Color Notes

December 11th, 2011 § 1 comment

I wanted to read about drawings in India, and found this drawing through a search involving the words India preparatory drawing. It had been in a Christie’s sale a few years ago, and it reminded me more of an underdrawing than a drawing made in preparation of another work. The catalogue didn’t go into detail (relatively low value work with a $2-3,000 estimate), but it looked to me like an early stage of a collaborative effort. The overall design had been roughed out in brush and gray color (looking like graphite) and wonderful color touches were applied in paint. (The cataloguer wrote “transparent and opaque pigments” which seems like a more sensible way of putting it – better than worrying about whether to write watercolor or watercolour and choosing between gouache or bodycolor or tempera.) The touches of color look like they are meant as a guide for the next artist in an assembly line.

India, Kotah, 18th century | Preparatory Drawing of a Seated King | Opaque and transparent pigments on paper | 330 x 277 mm | Christie's NY 20 March 2008, lot 206

After this I was thinking of written notations about color in drawings and there seem to be two main reasons for their inclusion: as memory aids for artists and as guides for collaborators. The drawing below, from an album (now dismantled) at the British Museum, gives both painted indications for color and written indications for color and fabric types for the costume makers who would have to execute the garments.


Stefano della Bella | Ballet Costume Study for a Gardener | Pen and brown ink, with brown wash and watercolour, over graphite | 276 x 202 mm | British Museum


As an example of memory aid color notes, I found this completely atypical drawing of Ingres. Atypical because he usually draws in the most controlled way. Instead, here it is all about registering the colors in a cloud formation quickly.  Gris, bleu tendre, clair and the other words are dashed off as rapidly as the cloud outlines. M. Ingres was in such a rush that rather than write clair again, he used id.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres | Cloud Study | Graphite | 202 x 182 mm | Musée Ingres, Montauban


§ One Response to Color Notes

  • Jeannine Cook says:

    Wonderful to see someone so perfectionist as Ingres doing what most of us do in our haste to catch some effect of light or movement of clouds! How clever of you to find such a drawing – thank you.