Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting

I've just recently seen the paintings of George Spencer Watson (1869 - 1934) courtesy of the oh-so-terrific art blog, Art Inconnu. This is a truly unique blog that features artists (in all mediums) that the rest of the world has overlooked or under appreciated for years. You'd be surprised at the treasures waiting to be discovered there.

When I saw this particular painting, 'Four Loves I Found - a woman, a child, a horse, a hound.' I was instantly smitten - that happens to me a lot. At first glance, there's just something slightly odd about it - don't you think? Oh, it's gorgeous, don't get me wrong, but... First of all, isn't the woman a little tall? Look how she practically towers over the horse. But maybe that's meant to enhance her presence. And is she leaning her right elbow on a moving animal? A bit awkward I'd have said. Though in truth, up close the figures look pleasant enough - the artist and his family on a country outing.

So what do I love about it? Everything. There's a strange magnetic quality to it that is hard to define. The positioning of all the elements and the color palette (including that flat looking turquoise sky) and yes, even the slight stiffness of the figures is intriguing. To my eye, the color of the horse holds everything together. I love, also, the idea of a family and animals going for a jaunty walk together. Read more about the painting here.

George Spencer Watson's daughter Mary, whose portrait we see below, became a well known sulptor. I am particularly fond of Mary's portrait since, to me, it is the visual embodiment of Flavia deLuce, the main character in Alan Bradley's two books: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. (Totally my own idea, by the way. This is the Flavia of my imagination.) Watson's daughter Mary was obviously a girl of great character and intelligence, that is apparent in this brilliant portrait.

The self-portrait of George Spencer Watson below is kind of revealing. At first I was put off by the thin pursing of the mouth, but when I enlarged the portrait his eyes were instantly the focus - mesmerizing - so much intelligence. It is damned difficult to paint eyes in this way - to have them convey the thinking going on behind the scenes is a remarkably fine thing - at least in my view.


  1. I've been looking at it for a while now trying to figure out why the whole thing looked a little off to me. Then I noticed the legs on the horse and how long they were. I then looked at the legs of the woman, the dog, the child, and even the man and they all seem to be a little out of poportion to me. They all seem to have the same shape and slenderness to them and I like how all four subjects that are walking are all leading right now with the same leg.

    You are right though, there is something captivating about it despite the oddities.

  2. Yes, 'captivating' is a good word for it. This is the sort of painting that stops you in your tracks and then you think: wait a minute, what's going on here? Lots to look at. I love it.


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