Copy of Gwen John's Young Woman Holding a Cat-
One of the reasons for making copies is to examine one's affection for a particular artist's work. Why, why am I so fond of these quiet, secretive, reserved, earthy, moody paintings of Gwen John?
Making the copy was a challenge in terms of keeping my palette very limited, and the values very close. On top of that it felt like I was intruding on this young woman's private space. Even the cat has turned away , siting upright, collected but alert just like her companion. The shape of the woman's face is echoed by the necklace, and the arms. Her hands are surprisingly strong and powerful compared to her small head, and delicate face. What is she feeling? The thing about her is that she does not want to let us pry into her emotional world. I think she is actually saying (to us and to herself):' this is the way it is, take it or leave it'.
But look at this pose. If I asked any of my daughters to sit like this it would feel and look totally unnatural.
The girl is covered up completely, no glimpse of her body. Gwen John worked for a few years as a model for artists so she posed in the nude often, but I am aware of only one painting of her own where the woman is naked (and a beautiful watercolor self-portrait). Gwen John was the mistress of Rodin, for whom she also posed. The sculptor was quite demanding of his models. The poses he required of them were often, how should I put it, 'scandalous'? Her love for him was passionate, obsessive. It must have taken her a lot of inner strength to let it go. Or to bury it. I was thinking about the colors and the shape of the woman in this painting. Earthy, but winter earthy, with a slow simmering warmth, the lid closed. Or maybe the winter of a buried tulip bulb.