Pinkie In TexasTuesday, July 19, 2011
|Pinkie, Thomas Lawrence 1784|
Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of The Huntington at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute's art collection, which specializes in 18th-century English portraiture. The painting is an elegant depiction of Sarah Barrett Moulton, who was about eleven years old when painted. Her direct gaze and the loose, highly-moved brushwork give the portrait a lively immediacy.
Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton was born in 1783 in Jamaica. She was the daughter of Charles Barrett Moulton, a wealthy plantation owner. Lawrence's portrait was a commission by her grandmother at the time Sarah left Jamaica with her brothers to complete her education in England. The portrait's title and obvious visual puns refer to Sarah's family nickname, "Pinkie". She died the year after the portrait was completed, probably of tuberculosis.
Pinkie owes part of its notability to its association with the Gainsborough portrait The Blue Boy. According to Patricia Failing, author of Best-Loved Art from American Museums, “no other work by a British artist enjoys the fame of The Blue Boy.” Pinkie and The Blue Boy are often paired in popular esteem; some gallery visitors mistake them for contemporary works by the same artist. Actually the two were created by different painters a quarter century apart, and the subjects' dress styles are separated by over one hundred fifty years. Jonathan Buttall, who posed for Gainsborough's portrait, wears a period costume of the early 17th century as an homage to Flemish Baroque painter Anthony Van Dyck, whom Gainsborough held in particular esteem. Sarah Moulton wears the contemporary fashion of 1794.The two works had no association until Henry Huntington purchased them in the 1920s.
Nonetheless, the two are so well matched that William Wilson, author of The Los Angeles Times Book of California Museums, calls them "the Romeo and Juliet of Rococo portraiture" and notes that their association borders on cliché: They have decorated cocktail coasters, appeared in advertisements, and stopped the show as the tableaux vivants at the Laguna Beach ‘Pageant of the Masters.’ For all that, they remain intrinsically lovely… The continuing popularity of both pictures is based on more than the obvious. The subjects certainly are in the springtime of life, but their freshness is lent a certain poignancy by the rather grown-up garb that suggests both the transience of youth and the attempt to cling to it. Besides, both are extraordinarily fine pictures, easy and dramatic at once.
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 50mm, Kodak Ektachrome 100 G|
Since I can remember being conscious I can remember two painting reproductions (and of course for me they were the real thing) that hung in our dining room in Buenos Aires on Melián 2770 in Coghlan. We moved to the house in 1948 so I was 6. We did not eat in the dining room every day. It was the place we used only when we had guests. On other days and especially in winter the kitchen was where we ate our meals. The ancient gas stove provided us with the only heat in a house that had no heating.
|Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 90mmm Kodak Plus-X|
The dining room had another special feature. It had flowered paper curtains. By the time I was 8 my mother would explain to me that during WW-II there was a shortage of cloth which was needed to make soldiers’ uniforms. So Americans, who were very enterprising, had created these paper curtains that almost felt like cloth. I remember that their pastels went very well with one of the framed paintings on the wall. My memory does not serve me well and I would swear that my mother called the young girl in the painting Mistress Quickly. This, in retrospect could not have been her name as Mistress Quickly had other associations as an older woman and with Falstaff. The other painting was of course Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy.
Perhaps in 1948 the Blue Boy was not yet the cliché he was to become. But thinking about it now it would seem that he is now fading back and fewer and fewer people might know who he is now. And few in Vancouver might know that the Blue Boy Motor Hotel is still there, all monumental and ugly monstrosity of concrete on South East Marine Drive. The strippers are long gone. I remember going there to see one of my favourites called Salem back in the declining years of strip parlours in the mid 90s.
In 1953 when I was in the 5th grade at the American School in Mexico City I remember that our teacher made us build some waste paper baskets out of stiff cardboard. We used coloured rope which we ran through the cardboard's pierced edges to put the baskets together, our-soon-to-be mother’s day gift. We were given two choices for decorating the waste paper basket. One was a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and the other was The Blue Boy. I chose the latter. I stuck it to one side and then glossed it over with lacquer. I have no idea what my mother’s reaction would have been.
In this second blog featuring pictures of Lauren which I took at the site of Mike East’s father’s grave, which is in close proximity to the main house of Mike’s Santa Fe Ranch, I found that I had to find an excuse to be able to show here more of these (to me) lovely portraits of a 9 year old girl.
When Rebecca was younger than 9, and even now, she rarely smiles for my camera. Her expression is direct. In our trip to Texas her expression in front of my camera was sometimes downright scary. I have written here before that it might have to do with an internal conflict of a woman undecided if she is a child, a young girl or simply a woman.
While I await for things to settle within her (and with no diminishing desire to keep taking her portrait as she is an unusually excellent subject), I am thoroughly enjoying taking pictures of Lauren who faces my camera with an expression of sweet calm that unsettles me, I have no idea why, in much the same way as Rebecca’s stark gaze does.