1994: The Copyist

Twenty years ago, I produced a painting study for my class with Gelsey Verna. She gave an assignment to copy from a painting. I decided to work from a Raoul Dufy painting I saw at the Art Institute of Chicago. Here is the original on the left, with my study to the right.

DufyAndCopy

I wasn’t really interested in using his distinctive style of flat colors with black lines over it. I was interested in how he actually painted it. How did he get such strong black lines over wet paint? That’s called “painting wet on wet,” it’s tricky.

I had a very difficult time replicating his technique. I finally used a pinstriping brush normally used in sign painting. I could load the brush with a lot of paint and lay down flowing black lines. But it is long and floppy, so I could not get the fast, consistent strokes that Dufy used. Oh well, that is his primary style, he is well practiced and I am just a painting student, trying to reverse engineer it. I am sure he used a different brush technique than I did.

While making this study, I did learn a lot about wet over wet painting. I thought I did a few spots well, like the red couch on the left. It took the yellow and black overpainting just like the original. And a lot of my black crosshatching in the center seemed fast and rhythmic like the original. But some of Dufy’s color choices are rather strange. I just could not match that pale gold in the upper right or the purple on the lower right.

I only copied parts of the painting I wanted to analyze, simplifying the overall composition. You can’t make an exact copy anyway. What if it turned out brilliant, and someday someone thinks they found a long lost Dufy work?

Art students have a long history of copying paintings, and many museums have a long traditions of allowing Copyists to come into the gallery with their easel and oil paints and work right in front of the real painting. I always wanted to go to the Art Institute and copy directly from the original Dufy. But after I completed this study, on my next visit to the museum, the painting was not on display. Even today it is still not back on display.

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