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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Summer 18 > The contre-jour effect

The contre-jour effect

Jo Quigley explains the term contre-jour, and demonstrates why you should consider using this technique in your painting

ACRYLICS: 5 TH OF 6

Studied at Winchester School of Art and Kingston University, and taught painting before turning professional. Jo demonstrates to art societies across the south east of England – for more details see www.quigleyarts.co.uk

Autumn Afternoon, Trafalgar Square, acrylic, 15¾×15¾in (40 ×40cm)

The term contre-jour originates from the early 20th-century French expression meaning ‘against daylight’, in which the main subject is positioned directly in front of the light source. First used as a way to describe a photographic technique, it was subsequently adopted as a term for paintings that employ the same use of backlighting. It was a popular technique amongst post-Impressionist painters as well as artists painting in England at a similar time. Two of the earliest examples attributed to this method are Pierre Bonnard’s Nu à contre-jour painted in 1908 and Walter Sickert’s Mornington Crescent Nude, contrejour, completed just a year earlier. In both paintings the artist placed the subject, a female nude, against the light coming through a window, creating a silhouette effect. Whilst the subject of these two paintings may appear similar at first, each artist used backlighting to convey a different mood.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our summer issue in which our team of top professional artists and tutors offer a sparkling range of inspirational features to help you create your best work over the summer months. Capture the sparkle of silver light on water with Chris Rose, enliven your watercolours with moving figures with Jake Winkle, use contre-jour for dramatic effect with Jo Quigley, paint spring and summer trees in watercolour with Ian Sidaway, or a coastal scene in acrylics with Paul Talbot-Greaves. Julie Collins goes back to basics with a look at colour theory and pigments, Ann Witheridge suggests using an extended palette for portraits, Amanda Hyatt offers a variety of tricks to help you produce better watercolours and there is a host of exercises to try throughout the issue. All this and much more, plus don't forget to enter this month's summer sketching challenge set by Adebanji Alade on page 46, for a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on art materials with GreatArt!