HE SIMPLEST of silhouettes is the classic bust-length cameo. Originally known as ‘shades’, they were popular all over England during the Georgian and Regency periods. They form the majority of silhouettes we cut today and many examples can be seen throughout this site.
It’s hard to beat the simple beauty of an elegantly-cut profile set into an oval or rectangle mount. In the hands of an expert, such classic cameos can be cut in as little as 60 seconds. That said, there are many variations to the theme…
Half-length silhouettes holding a glass of wine are a popular variation:
“Look, he even got the glass in!”
Double silhouettes, arranged in a variety of poses, go down well. You can pose face-to-face or back-to-back:
“A Smith & Jones or a Charlie’s Angels?”
Collars and ties can be cut away – a technique known as slash cutting – leaving an empty white space. This gives the silhouette a quintessentially 1920’s feel.
This kind of silhouette repertoire is vital. It allows artists to develop a theme as they work. It keeps the work fresh and prevents them getting stuck in a the rut of “cutting heads”.
From time to time a volunteer may be found to pose for a full-length silhouette (if anybody is brave enough).
This takes longer (perhaps 3 or 4 minutes) and the results are spectacular. Charles Burns is possibly the only living silhouettist who cuts full-length freehand silhouettes on a regular basis.
Take a deep breath before he starts cutting!
The most artistic silhouettes are cut at period costume balls. Piled up wigs, masks and flowing dresses and elegant coats offer a wonderful opportunity for the silhouettist. You may find the artist cutting some genuinely eighteenth-century looking portraits.
Silhouette artists have been active in various guises throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. For this reason a silhouettist can form a historically-accurate addition to a wide range of Georgian, Regency, and Victorian events. They would not be out of place at a 1920s- or 1930s-themed evening either.
Last autumn Charles was booked for a Goth weekend in Whitby, where he found himself cutting a wide range of full-length silhouettes. His favourite kind of event!