Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Heights!

Yesterday I got 45 page views! Thanks everybody! Keep coming back.
Being in the gallery all day has given me the opportunity to really study the paintings of the artists I represent - Heather St. Clair Davis, Peter Smith, Booth Malone and Larry Wheeler. I've discovered a few interesting things lately. For instance, the Heather St, Clair Davis landscape has a fox in the foreground that's camouflaged by the rust and brown colors in the brush. I made an even more exciting discovery this week. She signed the painting twice! While studying the way she painted the grassy lane that takes your eye right into the middle of the painting, I noticed some underpainting below her signature that called for a closer examination. Under the surface, there it was - her signature in a light, Naples Yellow hue. It's bigger and lower than the second signature, which is in brown. It's been painted over, but is still faintly visible. Now you might ask yourself why she did this. Someone even asked me if this meant it was a fake. Rest assured; it doesn't mean it's a fake. This is an exciting discovery that only adds to the value of the painting.
Two signatures are visible - one in brown, the other in faint yellow.
For centuries artists have repainted, resized and revised their work. When it's visible, it's called "pentimento." The brush strokes and sometimes even the color, come through the top layer of oil paint, making it visible to the viewer. The significance of pentimenti (plural) is that they offer a unique glimpse into the painting process of the artist. (Wikipedia has a pretty good definition of the term if you don't have access to any books on artists' methods and materials such as Mayer, etc.) John Singer Sargent often repainted areas of his large canvases of aristocratic clients in elegant gowns and luxurious surroundings. The most famous of these is the fallen strap on Madame Gautreau's gown in Portrait of Madame X. It caused quite a stir back then - it symbolized scandal and loose morals! Although Sargent exhibited it at the Salon in Paris in 1884, it was not well-received and the sitter's mother asked that it be withdrawn from the exhibition for fear it would ruin her daughter's reputation. Sargent refused, but later repainted the strap so that it was sitting on her shoulder. It's now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is considered one of Sargent's finest paintings. (Personally, I've never cared for it. The contrived pose with her twisted arm, the minimalist background and sickly complexion of the sitter have always made me uncomfortable. Madame Gautreau was considered a beauty in her day, but this painting hardly flatters her. Parisians must have felt the same way, for it was soundly rejected by the public and the critics, and quashed Sargent's hopes of establishing himself as a portrait painter in France.)
I suspect Heather might have restretched the canvas or changed the size, because the first signature is very close to the edge of the frame. I'm not an expert; I only know from my own painting adventures that a composition can be improved by changing the size. (There's something to be said for doing preliminary sketches. Ahem!) The painting has backing paper on it, and I'm not going to open it up to see if that's the case. A prospective buyer, on the other hand, might actually request it to learn more about the painting.
I have a pair of paintings I did of a fox cub or kit and English foxhound puppy in the gallery. Originally they were 8" x 10". I put them in square 8" x  8" frames which I had lying around in the studio. It only occurred to me to cut down the pictures after trying to find some finished paintings that would fit the frames! They look so much better in the square format and yet, it would never have occurred to me to change the size if I hadn't been scrambling to find finished pictures for this exhibit!
Oopps! Unsigned. Better get the paint and brush out!

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