The complete translation, in PDF form, is here.

This post is a continuation of this one. Thanks to everyone who has helped out so far!

The following images are pages 1 and 2 of Adolphe Yvon’s Méthode de Dessin. After these pages, all the rest are labeled diagrams of heads and figures.

Page 1

Page 1 translation:

Method of Drawing
by Adolphe Yvon


The goal of teaching drawing in the high schools and colleges is to put students in the position of applying and developing, later in their careers, the knowledge that they have acquired in this interesting branch of their studies.

It is to satisfy these conditions that the Government schools require drawing, to a certain degree, for the admission of their prospective students.

However, one could not reach this goal simply by copying skillfully made crosshatched prints without learning the fundamentals which underlie the laws of drawing. It is also to be feared that the direction of one’s ideas would become distorted or sent down the wrong path by such work, as is often the case when the student succeeds in such endeavors early on.

On the other hand, studying high aesthetics and applying its concerns to sort and suggest, using the great works of the masters as models, is surely premature. In fact, some opinions do not support such models, whose infinite diversity still troubles artists even after a whole career dedicated to the search for Truth and Beauty!

What is needed is a clear and logical method of teaching which provides young people with the means to understand and apply the elementary problems of the art of drawing.

The foundation of this teaching will be an intimate knowledge of the principle geometric figures, such as the vertical line, the horizontal, the oblique at all angles, the circle, the oval, etc. — All forms are nothing but a succession of these figures.

However, it would be dangerous to push to excess this reduction of forms, and especially human forms, to geometric shapes. The difficulty of such operations are likely to repel rather than help the students in their studies.

It would also be a mistake to believe in the discovery of a method for teaching drawing, based solely on observation, in only a few lessons.

[The last sentence is split between pages 1 and 2]

Page 2

Page 2 translation:

Continuous, serious study is the only way of learning the principles of art in which mathematical formulas are relevant only to a small degree and then solely as a support.

The method that should be followed for drawing, either from life or from references, consists in positioning what we want to achieve by the means of simple lines, whose carefully thought-out angles (compared to the vertical and the horizontal) first give the general directions of movement. The vertical and horizontal lines must be drawn before anything else, to serve as guides, as can be seen from the examples in this book.

Once these lines are in position, the student will then use them as a basis to consider the principal divisions of length and width. A student cannot be too careful with this preparatory work: the success of his drawing will depend on it.

It is evident, clearly, that if these principal lines and proportions are correct, the rest will be nothing but a question of details; and these, even if clumsily done, will not be able to take away from the overall character and fidelity of the drawing.

The references used, especially in beginning lessons, should as much as possible be accompanied by the main divisions and reference marks which will facilitate copying.

In the more advanced classes, it will be a good idea to vary the references by adding draped or clothed figures, groups, etc.

The diagrams on the following pages show examples at different stages of development:

  1. The placement, with the main divisions
  2. The refined contour
  3. The values

To draw the human figure, it is essential to have knowledge of certain proportions or ratios of common lengths and widths.

Almost all masters created for themselves a scale of proportions (which we call a “canon”), applied to the human figure. Among the most famous we can cite Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci.

We could not do better than to be inspired by such predecessors. However, for the studies which we are setting for ourselves, these scales are, for the most part, overloaded with complications. It will be necessary only to extract from them the principal rules.

We have thought it useful to complete this book by giving the écorché and skeleton of the two male figures contained within. Knowledge of bones and surface anatomy is invaluable in understanding the human form.

Before finishing this introduction, we cannot overemphasize that you should draw as much as possible, either from live models, casts, or any inanimate objects. The problems are invariably the same, regardless of the source. They demand above all, a laborious and constant education of the eye: once acquired, the hand will soon become an instrument, if not always dexterous, at least relatively accurate.

Thanks to Ramon, Luc, Dominic, Henry and Ronan (in order of their offer of assistance). I have edited their translations together and updated the language so it is easier to read. Apparently the original is in an older form of French.

The next plate is online, here.

2 Responses to Yvon’s Méthode de Dessin – Pages 1 and 2

  1. Dominic Hurr says:

    Had a spare hour 😉
    Interesting text, and I’m happy also that it more or less reflects the words of the teachers I study under at the Russian Academy of art in Florence. I notice it’s not in your list of schools, you should check it out!

    [Dominic’s translation has been combined with others (above) -Darren]

    • Darren R. Rousar says:

      Thanks Dominic,
      I’ve combined your translation with the others (see above) and therefore removed that part of your comment in order to keep the post a bit shorter.

      As for your school in Florence, I know very little about it as it did not exist when I was studying or teaching there. But, I do own the English PDF of Mogilevtsev’s Fundamentals of Drawing. If your school teaches figure drawing like that, then you are in a fine place.

      For interested readers, here’s your website, Dominic Hurr and that of your school, The Russian Academy of Art.