Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Alexander Hohenlohe Burr - Blind Man's Buff
Price Realized £8,365
signed 'A Burr.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 24 3/8 in. (46.4 x 61.9 cm.)
This is a smaller version of Burr's Royal Academy exhibit of 1888. It is almost identical; the larger picture being marginally sharper and the figures being slightly more developed. The blindfolded grandfather appears stockier here, and his mouth more expressive. Similarly, the little boy with the hula-hoop, advancing through the door, has a toothier expression. It is these tiny details of characterisation that Burr has modified in his final version of the subject. The hair of the boy who tugs at his elder's coat-tails is more clipped, for example.
The interior is also plainer; the small alcove to the left of the larger picture and various tea things being absent. A wooden stool rather than a toppled basket of fruit anchors the lower right-hand corner of the picture.
As a result, this smaller canvas has a more robust complexion than the exhibited painting. Burr has attended to aesthetic vagaries as he worked up his most ambitious version. However this conveys all the charm of its larger twin, and replicates the grace of its compositional structure.
Price Realized £7,170
signed with monogram and dated 'Sept/20' (lower right)
oil on canvas
9 3/8 x 13¾ in. (23.8 x 35 cm.)
This study for Burr's 1888 Royal Academy exhibit, is slightly different in composition (as opposed to the identical smaller version).
Here the blindfolded figure, presumably the grandfather of the children who surround him, is positioned more centrally and faces forwards, extending his arms towards the viewer. A degree more tension is present, as it is in even the most innocent games, because of the way both dog and girl are shadowed by their pursuer's advancing form. The dog watches the old man's face with almost human anticipation; his body poised to spring away. The little girl, in her white pinafore, is much younger than the child with long hair who comprises the foreground figure in the larger painting.
Indeed, the only child who can certainly be identified in both pictures is the older boy, here seated to the left, supporting the clinging form of his baby sister. His long facial features reappear on the figure of the child who stands behind the grandfather's armchair in the larger version.
The children are particularly charming here, particularly the little girl whose hands are placed on the table; her expression is intelligent and animate. Both her near companions have attractive features, the girl seated in the corner seems more placid, suggesting that she is older and wryly bemused by these antics.
Of especial interest is the 'ghost' figure, or pentimenti, of another laughing child to the right of the bonnetted girl. His features are just readable in the surface of the wall. To witness the fluidity of the artist's ideas, in a picture where he was still experimenting, gives a canvas an elusive life force - since it is a stable testament to a time before things were complete, and such processes erased.
The room itself is of a similar kind to its eventual metamorphosis, though different in detail. The diamond-paned window to the left provides an alternative light source to the open door in the Academy picture.
Another intriguing difference is the orientation of the old man's blindfold. Slightly askew, it reveals to us one closed eye, and the artist leaves us to wonder whether this is an honest slip (of two kinds) or a good-natured eluding of the rules.
at 1:00 PM