Friday, January 09, 2015

Self-portraits and Mr Turner

click photo to enlarge
The other evening we went to see Mike Leigh's, "Mr Turner", a film about the great English painter, J. M. W. Turner. It was exquisitely shot, beautifully acted and an interesting take on the artist's life. For me it only suffered by a little too much direct connecting between the artists later, great "impressionistic" works and their sources of inspiration. I do recognise, however, that anyone coming to the film with no knowledge of Turner would value this direct explication.

As we went up to the gallery where our seats were I took a couple of self-portrait photographs in the glazed stairwell windows. This was the best of the bunch with the market place beyond, illuminated bank signs on the right, and a passer-by at bottom right balancing my silhouette on the left. Anyone who has looked at my many self-portraits (for example here, here or here) on this site will know that, with one exception, they can all best be described as "obscured", since they are designed to hide or suggest rather than reveal.

After we'd seen the film mentioned, my wife read me an extract from Wikipedia about Turner's first sale of a work (a seascape, "Staffa, Fingal's Cave", unseen by the buyer) to an American, one James Lenox of New York City. The person who bought it from Turner on behalf of Lenox reported to the artist that the new owner was "greatly disappointed" by what he described as the painting's "indistinctness". Turner is reputed to have replied, "You should tell Mr Lenox that indistinctness is my forte". I think henceforth that will be my reply to those who find my self-portraits unrevealing!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8 Shutter

Speed: 1/40
ISO: 640
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On