Monday, August 31, 2015
The History of Silhouette Artists with talents of Physiognomy
During the age of enlightment-- around 1770-- the demand of silhouettes rose sharply with the publication of Lavatar's Essays on Physiognomy, praised the art of silhouette profilists (shade cutters) as the genius artists who could tell personality by facial profile features. This book became an international success, world-wide. Lavatar used the draughtsman Georg Friedrich Schmoll to sketch his profiles and paint them black, as even then, it was impossible to find authentic silhouette artists who could freehand cut a profile accurately. The book was published between 1775 to 1778, it was published in English and French. No large silhouettes were wanted, none traced from wall shadows. This was considered common, and not an art, only artists who could draw or paint the miniature were in demand, or those few who could find scissors or a blade and cut out a miniature silhouette. Even today, those crude wall-traced and photo-shopped silhouettes are an insult to the real art of silhouette or shade profile art, by a keen naturally born artist's eye. Even if a shadow was traced, it better be traced by an artist who could draw without having to trace a shadow.
Lavatar was born in Zurich and was in his words from "a good family" his father was a doctor, and he was center of intellectual studies and religious circles. He also wrote mystical books, and was considered, after his death in 1801, The Scots Magazine the most famous man in Europe, and The Gentleman's Magazine stated his studies (which were silhouettes showing how to judge others by their facial features and the relation of these features to their chin, back of head, shape of head, top of head, etc.)-- this was considered a source that every family needed to have--Essays on Physiognomy equal to The Bible-- Graham 1961, 297.
Of silhouettes, then called shades, Lavatar devoted an entire section to them saying, "Nothing can be more certain than that the smallest shades, which are scarcely discernible to an inexperienced eye, frequently denote total opposition of character."
Once a silhouette was traced mechanically, it was reduced using a pantograph, a tool that could reduce it. The outer silhouette was then colored black with either ink from India or China, thus the world India ink.
The movement to love the silhouette was called "Neoclassicism".
Silhouette artist Cindi Harwood Rose says, "Yes, I do neoclassic silhouette art, yes, I do Victorian silhouettes, Yes, I do classic silhouettes, yes, I can hand-cut a profile from sight, yes, I can draw portraits from sight."