Thursday, October 29, 2015

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Deane G. Keller, master draftsman

Deane G. Keller, undated photo
written by Allana Benham

During our study at the New York Academy, Eric Mannella and I were fortunate to study figure drawing and anatomical drawing with Deane G. Keller (American, 1940-2005). He was a generous instructor who enriched the lives and artistic practice of thousands of students at the New York Academy, the Lyme Academy, the Art Student's League of New York, and the Woodstock Academy.

Deane learned the art (and craft) of drawing from many sources. Most influential was his father, Deane Keller Sr., a highly regarded Captain in the American Army during World War II, Professor of Drawing at Yale University, and acclaimed portrait painter for Yale University. While stationed in Italy, Keller Sr. was part of the legendary Monuments Men. He was responsible for the rescue and conservation of important Renaissance works, including treasures in the Uffizi and a major equestrian bronze of Cosimo I by Giambologna, protecting them from the ravages of war. Keller Sr. recieved his artistic training from George Bridgman, the pre-eminent anatomical instructor at the Art Student's League, who had studied under Boulanger and Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Bridgman's books on figure drawing and artistic anatomy have become some of the most influential texts in the field published in the 20th century. Through his teachers, Deane G. Keller's artistic lineage can be traced directly to Louis Boullogne I (1609-1674), one of the 14 original founders of the French Academy.

Deane G. Keller also studied at the Atelier of Nera Simi in Florence.

Deane would require every student to hand in a drawing from the week, which he rolled up and took home. Before the next class, Deane would redraw a new version of each student's drawing, offering a visual critique. He gave us these drawings in 2001 and 2002.

Deane was a rare instructor who matched a fluid, natural drawing style with concise verbal description to convey his ideas in a very direct manner. He placed great importance on demonstrating the act of drawing, with its struggles, revisions, and evolution from first sketch to eventual finish. He was capable of inventing the figure from his imagination to convey profound human emotions. His great anatomical knowledge was always at the service of the emotional communication of his work.

Finally, Deane was profoundly gifted, patient, and engaged as an educator; many of our peers did some of their best work in his class. We learned much about the art of teaching while we were privileged to study with him. In the year before Deane passed away, he compiled a book on figure drawing from his many years of experience as an artist and instructor. You can order it from the Lyme Academy.

Although we did not know it at the time, our class was the last that Deane taught at the New York Academy before he passed away. We hope this site will serve as a resource for future students to learn from his great experience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Workshop with Max Ginsburg: May 2011

We are very pleased to announce an alla prima portrait painting workshop with Max Ginsburg on May 13, 14 & 15, 2011. Please see our website or contact us for registration information.

Here are a few portrait sketches Max has done to give a sense of his approach for this workshop:

Max plans to focus on shorter poses of between 1 and 6 hours each with the model. This will encourage students to focus on the broad masses and color relationships that characterize the sitter, rather than getting caught rendering details too soon.

Max has had a long and distinguished career as an illustrator in New York City. His recent artwork has a strong humanitarian component, often portraying interactions between people in the urban environment of New York. Max has also devoted a series of paintings to protesting the Iraq war and examining patriotism in this context.

Max is currently preparing for a retrospective exhibition at the Butler Institute this September. He is a courageous artist who uses his talents to express important statements about our society. It is a privilege to have him return to our studio.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Academie Drawings: Alexis Bafcop and Paul Chameron

written by Allana Benham
We are very pleased to share this group of original 19th century academies. These are marvelous examples of the diversity of academic approaches to drawing the figure through the mid-19th century.

The first three drawings are by French artist Alexis Bafcop (1804-1895). Each of these drawings is finished to a different degree, likely using charcoal, black chalk, and in some cases, white chalk. In the above example, circa the late 1830's or early 1840's, he has chosen a warm-toned paper, blocked in the figure, and refined the forms in the upper body. The lower legs and feet remain loose, giving a good indication of his starting process for the drawing as a whole. Bafcop used a sharp point to refine the line quality in the upper body and begin the tonal development of the shadows, and he has begun to add white chalk to develop the light mass.

In this second example, we see a bit more development than in the first, although Bafcop has retained the looseness of the feet here as well. It appears that the head and upper torso are essentially finished, while he has left himself the opportunity to change his mind about the exact placement of the feet. This drawing is on an off-white paper and done entirely in charcoal or black chalk, without the addition of any white. The deep tone in the background is very effective to isolate the whites of the paper within the figure, and his halftones are developed with the utmost sensitivity.

