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The Spanish School

The Art Of Painting - The Spanish School - 2, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
 
 
The Admiral is bathed in air. The solidifying force of finely contrasted values and subtle colour-contrasts is now the master's secret, which henceforth is to be a model throughout the generations. He now knows that a living illusion is not enhanced by rigid draperies accentuated equally throughout, but that movement is imparted by free handling, that real texture of surfaces was more perfectly suggested by colour and tone-relations than by minute imitation of the passages detached from the general envelopment.
The Admiral is a living character whose pose is as determined as his face, which is rendered in very definite planes, and is " flesh and bone," by force of that justness of tone and the weight-giving truth of colour. Let us examine more closely its execution. The ground, as with some of the Dutch masters, is grey, subsequently warmed, graduating to the ochre-coloured floor, over which the whole figure appears to have been painted ; for the blacks are thinly imposed on it, and the baton in the gloved hand is again so meagrely touched in as to show the background and the black drapery through it. The cast shadow on the floor is a mere wash of dark over the prepared ground, but nothing can exceed the fascination such qualities have for the craftsman, the full-brushed light on the sleeves, with the few deliberate high-standing impastos resolutely laid on them, and the liquid treatment of the gloves.
The picture is a masterpiece of construction, bigness, and tonal relief, a fine example of Velazquez's later direct or nearly direct manner, and this in spite of the doubts expressed by certain critics with regard to its authorship.
Those who assert—and there are many—that Rubens, who spent nine months in Madrid with Velazquez at the impressionable age of twenty-nine, exerted no influence on the younger man, cannot have examined with any care either the" Venus and Cupid " or the small " Philip IV." They are distinctly in the Rubens manner, or adaptations of it in the hands of a realist, who very possibly had little sympathy with what he would have considered the mannerisms of the Flemish master.



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