Drawn into her World
Turning back a page from the cherry pie, there's an article on Matthew Collings’ Channel 4 series Self-Portraits: The Me Generation.
I have difficulty drawing from Freda Kahlo's self-portrait (one of 150 she painted), Broken Column (1944), so, resorting to the advice given by Betty Edwards in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, I turn the page upside down and try again (right).
It's not just a case of drawing her appearance; I also find myself drawn into her disturbing world of Mexican folklore, votive images and self-laceration. This shouldn't make drawing what I see on the page any more difficult, but, so it seems to me, it does. She isn't a comfortable presence!
Drawing Albrecht Dürer's Self-Portrait in Fur Coat (1500) reminded me of Mick Fleetwood and other rock stars of his generation. According to Collings, in the first programme of the Self-Portrait series, this is no accident: artists with a capital 'A' were something new in 16th century Germany - until then they were thought of as craftsmen, just like the masons and carpenters they worked alongside. Collings suggests that another Dürer portrait, showing the artist ostentiously posing in the latest Italian fashions (the kind of thing Fleetwood and co. wore on their album covers), is an attempt to win for artists some social cachet.
The messianic role of the artist suggested in his Fur Coat portrait also has its parallels in the world of rock.
As you'd probably guess, I'd feel happier spending a day drawing old Amsterdam (or anywhere else, for that matter) with Rembrandt (right, Self-Portrait, 1665). Dürer and Kahlo come across as scary, driven, awesomely talented characters both in their appearance and in the way they paint; Rembrandt seems more down to earth but he also seems to be the one who is most likely to have stumbled on the secret of the meaning of life, a kind of Gandalf or Professor Dumbledore for his time.
And it's not just me who sees it that way:
'When scientists could use a mathematical idea to transform matter they
had achieved the same quasi-magical relationship with the material world
as artists.' writes Kenneth Clark , concluding Civilisation,
his survey of western art, ' Look at Karsh's photograph of Einstein
(left). Where have we seen that face before? The aged Rembrandt.'
Richard Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org