it also opens the door for commentary on the value of an interprated image rather than a photographic one. Even though photographs are also very arguable manipulated to show a certain side of a person. Maybe you have already covered this topic? If so, I'd love to read that post. By the way, I so badly want a hat like Olga's. Even though I would probably bump it into people and doorways.

Ciana Pullen said...

Then you would have to have grand doorways built especially for you, obviously.

I've never written the post you just thought of; perhaps I should. Honestly, I never thought there was that much difference between photography and drawing; I guess that makes me an unworthy critical theorist.