Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Faithful Friend

In 1657, Rembrandt’s pupil and close friend, Gerbrand van der Eeckhout, was commissioned to paint a group portrait of Four Officers of the Amsterdam Cooper’s and Wine-Rackers’ Guild. The four Amsterdam burghers sit at a table on which are important-looking books and a document with a round, red wax seal.
Three of these important men wear tall, wide-brimmed black hats, and except for the Master are dressed in black with broad, white collars. The Master, whose importance is accentuated by posing in front of a white background, also wears black clothing, but sports a white ruff – giving him a certain gravitas.
They are serious men, important and wealthy, secure in their positions of power in Holland’s Golden Age.
They are there to be recorded for posterity, and have succeeded in life. The proof of this success on the part of the artist and his sitters is that we are now able to admire the picture, hanging in room 22 of London’s National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square. But it is not the Officers that steal the show, it is a dog.
This small, long-legged creature with short ears sits at his master’s feet, the Master, in the lower left-hand corner of the painting. He has a small tail, is pale brown with areas of white, and is marked by a V-shaped white patch on his head.
Dogs are happy with a job to do, and this dog does it splendidly. His duty is to keep an eye on everyone who might upset his master in any way. So he watches you, trusting no one.
Stand in front of the painting, wherever you will, and his eyes are on you. Walk across in front of him and he will follow you with his attentive gaze. There is no escape from his beady eyes. He might well bite should you get too near.
So the rope around the painting is not for its safety, it is for yours.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A Lost Weathervane

I wrote recently in this blog of a lost copper and wood 1962 sculpture, found with worm-eaten and rotten wood support sides in a neighbour’s garden. The piece has since been restored. Through that written account, another lost “sculpture” has surfaced. Let me explain.
In 1962, a completed studio house, that I designed and helped to build in downland north of Newbury in Berkshire, needed a weathervane. Clouds and weather conditions were once most important to me since my life would sometimes depend upon them when I flew aeroplanes in the war. I still take great interest in what happens in the sky.
So I designed and made this weathervane out of copper sheet, ironwork and balancing lead, to form the shape of a Reverend F. Page-Roberts rose.
Although I had done drawings of the house with its proposed weathervane, when I came to install it, the proportions were wrong. It was too large (2’ 10” x 4’ 9”).
So I took it down, and can not recall what happened to it, except that, due to its size, it was rather in the way.
A reader of my blog, Judy George, contacted me, having read my piece on a lost sculpture. The weathervane exists, and it is hers.
It seems that my then cottager neighbour, the charming Mrs Rampling, found the weathervane in a hedge and gave it to Bill and Judy George, who owned the house after Francis Bacon’s tenure there.
The weathervane no longer tells of the direction from which the wind blows, but hangs on a wall as decoration. It has found a home and a use. I am delighted.
I wonder: Are there any other sculpted pieces of mine hiding somewhere?