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Thread: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

  1. #1

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    Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    One of my Christmas presents this year was a huge 5 kilo book on the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi who has attracted a lot of interest the last few decades. He was active in the 1890's and the up to WW1. A good canvas from him is now in the million usd + category. He is best known for his portraits of his wife Ida (often seen from the back) and his plain domestic interiors.

    Anyway, the book shows a lot of how the development of both studio and private photography impacted the lives of the cultural elite. For Hammershoi, the choice of motive for his own camera ( and from descriptions of the photos shown in the book, it was probably a 9x12cm camera) often matches the sort of pictures he painted.

    This photo hobby was also put to more direct assistance in some of his portraits and land/townscapes.
    There is a lot of general "Hammershoi" documentation deposited in public archives, including his private photos. One of these photos is a complete match to one of his most praised works which is the so-called "Engagement" portrait of his coming wife Ida. Now this print is badly exposed and the facial feature are faint, but the whole print has been grided up with a larger grid and a finer grid around the central image. The painting has been examined for a matching grid pattern and there are traces of a grid in areas with thinly applied paint.

    I suppose that once the choice of a canvas dimension has been made, a grid has been drawn on the canvas which matches the grid drawn on the 9x12cm photograph. I suppose this was a taught procedure in the art colleges at the time - perhaps, still is?

    The Hammershoi engagement/marriage was a very rushed affair, so no time for sittings. Actually, I think the portrait is very succesfull because of the very excellent posing and expression on Ida's face in the photograph.
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  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    Thanks for sharing this information. I got my MFA through an 'art' department, and I was keen to explore painters that used photography. At the time, Charles Sheeler was my favorite.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    My last wife painted old master style with oils from MF B&W 11X14 prints. 6 to 12 months per painting.

    I never saw her use a grid.

    Marnie's paintings are so highly valued some were stolen twice.

    She painted punk rockers in the 70's and me in the 90's.
    sin eater

  4. #4

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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    This is a better image of the coming bride!
    The engagement/ marriage within a month or so was due to the (re)admission of her mother to an asylum. It explains something about her expression, I think.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    Hammerhoi must have access to the larger format 18x24cm reisekamera as there is another example in the book. This time there is no evidence of a grid - but the photographic image is so close to the painting that it must have been used.
    The quality of the 17x22.8cm photo is described as very poor from a partly faulty development and fingerprints. The Church is at the end of the street where Hammershoi lived in down town Copenhagen. The Church was under repair, with wooden scaffolding which caught Hammerhois interest.
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  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    Of Course camera obscura was used far longer than we can prove.
    sin eater

  7. #7
    altb
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    I've painted on canvas for quite a long time. When I was a student, we were taught to use a grid if we were using a photo or drawing for reference and wanted to transcribe the exact image, also to turn the picture upside down! However, the grid was really to teach us how to see. Most of the time, I don't use a grid now or photos. Still, if I want to get proportion right, say with painting a canvas with a model, I'll sketch in rudimentary lines...a sort of partial grid.

    My point is, that the grid system is a recognized technique. Some artists use it, some don't.

    If I am taking a painting from a drawing, I still turn the drawing upside down. :-)

  8. #8
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    I routinely project a portrait negative onto paper or canvas to get an accurate start to the drafting. The light areas of the image are filled in, which results in a pale representation of the original due to the lower contrast of normal negatives. Much work remains to be done to bring the portrait to life.
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  9. #9
    Indiana, USA chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    I routinely project a portrait negative onto paper or canvas to get an accurate start to the drafting. The light areas of the image are filled in, which results in a pale representation of the original due to the lower contrast of normal negatives. Much work remains to be done to bring the portrait to life.
    Great portraits, Jim.

  10. #10
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Artists using Photographs to inspire or assist them?

    Jim and Chassis reading your posts reminded me, my portrait artist wife did use an Opaque Projector for drawings of pets.

    I consider the Opaque Projector to be a modern Camera Obscura. Even a scanner is a form of Opaque Projection.

    Yet still I never saw her use grids.

    Marnie did hand retouch Playboy 8X10 Chromes by mail. She would not let me watch nor teach me anything about retouching...
    sin eater

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