When I made my abstracted version of Henri Matisse’s The Dance, 1909, I found it interesting that with so few lines it is still a recognisable image of the painting, (provided one has viewed the painting before). With just a few lines the human forms are revealed, and interestingly the way Matisse indicated fractured outlines of the figures helps to inject flow into the figures and plants the idea of the figures dancing. The title of the painting is of course literal and straightforward but the painting itself is an expression of movement and so thinking about the few lines it took to recreate a version of The Dance, I took a white gel pen with black paper to my life drawing class. During the session I had hoped to capture ‘movement’ with as few lines as possible but I was not so luckily with the amount of time given to observe the life model moving freely around the room. However, I did make three minimal sketches whist she was stretching and warming up, together with a ‘blind’ contour drawing which took 5 minutes. This made me realise I must remember to make more contour drawings during life drawing classes because it really focuses the mind, helping to observe the model and not the paper! Also, I found the simple white gel pen against the black paper really lends itself as a good medium for contour drawing and I can continue drawing in my sketchbook, capturing the figure with essential lines, finding out what works for interpreting the human form whilst moving.
My version of Henri Matisse, The Dance, 1909, and then life model drawings using white gel on A3 black card for all pictures below;
Also, through my reading I came across the Bauhaus School 1901 – 1933 drawings by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Tanzkurven: Zu den Tänzen der Palucca, 1926. These were called “analytical drawings” and according to Kandinsky they are , “1. Simplicity of the whole form, and 2. being based on the large form.” Kandinsky apparently also instructed his art students to draw dancers next door to his room and gave them only 10 seconds to complete the figures! See below;
Wassily Kandinsky, “Tanzkurven: Zu den Tänzen der Palucca from the Bauhaus School of Art, 1926
The below crayon drawing by Matisse is an unexpected correlation to my abstract version of the ‘dancers’ which I found afterwards.
Henri Mattise, Farandole, coloured crayon on paper, 1938
As it turns out Kandinsky and Matisse (among others) were part of a brief movement known as Fauvism (1905-08), where a group of modern day artists let the painterly quality, strong vibrant colours and personal interpretation breathe fresh light into expressive works of art. I think looking at the “analytical drawings” by Kandinsky and the coloured crayon drawing, Farandole by Matisse, both are essentially basic line drawings of the figure and both beautifully depict the ‘moving’ figure in its simplicity and with expression of form in an activity. So, I decided to have a little explore and following the basic lines of the body, I found with the red line ‘figures’ that they work better with a just a small indication for where the feet and hands would be and also copied a few of the “analytical drawings” too.
This research point led me to Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) the English/American photographer who pioneered the use of the photograph into what would become the beginning of motion film. (He is also credited with the first motion projector for film). For recording, Muybridge apparently used 12 trip cameras to record the image, which varied from initially a horse and other animals, to men, women and children carrying out an assortment of tasks. The black and white and quite grainy stills are interesting because you can see the tension in the muscles, the extension of the limbs and therefore the structure of movement.
Youtube short introduction; Masters of Photography – Eadweard Muybridgewww.youtube.com/watch?v=3sRwzbTz0_8 –