Sprezzatura and Bravura

 Close up of Las Meninas by Velazquez 

Close up of Las Meninas by Velazquez 

Thanks to a wide access to high resolution and close-up images of old masters' paintings, we can now study paintings in a lot more intimate way than before. Especially, if you've never traveled abroad to see these "history book" paintings, it's very hard to appreciate what goes on the surface of them - Seemingly flat and clean application of Gerhard Richter or David Hockney can easily observed to be otherwise in real life with messy marks and lots of hair. Dali's almost poster-like application of paint is also almost imperceptible in most Google images. 

Today, I'd like to introduce two concepts - Sprezzatura and Bravura

Sprezzatura - Studied carelessness,  "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it".

Bravura - Great technical skill and brilliance shown in a performance or activity, displaying the effects for the effect's sake. This term originated from the world of music.

As recorded in the Sargent's students notes, he was known to have used smaller brushes to arrive at a near complete stage then finished it off with a large brushstrokes to create the effect of Bravura - simulating the spontaneity and rapidity. Or Chinese and Japanese ink artists / calligraphy artists would practice the same brushstrokes tens of thousands times until they can get it "just right" all at once. 

Here are some ways I've observed in which these concepts were used by various artists. 

- Making unexpectedly longer, shorter, curved, dotted, snappy, or "funny" marks
- Placing abstract shapes and random colours that start to come to life as you move away from the image
- Using unusual materials to paint with other than brushes or uncomfortably big brushes
- Holding the brushes really far away or using very long brushes
- Leaving some areas unfinished or empty for the mind to fill the rest
- Work rapidly with a tight time constraint
- Making marks that do not follow any form

and lastly just have fun!

Keita

 by Bada Shanren 

by Bada Shanren 

 by Frans Hals

by Frans Hals

 Las Meninas by Velazquez

Las Meninas by Velazquez

 by John Singer Sargent 

by John Singer Sargent 

 by Rembrandt 

by Rembrandt 

 by Mary Casssatt 

by Mary Casssatt 

 by Cecily Brown

by Cecily Brown

 by David Hockney 

by David Hockney 

 Joachin Sorolla working with incredibly long brushes 

Joachin Sorolla working with incredibly long brushes