In 1941, while convalescing from a serious illness, Henri Matisse devised a fresh approach to his interest in repeated motifs: a drawing series that he would published in 1943 as Themes and Variations. Comprising 162 drawings organized into 17 groups, the series mostly depicts female figures reclining or relaxing in chairs. This example, Woman Resting in an Interior (1941) is characterized by the contrast of charcoal and paper and of flatness and depth, as well as by its fluid, energetic line. Other studies in Themes and Variations use a much cleaner line to render the subject. As a whole, the series demonstrates the artist’s commitment to capturing a drawing’s essence through serial reworking.
In the 1990s, Roy Liechtenstein created a body of work called Interiors, in which he mixed references to classical antiquity, the renaissance, and modernism. He also used visual signs plucked from his own illustrious career, such as his characteristic Ben-Day dots . Created in the last year of Lichtenstein‘s life, this drawing is a study for a painting, Interior with Ajax (1997), commissioned by the fashion designer Gianni Versace. In it, a confused looking Ajax, a hero of Greek mythology, finds himself in an an eclectically decorated room in which styles float free of their contexts and hatch marks are divorced from their descriptive function.
Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) sought to replicate the immediacy of the art of the untutored. In this sheet, he incised four figures into a ground of opaque watercolor, exposing the sandpaper he used as a support. The technique shares more with graffiti and the scrawls of children than with academic drawing. The artist once remarked, “When I say ‘draw,’ I’m not to the slightest degree thinking of faithfully reproducing objects . . . No, its a matter of something quite different: to animate the paper, to make it palpitate.”
The British textile and fashion designer Celia Birtwell has been a close friend and confidant of David Hockney‘s since the 1960s. Sharing northern roots and a similar sense of humor, the two found that they had much in common from their first meeting, and together they were at the heart of Bohemian London. Hockney has always been fascinated by the changing nature of Celia’s face and she remains, to this day, one of his favorite models.
Wayne Thiebaud’s interest in investigating the properties of each medium lead him to create a series of works of the same subject using different techniques. In the pictured watercolor of Nine Jelly Apples (1964) he used a wide range of pink and purple hues to suggest the luminous surface of the confection. In the black ink version, he relied instead on the vivid dark and light contrast to emphasize shininess. In the pencil version, however, the exacting precision suggests the brittle surface of hardened sugar.
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) is an American painter widely known for his colorful works depicting commonplace objects — pies, lipsticks, paint cans, ice cream cones, pastries, and hot dogs — as well as for his landscapes and figure paintings. In his defense of common objects as being suitable for painting, as seen with Candy Ball Machine (1977), Thiebaud often mentions the gumball machine. “A gumball machine can be a kind of icon, with its simple beauty, its colors, its relationship, its magic — we put in a penny and out comes a brightly colored gumball or prize. It is a glorious toy which we adults miss the wonder of.”
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Wayne Thiebaud, Draftsman, Which is on View at The Morgan Library in NYC Through September 23rd, 2018.