I recently went to a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in Sydney.  Some of my favourite painters were there – Waterhouse, Al Tadema, Lord Leighton.  There were other well know artists of the period also – like William Holman-Hunt.  What I found interesting as I walked around was that the paintings fell into two very distinct categories.  The majority of the works are technically perfect if not brilliant.

Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod' by J. W. Waterhouse

Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod' by J. W. Waterhouse

However what I noticed was that some of these works, even though highly skilled representations of their subject, lacked something.  What they lacked was subtle, almost indefinable.  There is an elusive spirit that infuses some works and not others.  This is I believe, the thing that we strive for as creators regardless of our medium.  We have all seen actors who never become their character and remain themselves, or have ‘wooden’ performances.  This is like the secret ingredient in the creatives recipe, what distinguishes one creative work from another and raises it above the rest.

Waterhouse is not only a technical expert, he also achieves this transmission of the subtle, unknown, into our experience as we view the work.  We become lost for a time in the world he has created with such beauty and magnificence.

If you like this kind of art here are a couple of great blogs  with interesting tidbits and lots of pictures about the Pre-Raphaelites.

Beth’s – Boatshedchic and

Matthew’s – Underpaintings

Next post ….. more about ‘that secret ingredient’

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