He Has a Sketchy Side

Boldini & Abstract Painting
Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge by Giovanni Boldini, oil on canvas, 49 x 40, 1905.

Giovanni Boldini & Abstract Painting

But sketchy can be a very good thing in this context! When I was trolling for artists who draw like they paint and vice versa, Giovanni Boldini immediately came to mind. His mark making is a tour de force, no matter if he is working in oils, pastels, or when charcoal painting. Everything from backgrounds to figures’ dresses to sitters’ very limbs look like pieces of an abstract painting amplified and brought forward in space.

Abstract painting & Boldini: Girl in a Black Hat by Boldini, pastel, 1890.
Girl in a Black Hat by Boldini, pastel, 1890.

Boldini has an undeniable aptitude for gesture because of the variety of his strokes and the physicality of his movements. He really acts on the surface of his drawings and paintings. Even a simple portrait sketch or figure drawing, when looked at through an abstract painting lens, becomes a maze of lines and movement.

These same characteristics in Boldini’s approach to drawing really stand out in his painting methods as well. His stroke is always in keeping with the direction or motion he is trying to convey, and usually that turns out to be a lot of motion indeed! In fact, Boldini was known as the “master of swish” because of the extensive amount of visual movement he worked into his paintings and drawings.

Most of all, I am intrigued by how “full” Boldini makes his paintings and drawings feel with lines, curves, and hatch marks alone. He can take the simplest building block of art and evolves it into something with so much vitality and depth, even when his compositions are fairly sparse. In fact, when I look at his work it is usually the strokes all around the figures that I tend to give my attention. They are just so free but give a sense of atmosphere and spatiality to the works.

Abstract painting & Boldini
Portrait of the Marquise by Boldini, oil on canvas, 1914.

Even a single abstract painting or drawing lesson could be your much needed outlet to explore expressiveness and gesture—aspects of art that we all try to incorporate in our artistic repertoires. If you want to see what such painting can offer you, Abstract Painting Creative Collection is just the kit you are looking for. Enjoy!

P.S. The latest Paint Along with popular instructor Johannes Vloothuis is here on Using Photo References. Sign up and enjoy!

P.P.S. Are you a fan of Boldini? Are there other artists you can name who draw and paint with the same style and power? Leave a comment and let me know.





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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

5 thoughts on “He Has a Sketchy Side

  1. I love Giovanni Boldini. He is one of my favorite artists. If you have the chance, visit the museum dedicated to him in Ferrara, his hometown in Italy.

  2. I think Boldini is fabulous. I am in awe of his mark-making. Wow. You ask who else comes to mind with such power in a single stroke: Hokusai, with a much simpler image, but no less expressive. And the artist De Kooning. While I find his work very painful to look at, his marks are distinctive and carry deep emotion and power. Thank you, Courtney, for your commitment and consistently high quality, daily blogs. I love them. Kate Nicholson

  3. Giovanni Boldini is also one of my favorite painters. Not all his paintings are so sketchy. I love his portrait, I was fascinated by the “mask” effect I felt when I see his painting, his treatment of face, along with other aspects on the painting, is very dramatic. Other artists I feel can be compared with this style: Paul Helleu. Also, I feel Anders Zorn’s portrait of Isabella Steward Gardner has similar “dramatic” effect.