The Character of Light – Part Four: Chameleon and Narcissus


Reblogged from Pippa Rathborne’s CONTRAblog

part four of The Character of Light
John Keats, Thomas Lawrence and the Brilliance Feminine

Thomas-Lawrence croft

Sir Thomas Lawrence. Mrs. Jens Wolff, 1803 – 1815.
© The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection.

We feed on the human drama; it stirs and nourishes us. The painting suddenly looks better. We must forget….

While Pre-Raphaelite female beauty is impassive, the women in Thomas Lawrence’s Regency society portraits are animated, with parted lips, sparkling eyes, and “flush of welcome ever on the cheek”.[1] Lawrence, though dependent on “the wolfsbane of fashion and foppery and tattle” that Keats claimed to despise,[2] captured likenesses in what he referred to as“the fleeting moment of Expression”,[3] the same as  “the instant feeling”[4] admired by Keats in Kean’s acting.

In “his elegant affetuosa style”, the genuine tender feeling underlying his swagger discerned by Constable, [5]Lawrence portrayed women as intelligent, sexually confident individuals and imbued his male sitters with feminine sensitivity, transforming the most prosaic of politicians and bloated of princes into Byronic heroes.

Under the suave surface, he untied his own Gordian self-identity in his paintings, the fundamental subject of art being the artist, in manifold identities. As if enthralled by Keats’ three passing “figures on a marble urn” in Ode on Indolence, sometimes, led by fame, rather than art, Lawrence was cloyingly flattering, but when moved by love, for man or woman, he painted like a poet…

Read more…

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

4 thoughts on “The Character of Light – Part Four: Chameleon and Narcissus

      1. Ooooh, I longed to go to Central – I sent off for the prospectus when I was about 14 – I was so sure that it was going to be the path that I followed but things turned out a little differently!

        Like

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