Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Painting: Inheritance

My baby girl isn't a baby anymore. She is a full-fledged toddler, walking like a champ, going up and down stairs, saying new words, and giving me real hugs and kisses! There's nothing she loves more than to snuggle up in my lap while I read her a book (or twenty). These times are so precious, and I love watching her personality unfold. It's becoming quite evident that she has been since birth the person she is and always will be.

So who is this little person?

She is my stoic little bookworm. She is careful, cautious... which is probably why it took her so long to start walking (she was 15 months old when she took her first independent steps). But it's also why she's so good at walking now; she hardly ever falls. She is deliberate, and a good observer. In fact, she'd rather observe than partake, especially when it comes to playing with other kids. She is wispy in every way: her build, her hair, her voice. She is tenderhearted. But she is also intense. When you look at her you can tell there are a million thoughts going on in that little head. If only I knew what she was thinking about!

My goal for this new portrait was to capture Cecelia's intensity. Most parents try to get their kids to smile big for pictures. And truly, there's nothing I love more than seeing my daughter's face light up, or hearing her laugh! But I also recognize that she is deeper than that... yes, even at just 17 months of age! That stoic side of her is what I wanted to convey.

"Inheritance" (detail), 2015 by Anna Rose Bain

"Inheritance" (2015) by Anna Rose Bain
30 x 24 inches - oil on linen

The idea for this portrait was in the back of my mind for over a year, but I had to wait until Cece was old enough to pose for it. Of course I had to work from reference photos, but I've painted her from life so many times that I have a pretty good idea of her complexion and hair color. It's the expression that is key in this painting. I wanted her intensity to be akin to that of the young girl in Sargent's portrait of Edouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron (detail shown below), which I studied for a long time in person at the Met a couple weeks ago (blog post on that coming next!).

Sargent's brilliant portrait of Marie-Louise Pailleron (detail)

Cece's pose diverged little from my original sketch. She is sitting and making direct eye contact with the viewer. Once I had her pose and expression nailed down, I was able to bring my entire idea to life. I wanted to pay homage to the Renaissance portraits, which often depicted the subject in front of a window or doorway, with a lush landscape in the background (below is an example by Raphael).

"Young Woman with Unicorn" - by Raphael, c. 1506
The sitters were usually wealthy patrons, so in that sense my painting is contemporary. Cece is just an ordinary child... but unlike children from centuries past, who were either born into wealth or poverty with little chance of changing their position... Cecelia has the whole world at her feet.

While my inspiration for the concept came from Renaissance art, I was more experimental in my surface preparation and my application of paint. I used lead ground to prep my linen canvas, and left a lot of texture instead of smoothing it out. I spent time studying other artists' treatment of fabrics (whites especially). I carefully observed John Singer Sargent's painting of the Boit daughters, with their luscious white dresses, and tried to be bolder and thicker with my paint than usual. I can't hold a candle to the bravado with which Sargent defines a fold with a single stroke of the palette knife... but I am learning! :-)

My painting (left), and some inspiration from Sargent (right)

The mountains in the background represent our move to Colorado and Cece's future life here. One of our biggest reasons for leaving Texas was to give our daughter more exposure to the beauty of the natural world, something my husband and I were both fortunate to have when we were kids.

The white lily on Cece's book, and her white dress, signify purity and innocence. Not all of the book titles can be made out, but those that can include "Paintings in the Louvre," "Italian Renaissance Art," "Degas and the Dance," "Latin Poets," and "Holy Bible."

"Inheritance" (detail), 2015 by Anna Rose Bain

"Inheritance" implies many things: birthright, heirlooms, land, legacy, genes, etc. Our children inherit both the good and the bad from us. We teach them either to preserve and cherish their lives, relationships, and belongings, or to squander them. Of course I want SO much for Cecelia - I want her to have a wonderful life, filled with good things. But I also know that she is her own person and has a unique journey of her own before her. Whatever life brings her way, I hope she knows how much she is cherished. That is my true motivation behind this portrait.

My sweet, sweet girl! You are so loved!

"Inheritance" (detail), 2015 by Anna Rose Bain


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