mrrogers

What's up with artists and their windows?

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Last night while watching The Locket we noticed what we've seen in almost every TCM movie with a character that is an artist. They all have a window that is slanted. Why is this so pervasive? It's universal with characters that are painters but even the composer's apartment in Rear Window had a slanted window. 

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One exception (sort of) I recall is Midge's apartment in Vertigo. But then she was a dress designer not an artist (ouch!)  

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Large windows, preferably slanted were sought by artists for the light they provided in the rooms they used for their studios.  Normally, such windows were only available on the top floors of older walk-ups, which meant they were generally cheap, which was an added advantage for the artists.  Although there are no compasses visible in the movies, these windows should also have had a northern orientation for the indirect light.  The diffuse light, tinged a little to the blue due to atmospheric absorption of the other frequencies, was the best light for getting colors right.  

The window in Rear Window (1954) was useless for the composer, but useful for Hitchcock as it let him film what was going on in an apartment a few stories above Jeff's.

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Eh, I'm an artist and yes, windows are very important to my work....but my work is public, VIEWED outside. I often have to stop painting by 5pm, 3-4 in winter due to waning light. I start work at 7-8am.

So does painting by natural light assist an artist? Artists are typically portrayed as canvas painters whose work is viewed in a lighted room or gallery. Aren't artists typically portrayed as nigh owls anyway? I think those big windows are just used as a stereotype in movies.

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Yeah, there's the whole "light exposure" thing.  I've often( and mostly in movies) heard about the preference for "Northern" or "Southern" lighting.  I suppose this too, might be according to locale of the building.  Located in a Southern region, it might mean light from the Sun, travelling East to West, has a longer daily existence than in the North.

This may not be so, and too, might be a myth and it really makes no big difference in how long the artist's studio is treated to natural sunlight.  As most "artists" I know do a lot of their canvas work in either an unused main floor bedroom, or even their BASEMENTS, I'm not sure how much such a thing matters.  :huh:  I too, thought it a sort of "vehicle" to make the artist characters appear to be "quirky" or notoriously "tempermental".

Sepiatone

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In the excellent ghost story The Uninvited (1944), the beautiful old haunted house has a painter's studio with the requisite large windows.

Interestingly, the brother and sister in the story, Rick and Pamela (played by Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey), who are thinking about buying the house, comment on how ugly the room is with those windows.  Rick compares its appearance to that of a "cucumber frame."  I suppose the window frames do look a bit like the kind of trellis on which you'd grow cucumbers.

But it seems odd that they think the appearance of the room is ugly because of the windows.  I could easily see someone today thinking the large windows are a very desirable feature.

In any event, Rick, a composer, decides to put his piano in the room and use it as his own studio -- something he comes to regret...

Here's a still showing Rick and Pamela in the painter's studio:

mev-10696005.jpg.1bb76678bc9c1d9c247ba964666e10e2.jpg

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Ah, there will always be contrarians.  Where this comes from I'm sure can provide for lengthy discussion.  Certainly people perpetrate art in all kinds of environments, except perhaps total darkness.  It would have been very difficult for Monet to paint his water lilies in a studio.  The question posed related specifically to studios, and the form they took, which derived from the requirements of the artists.  If you're in a room, you want the most light possible, especially in days before electric illumination.  Not that you will always need it, but unlike Alice with her tea, you can take less light if you don't want it.  Artists didn't have a hand in designing buildings, but others had requirements for light too, especially in trade and warehousing.  In the days before electric lighting, and steel framing, the exterior walls formed the structure of a building.  This limited the size of the windows.  On the top floors windows could grow.  Also with a limited ceiling height, the way to increase window square footage is to slant them.  And though artists did not design these buildings, they certainly recognized the advantages of them, and the price when their neighborhoods fell into decline.  Now this is not all artists everywhere at all times.  But enough to create a convention for Hollywood to pick up on and stereotype.  And you will certainly find in movies artists working in spaces not in the 'typical' form.

As for the northern exposure, certainly all lofts of this type didn't have them, though I wouldn't be surprised if most did.  For the reasons artists--painters especially--would want one are to a great extent ones others would want them.  One reason is to eliminate direct sunlight, so as not to bake the artist, the models, and the materials.  It also eliminates glare from surfaces and hard contrasts.  Changing your gaze from shadow to bright light and back is hard on the eyes, and takes time to adjust the pupil size.  Sitting in direct sunlight also casts shadows across the work, making it difficult to see details.  Diffuse light creates a uniform environment, though with the drawback of tinging the light to the blue end of the spectrum.  Those who paint in basements or at night should be aware the temperature of the light they use affects how colors are seen.

