The occasional observations of Carolyn Kephart, author

Friday, December 07, 2007

Breathless

9:04 PM PST, December 7, 2007
The hammer fell at Sotheby's New York and the tiny Guennol Lioness (see my previous entry) sold for a whopping 57.2 million USD, the highest price ever paid for a sculpture in recorded history. Given her diminutive size, that's about 16.3 million an inch, and worth every nickel. The buyer's name is not yet disclosed, but I'm looking forward to finding out the identity of that modern-day Sardanapalus.
On to something less staggering, but just as breathtaking in its way.

Sir William Russell Flint seems to have spent his working life surrounded by beautiful women in pronounced states of undress. Even if watercolor was a less recent medium than it is, Flint would still be considered one of its greatest exponents today. His pictures shimmer, and no effect seems beyond his powers. I love the man. Here's just one reason out of hundreds why:

During the Italian Renaissance that this picture evokes with such cool deliberation, no artist would have thought of doing a portrait of his model. Models impersonated goddesses, the Virgin Mary or allegories, and the portrait, especially in profile, was reserved for ladies of social position who would never have dreamed of revealing so much flesh, nor probably could have possessed it to such a luscious degree. Flint did his best work after World War II, and this picture captures all the chic, slightly reticent elegance of Fifties England.

Flint seldom ever painted portraits, or men for that matter; he seems to have been an artistic pasha, serenely enjoying and depicting the lush carnality that filled his studio. Watercolor perfectly captures the evanescent, floating-world quality of the subject shown here -- the provoking contrast of flawless skin barely yet sumptuously clad, luminous blues and ivories, the regal pose and the delicately rendered, ironically ordinary face. Flint specialized in such offhand bravura, and all of his works never fail to temper the sensuous with just the right amount of distance. Lots of them can be found at this site.


 CK

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