The Painter Got Lazy, You See
February 20, 2014 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I remember from an art history class a painter who became famous for putting a lot of fine detail in specific parts of their painting and leaving the rest shockingly undone. I don't know the exact time they're from but it was pre 20th century. Is this ringing anyone's bells?

I'm interested at seeing ways people have made art (any kind, not just painting) with limited time and money, and where they decided to cut corners. If you have any other good examples of this I'd appreciate seeing them.
posted by The Devil Tesla to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The one thing that reminds me of is Rembrandt, in particular his prints. This etching is a pretty good example, where he spent a lot of attention on the parts of the scene he was most interested in, and then it fades to less and less detail towards the edges.

I seem to also remember from my Art History 101 classes, that a lot of the Renaissance master painters only painted the faces and hands in their portraits and left the rest (like clothing drapery and backgrounds) for their apprentices to paint in for them.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2014

Romaine Brooks did this in the early 20th century.
posted by ravioli at 5:23 PM on February 20, 2014

maybe J M W Turner? in his later works he relinquishes a lot of detail for depictions of light and indecipherable things to convey mood and feeling of place. very Romantic. i especially like this quote from the wiki on him when a client complained about the indistinctness of his painting: "You should tell Mr Lenox that indistinctness is my forte."

example 1

example 2

example 3

not lazy at all. beautiful.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:35 PM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

example 4 - sorry i can't help myself, the sea monster painting by JMW Turner really gets me because i'm constantly thinking about what is it that i'm seeing here.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Frans Hals was known for his spectacularly loose brushwork; once he had the face locked in, the rest of the portrait looked pretty unfinished, especially compared to the style of the time.

'Unfinished' canvases were common among the Impressionists. I don't remember which one, but one of Degas' jockey paintings ruffled some feathers at the Academy for this very reason.

Whistler was well known for filling large areas of the canvas with color, not trying to represent anything, using it strictly as a design element.

But really, you could find any number of artists doing similar things, often just as a study before committing to a full-scale painting.
posted by Bron at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2014

Drawings by Ingres tended to focus on the face and leave the rest sketched in.
posted by gentian at 8:42 PM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're probably thinking of an amalgamation of lots of plein air impressionists. They only wanted to capture the light in a given moment in a given place, so if an hour or two went by, and the light had changed, they might leave the canvas unfinished. Contemporary establishment critics often called impressionist painters lazy.
posted by fontophilic at 5:37 AM on February 21, 2014

Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Geo. Washington? His portraits had little or no background for the most part, and this one (link) wasn't completely finished.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2014

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