A Work of Art – Marilyn Bailey

Last month I wrote about seeing beauty in unexpected places. This month I would like to share a painting that I recently bought. Firstly let me say it is a rare occurrence that I buy paintings. After all I have more than a houseful of my own, so I shall explain how and why . . .

Walking down Guildford High Street in summer I noticed an exhibition at Guildford House entitled ‘The Discerning Eye’. I know the gallery’s wood paneled walls and wide carved staircases well, having shown there myself. I also know that this is an exhibition of a national competition sponsored by ING Bank for works of art no larger than 20 inches in size. The panel of six judges – artists, dealers, journalists and collectors – select from an open entrance as well as their own invited artists, and is very well thought of. I went in and found my favourites – three works by Robbie Wraith.

Two paintings were of sweets wrapped in shining paper set against a dark background. The third was of tubes heavy with paint, their metal casing squeezed to create random shapes, the forms wonderfully drawn, all tumbled together. Anyone who paints in oils will feel a great affinity and attachment to this subject.

I wanted to see more and so a few days later I wrote to Robbie asking if I might visit him, and a month later I was welcomed in to his Oxfordshire studio. There, I learnt much about his background that is so evident in his masterly handling of paint and beautifully balanced compositions:

At the age of 16 he was invited to join the studio of Pietro Annigoni in Florence where he remained for nine years! He became part of Annigoni’s fresco team of four. This ‘apprenticeship’ and life long friendship is truly enviable leading Robbie to a highly successful career.

And also ‘here we have it’ I recognized the hands in ‘my painting’. None other than one of Annigoni’s famous mannequins. Constructed on an articulated armature covered in horse hair and canvas, they provided the painter with life-sized models to sit in for a figure or portrait when the subject is absent.

As you see in this painting, the hands . . . in fact the whole mannequin . . . has become old, frayed and broken. The tragedy of life shown in the hand-cuffed hands which are arranged with one palm open and upward facing, the other facing downwards. And yet the paint – those paint strokes are beautiful, the colours of this closely controlled palette are as warm as a field of ripe corn. It is a tiny work and gives me such inspiration conjuring up past lives and memories as well as a superb skill and freedom with paint.

I am glad to have it here with me in my studio as a guide and source of provocative thought.

It is a work of art.

Marilyn Bailey
Classical Realist Painter, visit www.marilynbailey.com to view her online work for sale.
Robbie Wraith’s work can be viewed at www.robbiewraith.com

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