Monday, 13 August 2018

Also, you don't have to do ears.

Here's something I didn't know: silhouettes were, as you might not be surprised to learn, named after a Monsieur Silhouette. But, as you might be surprised to learn, he didn't invent them. √Čtienne de Silhouette was an unpopular French finance minister in the 18th Century who imposed austerity measures so fierce that to do something '√† la Silhouette' became slang for to do it on the cheap. And having your silhouette cut or drawn was a lot cheaper then having a miniature painted...

I was going to illustrate this with a picture of a silhouette which is thought to be a self-portrait by Jane Austen. But unfortunately, I looked into it, and it turns out there's another, more persuasive theory which is: no it's not. So instead, here's a couple of mine. It turns out silhouettes are a good way of doing quick sketches of people sat next to you at the British Library, because it only takes a few crafty sideways glances now and then, and then the rest is just colouring in.



No, neither are self-portraits.

14 comments:

SylviaHolly said...

Love it! I've seen the sketches in the Cabin Pressure disc set but these took way more skill.

Tealin said...

Ooh, these are lovely! I had never heard that about Silhouette, that's great. It works metaphorically for parsimony in art as well – many's the time I've laboured over a sketch wondering why it isn't working, then realise it doesn't read in silhouette. Funny how these absolutely basic things need relearning fairly regularly (or maybe that's just me).

Dave W said...

Glad to have you back and blogging JF. Basingstoke brilliant by the way, loved the Kirates with their coat, keg legs and carrots.

Intrigued to know what's on the reverse of the silhouettes. Draft for a new sitcom perhaps? (Please say yes).

Lena Predmyrska said...

And if you get bored with drawing them, you can start cutting them out. Provided they allow scissors into the library.

dodgy tv people uk said...

Apropos of nothing to do with silhouettes , there's chat on Archers Facebook groups that you may be having a hand in recent scripts- Last night's episode's climax was to do with Helen's Borsetshire Blue not having earned its place on Grey Gables cheeseboard ! We believe this may be your handiwork.

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Rachel said...

Oh, that's very interesting! I very much enjoy your tidbits of history, they're so cheering -- I still remember the stationary/stationery explanation, too!

R.L. China said...

Yea, some JF blogging again, keep it up (and thanks for the reminder that I need to add the British Library to my travel bucket list ;-)

jonathan said...

Very lovely! I could never manage ears so I might have a go at the old silhouettes a la monsieur Silhouette myself. Mind you I could never manage noses, eyes, mouths, etc also so it might be a bit touch and go. Also I'm not sure if up here in the libraries of Stockport we have unsuspecting subjects sitting next to us with profiles quite so straight out of 18th century sketchbooks, but no harm in casting the odd sideways glance I suppose (unless the unsuspecting suspects of Stockport turn round and slap me in the face, which is actually quite likely).

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