I was on a train this summer rumbling past Carrara, Italy, and saw these huge blocks of marble.
I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos from the train window.
Seeing these awkwardly stacked massive cubes of marble and knowing that this is same place where Michelangelo got his chunk of marble for David, and where John Singer Sargent painted his watercolors of quarry workers, made these images very exciting for me.
Many people are not aware of the watercolor paintings John
Singer Sargent did in Carrara during his time in Italy.
A number of these fantastic paintings by Sargent are searchable and viewable on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, website. And of course, the new American Wing is now open at the MFA, with many of Sargent’s breathtaking watercolors and oil portraits in a new gallery celebrating this remarkable American artist.
Also, Sargent’s sketchbooks (!) and drawings are searchable, viewable, and can be downloaded through the “light box” function on the Harvard Art Museums website. A place to start is, “Under Cover: Artists’ Sketchbooks.” At this online display from the exhibition, there are sketchbooks from other artists too. Since I am an artist, and someone who has taught drawing, seeing these sketchbooks brings a wave of pleasure to me. Just glancing through the sketchbooks evokes the ease with which the artist captured the curve of a neck or the tension in a torso. It also allows us to see how the artist changes his mind as he plans a finished piece of art. Sketchbooks reveal so much of the thinking and work behind the artwork!
Thinking of sketching and creating a realistic portrayal of a scene… I suggest you look back at Sargent’s Carrara and Quarry paintings and see how Sargent plays with the sense of scale. Muscular workers are presented as tiny people–a couple of brushstrokes, really– dwarfed by the gigantic boulders of marble. The importance of scale relates to my previous post about the new Lego store at Mall of America and its playfulness with the sense of scale.