There aren’t many paintings that have taken my breath away when I first saw them. Plenty have made me smile immediately with pleasure and some I have recognised as old friends even though I’d never seen them before. Most of the pictures I love have crept up on me over years of familiarity or seeking out work by artists i’ve come across. But a few have startled me by their poignancy and brilliance.
One is the portrait of Pope Innocent by Velazquez in the Galleria Doria, in Rome,
But one of the most stunning (almost not a metaphor) is the portrait of a famous actress by Lawrence, in the Met, in New York.
Lawrence is one of those virtuoso painters I wish I was like but never will be. One whose undoubted hard work translates into a seemingly effortless effusion of skill and insight. I do try from time to time but only get somewhere sometimes in drawing;
But my drawings are more likely to be pedestrian and useful, with a slow buildup of tones and forms;
I am reminded of the old divide between the Classical and the Romantic as exemplified by Ingres and Delacroix. Both visions of the world are components, to different degrees, in all good works of art.
4 Dec 2011