Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tall Tuesday: Paganini

I've been listening to a great audio lecture course on the concerto put out by The Teaching Company and taught by the exuberant, entertaining and educational, Professor Robert Greenberg. If you can find any of his audio courses at your library, I highly recommend them! In the lead off lesson about the Romantic era of the concerto, Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) was the violinist and composer who set off the trend of the instrumentalist virtuoso as hero. When Greenberg quoted a description of him so vivid and colorful I had to draw him! Dressed in black, skeletal features, long black hair with a playing style so extraordinary that people believed he had sold his sole to the devil - too juicy! One of his gimmicks was to play a piece on a single G-string after breaking the other three strings and playing in the highest register of the violin. In my illustration I left the E-string being held by his little finger. It seemed a bit more dramatic to me, but I'm not a musician.

While researching Paganini it is thought he had Marfan Syndrome, which could explain his ultra-flexible fingers and gaunt appearance. Abe Lincoln suffered from this as well. It is a genetic disorder and generally seems to affect tall people as explained in "The Tall Book". So I am going out on a limb that Paganini was several inches taller than average for his time. If I'm wrong, what of it? He stands tall as a pivotal musical figure!

There are several performances of Paganini's music on YouTube. To get an idea of how dexterous these players are turn off the sound and just watch the violinist's fingers and be amazed!

This is available as a poster in my Zazzle store.

About the art:

It sounded like Paganini also had a way with women, contracting syphilis as a result. The treatment of which rotted his jawbone and added to his spectral features. The description in the lecture also mentioned deep blue tinted spectacles, which I wanted to add but decided it was too distracting from the violin. I wanted to capture the sensuous aspect of the violin and the violinist's fingers in action.

The most difficult part was drawing the violin in deep perspective and the fingers. In addition to the notes below I also found a 3D violin in Google that helped, and posed in a mirror playing a T-square instead of a violin. The arch of the devil-woman's back in place of the scroll throws off the balance of the violin, making it droopy looking, but I stuck with it anyway. There are even more sketches than these. Enjoy!

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