Inspired by Hockney’s great gallery of portraits, I set to on a portrait of my daughter almost as soon as I got home. Could I get a reasonable painting done in 3 days?
I had to work from a photo which I took on her 21st birthday in November. She was proudly showing off her freshly pierced ears with new hoop earrings and looked very grown up. The shirt was one of my gifts which had an embroidered scorpion on the back – the talisman for her birthdate.
Naturally I did look more intently at Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (Meisje met de parel) when I embarked on this painting because of the pose and the similar pensive nature of my daughter. I’ve always been particularly drawn to the painting as my Mum took on the challenge of reproducing this work when I was a little girl and the painting in progress sat on the fridge for many weeks. At the time I thought the painting was plain but unsettling with its staring eyes, missing hair and apparently dull colours (red, blue and yellow.)
But the version my mother painted from was before the 1994 restoration which rejuvenated the colours and liveliness of skin tones in the work. The subsequent novelisation by Tracy Chevalier and adapted movie of the Girl with the Pearl Earring (in itself a modernised title) placed the work back into the common consciousness. The ongoing enigmatic work, which is so well known as an image but which has so little available in the way of historic record, really suits our voyeuristic modern age. Parodies of the image as a selfie seem completely appropriate to this painting and to my daughter’s generation with their desire to capture moments of stylised perfection and distant allure.
My lesser painting shows two days work on the left and finished on the right on about day four. In my defence I’ve used oil paints so I have to leave some drying time between coats (Hockney’s rapid works were done in acrylics) and I had to go to a New Year’s Eve party – which is probably not an excuse.