It’s surprising we don’t talk of stripists and stripism because so many 20th artists, and especially American ones, worked with stripes. Barnett Newman, Myron Stout, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, and Frank Stella are some.
Ellsworth Kelly – Awnings, Avenue Matignon – 1950 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – 133 x 210 mm – Museum of Modern Art, NY – Inv. ref. 496.1997
Striped cloth and flags, rows of text, shelves of books, prison bars and uniforms, and skyscrapers could be things behind the stripes, but stripes in themselves, without reference to striped things, became enough of a subject for many artists—and for their publics.
Ellsworth Kelly – Fourteen Projects – 1955 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – Private Collection
Egon Schiele’s approach to stripes bridges traditional and modern art. Schiele and Schiele’s subjects were fond of stripes. The drawing just below, its title, Reclining Nude Girl in a Striped Frock [Liegender Mädchenakt im gestreiften Kittel] has arresting stripes.
Egon Schiele – Reclining Nude Girl in Striped Frock – Graphite, brush and watercolor on paper – 443 × 306 mm – Ortner Collection, Vienna
They work as pattern fields, much the way Klimt used richly encrusted cloth—they’re not there to define the body underneath. The title, and I do not know if it’s Schiele’s title, is apt since it echoes the two-sided character of stripes—that they’re neither one thing nor another, and the girl is described as both being naked and in a striped frock. It is an ambiguous title and subject. I wouldn’t know how to title the drawing.
Another drawing of Schiele’s that features stripes is the one below of his wife Edith. (There are at least two photographs of Edith wearing the dress of the drawing.) Here the stripes, and the breaks in the stripes, do more to define Edith’s figure and this makes it closer to the traditions of 19th century and earlier art.
Egon Schiele – Edith with Striped Dress, Sitting – 1915 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – 402 x 508 mm – Leopole Museum, Vienna
Closer, say, to the 18th century Watteau drawing of a reclining woman in British Museum, where the direction of the stripe segments give full meaning to what’s below. They are a kind of hatching.
Antoine Watteau – A Woman in a Striped Dress, Seen from Behind, Reclining on the Ground– Red and black chalks and graphite – 146 x 181 mm – British Museum Ref. 1895,0915.936
Watteau’s drawing of a Persian in a turban is especially wonderful because of the zigzags and hatching that make up the bold stripe of the man’s jacket. Watteau did his drawing in France, but the slightly younger Swiss artist, Etienne Liotard, lived in Constantinople and saw turbaned Ottomans firsthand. Many of his sitters, both men and women, wear opulent striped clothes and rest on comfortable-looking sofas. Domenico Tiepolo, a near contemporary of Liotard’s, also drew turbaned people dressed in stripes, Venice being a crossroads for east and west. Examples of Domenico Tiepolo’s stripes can be found in an earlier post.
Antoine Watteau – Seated Persian – Red and black chalks on laid paper and laid down – 300 x 200 mm – Louvre RF 36735
Michel Pastoreau wrote a book on stripes, engagingly titled The Devil’s Cloth: a History of Stripes. From a quick look, I understand that he concentrates on striped cloth in France, beginning in the Medieval period, when stripes were associated with the devil and such outcasts as prostitutes and lepers. This continued, at least in France, until the 18th century, when stripes became favored throughout society because of flags/patriotism/nationalism. This must be a terrible oversimplification, but it is interesting because in the 18th century, there was this burgeoning of stripes.
Neither relating to flags or the east, are these two drawings by Giuseppe Maria Crespi. They are illustrations for a tale about a boy named Cacasenno and his family. It’s a story about three generations of country people, who lack sophistication, but who are at times terrifically sensible (very close to the storylines of TV sitcoms). The whole series of drawings is in Bologna and viewable online here. The watercolors are derived from a series of drawings and etched illustrations. They were probably for a deluxe edition commissioned by a collector, although the Genus Bononaie site relates that Roberto Longhi had the idea that they were for ceramics. The Metropolitan has a preparatory drawing for the etching, where Cacasenno’s mother wears a plain dress, as in the etching. To enliven the richly ornamental watercolor, Crespi added the stripes.
