Friday, December 20, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Back Views

On glancing through some of the works of French artist and lithographer Nicolas Toussaint Charlet (1792–1845) born this day in fact, 20 December in 1792, I noticed he had drawn a portrait of Napoleon, back view - "Napoleon with Folded Hands, Seen from the Rear".

That sent me down an arty farty rabbit hole looking for other "back views". I've been fascinated by sketches, paintings and caricatures of anyone showing just a view of their back ever since a work friend from long ago, a fine artist too, sketched a back view of one of our senior tribunal judges. He held it up for all to see asking, "Who's this?" We all recognised him immediately, just from a few lines. I used to have a copy of that sketch, but as yet I've been unable to find it.

My husband, among paintings he did when much younger, has an example of a back-view portrait too, of Jackie Gleason - in typical walking away mode.

In portaits from front or side view it must be difficult enough to capture a likeness. The artist needs a very sharp eye for detail, and something of an intuitive eye also - seeing just beneath the surface. From the back it's even more tricky to catch a likeness, I guess. Tilt of shoulder, slant of hip, how the head is typically held, minor detail but very telling when depicted well.

I searched around the net for more examples. A few are below, some caricature-like, some are not meant to portray a specific person, some are by world-famous painters.

 La Promeneuse by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

 Mary Cassatt at the Louvre - Edgar Degas

 Illustration from "The Magic Pudding" by Norman Lindsay

 Figure of a Man  by George B. Luks

 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales by James Gillray

  Also by James Gillray

 Intérieur  by Gustave Caillebotte

 Back View of Countrywoman in Hat and Shawl by James Ward

 A Pair of Lovers by Vincent van Gogh


mike said...

I feel compelled to comment on my first thoughts when I read your post today, Twilight. The back of "Gordon" did much to champion an historical movement. The photos were taken 150 years ago. This series of photographs, while repugnant, can be viewed as art for its ability to tell a story and impact the viewer's psyche.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Oh! That's an image not easily forgotten. Good addition, thank you, I hadn't seen it before, or read about Gordon. It's a miracle he survived when one considers the poor, dirty, bacteria-infested conditions he'd have been forced to live in, and with open wounds!