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Published: 21 July 2018

By Andy Ross

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Drapery in Art

The art of depicting drapery in paintings is a skill indeed. 

In a book written by Laura Cumming, The Vanishing Man - In Pursuit of Velazquez, the author talks about the considerable skill involved in creating paintings that stand the test of time. The book is a fascinating tale about a painting, which may or may not have existed and may or may not have been by Velazquez, bought by a book-dealer called John Snare from Reading who spent his life justifying his purchase and attempting to get it verified as an original. It is a brilliant book, beautifully written and it was the author's description of the clothes and furnishings in old paintings that piqued the interest. 

A little research on the internet led to this article which links abstract art and the great painters of the past through their respective representations of fabrics. It is fascinating to learn more about the way materials have been portrayed over the centuries, carrying with them secret messages and conveying politics and power. 

The Art of English Costume by C Willett Cunnington, a book which resides in the studio library, speaks of clothing as a "living art". According to the author, the art of Costume "requires more than a passive audience; it needs artist, client and spectators together..." and "it can be seen at its best in the bustle of life." It seems that the portrayal of fabrics in paintings is not merely a reflection of what the sitter is wearing at the time; it goes far, far deeper than that.