Giuseppe Maria Crespi – Cacasenno with his Mother – 193 x 151 mm and Cacasenno Pacified by a Piece of Castangaccio – 197 x 149 mm – Black chalk underdrawing, brush and watercolor on paper
Finding drawings with stripes before the 18th century becomes more difficult, even in Italy. There are frescoes and paintings, such as Raphael’s Mass at Bolsena, with the Swiss Guards in their wide stripes; Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola with stripes that make one think of Palestine; and the Master of the Pala Sforzesca’s painting at the Brera, where Beatrice d’Este wears wide devil-may-care stripes.
There are two new wetsuits for surfers that are meant to protect wearers from shark attacks. There was an article and video in the Guardian (18 July 2013) on the suits, and here’s the LINK. One has a wavy camouflage print and the other has bold black and white stripes.
The makers say the camouflage suit will hide you from a shark, while the striped suit will warn a shark to stay away. It’s the striped one that made me think of stripes in art. First, because of Raphael’s Swiss Guards in the Mass at Bolsena fresco in the Vatican. However friendly and fetching the stripes of the Swiss Guard are, I guess they’re not meant to be so. (His Madonna della Seggiola in the Pitti has stripes that bring to mind the ancient Middle East and are more refined.)
Mostly, when I think of stripes I think of Domenico Tiepolo and have posted a number of his drawings below. Most of Domenico Tiepolo’s drawings are wonderful, but when he puts in stripes, they get to be extra wonderful. They’re worn by biblical era characters, entertainers, footmen, ladies and gentlemen, and even donkeys. Details of the stripes are below, and the full drawings are in the gallery.
Domenico Tiepolo – An Encounter During a Country Walk – Detail – Black chalk underdrawing, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa – (inv. ref. 17582)
Domenico Tiepolo – The Captive Birds – Detail – Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – 296 x 421 mm – Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge (inv. ref. 75.1984)
Domenico Tiepolo – Supplicants Before Pope Paul IV – Detail – Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – 463 x 362 mm – Princeton University Art Museum – (inv. ref. 1948-1289)
Domenico Tiepolo – The White Horse – Detail – Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – 300 x 420 mm – Comte de Ganay, Paris
Domenico Tiepolo – The Flight into Egypt – Detail – Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (inv. ref. IV,148)
Domenico Tiepolo – Jesus Walking on the Water – Detail – Black chalk underdrawing, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash – 487 x 375 mm – Louvre, Paris (inv. no. RF 1713.BIS, 75)
I’ve been writing about olive oil, and especially the business of olive oil, for an online publication called the Olive Oil Times, and I thought I’d try a post here about olives and drawings. The image just below is of a vase in the British Museum. The olive oil amphora is from around 520 BC and shows men harvesting olives from very stylized trees (the branches look almost like monkey puzzle branches). It is attributed to the Antimenes Painter (fl. 530-510 BC). Since it’s incised, and since it is very linear, it comes close to drawing, even if most people would see it as painted.
Attr. Antimenes Painter | Black Figure Amphora with Heracles Scene and Olive Gathering | 520 BC | 40.6 cm. high | British Museum | London
Images of olives are not as common as you would think. It could be that they were so present, and common, that it wouldn’t have made sense to depict them. At least, for Mediterranean artists. Van Gogh, who grew up in the Netherlands, was fascinated by olives. At the Saint-Rémy asylum, he painted them in oils and drew them in ink. Here is a drawing in reed pen and brown ink, with the lines so fluid, they look as if they could be done with a brush.
Vincent Van Gogh | Saint-Rémy Olives | 1889 | Reed pen and brown ink | Van Gogh Museum | Amsterdam
Olive oil is slow drying, and easily becomes rancid, making it a poor choice for a medium in oil painting. Cennino Cennini in his Libro dell’Arte recipes mentions linseed oil (writing olio di semenza di lino or olio di lin seme) most frequently. In Chapter 25, the only time Cennini uses the word olive (ulivo), he uses olive oil to grease a stone slab in the preparation of tracing paper. In Chapter 187, he calls it edible oil (olio da mangiare) and uses it to grease a wax figure before covering it in gesso, giving the reader the choice of using lampante oil (olio da bruciare). He sometimes tells his readers to use the oil of their choice, and sometimes does not specify what kind of oil should be used.
One thing that olive oil and drawings share, is that they should not be kept in the light. I’ve heard experts in olive oil say that a bottle kept in the light for a week is unfit to eat. So–storage in boxes, drawers, and cupboards for both drawings and olive oil–just miles apart.