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Film ID  ACE352
Article 
Title  Composition
Series  Oil on Canvas
Part 
Date  1997
Director  Ian Duncan
Production Company  Windfall Films
Synopsis  One of a series on the history of painting techniques, with interviews with contemporary artists and reconstructed scenes from earlier times: British painter, Ray Richardson (b.1964), and his striking compositions.
Minutes  29 min
Choreographer 
Full synopsis  ACE352.2 (00:00:00 - 00:11:12)
Shots of dried flowers, a table setting, a row of shoes, photographs. Commentary: “The urge to arrange things so that they sit pleasingly before the eye comes so easily to most of us that we hardly give it a thought. But the art of composing a painting is more elusive.” Ray Richardson, “a painter noted for his striking compositions”, driving his car. Some of Richardson’s paintings. Commentary “A good composition is when every ingredient – light, tone, colour, texture, spacing – work together to create balance and harmony.” Richardson in his car in a seaside town. Commentary says that his first decision about a new painting must be its size and shape. Richardson and his father, an upholsterer, who stretches his canvases for him. This painting is to be on of the longest and thinnest he’s ever done. Richardson explains why he likes letter-box shaped paintings, but says that this one is so big that it’s “almost terrifying”. Reconstruction of 14th or 15th century artists working on a mural; architectural features had to be incorporated into the composition. Examples of such works where doorway and arches frame and cut into the space. Venice (reconstruction), where artists first began to paint on canvas. The Miracles and Apotheosis of San Pantalon (1680-1704) by Gian Antonio Fumiani, in the church of San Pantalon; at 25m x 50m, “it is said to be the world’s largest oil on canvas” [painted on panels]. Richardson making preliminary sketches, on the beach, with his father as a model, Sketches he’s made at other times, ideas he may incorporate into his current work; he talks about how these original ideas may be changed when they’re finally used. Beginning on his new work: taking an earlier sketch and copying it so that it will be upside down in the finished work. Adding an undercoat which he says will give him further opportunity to experiment. Saying that the right-hand-side of the canvas needs some larger mass in it. He adds a sketch of an ice-cream van to counterbalance the figure at the other end.

ACE352.3 (00:11:12 - 00:19:56)
Commentary says that other painters adopt a less intuitive and more calculated approach to balance and harmony. Piero della Francesca was an outstanding mathematician, and based the structure of his compositions on a structure than he believed was “a divine blueprint”. Della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ (Battesimo di Christo, c.1450) in the National Gallery, London, has a “hidden geometry”: superimposed lines show clear geometric patterns. Richardson and his painting: He says he doesn’t want to make it too rigid. Now ready to start painting, introducing light and shade. Reconstruction of Tintoretto using scale models to try out lighting effects before, and then painting The Last Supper (L’Ultima Cena, 1494). Richardson working on colour and form, balancing the dogs in his painting against the elephant by using related colours and tones, and so on. Reconstruction of Matisse cutting up sheets of coloured paper and using the results to produce a balanced composition, such as his 1953 The Snail (L’Escargot), in the Tate Gallery, London.

ACE352.4 (00:19:56 - 00:29:05)
Richardson is worried about part of his painting and needs to change it by darkening the lighter side. Commentary suggests that Richardson is employing some of the techniques of the Old Masters, building up his painting in layers. Still of Rubens’s Samson and Delilah (Samson en Delila, 1609) which uses the scumbling technique. Richardson working on painting. He demonstrates that partial images at the edge of the picture suggest something more going on outside it. Cropped images in paintings by Edgar Degas, like many Impressionists, influenced by Japanese prints. Photography also gave him new ideas. Richardson putting the finishing touches to his painting. He talks about reaching the end when things are in the “right place”, and about framing the picture, now hanging in a gallery. He discusses it with his father. Credits over continuing conversation.

Full credits  With thanks to Robert and Susan Kasen-Summer, Tate Gallery, London, The National Gallery, London , Bridgeman Art Library, London, Courtauld Gallery, London, National Gallery of Scotland, English National Ballet School, Malvern Hostick. Narrator Andrew Sachs; Sound George Hitchins; Music Peter Howell; Dubbing Mixer Bob Jackson; Motion Control Camera Damian Davison; Digital Editing and Graphics The Moving Picture Company; Digital Effects Artist Mark Stannard; Design Team Dominic Roberts, David Hill, Sophie Seebohm, Anna Young, Nicky Rapley, Tanya Miller, Neil Barnes; Production Administration Terry Bezant, Sue Harvard; Researcher Mark Irving; Production Manager Aleid Channing; Consultant Robert McNab; Executive Producer for the Arts Council of England Rodney Wilson; Film Editor Paul Shepard; Produced and Directed by Ian Duncan. A Production by Windfall Films for BBC and The Arts Council of England. © BBC & The Arts Council of England MCMXCVII.
Watch segments  ACE352.2 (00:00:00 - 00:11:12)
ACE352.3 (00:11:12 - 00:19:56)
ACE352.4 (00:19:56 - 00:29:05)
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