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UPDATES (Return to the top). You'll find more old master studies in Figure Stack, my figure blog.

Added two old master sculpture studies in Figure Stack (Nov '13) .

Added four Rodin studies in Figure Stack (Jun '12)

Updated Figure Stack with a study of Venus de Medici (Mar '12).

Updated Figure Stack with new images, studies on Michelangelo (Nov '11).

Studying Antonio Canova in Payne's Gray - The Three Graces. Added in Flickr 2 (Nov'11)
Study of Antonio Canova, Three Graces

Added assorted master studies in Figure Stack (Nov'11)

N.B. These are older studies. You'll find RECENT old master studies in Figure Stack, my figure blog.

The virtues of studying past masters, and the thrill!

We are frequently mesmerized by works of past masters. Long lines at galleries fail to move as one more visitor forgets to push ahead. Yet, there remain so much more to appreciate in a masterpiece which viewing alone won't reveal. Since I didn't have institutionalized training(whether it's good or bad!), these past masters were(and still are) my teachers. I tried to learn by retracing the path traversed by these exceptional people.

Consider Gauguin, as compared to Ingres. While the former increasingly went 'flatter', throwing modelling literally to the Tahitian sea-wind, Ingres, even at an advanced age(when he painted the Turkish Harem) presisted with his oh-so subtle transitions from dark to light. Ingres kept his colors under a tight leash while Gauguin began to use colors as broad symbols, often shockingly juxtaposing complementary hues in broad patches(something the "Fauves" hopelessly tried to copy, and pass on as originals). An artist trying to learn drawing and painting would normally include Ingres among his first "teachers". Even though copying an Ingres in oil could be pretty boring because of the time it takes to achieve those transitions, its sometimes worth the diligence.

But when I closely studied Gauguin, I was surprised to find an almost similarly exacting attitude to drawing. You could easily miss the little anatomical twists and turns, yet those are what prop up his paintings, make his works so believable. Such a discipline is unerringly observed wherever its needed most, yet one would hardly recognize it at a superficial glance. The discovery, in such an apparently 'loose' structure is so exhilarating that while trying to draw a Gauguin nude, one almost feels the power of a Gauguin surging through one's charcoal! Or maybe at times, even a vicarious ecstasy on realizing that we, as human beings, belong to the same race of living kinds as these masters! That, according to me is how one ought to study a master work(if at all), study by traversing the same path of creation. Tasting good wine is never easy, but to re-reuse the cliche, there's a pot of gold to be had at the end!

Even Pollock learned his anatomy the way these past masters did, Picasso got into the business studying Bargue drawings, Van Gogh spent days diligently copying plaster casts at Mauve's studio, and Clement Greenberg, that much maligned champion of modern art, did not consider modernism a liberation from the so-called contraints of "academic" art, but a bulwark against descending chaos in early 20th century.

Bottomline, I have enjoyed myself thoroughly trying to build up a more intimate relationship with what I had often loved on sight, and have learned a lot doing just that! Hope you do as well...

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Charles Bargue, from whom learned the likes of Van Gogh, or even Picasso! In fact, when Vincent decided to give up missionary work for good and become a painter, a book with Bargue prints were amongst his most precious possessions. Even today, Bargue continues to be an inspiration to many aspiring painters. Click to enlarge.

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Paul Gauguin tried to be different. Both in life and work. He carefully cultivated the image of the "civilized savage" which culminated in his two journeys to the far east. He ultimately died in Tahiti. His studies on Tahitian women are incredibly sensuous and personal. Remarkably free of contraints, these are nonetheless economical as well as highly accurate. A must for every student of drawing. Click to see more...

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Hemen Majumdar, with his clever brushwork, and Atul Bose with his flawless drawing are amongst the most celebrated past masters of the visuo-realistic style of painting. Here is a small study on one of Majumdar's masterpieces -"Shiktoboshona shundori" or "Maid in a wet sari". Click to enlarge.

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Ingres - when Degas sought advice from him, the great master urged the future impressionist to draw lines, lines and nothing but lines. Degas' works, even those he did during an advanced stage of blindness display a certainty of structure that could only come through flawless drawing. Here is a study of one of Ingres' drawings. Click to see more ...

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Karmarkar, that great sculptor of the east! This native of Maharashtra, is father to the largest sculpture of Shivaji Maharaj in the country. Yet, it is his smaller works, like those on the fishing folk of Maharashtra which really identifies him with his people. I learned a great deal about drawing while studying images of his works. Click to see more...

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Leighton, an important painter of the Victorian era and an able administrator. A trustworthy source of convincing technical brilliance. One need'nt(always) have to be a Mad Hatter like Vincent to be a good painter. Click to see more...

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Manet's Olympia. The tradionalists dubbed her "monkeywoman". I find her lithe, short body highly believeable. The only thing objectionable, that is to our 21st century sensitivities, is the racist undertone in the picture. Click to enlarge.

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Michelangelo's unfinished Milan Pieta, studied in watercolor. Click to see more.



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Prudhon - Another Charles Bargue. His chalk drawings on toned surface look incredibly smooth from a distance. Yet, studied up close, these works reveal an amazing criss-cross of vibrant, confident lines. Click to see more...

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Rembrandt - a deep, deep silence. Click to enlarge.




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Renoir, that brat of a young old man, probably didnt let go of a single opportunity to paint young ladies, preferably unclothed. But this wonderfully backlit portrait depicts a woman reading a book. One of my older works, painted deliberately with a bluish palette. There is also a study on one of his bathing pictures. Click to see more...

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Rodin took his clue from the unfinished Milan Pieta. A rough, "incomplete" surface often exudes more character than those with a Canova like sheen. This section includes a watercolor study of a bronze and a graphite drawing of a smaller sculpture of the hand. Click to see more...

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Anders Zorn, - This Swedish Master, as far as I am concerned has been a late discovery, and I have been hooked ever since. I can hardly think of anyone other than Sargent with such flourish of the brush while painting portraits of women, especially with watercolor. Click to see more...

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Lucien Freud is hardly a past master! He is very much in the present, ruling like a colossus over the Brit art scene. Freud's fame grew not because of any supernatural design(Greenberg!), but despite it, and also because of Freud's talents. If explicit nudes shock you, please do not Click

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Assorted / Unknown Masters - This heading in no way suggests diminished priority. It simply points to those pages where more than one master has been studied on a single page, or the name of the painter / title of the painting is unknown to me. Also contains a study on Van Gogh. Click to see more...

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