Welcome to a blog in which you will find examples of my work in two areas and comments on whatever topics come to mind.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Oil on Canvas Board 17.5 x 23.75 cm


The acquirer of the original of this small painting, suspecting it to have been by Leonardo, turned sleuth. It was on vellum, a support never used by Leonardo, but a carbon test proved the vellum to be 15th century. Leonardo's works normally bear a thumb print; one was found here, but unfortunately too slight to be of use. It could have been anybody's thumb print, a forger's. The peculiar head dress claimed attention; a historian of Renaissance costume declared it to have been the fashion for a short time at the court of the Sforzas -- a time during which Leonardo was known to have worked there. The subject, then, would have been a young lady of importance, connected to the court.  But who was she, and why would she have been considered a subject for Leonardo? The owner, in a process of elimination, after sifting through relevant drawings and paintings, settled on Bianca Sforza, illigitimate daughter of one of the Sforzas. She was young, beautiful, marriagiable. Noticing three small equidistantly spaced holes along the extreme lefthand edge of the vellum, the owner realized that this might have been a page taken from a book. That would explain the use of vellum. Further, that the book might have been a celebratory work, dedicated to Bianca, perhaps on the occasion of her marriage. So far, mere speculation; but now, the affair having been aired in scholarly circles, out of the blue came advice from a professor at an American university: 'Go to Warsaw, where there is just such a book.'  This advice proved decisive: the book in the Warsaw archives was missing a page, the painting page matched the size of the book pages, the three holes coincided exactly with the strings of the binding. The book's contents showed it to have been a celebratory work for Bianca to mark her marriage.

History records that the marriage of the young Bianca Sforza took place, and -- sadly -- that she died not long afterwards, giving birth to her first child.

Monday, June 11, 2012

After Rubens's Helene Fourment

Oil on Canvas Board 13 x 18 in (33 x 46 cm)

This is my first serious attempt to portray Rubens's second wife, Helen.  Below is the original.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Late Sumer Scene

Oil on Canvas Board  9.5 x 12 in

I haven't gone in for 'challenges' much recently, but I had fun doing this -- for Daily Paint Works http://www.dailypaintworks.com/.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Quick Sketch of Peter Paul Rubens's Painting of his Second Wife

Oil on Canvas Sheet 25 x 30cm

In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, Rubens, aged 53, married the 16 year-old Helene Fourment.  Helen inspired the voluptuous figures of later paintings.

Helene is a lady I am anxious to know -- in a manner of speaking; as I've begun a large painting of Rubens' painting of her for the atelier I belong to in Bordeaux; which is serious and will take a long time.  I've looked at her a lot, in order to go on seeing her when I'm away and can close my eyes -- the tilt of her small black hat, the transparency of the material covering her right shoulder, the glint of her jewellery, the colour of her skin and many-hued hair, those floating ostritch plumes, and the grey-green-blue background on ochre and orange underpainting, the relationship between one thing and another.

This was done quickly, without drawing, a matter of taking a deep breath and just plunging in.  Good to do that occasionally. Rough work.  An exercise.  An approach.  She might recognize herself -- but only just.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Parc des Batignolles, Paris, 1890s; after Ambrose Andre

Oil on Canvas Frame 14 x 22in (38 x 55cm)

After a painting by the late and not well known 19th century French artist, Ambrose Andre -- typically Impressionist, an innocent subject, joyful and sunlit and full of colour.  I found this a challenge, partly because it is a much larger canvas than my usual.  It was done for the Atelier Magie des Couleurs, Bordeaux. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

After Willem Drost's Bathsheba with David's Letter

Oil on Canvas Board 10 x 14in (27 x 35cm)

I had never heard of the seventeenth century Dutch painter Willem Drost (c.1633-59), a mysterious figure, apparently a pupil or associate of Rembrandt, who died aged 25.  Works known to be by him are few; though experts now believe several paintings attributed to Rembrandt were really his.  He and Rembrandt both painted Bathsheba, and in the same year, 1654. 

The tale of David's seduction of Bathsheba is in 2 Samuel 11.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

After One of Matisse's Odalisques

Oil on Canvas Board 10 x 14 in (27 x 35 cm)

'Odalisques' -- a favourite subject of Matisse.  He left his collection of them to Picasso when he died.  I enjoy Matisse's bold use of colour and asymmetrical compositions.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flower Dance

Oil on Canvas 27 x 41 cm

This is a copy of a painting by the early 20th century French artist, Jean Puy (1876 - 1960), which I just completed for an atelier in Bordeaux. Born in Lyon, Jean Puy moved to Paris and exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in 1905.  A hostile critic gave the name 'Fauvists' ('the wild beasts') to the painters exhibiting, and the label 'Fauvism' stuck.  Puy befriended and was influenced by Matisse, Derain, Marquet, but was never more than mildly 'Fauvist.'  He loved life and painted in bold joyful colours.  At times he used simplified forms and produced an effect of blithe naivety. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Copper Kettle, Apple and Chain

Oil on Canvas Board 8.75 x 10.5 in (22 x 27 cm)

My contribution to the Rookie Painters February challenge.  We were presented with a ravishing couple of photos to choose from -- objects sensitively selected and cunningly arranged to form a striking composition.  An engrossing challenge, indeed.  I found the reflections in the copper kettle and of course all those links in the chain, the most difficult.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unicorn Cushion

Oil on canvas board 9,5" x  12"

Was the unicorn of legend based on memories of an extinct Eurasian rhinoceros?  If so, that's a far cry from it's acceptance as a symbol of purity and grace, an animal which could only be captured by a virgin.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fantasy Landscape

Oil on Canvas Frame 13 x 16 in (33 x 41 cm)

I think underpainting in yellow ochre and burnt sienna helped the illusion of reflecting water, here.  Must experiment more with underpainting colours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dwellers in a Spanish Antique Shop

Oil on Canvas Board 10.5 x 14 in (27 x 35 cm)

This is a window looking in on the dwellers of the antique shop.  They look out on a narrow, sloping street in the old Gotic quarter of Barcelona, a street down which the thirteen-year old Visigothic Christian girl, Eulalia, was rolled in a knife-studded barrel on the 12th February, 304; before submitting to crucifixion, breast amputation and, finally, decapitation -- the price exacted by the Emperor Diocletian, enraged at her steadfast refusal to renounce Christianity.
Or so goes the legend.  Many statues and streets in the city are named after her.
P.S. The original for last post's 'Backside'? -- an early work by Picasso, in the Picasso Museum, Barcelona.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Oil on Canvas Board 7 x 9.5 in (18 x 24 cm)

The original, a postcard of which I used to paint this, is an early work by a famous 20th century artist. Hints;  He was born in Spain but lived mostly elsewhere. He worked in tandem with Georges Braque for a time, then took another path.  At one point in his career he obsessively collected African masks and figurines.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kitchen Scene at the Cottage

Oil on Canvas Board 7 x 9.5 in (18 x 24 cm)

A holiday scene, and a holiday from perspective.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Musing Miss

Oil on Canvas 9.5 x 12 in (24 x 30 cm)

One works from photos these days, photos or the memories of photos, one's own and others'.  Even with all the unemployment everywhere, the vocation of model is not in vogue; and the independent artist who is not famous is as likely to set eyes on one as on an albino snail, or even a hobgoblin.  What is lost  (besides a possibly pleasant relationship) in this dependence on a double two-dimensionality, I wonder? Or gained (apart from convenience, and less expense)?