Still No Painting At The MET

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Soooo, none of the paintings I chose were approved by the curators. There is a curator for each department or collection.  Fortunately, I had Isaac Pools in the education department at the MET to help me navigate through all of this rejection.  It’s true, I did make some selections before I was told or given the forbidden gallery list.  So, maybe it’s not entirely their fault that my selection process was so difficult.

Jean Léon Gérôme

I wanted to copy the painting (Henri Fantin-Latour Carolus-Duran, 1861) below so much because I loved it and it had a perfect story.  This is what the MET wrote about the painting:  

“Young art students Carolus-Duran and Fantin met while copying masterpieces at the Louvre about 1855. Carolus-Duran celebrated their friendship in two pictures of 1861: this likeness of twenty-five-year-old Fantin, and a closely related portrait (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Fresh and penetrating, the present portrayal reveals the talents that made Carolus-Duran a rising star. Employing striking tonal contrasts and bold brushwork, he demonstrated his allegiance to the daring styles championed by Courbet and Manet. However, Carolus-Duran would soon temper his approach; he became a fashionable society portraitist and teacher, counting among his pupils John Singer Sargent (1856–1925).”

Henri Fantin-Latour Carolus-Duran

 Below, another missed choice because it was in a gallery off limits for copying.  My fault….

Midshipman Augustus Brine
John Singleton Copely

It just so happened that my daughter, who attends school in NYC, called after my Tuesday class to say she was sick and wondered if I would come take care of her. This sounds horrible to say, but it was music to my ears.  Everyone wants to be wanted, so I spent the night and mostly watched her sleep the next day.  That evening I was given the bad news about my painting selection and while my sweetie slept off her virus, I went back to the museum to pick yet again.  Rejection! Rejection!  Now, at least I was not filling out forms; I was just texting Isaac one painting after the other. 

Finally, I walked by this 9 foot monster of a painting, beautifully rendered.  It was Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of Elizabeth Farren, so I impulsively put it on my list with several others. That evening on the train home from NYC, I got a text that the Sir Thomas Lawrence painting was approved, my 245,987th choice, which I am now mournfully regretting.  I looked her up on the MET website.  What was I thinking?  A powdered gray wig?  The portrait looks like classic 17th-century fluff, and while I love 17th-century art, the fluffy stuff not so much.  I asked Issac to ask the curator to reconsider my other choices.  No go! I was soooo looking forward to this class and now I had to spend 12 weeks copying a painting I am not so crazy about!    

Elizabeth Farren
by Sir Thomas Lawrence

I slept on it.  Then, like everything else, in the morning light, this problem looked a little more manageable. I remembered Isaac saying, in the lecture, that we did not have to copy the exact painting but could crop it if we wanted.  So that’s what I did.  I pulled it up again on the MET website, downloaded it onto my Photoshop app, and started cropping away.  I really loved Elizabeth Farren’s muff and gloves, but I didn’t want a painting of gloves.  I am a figure/portrait artist, and I love faces.  But that horrible gray wig hair–yuk!  Crop, crop!  I came up with many cropped versions and finally picked one.   




Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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