Same song, different verse. They are the same orange and lemon sitting on the same cloth, in the same relationships, portrayed a little differently from one painting to another.
The variations offer endless possibility.
I love painting the same things in slightly different ways. It’s like jazz. You learn the tune and then you discover something inside it that’s new each time.
I painted this still life in the first studio that I ever had outside my house. The room had very dim interior light and huge ceilings. The vault of air above my head was enchanting. The room was badly lit and people coming by to say hello often asked me why I was sitting in the dark. But my still life and the canvas were lit well enough. I loved the diffuse light of that quirky place.
The painting became the DNA for several pictures. Over the years I’ve made versions of the idea. They all bear some resemblance to their parent and yet each one has its own identity too.
I don’t look like this, yet in some crazy way this is my portrait. I made this whimsical pen drawing after Ingres’s magnificient Portrait of Mme Moitessier that lives in the National Gallery, London. I saw the painting when it was loaned to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for an Ingres exhibit a few years ago, but made this drawing from a reproduction. While searching the net for an image of the painting to show readers, I also found this surprising appearance of the grand lady. (She gets around more than I supposed!) Actually the real painting is much larger than the reproduction of her that gazes out upon the pedestrians. The real MacCoy measures 120 x 92.1 cm (about 60 x 38 inches). Some of the real Mme Moitessier’s story is available here.
I realize that lots of people care about celebrities. There wouldn’t be celebrities, I mean, such category of persons would not exist, were there not a “demand” for them. It’s not a sentiment that I share. Of course, I can identify some of the currently famous actresses of the present because like everyone I enjoy eating, and consequently find myself shopping fairly regularly for groceries. And the ubiquitous check out tabloids stare out at you and greet everyone and update the world of the latest misadventures of the famous “beautiful people.”
Well, that kind of thing holds no appeal for me. Most of the famously photographed people could arrive at my doorstep, and finding them outside their grocery store check-out line context, I wouldn’t know who they are. But — if Mme Moitessier ever showed up…. Holy cow! Wouldn’t that be the day! I’d certainly recognize her. And she’d be a stand out in any group wearing the fabulous dress she wears in Ingres’s portrait.
Of course, Mme Moitessier is unfortunately quite long dead. Moreover, she probably did not thoroughly resemble the woman in her picture. Or let’s just say, it was mighty convenient of her to happen to look so much like the Roman fresco goddess that Ingres worshipped, into whose pose Ingres put her. The dress may be partly Ingres’s invention. So, one might as well expect a fictional character to arrive at one’s door. The odds that Britney Spears’s car would break down in front of the house, and she require the use of some of our wrenches and other car tools is far more likely than that anyone vaguely resembling Mme Moitessier should arrive. And, really, it’s a shame.
[Top of the post: Me as Mme Moitessier, sort of… by Aletha Kuschan]
Art is definitely a formal affair.