Seeing the whole picture

When in a rush to see a painting that I know I will love, say a Vanessa Bell, or a Monet, it can be easy to walk past other works that don't draw you in so readily.  Some paintings don't easily reveal their importance or interest.  Quite often the subject matter can put me off, for example I know I get bored by Dutch sea scapes and surrealist art and I find some abstract art souless.

The other day, I came across this painting.  It is called Timber Run in the Welsh hills, by Lucy Kemp-Welsh.  I almost walked past quickly, as I'm not particularly interested in horses and I almost dismissed it.

Then I stopped.  Rather than dismiss this painting as a twee evocation of the countryside past, I thought I ought to see if there was any interest.  It was painted in the 1930s, a time when a lot of artists I'm interested in were working.  So I looked a lot closer, so close, I could see individual brushstrokes.

And it felt like a bit of a revelation.  This close up, the whole canvas really sung!  The colours were warm and expressive, the style painterly and energetic and I found myself spending a lot of time looking at the paint more than the subject matter.  I then found small details that I found fascinating and could have been paintings on their own merit. 

Small figures of farm workers, tree bark and  distant fields brought this painting alive for me.  I was particularly taken with this figure against a patchwork of fields.  It was as if this painting was teaching me something - about not dismissing anything out of hand, without trying to find some interest or merit.  My lack of interest in horses could have stopped me even looking at all.  So often we don't see the value in something right in front of us, and can even take things for granted.  Perhaps we need to stop sometimes, and look at things a little differently.


Art is not what you see, but what you make others see - Degas




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