Friday, November 29, 2013

Drölling's advice to a young artist

Michel-Martin Drölling, Portrait of the Artist aged 18, 1804
"What sort of painting can a young fellow do at your age? Generally something mediocre as far as ideas go.... Do sketches, train yourself in composition: whatever ideas you've got, put them on to paper in a single day at one stroke, and even though it's on a small scale, you can put into it anything you like in the way of harmony, elegance, costumes, poetry and so forth: those are the sort of paintings you should be doing at seventeen.... Above all, see to it that all your efforts and studies converge and help you to qualify for the [Prix de Rome] competition. That's your goal and, if you want to reach it, don't waste a day on feeble and useless studies."  —Michel-Martin Drölling (1789-1851)

8 comments:

Tom Hart said...

I'm perplexed about the comment warning against "feeble and useless studies". I tend to think that there's some value in all studies. But maybe I misunderstand his point there, because it sounds as if it contradicts the rest of he passage.

James Gurney said...

Yes, I wondered about that, too. Maybe someone can find and retranslate the original passage. Drolling was a student of David, and he won the Prix de Rome in 1810.

Keith Parker said...

It seems that he is implying that all your studies should be for the express ppurpose of the end goal (which in this case is a painting that can win a contest). At least that is one way to look at it that makes sense.

Juan Carlos Barquet said...

It's very interesting to see the advice, so romantic, that young artists like myself were getting in the early 19th century, especially when compared to the many production-driven artistic careers that exist today.

Elizabeth said...

I understood him to be saying that young artists should not become engrossed in putting out final paintings, for lack of profound ideas. Rather, he advised that they do studies and sketches, working on composition. These kind of paintings will help him become a better artist, and achieve his goals.

Simone said...

I take it to mean that "useless and feeble studies" are those studies that lack the point of being directed towards a good idea. Thus, I think he is directing the developing artist to work on substantive ideas.

Tom Hart said...

Sargent's advice was to go out and sketch (make studies) randomly, plopping one's easel down more or less at chance and sketching whatever chance places in front of you. (I'm obviously paraphrasing.) Personally, that advice resonates more with me. However Drolling's advice was probably, as Keith Parker suggests, made in the context of competition, and/or getting into the Salon, and in that context - the context of a study with an end point in mind - I can see that phrase making more sense.

Keith Parker said...

Thank goodness Tom. After making that post I began to wonder if I had written it in such a way that it would be too confusing. Clearly, you got the meaning. Context. I like your advise from Sargent, but I also think the ability to narrow your focus can have its merits as well. And as always, I enjoy reading your comments. Familiar faces make this site feel a little more like a community in my opinion.