Friday, 3 January 2014

The Texture of Despondency

All is calm, all is bright

I guess that title makes this post sound like a not-very-happy one, but that's not true. After I did the afternoon of watercolour painting at The Esker Foundation in October, that I talked more extensively about in The Colour of Water, I began discovering other references made by artists and writers about making art referring memory, and how some artists changed their practice after the death of a loved one, something I wish I wasn't quite so familiar with.

The real Christmas #4

One of these was on the excellent movie The Royal Paintbox, which was a look at the artistic works of members of the British Royal Family. I knew that Prince Charles was quite an avid watercolour painter, but didn't realize that there was such an extensive history within his family of creating art, including an utterly charming block print of a rearing horse done by HM Elizabeth II.

Not the usual shot

I was also quite struck by the fact that despite ruling over the British Empire and having nine children, Queen Victoria (and her children) all painted and drew: as Prince Charles noted, there were no cameras around, so people did quick little watercolour sketches. As someone who prides herself on multitasking, I was truly impressed, and her journals, which are now online (and highly recommended) are available for academic research only.

Morning moon

But after Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria stopped painting people: period. She turned strictly to landscapes, and always signed them with her name, as well as how many years it had been since Prince Albert had died. As noted on the Royal Collections only catalogue, (T)hereafter Queen Victoria carefully inscribed each new sketch book with a commemorative phrase such as: ‘The 1st year of my misery’ or ‘The 2nd year of my Great Sorrow’.

As I end the third year of mine, I'm working on new projects and looking ahead, but I know exactly how she felt.

Light my fire/Fire my light

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