Drawing the exhibition – Masterpieces from the Hermitage

It’s getting close to the end of the latest Winter Masterpieces show at the National Gallery of Victoria, Masterpieces from the Hermitage, so four of us decided to hop on a plane and head to Melbourne to spend a day with some of Catherine the Great’s collection, now housed at the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Catherine certainly collected a lot of art and other things in her time and lets face it, she had a lot of walls she could fill. So this exhibition is only a small sample of what she owned.

Catherine II (the Great), by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1773 marble, pen and ink

Catherine II (the Great), by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1773, marble, my sketch in pen and ink

I’m always interested in what will catch my attention at this type of exhibition and here it was resoundingly the Flemish works and particularly those of Sir Anthony van Dyck. Per usual I chose to draw a number of works in the exhibition. In a situation when you are exposed to so many works of high quality it gives you some space to just sit and ‘be’ with a work, at least somewhat longer than the nominal art gallery average of 10 seconds per painting.

However in my hurry to refill my pens prior to leaving for Melbourne, I accidentally filled them with ink that does not really work with my Lamy,  so apologies in advance for some scratchy pen work.

The first work to catch my attention was a family grouping by Cornelis de Vos, Self-portrait of the artist with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children.

Self-portrait of the artist with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children, c1634, oil on canvas, pen and ink

Self-portrait of the artist with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children, c1634, oil on canvas, my sketch in pen and ink

My study doesn’t capture the older children of the family, just the two youngest, one holding a bow and arrow and the youngest on leading reins. In the original the parent’s clothes form large dark masses against which their faces and those of their children are naturally highlighted. From the quality and amount of lace, fine silk and jewellery being worn by the family you get the distinct impression that the art business was good for de Vos. I found his depiction of his young children particularly charming.

A large leap up the social ladder from the wealthy merchants that de Vos painted are Sir Anthony van Dyck’s paired portraits of Charles I of England and his Queen Henrietta-Maria. At over 2 metres in height they dominated the room they were hung in. The refinement of their faces, the lustre of the armour, silk and pearls made them hard to look away from, as was no doubt intended.

Study of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta-Maria, c 1638, graphite and gel pen

Study of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta-Maria, c 1638, graphite and gel pen

The flattery of van Dyck’s paintings was such that when Sophia, later Electoress of Hanover, first met Queen Henrietta Maria, in exile in Holland in 1641, she wrote: “Van Dyck’s handsome portraits had given me so fine an idea of the beauty of all English ladies, that I was surprised to find that the Queen, who looked so fine in painting, was a small woman raised up on her chair, with long skinny arms and teeth like defence works projecting from her mouth…”

Perhaps truer to life was a smaller portrait that van Dyck made in 1619, the year after he was admitted to the Guild of St Luke as a free master painter. The Family Portrait, is thought to be of another artist, possibly Jan Wildens (in an interesting link, Wilden’s half sister, Suzanne Cock was the wife of Cornelis de Vos). His attractive young wife sits next to him while their young child, sits in his/her father’s lap looking upwards.

Study of Family Portrait, by Anthony van Dyck, pen and ink, brush pen and gel pen

Study of Family Portrait, by Anthony van Dyck, pen and ink, brush pen and gel pen

As you can see from the above study by this time I was resorting to every pen I could find in my bag just to complete the study. I’d spent most of the day in the exhibition, with a break for lunch and I was pretty exhausted. I staggered out of the gallery to have a restorative cup of coffee and lemon curd tart. Since checking up on the details for this post I have realised that there were any number of works I would have liked to go back and study in greater detail and some I managed to miss altogether.

Here are two of the many amazing sketches that also caught my eye on the day.

Luca Signorelli, c1480, study of the head of an elderly man, pen and brown ink and wash, State hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Luca Signorelli, c1480, study of the head of an elderly man, pen and brown ink and wash, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1760's, Study of a seated woman (the paralytic's wife), red chalk State hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1760’s, Study of a seated woman (the paralytic’s wife), red chalk State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Historic Hunter

Several weeks ago I was in the Hunter Valley which has many towns dating back to the 19th century. (A very short time period compared to the thousands of years of Aboriginal ownership of the land). In the larger centres the original facades of the 19th century buildings are visible rising above the ground floor of contemporary shops.

Here are two such facades. The first is in Singleton, located on John St, built in 1898.

The facade of the Singleton Arcade, watercolour, 9 October 2015

The facade of the Singleton Arcade, watercolour, 9 October 2015

When I moved around to the front of the building I could see this interesting chimney, to the rear of the facade.

Chimney detail, the Singleton Arcade, pen and ink, 9 October 2015

Chimney detail, the Singleton Arcade, pen and ink, 9 October 2015

Several days later I visited Maitland. The long main street here is also full of interesting buildings. 437 High St is now the home to up-market boutiques and gift shops. I was surprised to find out that it was even older than the Singleton Arcade. This building, originally built for the Australasian Bank (through subsequent transmogrifications becoming the ANZ Bank), was completed in 1869 and opened the following year. Its French styling and rounded ist floor balcony  takes advantage of it’s corner location. This is a real stand-out among the other nearby buildings.

