Painting the Enchantress: part 1

 

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Stage snapshots of a gouache and pencil portrait of Morgan le Fay made as a study for a print in my Gawain and the Green Knight series. While she doesn’t appear in person in the poem, the enchantress is referred to by another character as the architect of the magic at the heart of the narrative.

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18 thoughts on “Painting the Enchantress: part 1

  1. Like the metal-mettlesome beast! He would no doubt give off a bronze-like ringing if you slapped him, just before you were eaten. And your Morgan le Fay is chimera-like with her tigerish markings and wings.

    My father’s middle name was LaFay.

    • Ha ha! Well she certainly means business! This is a woman who knows the importance of an entrance.

      I always think it’s interesting the way Sir Bertilak, in the closing pages of the narrative, claims that the whole Green Knight schtick was conjured by Morgan’s magic in order to unveil what might be rotten at the court of King Arthur. And of course it does, because when this wonder, this marvel of the natural/supernatural worlds is decapitated by young, untested Gawain, the Pearl Poet describes what, to my eyes, is the most telling detail: the great and the good of Camelot kick out at the beautiful green head as it tumbles across the floor, and I’m reminded of those public schoolboys, full of confidence and privilege and ignorance – who grow into politicians and bankers and military leaders – cheering on the spectacle, not understanding the extraordinariness and sheer wonder of what they’ve just seen destroyed.

      Your dad’s middle name was LaFay? Well little wonder you were kissed by fairies as a child and gifted in your crib with the the art of writing. That explains a lot.

      • Haha! I don’t know a thing about why, so you may be right.

        Odd, but I was reading a Ted Hughes translation of that scene in his “Selected Translations” just a couple of days ago and was struck by that very thing. Hughes translates the head-tumble as “The noble head leapt from its neck to the floor / And rolled under the benches, where feet spurned it.”

  2. I feel she’s a very organic enchantress, growing, weaving her magic through and via the flora and fauna, around her; flow on.
    Love as ever
    B xxx

    • Morgan le Fay has got some very bad press over the years, being demoted from goddess to enchantress to evil witch. Her role in Gawain and the Green Knight may be an offstage one, but I see her as being a leveller, a force that challenges the status quo, which in terms of the King and the Court of Camelot clearly needs examining. As such I wanted to present her as being powerfully in command of natural magic, but also to have the bearing of a judge. I barely thought about how she would appear. She painted herself.

    • Thank you, Liz. So pleased you like it. It was made as the study for the print that is currently in process, though in the end I chose different colours to those in the painting. It’ll be interesting to compare. Sending love to you and Graham from all at Ty Isaf.

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