A very collaborative and complex portrait of a complex man. This painting incorporates many elements to elucidate the subject’s life and interests, including interior architectural space, an idealized landscape and a still life. In a deliberate contradiction, which is at the heart the painting, we look out onto the house that we are present in, with a view down an avenue of trees recently planted by the subject.
The setting against the window is an echo of an earlier portrait I painted of his wife and two sons. In the background we see an idealized, composite view of the Stour Valley landscape with a church tower visible in the distance. The large open sky and the early summer, East Anglian light plays an important part in the painting.
A small table, placed in the bottom right hand corner of the portrait, is the staging for a still life full of personal symbols. These include significant books which make reference to different moments in the subject’s life, a gold beaker on which his wife’s initials are inscribed and, next to that, a hunting horn that his father would employ to wake him in the mornings. The top of a clarinet is also present, representing the sitter’s love of music.
The still life helps to create an important contrast between the physical articles of life and the more cerebral existence signified by the deliberate placing of the subject’s
head against the uncluttered sky.
This painting aims to achieve a form of magic realism, where reality is very much present but has been manipulated or tuned up to create an atmosphere of possibility, contradiction and thoughtfulness.