He's So Sketchy

31 Aug 2014

But in the very best way! 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.

Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge by Giovanni Boldini, oil on canvas, 49 x 40, 1905.
Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge by Giovanni Boldini,
oil on canvas, 49 x 40, 1905. All works by Giovanni Boldini.

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

These same characteristics in Boldini's approach to charcoal 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.

Girl in a Black Hat by Giovanni Boldini, pastel, 1890. La Lettura by Giovanni Boldini, chalk on paper, 1931.
Girl in a Black Hat, pastel, 1890. La Lettura, chalk on paper, 1931.

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 force 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.

Portrait of the Marquise by Giovanni Boldini, oil on canvas, 1914.
Portrait of the Marquise, oil on canvas, 1914.

Even a single abstract drawing or painting 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, Creating Abstract Art could be just the guide you are looking for. Enjoy!

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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laurafan wrote
on 23 Apr 2012 9:24 PM

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.

on 1 Sep 2014 9:49 AM

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

CarlaH@16 wrote
on 1 Sep 2014 1:33 PM

I learn so much from your blogs. I am now a fan of Boldini! Thanks!

PGL25th wrote
on 6 Sep 2014 2:07 PM

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.

frizzlerock wrote
on 6 Mar 2015 4:31 PM

Woooow....Thank you for the new artist to study!!!