“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” ~ Charles Mingus, American jazz musician.
The second unit of my first online illustration course, was unexpectedly, both an intellectual and a creative challenge. I’ve had to think back to school history of art lessons, analysing paintings and artists – it gave my brain a much-needed nudge.
I was to choose a painting that excites me for some reason.
Then, I was to try out different versions of the same image, but demonstrate how different artists would have interpreted it, using a variety of materials and techniques.
The initial painting was to be faithful to the work and its meaning.
I chose an enchanting nude portrait of Marietta 1907, by female Jewish artist Broncia Koller-Pinell. I knew nothing about it or her until I stumbled upon it when it was tacked on at the end of an Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt exhibition at the National Gallery in 2014. There is nothing quite like seeing it in real life – it blew me away, I gazed at it for a long time and couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.
The portrait of this lovely seated female nude has a simple L-shaped composition, with little attention given to the background other than graphic elements; blocks of flat, pale colour and a gold rectangle behind her head. In this way, she gives the nude particular significance, focusing entirely on the harmonious lines of the subject’s body. Paintings of nude women were still considered scandalous in 1908, especially when made by a woman. Although nude, there is nothing provocative in this pose.
I was drawn by her efficient use of line, conveying the contours of the body. There is much information and intent in each line, which limit the functions to construction and not description of specific anatomical data. The fluid, precise, pared back line defines the edges of the form, effectively creating the structure of the body, traces contour and leads the eye from one part of the work to another. They have their own merit. They inform the rise and fall of the surfaces as the line travels over the breasts, the rib cage, down to the navel, over the abdomen and finally, down to the pubic area. They describe the mass and volume of the form. Every single mark is intentional.
Herewith my quick watercolour, attempting to be faithful to the original painting.
This was to help me unconsciously assume the structure of the work and its meaning. A copy of the original is below, which was a postcard bought at the exhibition.