July 3rd, 2014
David Hockney; Lucian Freud by David Dawson, 2003 © David Dawson
Search for this portrait on the Portrait Explorer in the Digital Space, NPG P1001.
I particularly like this photograph of the two iconic painters. We see Lucian Freud’s unkempt studio – paint-dashed floor and walls and we are coming in at the end of the story. Presumably Freud has spent months capturing Hockney. In the photograph Hockney plays the role of muse, while Freud lingers in the doorway clutching his brushes, his overalls – like chef’s whites – dabbed in yet more paint. Freud is in motion, while Hockney gazes out at us. Most of all, I like the double image of Hockney: the real man beside his portrait. Yet, there is another frame: that of the photograph itself. So, really this photograph is a Russian doll series of nested portraits, one inside the other, and it tells a multitude of stories. There is something deliciously novelistic about that.
My novel is structured like a gallery catalogue, each chapter containing a different portrait of Juliet but it’s not simply the painting of Juliet that tells the story, it’s also the process of painting and how it reveals the relationship between the artist and sitter. That’s what I particularly admire about all these portraits – we’re allowed to peek into the artistic process: they are paintings about what it’s really like to be painted.
June 30th, 2014
The Situation Group by Sylvia Sleigh, 1961 © National Portrait Gallery, London This portrait is on display in Room 6817.
The Situation Group by Sylvia Sleigh
Now this is exactly how I imagine Juliet to be, surrounded by the artists she nurtures and admires – often a lone woman amid a sea of men. Like the fictional artists in ‘The Gallery of Vanished Husbands’ the artists depicted in ‘The Situation Group’ are strongly influenced by thrilling new work coming from America and hanker after the modern. I like the clean lines of the painting, and the thoughtful expression on the face of the only woman. She wears elegant black and none of the playful red that several of the men display on their ties. It must be lonely and take a certain strength of character to be a woman operating in the male dominated art scene of the ‘60s. I also love the chap in large, David Hockney spectacles at the centre of the painting – so evocative of the era.
June 27th, 2014
Anna Zinkeisen by Anna Katrina Zinkeisen, circa 1944 © National Portrait Gallery, London
This portrait is on display in Room 5884.
I’ve always admired Anna Katrina Zinkeisen’s self-portrait. Self-portraits are particularly fascinating – one often feels a bit of a voyeur as if we’ve caught the artist at a private moment studying herself in the bathroom mirror. Here, Zinkeisen is ready to be discovered – she’s smartly dressed for the occasion, and holds her brushes in her hand. During the Second World War she was a medical artist, painting wounds for the Royal College of surgeons, a task that must have required a steady hand and a steadier stomach. I think that unflinching gaze reveals a woman capable of such things but I also love the bold flash of red at her cuff and collar and dabbed on her unsmiling mouth. I imagine the character of Juliet Montague to be a similarly audacious woman – able to negotiate her way through the ‘60s art scene, an outsider but with a dash of red lipstick.