Explorations of an artistic genre by Charles Burns
Through his various artistic research projects, Charles has devoted himself to experimenting with the silhouette as an artistic genre
“When researching my book “Mastering Silhouettes” I was struck by the huge range of media and technique used by silhouettists of the past. People assume silhouettes were always cut from paper. Yet, I found historical artists who, cut, painted and embellished their silhouettes using media as diverse as gouache, enamel, glass, ivory, soot and gold leaf. Some artists worked freehand (as I do) while others relied on a weird variety of pseudo-scientific contraptions.
From that moment forward I resolved to devote my artistic explorations to pushing the genre of the silhouette portrait in new directions, using as wide a variety of media and technique as I can.“
We intend this gallery as a simple visual showcase. However, many of the artworks illustrated here available to buy, either as prints or original paintings. Do get in touch if interested.
What is a silhouettist?
At it’s simplest, a silhouette is an outline, usually filled in with black; essentially a shadow.
Yet, throughout history*, silhouettists have never been satisfied with this most severe of artistic limitations. They have always sought to push the limits between silhouettes and portraiture, and Charles Burns continues this tradition. He does this both in his artistic explorations and in his range of commissioned silhouettes.
However, it is a dilemma. Many people value silhouettes precisely of their austere simplicity. So do they really need to much variation?
Of course, the two approaches are not exclusive. It is perfectly possible for one artist to continue to produce the most elegantly simple of silhouettes (as Charles does, routinely at his studio days and various appearance s at events) and yet continue to explore the wider implications of the silhouettist’s art.
Charles is constantly driven by his yet unanswered question:
What exactly is a silhouette?
- * More on the history of silhouettes