Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Thomas More - Hans Holbein

Master portrait painter Hans Holbein's portrayal of the man lionised in Robert Bolt's masterful Man For All Seasons. [Click to enlarge.]

Diane Durante analyses the painting in this month's 'Objective Standard' - her analysis is chiefly focussed on the choices the artist makes in putting paint to canvas. Why this pose rather that that; these props rather than those; this skin tone rather than that. "What do you mean," I hear you object. "Skin tone!?" Yep, every single line, tone and dot the artist chooses to put on canvas is there because he selected it, she points out. If you're painting me, she says, then "even such ... seemingly minor detail[s] as the way in which you represent my skin will convey significant information to viewers about your estimate of me, my lifestyle, my health, my character." What an artist selects as fundamentally important betrays his view of the subject, and conveys to us, the viewer, his view of the world (and, if that resonates with us, it has the capacity to affect us profoundly).

From this portrait Durante concludes that Holbein saw More as worldly, "self-confident, unostentatiously elegant, and conscientious" -- in other words, someone to admire. Seems to me however from the hunted look Holbein gives him that he also saw him as doomed... Click to enlarge and decide for yourself from the clues the artist gives us.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! oh! gosh!

    This is jolly splendid, Peter!

    One of my great ambitions in life is to own a Holbein and delighted you are featuring him.

    A great wish of mine would be for the British Government to end 'hand outs' for the Arts, resulting in the National Gallery going bust and having to put 'The Ambassadors' or 'Erasmus' up for auction....(where I will be waiting) :P


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