Rebirth of Venus

Rebirth of Venus
“Rebirth of Venus” (a working title) is an in-progress piece that is a rebuild of Sandro Boticelli’s famous 1486 “Birth of Venus,” a commissioned painting for the Medicis of Florence. This piece is more or less an exercise in compositional elements and an attempt to explore a painting style that is both very beautiful and very different from my own. The piece is being built in several layers, having started with a flat plane of gesso divided by a grid which I used to carefully enlarge each element of Boticelli’s composition. The “canvas” is a large piece of cardboard divided into a 1×1 inch square grid…I think people use these for patterning/sewing textiles. The painting can be folded up. Challenges are tending to be uniform color balance and overall conformity of brush stroke quality, mostly due to several short periods of work on different sections rather than long sessions working the whole surface.

The first time I attempted mirroring another artist’s work was in art school at the University of Minnesota. My mentor at that time took our intermediate painting section on a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where we explored and identified an artist each whose style and sensibility we would try to emulate. I was immediately drawn to Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of Paris von Gutersloh,” 1918, having been previously exposed to his stark treatment of figure, his constructive approach of tightly controlled chaos, his many drawings, and the often erotic subjects. After painstakingly and semi-successfully replicating that portrait, I moved on to “Die Umarmung (Liebespaar II, Mann und Frau)”, 1917, which I found incredibly sensual.

I find the experience of replicating another artist’s work deeply gratifying. Working in her/his style, one comes to appreciate the sensibilities, dissect the process and allow them to inform your own. Procedures I picked up while working with Schiele, allowing his ghost to mentor me in a way, have stayed with me in my own artmaking, especially in my practice of “progressive” painting which is described in some of my posts. Working within Boticelli’s piece, I’m strengthening my foundations in composition and richness of color through successive thin “wash” layers, while investigating the notion of painting as narrative, bridging the worlds of images, myths, and imagination.

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