Child Under the Stars
Graham’s cast of angels, fools, kings and voyagers are innocents adrift in a world we view with a sense of wonder, because he enables us see it as they do. While their bodies are presented as frail and schematic, their gravely beautiful faces with downcast eyes and tremulous smiles are lovingly rendered. He knows what to invest with detail and what to leave out. In the painting above, the monk-like hood drawn closely around the child’s head pulls the viewer in to marvel at the tenderness the painter shows for his subject. The faintest flush of colour warms the skin in the wintry night. The child is sphinx-like, the smile inward. It’s a clever trick on the painter’s part, because whatever lies behind the expression must forever be a mystery. (As Leonardo knew!) It can mean whatever we want it to, and that’s what repeatedly draws us back to it, to wonder and to speculate.
Graham and I share a love of the Romanesque. We’ve never discussed this, but I know it to be true. (I recognise his love of it in his work.) So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when yesterday he sent me this image:
He writes of it :
‘Having just looked at your new posting
) I wanted to send this image to you. It is in the crypt museum of Santiago de Compostela cathedral, and is one of the few surviving fragments of Matteo’s original stone choir, made around the time that the Portico da Gloria was carved. It is the remaining section of ‘The Cortege of the Magi’. I adore the conundrum of its incompleteness, and of the disparity between the size of the horses and the tower from which they emerge. I also love their heads bent in supplication, and the fact that there are still traces of polychrome on their bodies. Whether the figures of the magi were ever carved is something we will never know, but to me it is as enigmatic and wonderful as Giselbertus’ amazing relief at Autun of the three kings asleep in bed being visited by the angel; you will, of course, know this.’
(I did know it, and found this image to post here.)
‘I think that, were I ever to be on ‘Desert Island Discs’ (unlikely, don’t you think?), along with my hard-considered playlist, I suspect that this above so much else, just might be my unabashed luxury item: and of course, it would make a wonderful windbreak!’
Two final images to end this post, illustrating how tenderly Graham captures animals in his paintings.
Black Dog at Walsingham
Bird with Amphora
The final two images animal paintings are wonderful!
One of my favorite bits from Thoreau: “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”
I remember this when I’m in the studio working and some stupid rule from my schooling crops up to try to keep me self-conscious and thwart my experiments.
Oh yes. I’m with you and Thoreau on that Anita. Many’s the time that’s crossed my mind when I’ve been dealing with an official quoting a rule-book at me! Rule-books can be so convenient for those who have clearly done with the practice of thinking!
Oh my. Not only am I stunned by the initial painting of Graham’s – those stars! – I have totally fallen in love with the carving of the three kings and the angel. It never occurred to me to use such things as inspiration for paintings (I know, what an idiot) but…of course. How surprising and innocent and tender to imagine all three kings in the same bed, too!
Stars like starfish!
I find the sculpture of the Romanesque period to be a magnificent source of inspiration in the studio. It was a particularly rich time for the visual arts. I can see that I need to do a post on this subject. I found a little book in the Cluny Museum in Paris that is jam-packed with enough beautiful sculpture to keep me inspired for a lifetime! I shall dig it out and scan some illustrations from it.
Yes, that would be interesting!
Starfish, huh? I was thinking of something more like certain lilies or orchids that have a very spidery whorl with many petals. Thoreau has a great image about the sky and stars as a stream… I love the child and his toylike village and his caught star and wand.
Here is Thoreau, and he seems apt: “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.”
I do love the messing-around with proportion in early church decoration, and also the way odd things crop up–like the foliate heads!
And of course there’s the charming way that they don’t take their crowns off to go to bed–like cowboys sleeping in their boots! You never stop being a king or a cowboy, even in sleep.
Oh that Thoreau is beautiful Marly. Thank you so much. What a gift. I feel a painting coming on.
‘Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.’
“Walden” is full of wondrous bits. I don’t care if he did “steal apples” out of Emerson’s pockets… They’re both inspiring.