Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hidden Treasures

A gallery at the Walters Art Museum displaying a small portion of the the 
founders' collection arranged in the "salon" fashion popular in the 19th century. 
Note Detaille's "The Picket" in the lower left corner. 

On a visit to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, I was delighted to discover works by some of the best French military painters of the 19th century. http://thewalters.org

"The Picket" by Edouard Detaille, 1875. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

More and more museums are beginning to display their collections of academic art that they once hid away as embarrassingly old fashioned. 

"Irregulars in the Trenches," by Alphonse de Neuville, 1874. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

The Walters and some other smaller museums are especially good places to look for paintings like these because they are often built around their founders' personal collections. 

"Attack at Dawn" by Alphonse de Neuville, 1877. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

In this case, the collectors were William and Henry Walters, American millionaires of the "Gilded Age" who regularly traveled to Europe to buy art.

"Napoleon" by Jean Louis Meissonier, 1962, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Picture This: A Spanish Colonial Family, Part 3


This is the third posting about my painting for the Santa Barbara Presidio in California. I've finished the painting now, having gone through several steps to get here. It can be a tedious process, but I think it is worth it in the end. Let me show you what I've done. 


The tight drawing was reviewed by the client to make sure not only that it tells the story they want - a typical family of Santa Barbara Presidio in the late-18th and early 19th century - but that the details are are historically authentic. 


An important part of the story is the fact that the people of Santa Barbara Presidio, and 18th century Spanish California generally, were drawn from several ethnic backgrounds.  Based on period records, I was asked to show a family where the father is mestizo - of mixed Native American and Spanish ancestry; the mother is mulato - of mixed African and Spanish ancestry; and the children reflect in their appearance all of their heritages. Here the casta paintings of New Spain (Mexico) are of some help, but luckily I live in a wonderfully ethnically mixed neighborhood and I've spent a lot of time looking at friends and neighbors. 


The clothing I show the family wearing is drawn from a variety of sources. The mother's is based on what was captured by the artist José Cardero, who visited Monterey and Mission San Carlos, California, in 1791.  These women were shown in their best clothing, but we know that daily wear was essentially the same, just of simpler materials. There are also the fabrics found in the Santa Barbara Presidio's own documents of the annual supply shipments from Mexico. 



I also looked at casta paintings from late-18th century Mexico for details such as the striped rebozo, the red and black neckerchief and the yellowish panel trimmed in red ribbon at the top of the blue wool skirt. 


I've modeled the father, a Spanish soldado de cuera, on similar documents, including a little-known picture from the 1780s that shows a soldier with a long mustache.  


His cuera (white buckskin armor) is plain, which was probably typical of enlisted men, and is based on this same picture. 


The father wears his armor and carries a shield (adarga) because he's going on patrol or perhaps an expedition. The shield is based on several examples of this same pattern that survive. One is in the Mission San Carlos museum, another in the Smithsonian Institution and the third in the Museo del Ejército in Toledo, Spain. 


The color scheme of black, red, and yellow ochre is based in part on the Mission San Carlos shield which, though allowed to deteriorate sadly, still retains traces of its original paint. I remember it from years ago when it was not so warped and had far more paint remaining.


It's not yet clear whether shields of this kind were made locally or imported from New Spain. They don't appear in Santa Barbara Presidio's supply list, but the level of craftsmanship is high. One way or another, they probably had to be painted, or repainted, over time. 


Though pigments were imported twice to the Santa Barbara Presidio, the first was for decorations to the chapel and the second for dyeing cloth,  I chose these colors because they were also used by Native Americans in California, who mined and produced the minerals for painting murals, objects, and themselves.  


We know from oral histories collected in the 19th century that young children growing up at this time in California wore only simple shirts (cotoncitos).  Older children adopted more adult styles, but continued to go without hats, jackets, or shoes until they were fully grown. The younger boy's cotoncito was based on examples found in Mexican casta paintings. 


Other details were drawn from actual objects in California State Parks museums, such as this splendid spur from Monterey. 


