I’ve been thinking a lot about the finish of my work lately. In the context of representational painting there are two extremes here - and any number of staging posts between them.
There is the “licked finish”, characteristic of French academic art, in which the presence of the artist’s hand is disguised by making the surface of the painting completely smooth. David, Ingres, Delaroche and Bouguereau are notable proponents of this approach. Standing in front of a painting such as Ingres’ Mme Moitessier or Delaroche’s Execution of Lade Jane Grey I get tingles down my spine at the extraordinary flawlessness of these works.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the visible bravura brushstokes which are seen, famously, in Rembrandt's Jan Six and in works by Hals and Sargent. A particular favourite of mine who
espoused this approach over the licked finish was Sweden’s Anders Zorn. I love the energy and freedom of his brushwork and the brilliant luminosity it gives his canvases. Here are some examples:
To do either sort of painting well takes remarkable dexterity and razor-sharp observation and there are artists I admire in both camps (although Bouguereau’s subject matter is normally a bit chocolate-boxy for my tastes). As an incorrigible tinkerer with a rather lazy approach to searching out key shapes I don’t yet feel have the ability to get the immediate grasp on the subject necessary to do bravura successfully – but maybe I’ll get there some day!
Aspiring artist, training in the classical tradition.