Thursday, 2 September 2010

Digitally re:Masterpieces - The Black Brook

When I was a moody and overly-romantic teenager (as against being a moody and overly-romantic 33-year-old, clearly) I loved this picture:

It's called the Black Brook and was painted in 1908 by the American artist John Singer Sargent. It's in the Tate Collection, although I can't actually work out if it's on display (and if so, in which Gallery).

Anyway, as I say, I loved it. I loved the melancholy feeling, and the fluidity of the water, and the placid beauty of the model.  I sort of hoped that when I grew up, I'd look like that, and probably that I'd float about in drifty clothes like that too.

Now I am grown up, I've realised the impracticality of wafty linen, and I've accepted that my face is my face, and very rarely looks placid.  I'm not really so given to imagining myself sitting dreamily by a rushy brook these days either, but I still love this painting.

I think now, it's more about the water, and the way the light sparkles, and the cold and freshness that you can feel, even through the oil and canvas, so, in trying to recreate it,  I started with this:

which I'm actually very pleased with, but it's not quite right.  Singer Sargent put a girl in his (his niece, Rose Marie Ormond) for a reason.  So I got myself a model.  Disappointingly that didn't entirely  make things easier. For a start Rose was probably a bit more helpful and accommodating, and she certainly wouldn't have refused to stop sucking her fingers. 

Sadly too, the way the path runs along the river doesn't allow for the same composition, and I wasn't prepared to risk drowning (I know, shameful lack of commitment).   I'm also not sure that the Tweed, one of Scotland's premier salmon fishing rivers, really qualifies as a brook, but I had to work with what I had, so here's my version:

The Black River (2010)

Linky below... go on, join in!  Do this painting, do another one, do a different art form altogether (Tracey Emin's Bed anyone?)...

Oh, and I do know what I want to do next month (clue, it's a sculpture) but again, it's a bit model-dependent, so I don't want to push my luck by telling you want it is, come back at the beginning of October to see if I've succeeded.

And if none of this is making any sense, click here to see what on earth it is that I'm trying to achieve...


  1. Well I've cheated slightly, in that I've taken an original famous photograph rather than a painting, and I first used it for the Gallery (does that matter?) but I thought it was very much in the same spirit!

  2. Yesterday DH and I went to the "Sargent and the sea" exhibition at the Royal Academy. Really enjoyed it, saw a different side of Sargent from his somewhat whimsically work.

    Always remember seeing Carnation Lily Lily Rose at Tate Modern with DD and we both said together "Family from One End Street".

    That's why I love reading, one learns so much. Am plodding through Bill Bryson's At Home. Shame it's hard to read and knit at same time.

  3. OK - I really do want to take part in this - I think it's a fabulous challenge and I'm nothing if up for a challenge. Thing is I am artistically bereft :( I don't know any paintings!! Do you know of a suitable online catalogue/resource I could flick through and find something? I need to browse - I've tried looking for one but I'm not succeeding - everything I find is very artist specific. Perhaps I need to jump on a bus and go visit the Burrell - I wonder if they let visitors take photos...

  4. Was a bit nervous getting that 'linky thing' to work, but I did it, except I forgot to mention that I have recreated Tracey Emin's bed as suggested, given that I am spending the day there. But I forgot to mention, I haven't peed it, as I think she may have in the original 'piece'. I'm saving that for later.

  5. That's a fantastic picture - I quite often try to recreate that look in my day to day life - that expression that says 'I am contemplating something romantic and sad and important' but I'm pretty sure it just comes across as 'I am a miserable b*tch, don't talk to me' most of the time. :-)

  6. Jude - that's not cheating, that's using an alternate art form! If anyone wants to recreate a full opera, they're welcome too.... Thank you so much for joining in. Come back next month?!

    Iota - I think so!

    Pixie Mum - the Family from One End Street... Oh! You've just taken about 25 years off my age! Memory lane, here I come. Glad you enjoyed the exhibition too, as well as my version!

    Mrs W - hope you got my email. But for anyone else who's wondering, I find the best resource is the websites of the various national collections, especially the National Gallery and National Gallery of Scotland (both easily google-able). Try this link for the National Gallery and then click "take a chance" to see some random stuff, or try this one to browse the National Gallery of Scotland by subject (eg flowers, beards (that's got to be worth a click eh?) or interiors...

    Fiona - on behalf of your husband... Phew! Delighted with it! Thank you so much. Looking forward to you doing the one where the bloke peed in the snow and took plaster casts of it....

    Slummysinglemummy - I know that look! And yes, I try to work that one too. I suspect I occasionally veer towards "constipated" though instead.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...