Project 2: Linear qualities in painting – Contextual research

In preparation for this exercise I was curious to see what else I can learn form drawing with paint and linear qualities. How artists using this in different approaches and if I can build on one or the other for my own work.

Contextual research:

This exercise is searching for drawing, line markings in a painting. At first the bold outlines from artists at the end of the 19th century came to my mind: Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and others Followed by some Expressionistic artists as Alexei Jawlensky.

Cloisonnism ” involves simplified drawing, and the use of strongly outlined planes of minimally modelled, bright colour.” (Oxford Art Online – Available from: and a style overview available from: [accessed 07 May 2016].

This style as a stylistic juxtaposition of at times un natural coloured planes – derived from the cloisonné enamelling technique with the black bands around stained glass – was especially applied in 1880s by Louis Anquetin, Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin and Paul Sérusier. An anti-style against ‘Trompe d’oeil‘ and linear perspectives. The aim of Cloisonnism was not to illustrate external objective reality but to express the inner world of emotion. Another source for inspiration were the Japanese woodblock prints works Ukiyo-e especially from Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858) – click here. Later Art Nouveau and Jugendstil  were influenced by Cloisonnism.

Emile Bernard (1864 – 1901)
– ‘Buckwheat Harvesters At Pont Aven’,
Oil on canvas
[online image] Available from: [accessed 18 May 2016]

Emile Bernard_buckwheat-harvesters-at-pont-aven_1888

Emile Bernard – ‘Buckwheat Harvesters At Pont Aven’, 1888

This style was later (1888) incorporated in a wider sense in Synthetism: associated with the style of symbolic representation adopted by Paul Gauguin and his followers in the 1880s characterised by flat areas of colour and bold outlines” (Tate – Available from: [accessed 04 May 2016].

Louis Anquetin (1861-1932)
– ‘Girl Reading a Newspaper‘, 1890
Pastel on paper (54 x 43 cm)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 18 May 2016]

Girl Reading a Newspaper 1890 Louis Anquetin 1861-1932 Presented by Francis Howard 1922

Louis Anquetin – ‘Girl Reading a Newspaper’, 1890

Synthetism went in direction to symbolism by expressing stronger the emotional and psychological aspects of the painter’s inner world in the painting. Paul Gauguin invented the term Synthetism. He was not satisfied with the current preoccupation studying light effects in nature. He felt they were  superficial and confining and void of thoughts and ideas of the artist. He wanted to develop a new decorative style based on pure colours with no shading or modelling and a few strong lines in a father flat composition.

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903)
– ‘Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)‘, 1888
Oil on canvas (72 x 91 cm)
[online image] Available from: [accessed 18 May 2016]

Paul Gauguin_Vision of the Sermon_1888

Paul Gauguin- ‘Vision of the Sermon’, 1888

Alexei Jawlsensky (1864 – 1941)
-‘Still life with fruit and figure and bottle‘, 1907
Oil on canvas (52.5 x 57.6 cm)
[online image] Available from:üchten_Figur_und_Flasche_1907.jpg [accessed 18 May 2016]

Alexei_Jawlensky_Still life_with_fruit_figure__bottle_1907

Alexei Jawlsensky – ‘Still life with fruit and figure and bottle’, 1907


Another way of approaching drawing in paint is a pure combination of line drawing and color washes as I’ve seen at the exhibition of Paul Signac ‘Nature Morte – Citrons, pêches, raisins et jarre‘, 1918 (Schaffeld, 2016b) – click here.


Question to me: Are there other drawing in painting approaches? My tutor suggested in the assignment 1 feedback to look at the american abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler. Also in the context of applying various surfaces as Frankenthaler used at times unprimed canvas.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928 – 2011)
Mountains and Sea‘, 1952
Charcoal and oil unprimed canvas (220 x 297.8 cm)
[online image] National Gallery of Art, Washington. Available from: 49972f6bee8fa5f17e2d091537e017cdb76712e7.jpg [accessed 18 May 2016] 

Helen Frankenthaler_ Mountains and Sea_1952

Helen Frankenthaler – ‘Mountains and Sea’, 1952

Looking further into paintings with linear qualities in contemporary art :

  • Patrick Caulfield (1936 – 2005)
    ‘After Lunch’
    , 1975
    Acrylic paint on canvas (249 x 213 cm)
    [online image] Available from: [accessed 12 May 2016]
    => bi coloured background in saturated colour with line drawing and a window with an hyper-realistic painting. An ambiguous interplay between the two representational systems.
  • Eoin McHugh (b.1977):
    Untitled (red room)’, 2008
    Watercolour on paper (25×30 cm)
    [online image] Available from: [accessed 12 May 2016]
    => Vast areas of void with detailed rendered drawing and colour applied only in a few areas. This reminds me at times to the traditional botanical horticultural watercolour depictions of plants.
  • Sheila Sokhanvari  (b.  )
    Two Serious Ladies2015
    Egg tempera on calf vellum (22.5 x 28.5 cm)
    (Jerwood, 2015)
    also [online image] Available from: [accessed 12 May 2016]
    => Strong linear patterns in saturated colours with monochrome figures in unsatured colours. An ambiguous interplay of two representational systems (like Caulfield)
  • Amy Sillman (b.1955)
    Nose‘, 2009
    Oil on canvas (230 x 215 cm)
    (Hasting, 2011)
    also [online image] Available from:  [accessed 12 May 2016]
    => abstraction of a figurative subject with bold linear line markings like crayon drawing and colour washes in flat juxtaposed areas separated by lines (quite in context of Cloisonnism)

Another aspect that comes to my mind when thinking about ‘line’ in a broader sense are the blurred edges in different colour surrounding objects in backlit luminous scenes. Example: Pascal Danz ‘Interior’, 2009 (1961 – 2015) and Silvia Gertsch (Schaffeld, 2015)

In the context of pastel painting with linear qualities I came across Joan Eardley. Her children paintings in pastels could be partly seen in the context of Cloisonnism but with a looser and more gestural strokes.

Example:  ‘Girl with a Baby’, 1962 (pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, Private Collection) – click here

Another painting of her with to me quite linear qualities is ‘Catherine in Winter’, 1963 (Oil on hardboard, 47 1/4 x 51 1/4 in) – click here

Joan Eardley_Catterline in winter_1963

Joan Eardley – ‘Catterline in winter’, 1963 – National Galleries Scotland

=> Although in a painterly way there are at times rather drawn objects (houses) or linear scratch marks. Here I find a mark making (for drawing) is combined with coloured planes (for painting) in an overall loose and expressive picture conveying a sense of the atmosphere of the location.


  • I feel most attracted to a loose line in interaction with coloured areas (e.g. Louis Anquetin, Amy Sillman).
  • One can draw lines and make markings (e.g. Caulfield). The same one can do with paint and a tool.
  • Linear patterns could be depicted by contrasting elements of planes (e.g. Sheila Sokhanvari)


  • I could envision that linear qualities can be different to line.
    – Are there other ways of making a perception of linear qualities without ‘drawing’ lines?
    – What kind of paint application can be used?
  • Support:
    – How can the surface support linear qualities?
    – Absorbing paint with an unprimed canvas or japanese paper would make oil paint fade into the surface, more solid i.e. less oil and water paints could stay above (contrast).
    – What are low oil or water paints? Thinking about oil pastels, wax paints (e.g. encaustic) etc.
  • How much do I want to work on the colour concepts by Chevreul (and Blanc)?


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