I went to the National Gallery of Art today to draw in the sculpture galleries with my friend. The drawing above is from Aimé-Jules Dalou’s portrait of Alphonse Legros. I’ve drawn it before. And I drew it twice more today. The drawing above is today’s second drawing. Below is the first, which was also a sort of “warm up” drawing.
The first drawing measures 12 inches in length in the longest area; the second measures 11 inches, but the man’s features are larger in the warm up because the format is tightly cropped in a notebook. Both are drawn using Caran d’Ache Neopastel crayons, using just three colors.
After doing these two largish drawings I turned to a smaller notebook to draw two of Rodin’s face studies of Honoré Balzac, both of which are amazing sculptural works and comparatively difficult to draw for their exaggerations and foreshortening.
I started first with a pencil drawing made very freely. I let myself get acquainted with things when I draw and some drawings are ways of talking to myself about what I’m seeing.
For the other drawings I made of the Balzac, I used a wonderfully expressive Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil.
In each drawing I feel like I am learning something about Rodin’s visual ideas and his feelings about the man he was portraying. He portrays Balzac as a powerful and mysterious figure. It tells something about the power of great art that Rodin’s forms create these inferences about Balzac’s personality in ways that photography of the man clearly does not. In contrast with the writer’s rather ordinary appearance, Rodin creates a Protean figure while preserving elements of likeness.
The forms are so exaggerated that it’s difficult to get them right. But I will draw these sculptures again because I want to learn these things.
I realize too that I have to allow myself my own reactions — that I am reacting to Rodin, and I am reacting to my reactions to Rodin, and I am translating the three dimensional images into 2 dimensional ones, and striving to be sensitive to the qualities of the particular materials that I’m using whether it’s the Neopastels or pencil or pastel pencil.
The drawing that made of Dalou’s Alphonse Legros appears in an earlier post:
Here’s today’s Legros and that earlier one together:
Of course the wonderful thing about sculpture is that you can walk around it and draw from different vantage points.
A link to the NGA feature on the sculpture can be found at that post. And a link to NGA’s two Rodin faces of Balzac is here: