Drawing Basics: Looking at Antonio Lopez Garcia's "Portrait of Maria"

American Artist Drawing magazine Looking at DrawingDa Vinci Head of the VirginAnthony Panzera comments on Antonio López García's Portrait of Maria.

by Anthony Panzera

Portrait of Maria by Antonio Lopez Garcia, pencil drawing
Portrait of Maria   
by Antonio López García, 1972, graphite drawing, 28 x 21. Collection the artist.

I first saw this drawing some 30 years ago in a magazine article highlighting Antonio López García's work. I could not release the image from my mind; I was pulled into the eyes of this portrait of a young girl. Seeing the portrait in person recently at the López's exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was even more compelling.  The portrait of this beautiful young girl, his daughter, is about one-half to two-thirds life size. What's revealed in seeing the portrait firsthand is the treatment of the surface of the paper. It seems to have been gessoed to a high, porcelain-like finish, then washed over with a tea-colored, irregularly applied glaze. The staining agent could be tea, or coffee, or just a simple pigment, but it doesn't appear to have been mixed in with the gesso before the gesso was applied. The result is a warm, satin-like surface.

This drawing was probably done from a photograph, but that's not important—López manages to convey a far deeper reality than most can when working from life. He went beyond the photograph, which is exactly the point when learning how to draw people, and you find the same kind of magical realism here that you do in one of the artist's landscapes or standing nudes. He may have started with a photograph, then finished parts of it–the face, perhaps—from life. We know the artist did some of his landscapes this way. The young girl is standing outdoors and is wearing a winter coat—so it's unlikely that she posed for the entire drawing. Regardless, López has invested this image with a spirituality that goes far beyond life.

The young girl has a piercing gaze focused directly at us—at me, actually, right to the very center of my soul. The coat, the hair, the face, and the disappearing hands are all treated in the same soft grayscale, which collectively delivers what art critic Robert Hughes describes as a "silent rawness". The effect is that of a magical, mystical encounter.

Lopez graciously returns us back to earth with the introduction, just to the right of the girl's head, of a brilliantly drawn branch with groups of fluttering leaves, lest we—I—become forever lost in the magic of his realism. The work is a true tour-de-force.

Read more features from the Looking at Drawings series.

Anthony Panzera, NA, a member of The National Academy, in New York City, has been a professor of drawing at Hunter College, in Manhattan, since 1968. He also co-directed The Art in Florence and Rome Programs and taught a variety of courses at the New York Academy of Art, and The National Academy School, both in Manhattan. He received his undergraduate degree from The State University of New York at New Paltz, and an M.F.A. degree from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, and studied independently in Florence, Italy.

Primarily a figurative painter, Panzera has studied and worked with the human form throughout his career. Greatly influenced by the works of the Italian Renaissance Masters, Panzera immersed himself in the proportional theories of Leonardo da Vinci, which led him to create The Leonardo Series, a group of 65 drawings based on Leonardo's investigation of proportion. Other groups of work include a series of scroll drawings each measuring 15 feet in length, a group of life-size figure drawings, the 1001 Body Parts Series, and a group known as The Headless Torso. Panzera's oeuvre also includes allegorical paintings, including the works entitled Fiamma's Fantasies. In addition to his figurative work, Panzera is inspired by Cape Cod and the islands and has painted its seascapes, landscapes and vistas since 1978.

Panzera's works are represented in many public and private collections, including the art museum at The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, in Utica, New York; The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, in New Brunswick, New Jersey; The Johnson & Johnson Collection; The Janssen Pharmaceutical Collection; and The National Academy Museum, in New York City. Additionally, Panzera has curated a number of exhibits, written several catalogue essays and contributed dozens of articles to art publications. His works have been exhibited in solo and group shows across the country and in Europe. He is currently represented by the Quidley & Company Gallery, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and the Eisenhauer Gallery Edgartown, Massachusetts.

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