Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Paintings Described in my Novel

In writing a novel about John Singer Sargent, naturally one must include references to many of his paintings, and in my book, there are more than a dozen that are described at length or referred to in passing. The "portraits" who tell the story are, of course, illustrated by the actual images Sargent painted of them, but I thought I would use this space to fill out the Gallery, so to speak, of the characters and persons that make up my novel. I hope you enjoy seeing them along with a quote from my novel for context (page references in parentheses) This is the first installment of probably four posts on this subject.

El Jaleo or The Gypsy Dancer (p. 34)

In front of the enormous painting--it was nearly eight feet high and eleven feet long--a middle-aged, somewhat portly man, with the air of a professor or lecturer, was pointing at the canvas with no little indignation. "Is this art?" he said. "These low types of men and women, sitting in the background against a dirty wall, their mouths open, heads flung back yowling with the degraded music that, no doubt, has sent this gypsy woman into contortions that no living woman could actually replicate!"

The Gondolier (p. 61-62)

Violet...approached another canvas, somewhat obscured by a scarf thrown at hazard across it, which she drew back. A young, mustachioed man gazed out with frank, dark eyes, his full lips sensual, the dark curls of his hair falling across his forehead from under a wide-brimmed hat. His brown coat had slipped off one shoulder slightly, revealing a strong, smooth neck and collarbone under a gauzy white collarless shirt.

Venetian Street Scene (p. 82-83)

[The painting] depicted a narrow alley with crumbling, exposed brick and plaster walls--what isn't crumbling, in Venice? I thought--the perspective sharply slanted as the two walls and the pavement raced to the very center of the far back of the painting, where a reach of hazy afternoon sunlight whitened a wall with windows and trellises overflowing with plants. A dark doorway was set into the right half of the alley wall, and a woman in a black, fringed shawl and a full, frilly, pinkish lavender skirt, stood nonchalant, one arm crooked with her hand on her hip, one foot resting on the doorstep, as if hesitating at the moment of entering.