Rubeniste vs. Poussiniste controversy

A worth reading piece about art for those who deeply engage in the art making process in terms of drawing and painting preference. I’m taking my second drawing class right now as a required course for my Art minor and find this piece so true and interesting.

It’s so true that drawing is an art of being more descriptive rather than being expressive as painting.

The only theory of drawing technique which has been taught in my class is to

always DRAW what you see, NOT what you think it is.

It’s a very tricky and confusing tip yet amazingly helpful. I truly grasped this awesome tip when I started to feel sleepy in class and when I looked at my objects, I didn’t even care about what I was looking at. I JUST PURELY and SIMPLY put on whatever I saw, a white dot or a dark weird shapes. None of them, the dots not the shapes alone looked like the objects at all. Yet, when I actually stepped back and looked at my finished work, it really was a victorious achievement. “It just looked like it!”

So yea, if you think you’re going to draw an eye, you’ll drive yourself into another direction of drawing a NORMAL eye which doesn’t look like the eyes that you’re supposed to draw. The same thing happens for tough objects such as glass or water. Applying this tip helps you overcome your preconception over your objects and make the process much “easier” (not easy yet less hard)

Anw, lengthy introduction stops here. I hope you like it. I was shared this piece and love the person who shared it :”) So please share if you think it speaks to you then

My in-class drawings last semester

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Rubeniste vs. Poussiniste controversy

Generally speaking what distinguishes drawing from a paintingin broadest terms is the accent on the descriptiveness of the line rather than the expressiveness of the colour. Having said that there is just as many “drawings” and as many “paintings” that do not satisfy this definition.

To answer the proverbial question: What was first, the drawing or the painting? one has to search within the human’s earliest pictorial expressions. The Paleolithic caves of Altamira, Lescaux and others are profusely decorated with images of animals as well as “abstract” pictograms. The images of animals are presented as a simple outline, most likely done with a piece of carbonized twig, or are coloured in with various shades of naturally available clays (i.e. earth pigments). If these example can be applied to answer the posed question than one has to concede that both modes of expression existed side by side commanding equal importance.

The schism between drawing and painting regarding their importance was more apparent during the Medieval times when drawings seldom existed as an independent artistic work, satisfying mostly a utilitarian character. They illustrated various daily implements or simple contraptions, or were used as a starting point for a more ambitious painting or sculptural projects. Preliminary drawings were often submitted to a patron before contracts were signed for larger commissions. During the Renaissance the status of the drawing dramatically changed; it slowly evolved from the subordination to the other forms of art and took on a more elevated and independent character.

The other question equally debated and equally difficult to answer was: What is more important design or colour?

Giorgio Vasari (1511 –1574) divides his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects into disegno and colore and the excellence in disegno was considered a goal… to which every artist should aspire to. This was further expounded by the rivalry between the School of Venice to which colore was ascribed as a major force, and the school of Tuscany for which drawing was the underlying force. Vasari didn’t completely disregard artists that were colorists, but still considered the drawing as more intellectually challenging and requiring more skill. His views will inadvertently shape the opinions of art critics throughout the history of art, practically to the time of the Impressionists.

Rubénistes vs Poussinistes

The two factions Rubénistes and Poussinist took their names after painters Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640) and Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).

Rubenistes advocated that colour is the essence of life and nature and at least of equal importance to the design. The Poussinistes considered that the intellectual appeal of a painting was afforded by the presence of clarity, logic, and order, inspired by the classical art from Greek and Roman antiquities.

The great controversy developed in France in 1670’s and culminated during the mid-1800s. The establishment, the Academy, sided with the Poussinistes and promoted the supremacy of draughtsmanship and design over the painting. However the Rubenistes triumphed with the acceptance in 1712 of Watteau, a supreme colourist, as a full member of the Academy. Moreover his special style was recognized by giving it a particular term: fêtes galantes.

An overall acceptance of colour by artists and public alike didn’t also include a scientific understanding how it actually stimulates our senses, nor how different colours interact one upon another. Until practically nineteenth century it was considered that every object has a ‘true’ colour and little attention has been paid to other influences, such as different illumination, interaction of colour, physical distance of objects etc.

In 1839 a very important work was published: The principles of Colour Contrasts, by Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889), Professor of Chemistry at the tapestry makers Manufacture des Gobelins. (see: Birren, Faber, History of Colour in Painting, Van Nostrand Reinhold, N.Y. 1965). This seminal work basically expressed, what painters knew intuitively: the greatest colourists have always obtained the maximum brilliance with a minimum of colour. John Ruskin (1819-1900) further postulated that in a painting one can change a certain colour by altering its surround rather than actually modifying it.


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