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“I always strive for a well balanced, restful composition, in which the technical aspects get as much attention as the aesthetic ones,” states Thierry Bonnaffé, a Belgian artist who works in the tradition of figure painting established during the Renaissance and pursued until Impressionism. In his search for harmony and balance in the representation of feminine beauty and sensuality, Bonnaffé manifests affinities with postromantic art. His charcoal and sanguine sketches combine a rare delicacy and sureness of touch with creativity of vision.

From the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, meaning all the way to the Impressionists, the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France privileged the drawing of outlines and contours—a technique inherited from the Renaissance masters—as opposed to focusing upon blocks of color as a way of teaching painting. The implicit assumption behind this hierarchy was that color was found in nature whereas outlining the human form was a more difficult, acquired skill. Whether or not we agree with this claim, Thierry Bonnaffé’s “Cindy” shows how impressive painting can be when an artist captures the essence of both color and form.

Cindy’s body is painted with the soft contours inherited from Renaissance techniques. The body is fluid form, revealed through minimal outlines, subtle shading and a sure touch. The shading, however, is not performed through the contrast of specks of color that has become familiar to us since the Impressionists. Instead, it employs the Renaissance techniques of chiaroscuro and sfumato, the gradual shading that leaves forms just enough to the imagination to render them all the more expressive.

Only a few curved lines reveal that the young woman’s troubled emotions belie her repose. To complement the subtlety of form, the color is equally understated. A fire-hot, agitated red—and that’s all—bathes her body in a luminous warmth. In the way it conveys the human form and moods so minimalistically—through such lightness of color and touch—this painting is exquisite. 

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com