And this iron hoe head, excavated at La Purism Mission, near Santa Barbara. 


Though I posed models for all the figures in this painting, what I could not do is gather five humans of various ages, a sheep, a cat, and a basket full of produce together at the same time. So in order to understand how the light would fall on a group such as this, and the shadows, reflected lights and highlights it would produce, I built a small diorama and filled it with figures I sculpted and painted. 


Though the figures are crude, they allowed me to experiment with various lighting schemes and gave me the information I needed. 


I've promised my client, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, not to publish the entire painting until after the interpretive sign for which it was commissioned is unveiled, probably at the end of the year. 


But I can show you the painting at its initial stage - with flat washes of acrylic defining the color scheme. I then went over the pictures with gouache (opaque watercolor) in thin and thick washes, and spattering and dry brushing for textures and transitions.  A bit of the finished painting can be seen at the top of this page. 

A. Detail from the finished illustration of a Spanish colonial family, courtesy of Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

B. Final drawing for the illustration - on 100% rag illustration board, ready for painting.

C. De Mulato, y Mestiza, nace Caurteron (From Mulato, and Mestiza, is born a Quadroon), casta painting, Mexico. Private collection.

D. Detail from a wash drawing by José Cardero, one of the artists on the Malaspina Expedition. It is of the plaza at Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel Mission), California, 1791, and shows a man who is probably a soldier without his cuera (civilian and military dress were nearly identical) and two women. Museo de America, Madrid.

E. & F. Casta paintings from Mexico, last half of the 18th century, showing the red and black scarf I put on the mother, along with a blue wool skirt with dark yellow cotton top panel. The little girl's red skirt is also seen in figure E. 

G. Copy of a painting showing the 1786 visit to Carmel Mission of the French exploration party led by Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse. There are two known versions of this picture, but only one shows the figure of a Spanish presidio soldier standing on the left, hat in hand and wearing a cuera. Museo de America, Madrid. 

H. Detail from figure E showing the soldier. He wears a mustache and his leather armor, a cuera, is plain. 

I. An  adarga (rawhide shield) in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  This was purchased in the late-19th century from an antiques store in San Diego, California.  A very similar example is in the Museo de Ejército, Toledo, Spain, that was donated in the 1850s by a Mexican gentleman. And a third example is in the Mission San Carlos collection, Carmel, California. This suggests that these shields were manufactured in Mexico and sent to the frontier. 

J. Here is the shield at Mission San Carlos, Carmel, California. It belonged to the illustrator, Jo Mora. I've watched it deteriorate seriously over the years, so that it is even more warped than shown here and has shed most of its paint. But traces of red and black can still be seen. 

K. As it is currently displayed, the Mission San Carlos shield has a miniature version mounted below to show how the original may once have been painted. 

L.  The kinds of pigments used for paints that were manufactured by Native Californian peoples since prehistoric times. Such colors could have been used to paint or repaint soldiers' shields. From Paul Douglas Campbell's Earth Pigments and Paint of the California Indians: Meaning and Technology (2007).

M. De mestizo y de india, coyote (From a mestizo and an Indian, a coyote), by Miguel Cabrera, 1763. From the Col. Elizabeth Waldo-Dentzel, Multi Cultural Music and Art Foundation, Northridge, California.  Note the boy's striped shirt.

N. Californio spur on display at Monterey State Historic Park, California.

O. Wrought iron hoe head on display at La Purisma Mission State Historic Park, California.

P. Figures I've modeled from wire and polymer clay. These figures were then baked and painted.

Q. This is the simple little diorama I set up in order to study various lighting schemes. 

R. Here the shadows and lights have been worked out in charcoal on a photocopy of the drawing.

S. The entire painting was covered with thin washes of the basic colors, to seal the board and to kill the white. Over this the painting was built up with layers of gouache (opaque watercolor).

Campbell, Paul Douglas, Earth Pigments and Paint of the California Indians: Meaning and Technology (2007).

