Thursday, March 6, 2008

Portrait and Gertrude Stein case

As an artist involved in portraits painting I am often faced with a discrepancy of my view of the painted model and the sitter's or his relatives opinion. Always there is something around lips or nose they cannot recognise as corresponding to real image. Many times I have to agree with them regarding resemblance of the painting. On the contrary I am convinced of my vision too, which is considering the problem in a different way.

The purpose of a naturalistic painting is to approximate the image to the visible world and deceive the eye. There are many problems involved in this process, mostly because reality does not look like flat canvas, but the painting on flat canvas can look like reality. Efforts to reach exact likenesses led to the invention of photography, but painting has a bit different dimension, I believe.

I think that painting on canvas is the interpretation of the model, and this is the most important part of the artwork. There is a story about Gertrude Stein and Picasso giving more light to the problem. Once she looked at the portrait he painted for her and she said:"It doesn’t look anything like me". Picasso responded immediately: “In time it will”.

Pablo Picasso and his painting of Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein

I tried to find resemblance of the portrait to Ms. Stein's photographs many times. I did not find much of her in the painting, neither did my friends. Here lies the main point – it is about interpretation, and this is something we remember best. It is a code helping us memorize the reality, which is so rich and constantly changing, that it is impossible to remember it as a whole. The role of the artist is to select, reduce naturalistic information and to create a symbol easy to remember and recall.

Of course, the purpose of such a painting is that it's subject should be recognised, that's the pleasure we get from it. Nevertheless I have a feeling that even not recognizable drawing or painting can bring a lot of joy too. What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have always felt that Picasso was painting himself more than Stein.