Now I know people will jump up objecting that artists--painters--do their stuff outside, too.  And when they do, they make adjustments for it, like mixing their paints differently--that is, when painters mixed their paints themselves.  Or sitting in a shadow, or using an umbrella when they could.  They would also position themselves with relation to the sun.  You don't see paintings, in general I mean, looking directly into the sun, or for that matter, with the sun directly behind the painter.

And Tiki, we are all artists.  That is, we are all creative at times.   The difference is that some to a greater or lesser extent are intentionally creative.  Lucky ones make their living at it.  The luckiest make a contribution to the human condition, like Maya Lin, or Christo and Jean-Claude.

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Those big windows in THE UNINVITED still remind me of an old fashioned cupola. It was where the woman of the house would do her mending and watch her family & livestock out in the field (at least here in the northeast US) Windows all around provided the longest, best light. 

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On 9/2/2018 at 8:56 PM, mrrogers said:

Last night while watching The Locket we noticed what we've seen in almost every TCM movie with a character that is an artist. They all have a window that is slanted. Why is this so pervasive? It's universal with characters that are painters but even the composer's apartment in Rear Window had a slanted window. 

If you know more titles please list them. 

I'm an artist and no matter how great an easel you have or a drawing board with fancy lighting, most artists enjoy working with natural light coming from a window, particularly if one is painting with oils or using pastels on a portrait. It should come from behind and on the opposite side to the arm you are using, and having those big slanted windows as you mention in films, would be a boon sometimes. Things look totally different if done with natural light than artificial light though now with all these Kelvin scales on bulbs and such, there might not be as big a need. I also think most artists I've known who do fine art, really enjoy having a studio set up which is inspiring and fits all their needs but is also appealing, at least to them and a big, slanted window could play that part. There are those who would define an artist as someone who creates not for funds but for an inner reason and calling. Most films about artists though don't appear to be very true to life, and the actors don't even seem to know how to hold a pen correctly for an ink drawing or how to hold and use a brush to apply oil paint, plus I've never even seen a maul stick in a movie. They usually go back to the Van Gogh theme of the tortured artist, and show them more drinking in a cafe or brawling though I think the film with Alec Guinness as an artist in "The Horse's Mouth" is the most true to life I've ever seen.

It's more common for films to show what I'd call a craftsman in a film, than a true artist, which is a whole different thing, yet I agree wholeheartedly with Slayton's usage of the word in a overall sense, saying all are artists.

 

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On 9/2/2018 at 9:56 PM, mrrogers said:

One exception (sort of) I recall is Midge's apartment in Vertigo. But then she was a dress designer not an artist (ouch!)  

Midge did have that example of a cantilever bra on display though, to be copied, and my mother being a fashion artist in her younger years, appreciated that touch, since the stores would always give her clothing articles to be used for drawing purposes for her full page newspaper ads.

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On 9/5/2018 at 7:57 AM, Sepiatone said:

Yeah, there's the whole "light exposure" thing.  I've often( and mostly in movies) heard about the preference for "Northern" or "Southern" lighting.  I suppose this too, might be according to locale of the building.  Located in a Southern region, it might mean light from the Sun, travelling East to West, has a longer daily existence than in the North.

This may not be so, and too, might be a myth and it really makes no big difference in how long the artist's studio is treated to natural sunlight.  As most "artists" I know do a lot of their canvas work in either an unused main floor bedroom, or even their BASEMENTS, I'm not sure how much such a thing matters.  :huh:  I too, thought it a sort of "vehicle" to make the artist characters appear to be "quirky" or notoriously "tempermental".

Sepiatone

The artist who liked most to show his use of light coming from a window into the room, was of course Johannes Vermeer. Almost all of his extant paintings show the actual windows with light coming from them, but surprisingly it has also been found that though he appeared to paint totally realistically, he actually often altered objects he had already used in a painting and of course his use of camera obscura techniques were also in play.

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On 9/5/2018 at 9:25 AM, BingFan said:

In the excellent ghost story The Uninvited (1944), the beautiful old haunted house has a painter's studio with the requisite large windows.

Interestingly, the brother and sister in the story, Rick and Pamela (played by Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey), who are thinking about buying the house, comment on how ugly the room is with those windows.  Rick compares its appearance to that of a "cucumber frame."  I suppose the window frames do look a bit like the kind of trellis on which you'd grow cucumbers.

