Archive for the ‘the gallery of vanished husbands’ Category

David Hockney; Lucian Freud

David Hockney; Lucian Freud by David Dawson, 2003 © David Dawson Search for this portrait on the Portrait Explorer in the Digital Space, NPG P1001.

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.

Juliet and her pals

 

6817

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.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands at the National Portrait Gallery

My third novel ‘The Gallery of Vanished Husbands’ tells the life story of Juliet Montague and her emergence from a conservative Jewish upbringing to the heart of ‘60s London and it’s thriving art scene, through a series of portraits of Juliet, each chapter of the novel hinging on a different painting. The research was a treat as it sanctioned hours of padding around the National Portrait Gallery and rifling through the online archives. These are a few of the portraits that helped to inspire the novel.

I’m going to blog one each day for the next week.

Jan Morris by Arturo Di Stefano, 2004-2005 © National Portrait Gallery, London This portrait is on display in Room 6722.

Jan Morris by Arturo Di Stefano, 2004-2005 © National Portrait Gallery, London
This portrait is on display in Room 6722.

I adore Arturo Di Stefano’s painting of the writer Jan Morris. He conveys such a sense of a life lived – you can actually see it happening outside the window in the portrait. It feels like he has painted their conversation almost inadvertently as she tells him about her life, Italy, places she’s visited and loved. We’re peering into an intimate moment and catching a glimpse of the collusion between artist and subject. Di Stefano has not only captured a sense of Morris’s personality but also the experience of painting her – a delicious insight into the artistic process. I also very much like the cat – there’s something so personal and warm about it snoozing there in the corner.

And, to celebrate the launch of the book The National Portrait Gallery together with Stylist Magazine are running a competition to win a year’s membership plus to the NPG. Click on the link to enter: