Glackens, Sketch for Chateau Thierry, Oil on panel, 1906, © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, California.
Glackens, Chateau Thierry, Oil on canvas, 1906, © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, California.
Several differences exist between the Sketch for Chateau Thierry and Chateau Thierry. Most conspicuous: the omission of the central French flag flying from the pole tilting right. More subtle: the two figures walking across the path (said to be Glackens and his wife Edith) are further apart in the painting, their bodies more lithe and fluid. The bathing suit worn by Glackens is dark blue with white stripes in the painting and red in the sketch. The figure about to dive from the bank (said to be Alfred Maurer) wears a dark blue bathing suit in the sketch and a red one in the painting. The figure to his left, diving into the river, is caught in the act of diving—almost airborne. In the sketch, he is barely visible—as if Glackens used Alfred Maurer twice or even three times if you add the figure balancing on the makeshift diving board. The atmospheric bank of houses across the river, a crenelated band of soft, lumpy grays becomes, in the painting, light/dark rectilinear blocks that move subtly forward and back in space.
Notice how the left side of the inverted picture contains 5 diagonal bands that push to the right. Their generally gray tonality sets off small, light, active color units that move up and down and, in the case of the diving board, create a contrasting thrust to the left and into deep space.
On the right side of the inverted picture, the black, dark gray mass consisting of figures, red-striped umbrella, and foliage pushes forward as the diagonal bands slide behind. That entire right side acts as a repoussoir, enhancing the orchestration of lively, active color units cavorting in atmospheric receding space. These adjustments to the sketch eliminate the need for the second flagpole and flag.
The complexity and subtlety of the space composition accentuates the activity of the figures. The dark/light contrasts interspersed with the deep reds (the stripes on the umbrella to the left; the red stripe of the flag; the deep red of the man’s shirt as he leans on the rail and the arc of the ribbon on his hat; and the two figures with their red swim trunks) act as sense focalizing units, moving our eye in and out, back and forth, in a light, staccato movement.
Look at these details: