Search This Blog

Friday, 6 December 2013

Guest Blog: Paintings on the Wall

find it HERE 
or at Amazon HERE

I did another cover for Giselle Marks, working from a sketch of hers, and, forgetting that the painting the hero was looking at was viewed in splendid isolation when it arrived, so I did a painting in the Regency style of cramming a heap of paintings together on a wall, and each of the others being an allegory of part of his life.  The wall is painted fine dark green which the discerning will realise means that the Marquis is loaded as it cost 3 times more than any other paint.  
Anyway, over to Giselle...

Paintings on the Wall

So if you’re looking at my cover for my new Regency Romance “The Marquis’s Mistake,” You are looking at my hero observing a wall of paintings.  The artist’s brief was for the hero to be shown gazing up at a fairly provocative picture of himself as young Hercules, clad only in strategic drapery. I expected such a picture from my publisher’s house artist, but somehow wires got crossed and nothing was done to the very last minute. When they asked my friend Sarah J. Waldock who had produced the cover for my first book, “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” to step in and produce a cover last minute.
My friend who had been itching to do a cover went to town. I explained about the picture and the hero and despite the fact that no other pictures are mentioned in the book, she was determined to set it amongst a wall of other paintings. So I am sorry readers you will have to assume that the picture of our hero looking at the portrait is a few months after the end of the book.  The wall is somewhere is Langsdown Castle, his father’s Ducal seat and Sebastian, Marquis of Farndon is there to give away the bride, “the Incomparable Miranda” to be married to his father.
And I rather liked the wall of pictures, so I let it stand. I was considering what would actually be on the wall for the period, assuming they were all English pictures and had not been purchased while The Duke or his ancestors did the Grand tour of Europe. As we are set 1814, the horse picture could either have been painted George Stubbs who died in 1806, arguably the greatest horse painter of all time, or John Fernley senior.  His dates are 1782 to 1860 and he studied under the Benjamin Marshall in London, who was a follower of Stubbs and a painter of sporting and animal pictures.
Stubbs was fascinated by anatomy, but despite his reputation as a horse painter also painted other animals and humans. His animals and people are more believable because of his study of how muscles work under the skin of a creature. Fernley’s works are excellent polished pieces of workmanship but do not have the underlying understanding of horse’s bodies that Stubbs works illustrate.
So let us move on across the wall. There is a tree showing in what is obviously some kind of a landscape.  Here we have a wider choice or artists, but premier amongst them must be John Constable, 1776-1837 who is so famous for painting the Haywain in 1821 which is now in the National Gallery and other bucolic picturesque representations of the English countryside. For all Constable’s seemingly natural paintings, they are deceptive. If you go looking for the views he painted, you may find that they were substantially incorrect. This is because John Constable happily combined several drawings of different scenic locations to produce an aesthetically pleasing picture which must be considered artistic licence.
The earlier Venetian painter known as Canaletto, 1697 -1768 was also guilty of this particular artistic pastiche. But there is no scene of canals visible on the wall. Although the Marquis obscures a blue paining which might be the Venetian lagoon or then again it might be a seascape, possibly by the leading artist of dramatic weather and stormy seas. Joseph Mallord William Turner, RA, 1775-1851. He also painted a large number of landscapes, so he could also be held responsible for that partially shown landscape.
For the nude study of a lady, posed like an odalisque on a couch, there is only one English artist of the period good enough, William Etty 1787-1849, arguably the best ever English painter of female flesh, but he had one failing as a draftsman, he was not particularly good at hands.  So he got round this by drawing as few as possible, positioning hands out of sight if possible. His lush nudes have frequently been mistaken for the French painter Jean August Dominque Ingres, 1780–1867 who specialised in exotic female nudes, usually in imaginary Turkish harem settings.
The picture I am having greatest difficulty identifying an artist for is the young Hercules. Both the society portraitists Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-92 and Joshua Reynolds, 1723-92, were too early to have painted our Marquis, except in a family picture as a child, possibly with his older brother Peter. It is possible the leading portrait painter of the period, Thomas Lawrence, 1769-1830 painted the picture, but despite a prodigious output of exquisite images of the wealthy and influential of the time, I’ve found not a single nude or classical composition amongst them.
I considered the Scottish painter David Wilkie, 1785-1841 as a possible candidate as painter but although he had a more varied repertoire producing mostly pictures of historical scenes which included some female nudes, I found no classical mythology in his scenes and no male nudes. I moved onto John (Mad) Martin, 1789-1854 who actually died in the Isle of Man and is buried in Old Kirk Braddan churchyard. His scenes of dramatic and apocalyptic landscapes somehow do not fit the concept of painting a lush portrait of an affluent courtesan’s favourite lover. John Martin was certainly a good enough painter to have produced a recognisable portrait of Sebastian Vernon, but somehow his character makes it unlikely that he undertook the commission.
I considered the possibility that it could have been painted by Johann Zoffany, 1733-1810, a German working in London but although there is a least one male semi-nude in his catalogue, I consider his style too dour to have co-operated what is effectively a male pin-up. John Singleton Copley, 1737-1815 also had several nudes of both sexes among his works and certainly was capable of producing a fine portrait and rendering of a classical scene but I have found another possible artist.
So I hope no one will be offended by my suggestion that the best artist resident in London during the period when the picture was supposedly painted to have painted a classical scene with an attractive almost naked male would have been the American Artist, Benjamin West. West produced some beautiful lush paintings of both female classical subjects and luscious male beef cake. So I think “the Incomparable Miranda” would have chosen him to produce the portrait of the young Sebastian Vernon.

Artist’s note: the house and grounds was a Gainsborough and what you can’t see on the right of the picture off the cover is Sebastian’s father as a young man with his dogs and gun! I confess I was thinking a lot of the Ackermann prints of big houses when I did it with a vague thought of the Gainsborough Andrews couple as well.  The Odalisque is indeed Etty.  The blue painting is a castle in the English School and was more visible until Giselle wished to have the figure of Sebastian enlarged. Fair enough! I did that in the computer... The horse was by James Ward because I’m not good enough to do Stubbs. I didn’t really have an artist in mind for young Hercules, I have to say I thought maybe it might have been the masterpiece of an unknown…
 I apologise for the anachronistic frame on the top right.  I ended up painting it in a hurry and letting it happen as it wanted to instead of keeping it firmly in order. 
this is what I had in mind for the house in landscape - Mr and Mrs Andrews by Gainsborough

Horse, by Ward.  Stubbs he ain't but it's competent
This is what Giselle found as an exemplar for Benjamin West

No comments:

Post a Comment