Thursday, April 10, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - Un Moulage Sur Nature (Edouard Dantan)

So there's this genre of paintings that I really love, and they mostly come out of the 19th century.  They are paintings that show scenes of the studio life of artists.  Edouard Dantan did a whole series of these paintings, that often showed sculptors working in their studios (including depictions of his father, Antoine Larent Dantan). 
This is one such painting in which we see a sculptor creating a cast of the nude model's leg.  I love Dantan's paintings for the way they give us a glimpse inside the studios of other artists.  As an artist myself, it is a familiar scene, and sometimes I look at these settings and wish my own studio looked like those.  This painting, "Un Moulage Sur Nature," is a great example of how Dantan captured the atmosphere of the studio, with a natural north-facing light source, suggesting a skylight just above them (a dream of mine to have in a studio someday). 
I also love the pose of the model in this painting.  It's a terrific candid moment in the studio, and her contrapposto emphasizing the utter monotony and tediousness of posing in the studio.  She is clearly bored, tired, and ready to be done.  That is a great capture by Dantan.  I also love the items on the shelves in the background, such as the pots and plaster casts... yet another thing I would love to have in my own studio for drawing and painting resources.  Another thing I love about that detail is the way in which it shows just how cluttered the studio life of an artist is.  We can all relate to the struggle to make and find space for all of our projects that we've finished, and space for all the materials we need for future projects.  Sometimes, no matter how clean and organized we try to keep our studios, we can't help but end up with a certain amount of clutter. 
And finally, one of the other specific things I love about this painting is the way in which its appearance suggests the messiness of studio life, particularly for a sculptor working with plaster.  There seems to be plaster everywhere - on the floor, on the stepladder, on the model platform, and on the artist and assistant's clothing.  We see the evidence of past and current projects that have taken place in the studio just by the way the materials and studio furnishings look... how used they look.  As a painter, it reminds me of my easels.  And my floor where there are paint stains or varnish stains, or just dirt in general.  Again, no matter how hard we try to keep things clean, there will always be a certain amount of wear and tear to our things.  This painting encapsulates all these wonderful qualities of studio life.  For artists, it is familiar.  This is a painting that looks like home.  It looks like the enjoyment we have as artists in our studios.  It is our "happy place."

Un Moulage Sur Nature
oil on canvas

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