Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Colour can be creepy too


I have been thinking about doing some paintings based on my writing and have therefore been thinking a lot about how to paint Victorian and Edwardian interiors. Because of black and white photography and the kind of engravings Ernst was employing in Une Semaine de Bonte, it is easy to forget that there was colour at the turn of the century.

Lots of it.

Edward Gorey was very good at seeing that one of the features of interiors of the period was the way they were saturated everything with surface pattern. Women in patterned dresses stand in front of foliate wallpaper with swirling rugs beneath their feet. It is all a bit dizzying.

One of the painters who managed to capture this in oils was Edouard Vuillard (who along with Felix Vallatton and Pierre Bonnard was part of Les Nabis, a grouping of avante garde Post-Impressionists). I have just bought this little Thames and Hudson book about his life and work and it fairly shimmers when you open it.

Although the paintings are beautiful and richly colourful, there is also something weird - even disturbing - about the density of pattern. Some of them would make surprisingly successful book jackets for Edwardian ghost stories, I think.

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