Color analysts are familiar with the phenomenological effect our inherent coloration has on our optical lens. This is a fact widely accepted in academic Fine Art painting circles. After years of training, art students become self-correcting and begin to use their own color preferences in the color palettes and subject matter which mark their own “style”. It is at this point of maturity that one can see the artistic personality and innate color preferences of the artist.
The Year Of The Dog, Yuqi Wang
This painting by Yuqi Wang demonstrates the key appearance design elements that he personally loves and which are found in Winter types: a sense of drama, stillness and iconic high contrast values found in wintry nature landscapes. Yuqi loves a sense of space – he uses big, simple shapes. In the Wang painting, there is a static quality to the “way” in which it is painted. The edge work has been thoughtfully designed using controlled lost and found edges; but mostly the overall effect is distinct edge work: another winter quality. Extensive use of black and red punctuated by large white shapes creates drama found in the winter landscape. The shadows are crafted carefully to appear translucent so as to hold the light of the main subject. This particular kind of paint handling of shadows, where they are kept translucent, is what creates the sense of stillness and opacity of the lights. Not only does this add dimension to the painting, it mimics the winter quality found in a snow laden landscape: the opacity of a white blanket punctuated by warm darks ( in PCA, there would also be cool darks). The shadows themselves are well crafted so you don’t notice them; one of the hallmarks of craftsmanship in classical technique.
The next example by the great painter Anegoni, is a classically styled portrait, typical of his time (mid 20th c) and perfect in it’s winter styling both in the “thinly painted” quality he typically uses and the model’s appearance design. Anegoni is one of the most masterful portrait painters that ever lived, who bravely continued his classical working style during the height of the mid-century Modern Art movement that decimated Fine Art in both Europe and the U.S. The Anegoni is a beautiful portrait of a winter type which he has styled with the perfect simplicity found in the appearance design of a Winter. His “thin” paint handling and sensitive color mixing of her cool undertones creates a delicacy that is exquisite. This is one of the most satisfying portraits ever painted. Again, there is a stillness about her and the way he has posed her: direct, simple, dramatic and quiet. She is delicate, but looks at us with certainty. The juxtaposition of feminine softness of the chiffon fabric, and her direct gaze is beautiful and exemplifies the true strength of a Winter type living in her essence: Refined, confident and elegant. There is so much grace in this portrait.
Here is yet another example by Anegoni, classically winteresque and truly a masterwork. One of his trademarks is the background choices he made for each of his portraits. They often mimic some aspect of the subject. This is similar to the idea that the pattern or print a person wears should be in harmony with their appearance design. In this painting Anegoni chose to use a single leafed twig as a compositional device, yes, but also it is reminiscent of her winged eyebrow line, which beautifully repeats that theme. The edge work in the cloudy halo surround repeats the wispy edges of her feathered locks, another inherent design line. Comparing these last two portraits, there is a complete reversal in the logic of the light: in the portrait above there are cool lights and warm shadows. He doesn’t have her looking at us, but rather, there is an iciness and insouciance to her gesture that reminds me of some of the winters I have known. She is her own authority. The real beauty here are the abstract shapes created by the light on her face. It is one big, cohesive, dramatic shape. The stillness, simplicity and serenity of a snow laden winter landscape.
Last, and perhaps the most famous, Madame X by John Singer Sargent. No discussion of winter type can be without her. Looking at the breadth of Sargent’s work, I don’t believe he himself was a winter type, which is even more to the point. He painted this exquisite beauty in concordance with her winter qualities. From her gesture to thinly painted layers, smooth paint handling uncharacteristic of the artist but true to the model’s type, he exemplifies a master portrait painter’s skill: to capture the infinite beauty in front of him while subordinating his own style. This visual integrity exemplifies simultaneously the higher echelons of mastery in both portraiture and Personal Color Analysis. I end with this portrait because it demonstrates the same problems and goals of color analysis: to see others with a clear lens, subordinating our own innate color preferences while staying true to ourselves. This is the paradox we dissolve when working as skilled, properly trained Personal Color Analysts.