A Mighty Fine Cabbage

IMG_3610Voluptuous and pulchritudinous are words for which I rarely find the need, but I think they are entirely on point to describe Nathaniel Bacon’s Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit.  It’s a large painting, hung in a prominent position as you enter one of the galleries at Tate Britain.  It catches the eye e very time.  It’s not particularly admirable artwork, but I do wonder, each time I see it, at the fantastic cabbages.

It was the obvious choice on Friday night, when I was at Late at Tate Britain with my drawing class.  The object of the evening’s lesson was to consider all the apparently extraneous things that an artist has added to a portrait or a scene, and to think about what they add to the overall composition.  As it’s my default response to look at the detail rather than the subject, I had no difficulty leaving a space where the buxom maid might otherwise appear, but it was a rather over ambitious painting to choose to sketch.  In the process I learnt how difficult it is to draw a cabbage; something I had never before spent even the briefest moment considering.  But the more time I spent looking at the picture, the more voluptuous and suggestive all the blooming fruit and vegetables appeared; all those sliced melons, cucumbers and carrots, as well as the brassicas.

The rare Friday nights that Tate Britain is open late attract huge crowds.  When I was there in December last there were queues around the block, and the gallery was declared full, so that people were being allowed in only when someone left.  It wasn’t quite that humming this last week, but none the less, the place was buzzing with people and with the soundscape pumped out by the invited DJs.  It makes for an entirely different kind of way to experience the gallery.  Refreshed at the pop up bar in the atrium, many punters were not shy in expressing their opinion of both the painting in front of which I was sitting, but also my meagre attempts to capture some of the detail.  Fortunately, I no longer care what anyone thinks of my efforts……

After a break, we looked at what an animal might add to a picture.  There are some truly hideous pictures which include animals in IMG_3611the 1650 to 1810 rooms in the gallery.  I ended up in front of Thomas Woodward’s The Ratcatcher and his Dogs, attracted largely by the cat creeping from behind the door.  In the gallery, hung fairly high on the walls, the picture looks much darker than the reproduction on the website, but it’s still a sentimental scene.  I’ve never tried to draw a dog before, and I think it’s fair to say, it will be a while before I make a second (or third, if you count each of the mutts in this) attempt.

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