Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Without doubt Manet is my favorite artist.

" What is important is Manet’s belief in conceptualizing his portraits, in order to get a more concise meaning across to the viewer. If a painter goes towards almost photographic quality painting, then the meaning of the work may become lost due to its over-emphasis on the ‘real’. A photograph of a barmaid at the Folies-Bergère would have very little meaning in comparison, but because painting allows the artist to warp the painting to what they want to see, they can work the painting in a conceptual way in order to get a dramatically different atmosphere and theme."
This is from http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/manet/arthistory_manet.html

There is a schism in contemporary art movements today. The predominate market, Damien's Hirst's pickled sharks et al are heading into incoherence. Courageous art critics are throwing in the towel, the rest, afraid of missing the next best thing and losing a paycheck are inventing new vocabularies to describe the often indescribable. Les autres- the followers of the French atelier and all things academic are making some headway. Jacob Collins apparently has partially decamped to very pricey new digs in Connecticut- my native state. However- even the best of them have not reached the stratospheric prices of those artists favored by the hedge fund vulgarians.

Trying to find a artistic perch to sit for awhile I decided I would try some really tight academic drawings. I applaud those who are able to do them-but I guess I don't have that kind of nature as I find doing detailed drawings more of a penance than a pleasure.


I have been trying out some new models- I want to do a nude and I have been waiting for a model I want to work with to be available. Apparently Manet waited for years for the right model to show up. I had a really nice costume, a lovely model available currently, but who would not pose nude, so I dressed her in a beautiful costume I had on hand and decided to make more of it than a quick study. She was a wonderful model, and took care to stay in the same pose.

20" x 30" on Twin Rocker laid Simon's Green paper
The head, shoulders  and arms took five sittings, the hands and dress one. I used the wonderful Nitram Fusains charcoal sticks available at both Dakota pastels and Dick Blick. They have the softness of a vine charcoal- but in different hardnesses. They hold a point and don't smudge as badly.

Here is a study I did of another model in the same dress.

Below is a study I am doing for a nude painting. This took two poses.

Frankly I prefer the looser drawings as the marks have energy and lightness.
This coincides with a new book I just bought on Manet which I am presently imbibing. I was struck by the lack of self-consciousness in the drawings and studies. Manet's ideas were nailed with economy- and not labored. During that time more and more Asian work was being showed in Paris and Manet and his contemporaries were exposed to the beautiful brush work of Chinese and Japanese paintings. It took many years to master the kind of  skill that could reveal a figure, plant, flower, etc in a few strokes. It is exceptionally hard to do, and the Asians don't consider one having mastered something until they have been at it for at least 10 years.

 Lola de Valance

Manet's son


Study for Olympia

Study for Olympia


In looking for studies to post of Manet, I came across a series of drawings Degas did of Manet. They were just as unpretentiously loose as Manets. These artists, were well trained and drew beautifully but I am constantly taken aback at how economical and fresh their studies are.  It is hard to sell to drawings like this today when clients expect as proof of talent, tightly rendered pieces.

Degas "Manet Holding Hat"


ian warburton said...

Thankyou for that Sharon. I'll look again. I had a session with someone I trust yesterday who told me that my self portraits were confusing and unreadable and not at all like me so I'm feeling like throwing in the towel.

Sharon Knettell said...


I took a gentler tone with this post as I have had some comments that I am a bit cranky- actually that is not far from the truth- oh well.

Actually I am getting tired and bored with this new fascination with all things academic and tightly rendered. So did Manet. Look at his work and see just how expressive his portraits are- in FACT, JUST LIKE YOURS!!!!

I have posted Jacob Collins because he at least is trying to bring a semblance of craftsmanship and beauty to contemporary art- an uphill task if there was ever one. I much prefer Manet's reality.

ian warburton said...

Sharon, I just received your comment and as the opening of my show is tonight, it gave me a fillip. Thank you.

ian warburton said...

The vernisage was quite extraordinary. Just after the speeches a tremendous storm arrived accompanied by lightening , torrential rain and hail which whitened the ground in temperatures of 36 degrees. The top floor of La Tour, Montsales was shedding water ( 150 litres) and it was pouring down the stairs, ninety people were crammed into the Salle de La Marie and drank it dry. We just needed arks, doves, and or tablets of stone.

ian warburton said...

So what did you think to the piece on contemporary portraits in Cultural Weekly?

Sharon Knettell said...


Are you asking why I wrote it or maybe you were unaware that I did write it?

The genesis of the article began when I saw another article talking about just how dreadful the George Bush portrait was. I made a comment that I agreed as I have some insight into how contemporary portraiture is done. The publisher asked me to write an article.

I have done some and quit because it was in no way art but photocopying. There are for all intents and purposes botox portraits traced from photoshopped prints.

An example- disgusted with the business, I posted my method- "How to get Rich in Portraiture".
A: photograph subject.
B: Blow up print to exact size of painting and trace and transfer to drawing to canvas.
C:Place transparent plastic film of some kind on print and mix paint to match skin-tones on film.
D:Get paid.

One women I know who was a dedicated mediocrity pounced and now is a celebrated 'portraitist' with a bevy of lucrative politician paintings under her belt.

At a portrait convention, I met another 'celebrated portrait artist' told me he cut and pasted and traced as above. I said- doesn't that take the fun out of it- He said he did not care- all he wanted was the money.

At another portrait convention I walked in with another painter who could paint from life, he laughed at all the live portrait demonstrations going life and said what a joke it was as no one does that today.

ian warburton said...

No I meant the piece by Zofia Kostyrko-Edwards. I found it interesting up to a point but not sustaining enough to make me want to spend too much time with. A bit too easy I thought. The idea that everything is so immediate (helped by technology) leaves me craving something slow and worked for. Particularly the sense of solving a problem, correcting, searching for a solution that seems on the face of it to be skipped over in new media. It was almost as if the outcome was already known before the work started.

Sharon Knettell said...

Sorry I wrote such an essay! I did
not see the article but I sure did reply.

I was as superficial as her art- a quick fix instagram's generation's facile approach to portraiture.

I like slow art myself- the brooding uncertainty of it all.

ian warburton said...

Am reading a biography of Richard Diebenkorn at the moment, someone who also liked taking it slowly. By the way did you rent Lars?

Sharon Knettell said...

I ordered it on Netflix- as soon as I ship Zulu back- I'll get it.

I am a slow artist myself- my models slow me up even more- Manet was always afraid they would leave him with an unfinished painting!