Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Essence in a Portrait Unique to each Artist

Mona Lisa (original)
Leonardo Da VInci
Click to see student copy

A few months ago you may have heard of the copy of Mona Lisa that was found hidden in the Prado Museum (archives/ back inventory I suppose). The first few articles I had read explained the significance in the finding was that, unlike many of the other copies, this may have been one of the only ones done at the same time as Leonardo. A student watching the master in the flesh.

How do they know?

While examining the under drawing they saw the student  made the same changes as his teacher.

With that said, because Leonardo's original painting is so fragile to "clean" it would be too risky.
-Thank god for that. I think I mentioned in another article the dangers of over cleaning a piece... Far too common these days. Best to leave it alone and appreciate the paintings natural aging process.-
"Art historians" and whatnot were thrilled at the chance to clean up and see more of what lay beneath the dark colours of the students work, exclaiming how much more they could learn of the original...

Self Portrait
I disagree... In fact, I just had a wonderful conversation with an artist, the lovely Laura Buxton (left), about this very subject. She explained the unique quality, or essence, a portrait painter will unearth in a subject is equally just as unique to whomever is painting it. Whatever she feels while she is painting someone is going to be different from another artist. Just the same, whatever Leonardo saw and felt is going to be completely different to what his student saw and felt. I personally think its rubbish to clean a painting of a students to learn more from the original. What more do you have to learn? Don't over analyze something that was not meant to be riddle.

((--- or IS IT?!... kidding.. Kidding. I digress.. ANYWAY ))

Take a painting done from life compared to a painting from a photo; Many say they don't feel nearly the same emotion when they look at a painting that was done from a photo. Makes sense, the artist wasn't there to see with their heart, to experience their subject and thereby express to the viewer with their brush strokes, their colours, etc. all of which come together to create the mood, essence, emotion. Someone once told me, "A photo captures a memory, but a painting captures the essence." By the time a viewer is looking at a painting that has been replicated from a photo, it has been filtered of the subjects essence.

I wish this had come to mind while I was talking with Laura, but after reading about a her travels to the Balkan War Zone in the 90's, I remember the added fact that the essence of a painting is unique to each because of the blend of experiences the subject, the artist, and the viewer holds in their mind and hearts.

 Its always going be different.

“As an artist,” Buxton said, “I felt this tremendous responsibility to say something that would be worthwhile, that other people could see. And even if they couldn’t understand, they could at least gain some insight from a different point of view.” -Laura Buxton
(Quote from her exhibition at the Turchin Center of Visual Arts)

 -Laura's Book: (on amazon) "Ruined Landscape Paintings of the Balkan War zone"



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