But it seems odd that they think the appearance of the room is ugly because of the windows.  I could easily see someone today thinking the large windows are a very desirable feature.

In any event, Rick, a composer, decides to put his piano in the room and use it as his own studio -- something he comes to regret...

Here's a still showing Rick and Pamela in the painter's studio:

mev-10696005.jpg.1bb76678bc9c1d9c247ba964666e10e2.jpg

Funny, but I just noticed this thread and the first film that came to mind was The Uninvited.   The main reason being that I'm been trying to get Stella by Starlight down for over 20 years.    This is one of the more difficult jazz standards to play and every time I practice it I think of the film,  that room,  those windows and Gail Russell (not always in that order!).

 

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19 hours ago, TomJH said:

The Light That Failed

failed2.jpg

I love Ronald, but being right-handed he should have positioned this all differently, and put the model [is it Ida Lupino?] behind him with the light coming over her right shoulder not her left and then when he paints also his hand won't make a shadow on the canvas. Technically he also would not be able to paint her face in that turned almost three-quarter position from where he is standing. Of course Ida may have had a disfiguring scar on her other cheek like the one Carole Lombard had, that he was trying to hide.

Don't you hate people who take movies way too seriously, like I am doing in this post!

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27 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

I love Ronald, but being right-handed he should have positioned this all differently, and put the model [is it Ida Lupino?] behind him with the light coming over her right shoulder not her left and then when he paints also his hand won't make a shadow on the canvas. Technically he also would not be able to paint her face in that turned almost three-quarter position from where he is standing. Of course Ida may have had a disfiguring scar on her other cheek like the one Carole Lombard had, that he was trying to hide.

Don't you hate people who take movies way too seriously, like I am doing in this post!

Actually CG, Ida did have a scar on her face she received via an auto accident in her youth and which she would for many years attempt to hide, but it was on the right side of her forehead and thus the reason you'll often see her sporting hairstyles such as this...

Ida_Lupino_publicity.jpg

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2 hours ago, Dargo said:

Actually CG, Ida did have a scar on her face she received via an auto accident in her youth and which she would for many years attempt to hide, but it was on the right side of her forehead and thus the reason you'll often see her sporting hairstyles such as this...

Ida_Lupino_publicity.jpg

Didn't she also have to wear wigs continually due to some previous condition in which she lost hair?

I know I read this once in some gossip tome I own, but can't remember the details.

Thanks for the forehead info, Dar!

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9 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

Technically he also would not be able to paint her face in that turned almost three-quarter position from where he is standing. Of course Ida may have had a disfiguring scar on her other cheek like the one Carole Lombard had, that he was trying to hide.

Don't you hate people who take movies way too seriously, like I am doing in this post!

At the risk of being too serious myself, I'm grateful for your comments.  Your observation I quoted above shows how often the positions of people and objects are tweaked for the requirements of the camera.  You'll see piano benches at an angle to the piano.  Chairs almost side-on to their respective tables.  People will stand with shoulders so squared to the camera they appear to be Egyptian hieroglyphs come to life.

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Another example, from Portrait of Jennie (1948), with Joseph Cotten as the artist and Jennifer Jones as Jennie:

1796132511_MV5BNWY2YTM2NWQtZjVmMS00ZmQyLTljNGMtZDEzYzMxNzI5YWZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDI3OTIzOA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0012951000_AL_.thumb.jpg.a89339bbbd508a499a681ddcaf3e79b6.jpg

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On 9/13/2018 at 11:04 PM, slaytonf said:

At the risk of being too serious myself, I'm grateful for your comments.  Your observation I quoted above shows how often the positions of people and objects are tweaked for the requirements of the camera.  You'll see piano benches at an angle to the piano.  Chairs almost side-on to their respective tables.  People will stand with shoulders so squared to the camera they appear to be Egyptian hieroglyphs come to life.

To continue this too serious vein, this can happen in art too. In Johannes Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" we see a young lady from the back, standing at the virginals ostensibly playing for a gentleman at her right. There is a mirror above the instrument, which shows her face, but if we look at it technically it becomes apparent that Vermeer tilted her head in the reflection at an angle which is not true at all to the actual position of her head, as we see it from the back. Though he often seemed to paint all with extreme amounts of verisimilitude, after examination of many of his works we see that he was prone to make things work for him in a final result way, whether or not the actual position of things was correct or sized appropriately.

Now back to less serious subjects, like Roger Corman films. Enjoyed your information on forced art and great theory about attempting the Egyptian stance being a visual trick!

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