Guided By Memory Looking to a Dutch Master for inspiration

"Etched Glass, Chestnuts, Green Velvet" oil on panel, 5x5 inches.Not for sale
“Etched Glass, Chestnuts, Green Velvet”
oil on panel, 5×5 inches.
Not for sale

I don’t think any painting exists in a vacuum.

In a way, all the paintings an artist has ever seen influence each new work.

The memory of these paintings – and the artist’s interaction with that memory – forms a rich ground that spontaneously shapes and guides the imagination.

Often enough, this influence is subtle – sometimes so subtle the artist is not even consciously aware.

Other times though, the influence is clear.

Sometimes, in fact, the artist will be deliberately thinking of a particular piece they have seen before.

That was the case with this painting.

While I was putting together the composition and then working on the painting, I kept thinking of a beautiful old painting by Simon Luttichuys, the 17th century Dutch master.

Simon Luttichuys (1610–1661) "Still Life With A Silver Beaker", oil, 20x15 inches, 1650
Simon Luttichuys (1610–1661)
“Still Life With A Silver Beaker”, oil, 20×15 inches, 1650

I’ve seen this painting enough to have a decent memory of it, and it obviously guided the choice of the green cloth and the shape of the vessel.

More significant, though, I kept thinking about the spirit of the older painting as I was working on my own – the quiet steadfast simplicity and beautiful sense of things emerging from the darkness.

I felt it was important not to actually look at Luttichuys’ painting until I was finished, but rely only on my memory of it.

If I had his work fresh in my mind’s eye, I may have simply felt like I was copying elements of his painting.

But letting the memory alone guide me allowed for a rich interaction with my own imagination, and the result feels like it is my own work, not a copy of Luttichuys.