Monday 29 March 2010

Coming over a bit Gallic

I was thinking the other night about Paris in 1863, specifically about the Salon of the Refusal .

Well I cannot imagine that I was the only one to be spending time reflecting on how the French art establishment had become so stuffy and hide bound that it refused to exhibit the new paintings of Manet and as a result an 'alternative' exhibition created the seeds for Impressionism. Though it is possible that I am the only one thinking of it in terms of wargames figures. A typical Acadamie work. Not the best reproduction I am afraid, but if you look at the gladiators chest you can see the flesh shadowed in a way that might have used the foundry three colour flesh system.

The establishment painters valued by the Académie used carefully blended layers of paint in sombre colours to achieve realistic and natural effects. brushstrokes were blended away and transparent glazes were used over the paint. The Acadamie was actively hostile to other styles of painting.

Manet began to develop a freer manner, creating form not through a gradual blending of tones, but with discrete areas of color side by side.Viewers were not used to flat space and shallow volumes in painting. To many, Manet's "color patches" appeared unfinished. The impressionists took further the laying side by side of
blocks of bright colour to convey light and movement. Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it.

This picture by Manet was painted in 1866 and was refused by the Paris Salon. It only hints at the palette and techniques which the impressionists would develop but already the flatness of the jacket is a world away from shading and highlighting.

I am not suggesting that blended and glazed effects were inherently 'bad'. In fact I feel that many modern figure designers and painters have a good deal in common with the English contemporary Pre Raphaelite painters. They both emphasise detail that would not be visible in real life, ignore the way that colour fades with distance and use a rich palette of vivid colours to get their effects.

A wounded cavalier. W S Burton 1856. Which of us would not be pleased to paint the rich detail on the cavaliers sash crisp and sharply outlined. Or to get the carefully blended 'three greys on the womans dress. And has that skirt been washed with a sepia ink?
to be continued................

Saturday 27 March 2010

Work in progress

Keeping it simple has been the theme of this weeks work and that has proved much harder than I expected.

Look at these Stadden 25mm Guardsmen, what could be easier just paint them how we used to 40 years ago.Simple block colours in toy soldier style, gloss varnish, lovely job!

And yet, I am wondering, those epaulets; do they really stand out enough or are they just a white blob? I could just run a black line around them to bring them to life. Of course if I do that then I really should black line the cross belts, and suddenly the toy soldier look is starting to disappear. The danger is that 'improvements will make the figures just like all the others that I own.

I have been planning a third Army to go with the British and Russians. French is the obvious choice and I have had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with an old friend:

The very first uniform book I ever bought. This is not my original copy, I sold that many years ago but this new copy has brought the memories flooding back. It is hard to use by the standards of to days books and lacks much detail but it still gives a broad sweep of a fantastic and colourful army.

I have planned to have French and British Armies which will be suitable for re fighting the invasion scares of 1846 and 48. The British are relatively easy as the Crimean army fits the bill perfectly. The French are a little more problematic and I have decided that the best compromise is to use the Strelets Light Infantry box, for line and light troops in the 1845 uniform.

Strelets are unfairly neglected, the plastic people don't like them because they look like like metal castings. The metal fans won't touch them because they are plastic. In fact I quite like them though they are even more infuriating than most plastic manufacturers. Each packet has one or two outstanding poses, real must have stuff such as the vignette below from the ACW commanders set. Then you have a whole bunch of bizarre stuff...

Zouaves playing football and teeing off at golf.

The aim is to knock out an army quickly and cheaply. you will notice that I have put the figures on to their bases before painting them and then sprayed the whole thing with black undercoat! Never let it be said that am unreceptive to new fangled ideas and fashions. Some people speak very highly of this style of painting so I shall give it a go and keep you informed of the results.

And finally.......... ON THIS DAY.....
175 years ago, Professeur Tournesol the noted Belgian inventor approached the British Admiralty with his idea for a self propelled barge. By using a cast sectional iron hull and abandoning paddle wheels for the top secret 'Tournesol propulsion system' he insisted it was possible to build a flat bottomed barge capable of carrying up to 300 men and supplies, that was capable of withstanding the rigour of the open seas and independent of wind power.

He was shown the door with little ceremony and advised that there may well be nations who had so little sailing skill that they would consider an enormous bath tub appropriate to consign their armies to a watery grave ,( the French sprang to mind), but that Britain had no need of a ridiculous foreign death trap.

Sunday 21 March 2010

The past is another country

Tumbling dice20mm; foundry28mm; minifig S; Emhar plastic; Stadden 25m

While I have been idling the New Year away, I am glad to say that others have been busy. I have particularly enjoyed the number of blogs dealing with two of my favorite nostalgia's 20mm figures and the mid nineteenth century. When the two come together then my cup runneth over.
Hinton Hunt; Minifig S cossack(both Napoleonic) Stadden 25mm

I was blessed last year, while helping sort the coach house at Asquith Towers we moved several boxes of Romanov porcelain and underneath found a long forgotten Crimean army in 20mm. With his customary old world generosity Stuart Asquith airily waved them towards my car boot and I found I was the ownerof a lovely collection of mainly S range minifigs. I knew I would never get a better Christmas present so I saved them till Christmas morning before unpacking.
Kennington 20mm ACW(my Painting) ; Hinton Hunt (I am reliably informed)
I have two small but perfectly usable armies of Russian and British with a few Turkish. But of course we can never just leave it at that can we? So I have a two pronged plan in place. Firstly I shall continue to collect where ever possible the original 20mm ranges. Minifig, Hinton Hunt, Douglas etc. That will be a slow process of picking up a figure or two as and when. But also I shall expand the armies with compatible figures still in production.

Foundry 28mm; Minifig S range ; Stadden 25m

So finally I get to the point of this post and the project, what does compatible mean in this context. Size, sculpting style, painting technique? All three or something less tangible
Minifig S range (2) and a plastic Strelets standard bearer
To start us off I have put up a few scans to show some of the figures and their relative size. I have so far bought about 130 Stadden 25mm metal figures Russian and British. I also have picked up six boxes of French light infantry in plastic by Strelets. And I dropped lucky straight away with minifig S range Zouaves. But I shall say more about all of these in time, for the moment we shall just look at the figures. Unless otherwise stated all painted examples are from the brush of Mr Asquith himself.
Kennington 20mm; Minfig S crimea zouave and FPW zouave.
(none from the Asquith collection!)