Monday, October 31, 2016

Bronte-mania - portraits

Very good exhibition of Charlotte Bronte artifacts at the Morgan Museum and Library. 

I was very impressed that the show had the actual oil painting by Branwell Bronte of his sisters (which originally included a self portrait but he painted himself out), known as the "pillar portrait."

Here is an image of it, but it was so cool to be up close to it. It normally lives in the National Portrait Gallery in England.

The exhibition helpfully provided magnifying glasses to look at some of the miniature books and drawings Charlotte produced but I also used one on the larger pieces like this painting to really get a good look. I was interested to see that Bramwell had done a fairly complete pencil drawing on the canvas first before he applied a thin layer of oil paint. You could especially see it in the cross-hatching for the shadow on Ann's neck.

 The Wikipedia version of the portrait is large enough to show what I'm talking about.

It's interesting that he did that - his technique is more like a watercolor painting than oils.

I hadn't realized that Branwell was only 17 when he painted this which means that Ann (left) was fifteen, Emily (center)  was sixteen and Charlotte (right) was eighteen.

This portrait of Anne by Charlotte was also in the exhibition. This is close to the actual size of the original. The magnifying glass came in handy.

I had been aware of these drawings and also the very nice portrait of Charlotte by George Richmond, which is in this show, also usually in the British Portrait Gallery. It's a very well-done portrait in pencil and chalk, a nice work of art in itself, even without the Bronte connection.

What really blew my mind in this show though was a piece of art that I had never seen before nor heard of - I am sure I would have remembered if I had seen it. A cartoon self-portrait by Charlotte, complete with a word balloon, included in a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey. As far as I know there is nothing like this in the entire Bronte family collection of art.