Jane and I have spent many hours visiting galleries and museums in Europe over the past few months and, amidst a profusion of great art, I find myself drawn to portraiture in preference to landscape subjects.
There's something about the human face and its expression, as captured by the artist, that I find beguiling.
I've used this splendid portrait by John Singer Sargent purely to illustrate the following poem about a mysterious lady and a jobbing portraitist. The picture currently hangs in the Scottish National Gallery and I'd love to see it in the flesh, as it were, so perhaps we'll have to add a visit to Edinburgh to our itinerary.
Such a pensive face, I hear you whisper,
and yes, the lady has a thoughtful look.
We stand together, marvel
at the artist’s skill and brush-technique
while you, with smartphone,
take a picture of her portrait
so that her image travels further yet
in space and time
from Exeter, two centuries ago,
with snow beyond the windows of a room.
There she would sit, while he,
with brush and paint,
would huff and puff to justify his fee.
That pensive look
defines her now
and we imagine that she dreams
of some lost, wayward love
when maybe she was simply fretting
for a missing glove.