Old films of de László painting

Still from an old black and white film of de László in Venice (click to go to the clip).

Still from an old black and white film of de László in Venice (click to go to the clip).

My friend Josh showed me this website with old footage of Philip Alexius de László painting from life. Above is a still from a short film showing de László painting a plein air sketch of the (pilfered) horses on the cathedral of St. Marks.

Still from an old film of de László painting a half-length portrait (click to go to the clip).

Still from an old film of de László painting a half-length portrait (click to go to the clip).


The second film shows de László painting a half-length portrait. He steps back a lot, but not far enough to really sight-size. Its interesting how much he uses the mahl stick. There is a lot of information on his medium (poppy oil -who would have guessed?), colors, and technique on this page.

The website tells the story of how they got so much footage of de László painting:

In 1926, when de László painted George Eastman, whose portrait by de László is at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, U.S.A, he was given one of the first motion picture cameras, the Ciné-Kodak model B, introduced in 1925. From then until de László’s death in 1937, the artist, his sons and his studio assistant Mr. Harwood filmed a unique record of his life and work on 16mm film, which was sent to America to be processed. He was filmed painting in his studio at 3 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, with his sitters in his garden and at leisure with his family in many parts of the globe. So many of his patrons with whom he was friends are represented: most notably Lord Devonport, the Duc de Gramont, and Baron Schröder’s family at their home Dell Park. The film also contains unique footage of de László painting a model from Lady Duff-Gordon’s fashion house “Lucile” for the Gaumont British Cinema Company (November 1928) and the bronze horses on the façade of St Mark’s cathedral in Venice (1926) . According to Etherington-Smith and Pilcherin’s The It Girls, Elinor Glyn had been filmed by George Eastman himself while de László was painting her in 1912.

All the surviving film has been transferred to video and more recently onto CDs to preserve it.

The dvd with the footage would be facinating to get a hold of, I’m going to see if I can try to track down a copy.

Sunday morning time-lapse fun

Here is a short video from a quick portrait sketch yesterday morning. After a one-shot session like this I usually end up with a ton of paint on the canvas from pushing shapes around quickly. This is where scraping down with a palette knife is so useful. In fact, I would say scraping down between sessions at the beginning of a portrait is probably the second most useful thing I learned while studying portraiture (the first being the sight-size technique).

I have a short video of the scraping down process which I’ll add soon.

Lighting the model in portraits

This post is for my portrait student in our discussion about lighting the model for portraits. I quickly pasted together a few examples to explain myself better.

The classic 3/4 view in portrait lighting. Light on both sides of the face with a strong ‘Van Dyck Z’. Painter stands between the window and the model:

Portrait lighting with light on the far side of the face, half-tone or shadow on the nose:

The portrait model lit from both sides, much more difficult to pull off in my opinion (the Serov on the left has light bouncing from everywhere in the room):

The portrait model with half the face in full shadow, seems to very popular with self portraits:

I couldn’t find good historic examples of the high light-source, raccoon effect which is popular today in portrait painting. There are more lighting possibilities than just these four, but I figure this is a good start.

Someone sent me this link to a tutorial on lighting, one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Distance in Portraiture

At work on a full-length portrait in Palazzo Corsini

I’m currently working on one of the larger portraits I’ve ever painted. I also have very little time to do it as the sitter is about to have a baby. Luckily the room where I’m working is the largest room I’ve ever had to do a portrait commission in, and it is so much easier to paint fast when you have this amount of distance to see the model from.

Here is a quick time lapse film of the first four days. A last minute idea using my cellphone camera, so the quality is not the best. The jumps in progress are because the battery kept dying…