Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Makeup Art

The Egyptian Queen, Nefertiti (left) probably didn't invent makeup, but she may well have observed the event. Compared to Hollywood's version of another Egyptian queen, Cleopatra (right), hers was quite tasteful and restrained.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Maiko (Geisha in training),
1976, Jim Lane
Some Greek playwright once said that, "A woman without paint is like food without salt." I supposed he was right in that I'm rather fond of both. Moreover, I doubt there has ever been a feminine face so beautiful that a little pigmented augmentation wouldn't make it more so. Really, there's not that much difference between an artists who paints beautiful women on canvas and one who paints the beautiful women themselves. Where women are concerned, compared to a makeup artist, the portrait artist is little more than a copyist. Archaeologists disagree somewhat as to how far back in history women started painting their faces (about the time they invented mirrors, perhaps), but there's little doubt the Egyptians were in on the ground floor some two millennia B.C. Finely ground iron oxide served as rouge along with olive oil, white lead, and numerous other yucky, sometimes harmful substances. And virtually every culture on earth has had its "painted ladies." The Japanese may well have predated the Egyptians in this regard. My own effort (left) to document this possibility dates back to 1976.
The modern-day effort to replicated Pollaiuolo's Portrait of a Lady (left), from the
late 15th century allows an interesting insight into the ideals of
feminine beauty and efforts to improve upon them.
Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn,
ca. 1505-06, Raphael
We are fortunate to have portrait artists. Without them, we'd not have much of a record as to the ways and means, not to mention the tastes women have manipulated down through the centuries. Although portraits of women go back as far as Nefertiti, it's only in looking back to around 1500 that we have portraits which record this seductive art form. Raphael's Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn, (right) from around 1505 may be one of the earliest and best. The church at the time discouraged the wearing of makeup, but of course that didn't keep women from doing so; it only served to impose a tasteful degree of restraint as can be seen in Pollaiuolo's Portrait of a Lady (above) from the late 15th-century. Unfortunately, it was a degree of restraint that didn't last much into the sixteenth century as women began to adopt a sort of light white is right mentality, applying all manner of whitening agents to their skin in an effort to not appear to be farm workers laboring in the sun for a living. England's Elizabeth I may well have been the worst offender, though that me be mostly because we have so many ghostly looking portraits of her at which to shake our heads in wonder and dismay.

Elizabeth I, ca. 1572,
Nicholas Hilliard
17th-century makeup. Apparently one
exposed breast was considered chic.
Princess Albert de Broglie, 1853,
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
The 18th-century, both in England and France, brought back a semblance of sanity as women once more turned toward a more natural look, but only in the sense of accentuating color in the face instead of masking it. By the mid-1900s when Ingres was at the height of his power as a portrait artist painting high society ladies of Paris such as Princess Albert de Broglie (right), the trend was to avoid a made-up look, though his portrait suggests just a hint of eyeshadow and liner. Or perhaps he simply added a little eye makeup himself. Mostly, however, the ladies loved the way he painted dresses, all of which serves to underline the fact that makeup, hair styles, jewelry and dresses have long been recognized as working in tandem to elevate a woman to the status of a "lady." Ironically, extremes of any of these elements tend to have the opposite effect, reflecting a lack of tasteful refinement even to the point of indicating the status of a "working woman" as suggested by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Woman at her Toilette (below), from 1889.

Woman at her Toilette, 1889, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Butterfly eye, late 20th-century
Until the dawn of the 20th-century we've been pretty much able to delineate makeup trends by the century. As virtually everything sped up with the onslaught of the earth-shaking and quaking 1900s, makeup fashions started changing more or less by the decade, as displayed in the evolutionary illustration below (which only covers the first fifty or sixty years). Later on, the entire definition of makeup began to change evolving toward what was literally "face painting," in which creative urges began to shift the emphasis in referring to a makeup artist, toward the second half of the designation (right). Faces continued to be "made up" in the traditional sense, but evolved into something akin to a blank canvas for the makeup artist to decorate or desecrate, depending upon point of view.

1900-1920                1920s                    1930s                 1940s              1950s          1960s
It goes without saying all this costs money--lots and lots of it. The cosmetic industry in the United States is the biggest in the world, with an estimated total revenue of about $54.9-billion and employing some 53,000 people in 2012. Proctor and Gamble alone accounted for 14.2% of that figure. So what can we expect for the remainder of the 21st-century? Look for metalic trends in makeup shades, as well as androgyny, nostalgia, vintage glamour, retro chic (the latter three seem redundant), opulent gold, and anything worn by British royalty. For the coming year, I'm told pink is the new black. And if you want to become a serious artist with your own, or someone else's face as your blank canvas, check out the gear you'll need (below) to indulge your creative fantasies.

Makeup in the 21st-century. How much? If you have to ask, you can't afford it.
I could paint a pretty decent portrait with all that.


No comments:

Post a Comment