It was great to catch up yesterday and congratulations again on the hundred percent you got. My researches have taken me back to the National Gallery. I used to classify the pre modern artists like he was alive in the late sixteenth century, now I have a simpler system relating to the National Gallery, Leonardo room 60, Raphael room 63, Vermeer room 16 and Velasquez room 30, art is not about history, or only accidentally so, it is about the here and now.
This week’s visit was to Room 4 of the National Gallery to look at the work of Holbein, of the three works on view my favourite was Erasmus this was an early portrait by Holbein on an oak panel and it is as lively as his chalk drawings in the Royal Collection.
Figure 1 Erasmus
It is surprisingly realistic close up and in the Renaissance tradition it has no brush strokes that you can see, Holbein’s process of working was to start with a highly finished sketch which he would transfer to the painting surface and working with thin liquid paint carry out a grisaille which is a tonal image of the finished painting working in shades of grey. He would then introduce white into the grisaille, again using thin liquid paint, so that the lighting scheme of the painting was fixed.
At this stage, to all intents and purposes the painting was complete but in black and white and all that remained was to introduce colour, which was done with an endless series of thin coloured glazes working with even more dilute paint, as many as sixty glazes to produce the vivid colours seen in the final painting. Each glaze had to dry, which could take up to a week, before the next glaze could be applied, which is why paintings could take two years or more to complete. Leonardo kept the Mona Lisa with him for forty years so you can only imagine how many glazes he applied in that time.
The skill and time involved in the creating of the old master paintings is what is being celebrated here not the money they are worth.
A photograph could accomplish the same end result in a fraction of a second, but the reason a photograph is less realistic is that it is from one perspective, the lens, rather like looking at the world with one eye closed. Coming face to face with Erasmus almost 500 years after he died is an experience that you can only have in room 4 at the National Gallery neither the photograph nor the internet can do it, you have to be there and it is well worth the cost of the trip.
Have a good week at school and get more hundred percents.
My love as always
The Northern Renaissance Durer to Holbein 2013 Queens Gallery
The Encounter: Drawing From Leonardo to Rembrandt National Portrait Gallery
The National Gallery Room 4
Wolf, N.( 2004) lbein the Younger The German Raphael Koln:Taschen