The Marchutz Tapes — Reflections on Art

Prendre par le milieu

-- Tintoretto, Three Apples - detail from a frieze in Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice (1564)

Leo Marchutz takes up the idea of conceiving works of art from the inside out, a concept that he considered to be at the basis of artistic vision. It was this quality of vision, he felt, that informed the form, the volume, the light. It was essential to the unity of a work of art which reflected a unified whole rather than an addition of individual parts.

It is just the contrary from starting with the outline. For instance a series of lines and after that define the real ones or the necessary ones. Prendre par le milieu! If you draw a horse ‘prendre par le milieu’ but never by the contour. Always have in mind the mass.

Well, one can find out in any good work of art. It is there. It is even in Greek vases, if they are good, in the drawings of da Vinci. Even where there are the outline drawings, the outlines are defined by what is there.

…there is no work of art which is defined from outside in.

Ingres is outside in. The whole Ingres, or nearly the whole Ingres is outside in. Anyhow his conception is outside in.

Leo Marchutz,
Excerpt from The Marchutz Tapes, 1974-1976

Over the years, at Leo’s side, this was a theme that continued to come up that most intrigued me. It was clearly, he felt, at the basis of all art, yet seldom talked about and perhaps not always perfectly understood.

Kao, Untitled (early 14th century) 

Rembrandt, Tobias’ Wife  (1636)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jeune Fille en Blouse Rouge (c. 1912)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Portrait of Madame Ingres (1859)

Excerpt chosen by
Sam Bjorklund
Co-Founder of The Leo Marchutz School of Painting and Drawing in 1972, and originator, with William Weyman, of The Marchutz Tapes. Sam now devotes himself full-time to his painting.

Click here to view Sam’s recent work.