Katzew, Ilona, Casta Painting; Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico, (New Haven and London: Yale

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Picture This: A Spanish Colonial Family, Part 2


In my last post, I showed you the concept sketch for the illustration I'm working on, a painting of a Spanish era family at Santa Barbara Presidio in the late-18th or early-19th century.  That sketch was approved, I've now completed the finished drawing and am getting ready to paint it.  Here's how I got to this point.


A lot of research goes into a painting like this - that's a large part of why I like this work so much.  I seem to have a passion for finding out about what most people find irrelevant.  


For example, I include in this drawing a little boy learning how to ride on the back of a sheep. Last time, I included a casta painting that shows a boy doing this in 18th century New Spain (Mexico) and mentioned that this was the practice in early California as well.  A writer can just stop there and go no further, but as an illustrator I've got to draw that sheep. So what kind was it? 


Most scholars tell us that it was the churra sheep, first imported to the New World in the 16th century. They are now called churro in the United States and are raised to this day by the Navajo People in the American Southwest and by others who appreciate this historic breed (http://www.navajo-churrosheep.com/sheep-origin.html).


I love how they look - half wild, their wide range of colors and the fact that both males and females have horns. The males' horns are, however, more impressive - much larger and often in multiple sets.  I've chosen to show the boy on a shorter-horned example, perhaps a ewe or young male. I'll also paint the sheep a tan color with brown face and legs, like ones on the left and right sides of the photo, above.


I'm not much of a gardener, but of course the produce shown in and around the older boy's basket has to be as authentic to the place and time as I can make it. Luckily my client, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, put me in touch with Jerry Sortomme, professor emeritus of Santa Barbara City College Environmental Horticulture program and project manager of La Huerta, the historic gardens at Mission Santa Barbara (http://www.santabarbaramission.org/la-huerta).  


I made a point of visiting La Huerta on a recent trip to Santa Barbara and Jerry was also kind enough to send me a list of historic varieties of fruits and vegetables grown at the mission garden. I had to assume that similar plants were found in the nearby presidio's gardens, too.  With that list, I went looking for period images of produce. Not surprisingly, casta paintings from 18th century Mexico were a tremendous help. 


I was pleased to find that some varieties grown in Mexico today are not that different from those seen more than 250 years ago.  For example, the pumpkin or squash seen in the casta painting above, resembles this one: 


And the corn (maize) this Baja Californian raven is eating, in a c. 1765 painting by Father Ignacio Tirsch, is similar to yellow corn today.  


The smaller fruit on the ground are prickly pear fruit, called tuna.


I included photos of ceramic bowls and pitchers last time, examples found by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Now I needed a basket.   The Spanish probably did not make their own since all around them lived the Chumash People, Native Americans who wove superb baskets.  I chose as my model a simple flat-bottomed burden basket that is in the Ventura County Museum. 


In my next post, I'll describe my painting process and discuss the physical appearances and the clothing worn by my Spanish colonial family. 

A., B., and F. This is how my final drawing looks on the board.
C. This cartoon from the New Yorker magazine (2015) sums up how I imagine some people might view what interests me.
D. A churro ram I photographed some years ago at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in California.
E. "Rick Scully and his flock of Navajo Churro Sheep" from "Navajo Churro Sheep," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo-Churro_sheep
G. De Indio, y Mestiza. Coyote. Unknown artist, ca. 1760-1770. Philadelphia Museum of Art. From, Ilona Katzew, editor, New World Orders; Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery, 1996.
H. Casta painting by Luis de Mena, ca. 1750. Museo de América, Madrid. From Ilona Katzew, Casta Painting; Images of Race in Eighteenth Century Mexico. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.
I. This variety of Mexican pumpkin resembles one grown there more than 250 years ago.
J.  Watercolor of a raven on an ear of yellow corn, c. 1765. From Doyce Nunis and Elspeth Schulz-Bischof, The Drawings of Ignacio Tirsch; a Jesuit Missionary in Baja California. Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop, 1972.
K. The fruit of the prickly pear cactus, called tuna
L. Chumash burden basket. From, Travis Hudson and Thomas C. Blackburn, The Material Culture of the Chumash Interaction Sphere, v. 1, A Ballena Press/Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Cooperative Publication, 1979.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Picture This: A Spanish Colonial Family, Part 1


I'm working on an illustration of a Spanish colonial family of the late-18th to early-19th century for the Santa Barbara Presidio State Historic Park in California.  The presidio, or fort, dates back to 1782.  The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation commissioned my illustration for a new series of interpretive signage.  I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain how I approach an assignment like this. 

