Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day at the Gallery

   Every Friday I'm at the National Gallery of Art copying a painting by an Old Master. Today I'm working on a copy of Nattier's  'Madame Le Fevre de Caumartin.'  Gallery visitors are usually polite and are hesitant about interrupting me while I paint. However, I am not disturbed and even encourage questions. As a retired art professor, I delight in expounding upon art and particularly my own. It may seem presumptuous on my part, but after 70 some years as an artist, and over twenty years as a copyist of Old Masters, I feel my opinions are as good as most living souls most of who have never lifted a brush.
    Of the numerous questions ask, I believe the most common is "how long have you been working on this painting?" I guess most things in life are valued more by the amount of time expended in making them than the energy, skill, materials, or knowledge used. Certainly that seems to be the case of living painters, especially those that practice realism.
    Time really has little to do with Art. As a matter of fact, time seems to stop when I am really into painting. I have often heard that blind copying must be boring. "You certainly have to have a lot of patience to do that" pronounces one astute visitor. Sorry, but there is no boredom in painting. There may be plenty of frustration when trying to replicate a color, texture, or other painterly effect, but seldom does the task include mindless repetition of tedious detailing. Even the most complex painting has endless variations of form and color to challenge the copyist. 
"Hunting in the Pontine Marshes" by Horace Vernet took me six months of Fridays, but I was never bored. "How long did it take?" As long as necessary.