The Likeness Part of a Portrait – Watteau

Watteau

Jean-Antoine Watteau ‘ Three Studies of a Young Girl Wearing a Hat’
1716 Sanguine & charcoal

To master the capturing the likeness part of a making a portrait, try doing the same head  three times.  Can you maintain the likeness consistently in all three drawings?

I am humbled by Master Watteau. Not only three drawings but three different angles as well. And look how beautifully laid out on the page they are. Almost like cinema… different view points, different angles. Different moments in time.  Ephemeral.

I’ve not succeeded in doing three on one page. Actually I haven’t yet tried , other than drawing the same people over & over again, such as the three views of Peter (on five e sheets of paper) in the previous post or the evolving suite of drawings of my children over the years, watching them closely as they grow.

watteau-little-girl

Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl
c. 1716-17; Red, black and white chalks on buff paper, 18.7 x 24.4 cm; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

It surprises me the speed with which we recognize someone. Even when they’ve aged & morphed some over time  or we when only get a slight glimpse in a funny angle. Bang! We recognise them instantly. What is the mechanism by which see recognize the likeness of someone?

I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be. – Lucien Freud

Watteau obviously enjoyed doing this type of ‘two of kind’ or ‘three of a kind’ portrait. Again on one sheet of paper :

watteau-2Kids

Cute isn’t she  🙂     I also warn anyone of the difficulties of drawing a smile… very difficult . I once sat for a painter friend who wanted to try this . I had to grin &smile for hours… it was very painful to hold a smile, which, after all, is ephemeral. Passing like all feelings & sentiments, shifting states of minds – ‘passing clouds’ my grandmother used to call them.. That portrait looked horrible too.

And so now to finish-off with, here’s some Eighteenth Century Rock’n’Roll :

Watteau, Jean Antoine (1684-1721) - Homem tocando guitarra, 1717-18

'lili' detail conté 2013 © adam cope

‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ Detail Sanguine © adam cope

 

 

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