The first floor of 437 High St, Maitland, watercolour, 12 October 2015

The first floor of 437 High St, Maitland, watercolour, 12 October 2015

Canberra Nara Candle Festival

Today was the13th annual Candle Festival day, held in conjunction with our sister-city Nara in Japan. We got there a bit early because we were working on the Australia Japan Society food stall, raising money for the orphans of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
This is the quick sketch I made in my Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines link book with pen and ink.

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In the end we were so busy that our three hours working flew by. Although some of my toes went numb from standing for so long. After we sold out of food there was just time to look at the ‘stream’ of candles in the Japanese garden.
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Seen in Mawson

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy with lots of other ‘stuff’ which will continue to take up my time over the coming weeks in the run up to my next exhibition at the Gosford Regional Gallery in December.

Here are two sketches from outside our favourite coffee shop in Mawson. This first sketch was done over two sessions. The first day I managed the thumbnail sketch and brushpen shadows. The second day I added the watercolour layer.

Shuttered facade on a real estate office, brushpen and watercolour, 17 & 20 October 2015

Shuttered facade on a real estate office, brushpen and watercolour, 17 & 20 October 2015

On the second visit I decided to try and quickly capture this motorcycle, which I was sure would only be there for a short time. Good practice – of course we left before the rider even came back.

Motorcycle, brushpen and watercolour, 20 October 2015

Motorcycle, brushpen and watercolour, 20 October 2015

Flower Power

Today the Canberra Sketcher’s Group braved the massed tulips, not to mention the crowds, for our October sketch outing. It took awhile for us to collect ourselves as the parking was problematic, but eight of us did manage to meet up and get to work.

Several of us chose to work from highest part of the display area. We had plenty of interaction with people coming to see what we were doing.

Working from the high ground

Working from the high ground

The view across the display beds to the Ferris wheel was popular.

Rob's view to the Ferris wheel

Rob’s view to the Ferris wheel, watercolour and marker pen

But getting in all those people and plants was definitely a challenge.

Hard to fit 'em all in!

I found it hard to fit ’em all in! watercolour and graphite

Other’s chose to focus on smaller scenes,

Elaine's sensitive linework view of a picnic spot

Elaine’s sensitive linework view of a picnic spot, pencil, fine pen and watercolour

and flowers

Tulip study by Deb

Tulip study by Deb, watercolour and pen

and traders stalls.

Mandy's tulips and traders

Mandy’s tulips and traders, watercolour and fine marker pen

Of course ther’es always room for that ice cream.

Ice cream vendor, watercolour and graphite

Ice cream vendor, watercolour and graphite

In the end we were grateful to sit down and enjoy our picnic lunch, while comparing notes and catching up on what people had been drawing in the previous month.

The day's collective effort

The day’s collective effort

I thought we might have had time to sketch some of the tasty treats that people brought along to share for lunch, but they all disappeared before anyone could even get their books out!

We will continue the floral theme with our November outing which will be held at 10.30am on Sunday 1 November, at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. We will meet on the lawns in front of the cafe. Hope to see you then!

Stromlo and surrounds

A week ago we took advantage of the fine weather to go out and get some sketching done. First we started at the new subdivisions of Wright and Coombs, currently being built below Mt Stromlo. The fires of 2003 burnt through pine plantations in this area paving the way for new subdivisions for our expanding city. I was attracted to capture the pattern of shadows cast by the pipes.

Sewerage pipes above the new subdivisions, watercolour, Mt Stromlo appears in the background, 25 September 2015

Sewerage pipes above the new subdivisions, watercolour, Mt Stromlo appears in the background, 25 September 2015

Later the same week we met up with friends and went up to Mt Stromlo, where the Australian National University has its Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Like the land surrounding it, Mt Stromlo sustained terrible damage in the firestorm of 2003 that swept into the city of Canberra killing 4 people and destroying some 500 houses. All the telescopes, workshops and library on the mountain were destroyed.

One of the major losses at Mt Stromlo was the 74 inch telescope. This building contains its remains.

The 74 inch telescope building, Mt Stromlo, 28 September 2015, watercolour

The 74 inch telescope building, Mt Stromlo, 28 September 2015, watercolour

The building is sealed to contain remaining hazardous materials, but you can peer in through the windows to see what’s left of the telescope. I think my friend took a photo of me straining to draw what’s left of the telescope. You will be spared that sight, but the texture of the burnt and corroded telescope mount just begged to be drawn.

Remains of the 74" telescope, sketched through the window, graphite, 28 September 2015

Remains of the 74″ telescope, sketched through the window, graphite, 28 September 2015

My final subject of the day was the remains of the Oddie telescope building, built in 1911, the first telescope on the mountain. Since our previous visit this building has been fenced off to save it from vandalism. At least I could see past the fence to paint the building.

Remains of the Oddie telescope building, watercolour, 28 September 2015

Remains of the Oddie telescope building, watercolour, 28 September 2015

It was a great day and hopefully as the fine spring weather continues I’ll get a lot more outdoor sketching done.