Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Queen's Skirt Explodes: silk vs. skin

I was looking at a series of paintings from 1994, a series I never exhibited. At the time, I was struck by a feature of most formal portraits that I have never seen anyone discuss at all. When Ingres painted the Princesse de Broglie in 1853, for example, he takes care with her face, and yet ... he takes far more care with her silk dress and bustle, and with the lace on her sleeves, even with the upholstery on the divan.  I think that one could argue that this is proving one's worth as a painter; if you can paint a rounded, gleaming pearl, you can paint anything. It's something of an artist's resume, the velvet, the silk, the fur, the amethyst. But what of the face, when there is so much detail in the fabric and the jewels?

I began a group of paintings that would illustrate the problem ... the wealthy patron arrives for her portrait, and she is far less interesting to the artist than the usual model (think of Manet and Matisse, who painted the same woman repeatedly ... certainly because something about her particular presence would become significant in the final work).  In the series, the Queen and the model ... clash. The model holds the artist's attention ... the Queen's skirt is actually the only thing keeping the painter looking in the Queen's direction. And so it goes ... here is the final work in the series, 38 x 50":

No comments:

Post a Comment