The purpose of the illustration is to show a more or less typical colonial family, each holding, wearing or doing something that tells us about their lives.  


So the mother, wrapped in her rebozo, holds her smallest child while saying goodbye to her husband, a soldier.  


Their daughter pours milk, that she collected herself, into a bowl for a cat.  Cats arrived in California with the earliest Spanish settlers and were valuable in keeping down the rodent population. 


The oldest son has a basket full of corn and squash from the garden plots outside the fort. 


And, my favorite, the youngest son is sitting astride a sheep, which is how families in Mexico and the Spanish Borderlands taught their children to ride.  

With the goal of the illustration in mind, I drew a concept sketch, shown at the top of this article.  I did not use models or other references for this sketch - it's simply based on my visual memory. The purpose of the sketch is to convey the poses, costumes, activities and mood of the illustration without going to the trouble of using models or finding other visual materials that might have to be changed if the client does not like my concept. Luckily, they did. 



I've now gone on to the "tight" drawing - for which I did pose models and found detailed references - such as the ceramic bowl and pitcher the girl will hold.  The Santa Barbara Trust's staff archaeologist sent me these photos - examples of things actually used at the presidio in the Spanish era. 

Next time, I'll show the tight drawing and some more of the research that went into it. 

*My thanks to Jarrell C. Jackman, Executive Director; Michael H. Imwalle, Archaeologist; and Anne Petersen, Associate Director for Historical Research, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation for all their past kindnesses and their generous assistance with this assignment.

A. This is my concept sketch for the illustration, drawn in pencil and from the imagination - without models or other references.

B. Drawn by José Cardero in 1791, this detail from a larger view of Mission San Carlos (Carmel) in California shows a man - perhaps a soldier - talking to two Spanish women. This is one of my references for the clothing shown in my illustration, including the women's striped rebozos (shawls). Museo de America, Madrid.

C. Californio women are seen milking cows near the Presidio of Monterey, California, from a watercolor  made during the Beechey Expedition, 1826. Bancroft Library, University of California.

D. There are no contemporary images of gardens in 18th century Alta California, but here is a view of Mission San José del Cabo, in Baja California, 1767. The gardens are the fenced area to left of the picture.  Painting by Father Ignacio Tirsch, original in the National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague. See Garden History Girl, http://gardenhistorygirl.blogspot.com/2011/04/garden-history-images-of-week-mexican.html

E. A Mexican casta painting shows a boy learning to ride on a sheep. Nineteenth century eyewitnesses tell us that this was done in California as well.  See Ilona Katzew's Casta Painting (2004), Plate 167. Anonymous, Collection of Malú and Alejandra Escandón, Mexico City.

F. and G. Terra cotta bowls and pitchers. Though the pitchers are actually chocolate pots, their general size, shape and material match the one shown in fig. C., above.

According to the Santa Barbara Presidio website (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=608),
"El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation under an operating agreement with California State Parks.  The Santa Barbara Trust’s mission is to preserve, restore, reconstruct and interpret historic sites in Santa Barbara County.  It engages in archaeological and historical research and publication to expand knowledge about Santa Barbara's history. The Santa Barbara Trust works closely with California State Parks, the City of Santa Barbara, the County of Santa Barbara and various cultural and educational constituencies to attract and inform a broad audience through its restoration projects, exhibits, living history demonstrations, public events and lectures, and public school programs.  For more information about the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, visit its website at http://www.sbthp.org/index.html."