Wisdom in Illustration

Tullio Pericoli, View of a Waterfall (2000);                  Tullio Pericoli, Landscape

Academic art history is not the only place to turn to when seeking help understanding art. There is another group who understand art equally well: illustrators. The best graphic illustration done today is a step-by-step guide to the methods of the great masters as I show from time to time.  Whether they know this or not is doubtful but the frequency with which they demonstrate their insight is impressive.

Take, for instance, a wonderful Italian illustrator (now turned “artist”) Tullio Pericoli. His images have been entertaining readers of Italian publications for years. His view, drawn in 2000, of a waterfall (above left) makes abundantly clear that the space in the foreground is in his studio – a work-table laden with brushes, crayons and other tools. Thus, as in many works by great masters, he has fused the two realities of studio and motif into one inner vision. It is a graphic demonstration of what underlies many of the world's masterpieces. The earliest example published on this site so far is Hans Eworth's painting of Mary Neville from 1555.

Now consider another image by Pericoli (above right), no doubt painted for himself. It subtly demonstrates what a landscape artist might do with the same idea: turn the tools on his work-surface into elements of the natural landscape. Thus the crayons and pencils become many-colored trees and bushes in the corner of a  field that any good artist would recognize as his own table. And all those tools-as-trees “plant” the new trees in his composition, a fertile image of the artist’s own fertility. 

Now compare the explanation of the above drawings to my analysis of Gauguin's painting, The Meal (1891), re-published with this blog post on the home page today. I think you'll find it illuminating.


Originally published 10th September 2010

Posted 11 Sep 2012: Visual Perception

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