Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
"Such was the face of Gerlach Flicke when he was a painter in the City of London. This, he himself painted from a looking glass for his dear friends. So that they might have something to remember him after his death."
So reads the latin text which sits atop the left hand panel of this remarkable double portrait.
Flicke arrived in England around 1545 where he presented himself to the Tudor court as the heir apparent to that genius of early portraiture, Hans Holbein. The welcome he received and opinions on the quality of his art in comparison to Holbein have not been recorded, but clues to his reception can perhaps be gleaned from his imprisonment in the Tower of London before the year was out. Nothing is known of Flicke's crime or his time in prison other than the work above which was almost certainly executed during his time in the Tower of London. The inscription probably indicates that he expected to be executed.
The bearded gentleman on the right is Henry Strangwish, a "gentleman pirate" nicknamed "Red Rover of the Channel" who dreamt of "stealing an island" from the King of Spain and terrorised Spanish ships only to be repeatedly pardoned for his crimes by his influential friends, including Elizabeth I. The inscription on the right panel reads, "Strangwish, thus strangely depicted is One prisoner, for thother, hath done this/ Gerlin, hath garnisht, for his delight This woorck whiche you se, before youre sight." Again, nothing is known of Strangwish's imprisonment or the relationship between the pair of prisoners, but looking at them posing earnestly with lute and palette it is impossible not to speculate on the words that may have been exchanged as the wild haired, lute-wielding English pirate posed for the somehow disgraced painter from Germany. It is thought that the painting was Flicke's gift to Strangwish, a remembrance of their friendship in adverse circumstances.
Flicke may not have gained significant employment as an artist in England but when he painted this tiny double portrait, just 4 inches tall, while holed up in the Tower of London he created a striking work of art - the first self portrait executed in oils in England. A painting that certainly provided "something to remember him after his death."
An analysis of the methods behind this work can be enjoyed here.
Monday, 15 June 2009
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
Maria Oakey Dewing was born in New York City in 1845. She grew up in a cultured environment and her interest in writing and painting was encouraged by her family. Though she initially wanted to become a writer, she decided at age seventeen to devote herself to painting. She received her early training at the Cooper Union School of Design for Women in 1866 and later studied under John La Farge, whose influence is particularly evident in her beautiful plein air paintings of flowers. By 1875, Dewing had established herself as an artist and was one of the primary motivators behind the formation of the Art Student's League in New York.
"The Rose Garden" 1901
In 1881, Maria Oakey married Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and her primary subject matter began to shift away from figure painting, for which her husband was established as one of the finest talents, toward gardens and flowers, painted spontaneously out of doors. From 1885 to 1903, the Dewings spent their summers in Cornish, New Hampshire, where Thomas cultivated a garden and both husband and wife devoted themselves to their work. Jennifer Martin writes, " There, at the home she called 'Doveridge,' she executed many of the plein air flower paintings. The beauty of the New Hampshire landscape stimulated her creativity, just as it motivated a host of artists and writers who flocked to Cornish during those years.
"Garden in May" 1895
"...In her Cornish garden she spent long hours studying the growth patterns, textures, and dispositions of the individual plants in order to nurture her 'garden thirsty soul.' She firmly believed that a painter of nature must bind himself to a 'long apprenticeship in the garden.' Yet, for her, a flower painting was not to be a 'mere reproduction' of reality but 'picturemaking'...
"Her composition, which is similar in all of the pictures...contributes importantly to the sense of animation. The use of the highest lights in the foreground...not only emphasizes the immediacy of the composition, but also contributes to a feeling of depth. The sensation of depth is also implied by the overlapping of forms as in Rose Garden, where roses peek through the mass of green foliage, and by the rather less defined areas in the upper center...In such a two-dimensional surface where forms move out toward the frame, the viewer has an immediate sense of intimacy with growing life and, concurrently, a sense of awe."
"Poppies and Italian Mignonette" 1891
...The originality of her paintings was noted by [Arthur E.] Bye who wrote: 'These remarkable works are absolutely unique. There is nothing like them in the field of flower painting,' and by Royal Cortissoz, authoritative critic for the New York Herald Tribune, who wrote after her death, 'The salient trait of Maria Oakey Dewing, was the strain of originality that characterized her deep feeling for beauty--There was no mistaking her quality, her accent...she knew how to interpret the soul of a flower--but her principal aim was to make it a work of art...save for John La Farge we have had no one who could work with flowers the magic that was hers" ("Portraits of Flowers: The Out-of-Door Still-Life Paintings of Maria Oakey Dewing," pp. 55, 114-16).
Though Dewing's work was largely unknown in this century until Martin began to write of her rediscovery in 1976, she was widely recognized and praised during her own lifetime. On the occasion of the exhibition of the present work at the National Academy of Design in 1923, Mr. Cortissoz wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, "Mrs. Dewing's 'Rose Garden' leads the paintings of flowers through the beauty of design it possesses, its delicacy in the detachment of white and pink blossoms against a background of heavenly green, and its distinguished style. It is painted in a singularly reticent and haunting key" (Royal Cortissoz and Maria Oakey Dewing's 'Rose Garden,' The Yale University Library Gazette, October 1977, p. 87). [biography by Susan A. Hobbs]
- Still life by Maria Oakey Dewing acquired
- Maria Oakey Dewing's flowers and figures