A Day with the Pre-Raphaelites

I recently attended a fabulous exhibition of pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  This group of English painters from the mid 1800's decided that art had gone downhill after the Rennaissance painter Raphael and they determined to paint in the manner and style of the early Rennaissance painters (hence, pre-Raphaelite).  The group included Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais.  I love the drama and luminosity of their works, and the arresting expressions found on the women depicted.  I've always wanted to turn my hand to a painting in this style and today, a rainy Saturday when I'm home alone with nothing much on the agenda, I decided to give it a go. I had a handful of pages torn out of a wedding magazine article featuring gowns designed to mimic Renaissance gowns, and one of these provided inspiration.  Sadly, my artistic integrity impels me to reveal my source, which means I can never enter the painting in a juried show nor sell it--it is a clear breach of copyright to paint from someone else's photo (especially without permission!).  However, there is no law against doing so simply for your own pleasure and learning, and that's what this was.  After all, generations of atelier students have painted copies of the Masters in museums in order to learn their techniques.  As long as you are honest about it and make no attempt to pass off your copy as an original, no harm done. If I ever want to do one of these type of paintings for show or sale, I'll have to hire a model and some costumes and make my own source material!

Anyway, I loved the chiaroscuro effect in the photo (commonly used by Rembrandt, this is a technique in which much of the image is dark, with the figures emerging dramatically out of the gloom), and the sense of an arrested moment in time.  The expression on the face of the young woman, and her body stance indicate to me that she has just been startled by the entrance of someone unexpected, and that the interruption has broken into a serious interaction with the rather belligerent-looking mysterious figure in the rear.  One is invited to speculate--is she rejecting a lover? or justifying herself to a judgmental brother who has just opened the door and interrupted the conversation?  What will happen now?  Write your own story...

As well, it was a fun challenge to represent all the textures in the scene: her satin gown with its touches of lace applique, her heavily ornamented cape, the dark (velvet?) of the man's robe and hat and his heavy jeweled collar, not to mention the lady's porcelain skin and glorious red hair--what a visual feast!

I've called the painting The Intrusion, and am so pleased with it that I intend to frame it with a suitably baroque frame and hang it somewhere for my own enjoyment!