In the final example, we see a fully finished drawing, dated 1846. This drawing was done on a blue paper, reminiscent of Prud'hon a generation before. With the passage of time, the paper has become a more muted greyish blue. The surface of this drawing is carefully worked, likely with some kind of stump first and then a reapplication of tone using hatch marks. In places, the light and dark chalks are blended together; in others, one or the other is predominant.
Every part of the background and the figure is treated to give a clear impression of a solid, muscular body moving through an atmospheric space. Once again, the forms of the figure are represented in perfect focus, yet with a certain looseness about them. This drawing shows Bafcop's virtuosity and profound understanding of the human body, representing the pinnacle of his achievement in this genre.

Finally, we see another remarkable approach by Paul Chameron (1865-1918) in a drawing made while he was a student of Gerome, likely in the 1880's:

This drawing bears the stamp of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a concours d'emulation, a contest among the students for the best rendering from a live model. Chameron placed 6th, indicated by the large '6' in red on the left of the page, which may even be in Gerome's hand. This drawing was considered of high quality by Gerome, and we can appreciate Chameron's deft balance of precise linear drawing and soft, atmospheric tone. The varied tones in the background serve to give relief to the body and imply the space surrounding it.

verso of the drawing:detail:
These drawings have much to teach us about approaches to drawing the figure in the mid-19th century. We often think of academies as somewhat stiff or monolithic in approach, but for both of these artists, we can see that this is not the case. Both Chameron and Bafcop have chosen to emphasize the linear quality of their drawings in some places and de-emphasize it in others. But, each artist retains an open quality that breathes life into these figures. Each of these drawings is made according to the principles and taste of their times, and each is done in a unique way, representing the skill of these artists.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Workshop with Dorian Vallejo - October 15, 16 & 17, 2010

We are looking forward to a portrait painting workshop with professional portrait artist Dorian Vallejo. Dorian plans to work from the live model with an alla prima approach, using a full palette of colour. He will demonstrate his painting technique and help each student as they work from the live model.

This is a unique opportunity to learn from an artist who combines a fluid style of painting with acute accuracy in his observation of form, colour, and emotion. His portraits communicate deeply with the viewer.

We only have a couple of places remaining in the workshop; if you are interested, please contact us by email. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Master Copies by Atelier de Bresoles Instructors

Making a copy of a painting that you admire is a wonderful way to learn about another artist, and to develop skills and individuality as a painter. The following paintings were made by Atelier instructors Eric Mannella, or Allana Benham.

Eric Mannella, after Caravaggio's 'Torment of Christ' of 1602 / 1604.

Above, Eric Mannella's copy of Alma-Tadema's painting, 'Ask me no more.' from 1906.

Allana Benham, after a portrait of an unidentified woman by William Owen Harling in 1874.

Above, Allana Benham's copy of Van Dyck's Portrait of Cornelius van der Geest, 1620.

and below, Allana Benham's copy of Antoine Guillemet's (1841-1918) Le Moulin

Much can be learned about mixing colour, paint application, compositional choices, and the personal art-making process in making a copy of a painting that moves you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drawing by P. Chameron, student of Gerome

I recently found this cast drawing of a young flute player from the mid-1880's by Paul Chameron (1865-1918). This drawing was likely done while Chameron was a student in Gerome's private atelier. However, it is possible this drawing was executed while Chameron studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gerome's tutelage. It is in charcoal on off-white paper, 18x24 inches, with only the white of the paper used to represent the most intense illumination.

Chameron's approach is typical of late-19th century French academic drawing. He finished the face and most of the figure to a very high degree; the tonal gradations are very sensitive, giving the drawing a strong optical effect. At the same time, the shadows are relatively uniform in tone, and the deep background gives a brilliant quality to the light effect.

In contrast to the degree of finish in the face, the feet and lower legs are less developed. Here we see Chameron's preliminary approach, with masses of tones in the light and loose shapes to indicate the structure of the ankle, the arch of the foot, etc.

Chameron tried for the Prix de Rome in 1886. After his study in Paris, he returned to his hometown of St. Maur and began teaching drawing and painting there. His daughter Andree also became a painter.

I was inspired to make the drawing below following Chameron's example:

I used Fabriano Roma paper with vine and compressed charcoal. I utilized the tone of the paper to represent the highest lights in the figure, and carefully applied the tone to represent a range of half-tones in the light, while keeping the shadows more uniform in tone, following Chameron's, and hence Gerome's method. It took me approximately 9 hours to finish the drawing to this degree.

The sculpture is an ecorche figure by Eugene Caudron (1818-1865), called l'Ecorche combattant, from 1845. Caudron conceived of this figure as an instructive model for sculptors and it became very influential as an example of a dynamic composition within the figure. It has been reproduced in many academic drawings, paintings, and instructional lithographs of the 19th century.