It’s Hard Work

'Greek Slave and Marigolds'. Oil on panel, 10" x 8"

‘Greek Slave and Marigolds’. Oil on panel, 10″ x 8″

Here’s an Alla Prima sketch that I am in two minds about whether to keep or not. It’s kind of fun, and I like the general composition and concept (for a change), but it isn’t executed very well, and the ‘Greek Slave’ figure isn’t particularly well articulated or proportioned. I painted it on one of my good linen panels which could be better used, and that is the basis of my dilemma. I titled this post ‘It’s Hard Work’ because painting doesn’t get any easier.

While I decide, here’s a little background. ‘The Greek Slave’ figure in my painting, is a small scale reproduction of a marble statue carved in Florence by American sculptor Hiram Powers in 1844.

He himself describes the work as follows (making my juxtaposition of the figure with a pair of Marigold rubber gloves seem rather vapid):

The Slave has been taken from one of the Greek Islands by the Turks, in the time of the Greek revolution, the history of which is familiar to all. Her father and mother, and perhaps all her kindred, have been destroyed by her foes, and she alone preserved as a treasure too valuable to be thrown away. She is now among barbarian strangers, under the pressure of a full recollection of the calamitous events which have brought her to her present state; and she stands exposed to the gaze of the people she abhors, and awaits her fate with intense anxiety, tempered indeed by the support of her reliance upon the goodness of God. Gather all these afflictions together, and add to them the fortitude and resignation of a Christian, and no room will be left for shame.

I painted it thinking again of the work of William Nicholson – particularly some of his paintings of figurines, and one in particular which features some gloves. His brushwork is spare and sometimes abstract looking when viewed close-up and in isolation. I am also struck by how often he used shadows and reflections as integral elements of his compositions. I find this aspect of his work incredibly appealing for its subtlety and sophistication. In ‘The Glass Bowl’, for example, not only is the shadow of the bowl itself an integral part of the composition, but the looming shadow on the left adds a weighty atmosphere and describes something of the larger environment of the room. It’s so powerful, and yet such a subtle device on a conscious level you barely notice it’s there.

Sir William Nicholson (1872‑1949) 'The Glass Bowl' 1920

Sir William Nicholson (1872‑1949) ‘The Glass Bowl’ 1920.

Sir William Nicholson (1872‑1949) 'Lillies of the Valley' 1925

Sir William Nicholson (1872‑1949) ‘Lillies of the Valley’ 1925

Another artist that I have been looking at a lot lately is Euan Uglow. Stylistically his work is very different to Nicholson’s, and yet I see much in common and think they are two painters whose work really inspires when viewed together. Aside from both artists painting within the portrait / figure / landscape and still life genres, I think it is the elegance and cleverness that each employs in their organisation of space that binds them, and makes them so compelling.

Euan Uglow: The Complete Paintings" by Catherine LampertAs a side note, I was reading “Euan Uglow: The Complete Paintings” by Catherine Lampert, with half a plan to paint the statue, but was also thinking of something much simpler as time was limited. I turned the page and saw one of Uglow’s paintings of an Antique cast. I took it as a message and got on with it.

I can’t recommend ‘The Complete Paintings’ book enough, but I see it is now listed on Amazon at a much higher price than I bought it for a few months ago. I’ve noticed this with a few art books recently, which is a shame as building a library is so valuable, but it is certainly getting to be prohibitively expensive.