Sunday, November 18, 2012

John Melhuish Strudwick - A Symphony exh 1903

Throughout his life Strudwick worked on a series of paintings one take music as their central theme. 'A Symphony' is among the culminating examples of these works, which also include 'The Gentle Music of a Bygone Day' (1890, Private Collection), 'When Apples were Golden' (1906, Manchester City Art Gallery) and closest precedent to the present work 'St. Cecilia' (1897, private collection) which exists in a number of versions. Significantly in the present painting Strudwick has eliminated any reference to a story or individuals so that the musical theme stands alone. Music was the central metaphor in the aesthetic movement for the direct way in which paintings affected the spectator's emotions through their design and colour. Many artists in this movement made musical references in their works. It is noteworthy that Whistler titled his paintings 'Harmonies' and 'Symphonies'.
The present painting shows how Strudwick attains an evocative mood outside everyday reality through pictorial inventiveness. As Bernard Shaw wrote in his pioneering article on the artist:
No matter how minutely a painter copies a model in the costume of a certain period, with appropriate furniture and accessories, his labour is as nothing compared to that of a man who creates his figures and invents all the circumstances and accessories. This is what Strudwick does. [Shaw, 1891]
In the present painting, by drawing directly onto the canvas and then building up a series of thin glowing glazes in the Pre-Raphaelite manner, Strudwick creates both a richness and delicacy.

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