lördag 21 januari 2012

Svenska teckningar, 1700-talet ("Swedish drawings, the 1700s")

The Swedish National Museum tends to publish books about their exhibits, which is excellent. Not only because it gives those of us who don't live in or close to Stockholm the opportunity to enjoy and learn from their exhibits, but also because it conserves the exhibit for later "visitors" (or revisits, for those who had the fortune of being able to visit it in the first place). This isn't, if I've understood things correctly, a book based on an actual exhibit but another and very admirable part of their mission: sharing the wealth of knowledge that resides in the institution with the citizens who pay for its work.

This book does three things. It offers an overview of the artistic milieu of the 1700s, gives brief biographies of some of the most important Swedish artists of that century, and shows samples of their work – drawings, that is. The artists showcased worked was in different areas like sculpture, interior design, or painting, but here, the emphasis is on their drawing skills.

Carl Gustaf Pilo, preparatory drawing/wash for (sadly unfinished) painting of the coronation of Gustaf III.

As I've noted in previous posts, the 1700s set the stage for developing a class of skilled artists and craftsmen in a variety of disciplines thanks to the massive effort to build the new Royal Palace. Not only did it offer work for the skilled Swedes that already existed (and their apprentices), a school was instituted where the imported French masters would teach talented Swedes their skills. A huge number of Swedish artists would benefit from this education, which like the French school it was patterned on would start by letting students learn anatomical details from pictures, moving on to copying whole works and not until they'd learned appropriate shading and rendering techniques having them start drawing from life – sculptures at first, only later moving on to live models. Guillaume Taraval was the first teacher, later assisted by sculptor Jacques-Philippe Bouchardon.

Carl Larsson imagines Taraval's painting school (Malmö Art Museum).
This is a great book. It introduces some artists who never became popular enough to really make it into the collective consciousness of even reasonably well educated Swedes, offers a look at work by large figures in the Swedish art canon that isn't well known, and offers overviews the lives of those artists. I'm impressed with the drawing skills of some of these artists, surprised at the weakness of the sketches of some others, and fascinated by the preparatory work done in sketch format for the paintings/sculptures that would be the ultimate results of some other of these drawings. Louis Masreliez, Jean Eric Rehn, Carl Hårleman, Carl Gustaf Pilo, etc… There are masters aplenty in this book, and pictures aplenty as well, accompanied by an informative, knowledgeable narrative. Thus, very much worth your time, and obviously recommended.

Johan Sevenbom, study of workers hauling a stone slab.

Sevenbom, landscape painting of Stockholm (Wikipedia).

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