Monday, February 25, 2013

Portraits of the Inner Life

artist:  Edouard Manet

Engrossed with the mind’s inner life, images form from memory and are colored by the richness of emotion.  Here visual perception serves no purpose, contributing only distraction from one’s true, compelling thoughts.  The eyes become locked, absent of duty, and parked in unfocused gaze into idle space.  Ears, equally inattentive, fall deaf to intelligible sound.  A remembered moment is played, reset and played again.  The woman is fixed, lost in a wistful presence, oblivious to a hundred boisterous voices mixed with the occasional laughter raised to the level of an animal call sweeping through a jungle gloom.

A Bar at the Folies - Bergeres  1882

artist:  Rembrandt van Rijn

What can we make of the introspection displayed in Rembrandt’s portrait of this older man dressed in his finery?  Once again the gaze into indeterminate space is evidence that the image viewed is one that lies behind the eyes, playing out in some illuminated recess of the mind.  What is revealed by the arch of the left brow and slight upturn to the corner of the mouth?  Upon further conjecture does he feel he is now witness to a discovery of some satisfaction?  Does the grip of the right hand give proof of new resolve?  Has he cinched a tactical victory in business, politics or love by seeing the future three moves ahead?  The artist says it doesn’t matter the specific nature of his subject’s thoughts so long as you understand this man approaches life as he would were he playing a game of chess.  He’s confident, used to having the upper hand.

Portrait of Jan Six  1654

artist:  Edgar Degas

Slumped, round shouldered in her proud, new attire, she contemplates loss.  Her drink as forgotten as is she herself.  Downcast eyes fixed possibly on dust gathered along the edges of a scuffed floor.  It little matters.  The mind savors the irony of an earlier hour, light with joyous expectation.  Now she waits out her sentence.  Her suitor has flown.

L'absinthe  1876

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