The Art Collector – oil on canvas – 122 x 153 cm
I began this picture late in November 2012. It was developed after a conversation with an art collector who owns a number of my paintings. He would prefer to remain anonymous, however he is a man who loves paintings of beautiful women so we decided to make feminine beauty the theme for this picture. The space in the picture is imaginary some of the paintings and sculptures are from the collectors own collection whilst others have been adapted by me. We thought it would be fun to have some of the paintings coming to life.
The composition was made up on the hoof as it were. As this subject is potentially complex I decided to start with a simple idea – the relationship between the collector and the largest picture in the background. Later it was decided to make it look as if Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ was coming alive. This picture is created entirely from photographic sources, thanks to digital cameras and computer technology it is much easier and quicker to get the visual information required in order to paint a picture such as this. I have painted other pictures using similar methods, for example ‘After the Floods’.
I have sifted through hundreds of images to find the material for this picture. Some of these images have been downloaded from google, others have been scanned in from various art books. And some of them are taken from sculptures I have photographed myself. My research has taken me to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and the Wallace Collection.
My way of working is quite time consuming. I paint in oils, starting with a ground colour, rubbing out or painting over various ideas as the composition is developed. This is a picture which requires a fair amount of detail in order to be convincing. I decided that each work of art should be painted in a way that allows it be viewed in isolation as well as being part of the overall effect. So that there is a symbiotic relationship between the various art objects as if they are in some way conspiring with each other.
In the history of art there have been many pictures featuring individual connoisseurs or a group of art collectors surrounded by pictures and artefacts. Johann Zoffany, (a German artist active in England during the first half of the 19th century) painted a number of such pictures. The people in these pictures are nearly always male and they are shown in discourse about art and culture. The objects they are discussing often include manuscipts and scientific instruments and there are usually references to music and philosophy. The intention is to show these men as being well educated and very much aware of the pre-Christian classical world, they are antiquarians with humanistic ideals. In pictures of this kind the main subject is the group of figures perusing the works of art. In most of these picturers the choice of objects and their arrangement is secondary to the activity of the gentleman collectors. Sir John Soane was such a person and most of his collection is still intact. His house in London at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields is now a museum and it can be visited free of charge.
In my picture the paintings and sculptures and their positioning is at least as important as the figure of the collector seated at his desk. He is sitting at his desk working on his computer and he’s been distracted by an unknown noise or incident in a part of the room outside of the picture space or possibly by the cry of the seagull flying out of the foreground picture. He is not yet aware of the pictures that are coming to life around him as they are outside of his line of vision. A surreal moment is beginning to unfold.
This painting is quite large by my standards. The fine detail contained within makes it like a gigantic miniature. In this picture I am hoping to achieve a feeling of the sublime. One experiences the sublime when one’s senses are overpowered. Examples could include a spectacular scenic view or the combination of sound and vision at the opera or a rock concert, or the soaring architecture inside a gothic cathedral. In my picture the detail within the individual works of art and the environment that contains them should have the effect of making it go slightly out of focus so when the viewer is first confronted by the painting it is difficult to work out exactly what is going on and for a time there is a suspension of belief.
In my next blog I will be talking about some of the artists whose works are featured in my painting.