Guided By Memory Looking to a Dutch Master for inspiration
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.
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.