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Click here for larger image of Translation of Rubens' Chateau de SteenClick for larger image

Translation of Rubens' Chateau de Steen by Jessie Semple

The point of departure is Rubens' landscape painting in the National Gallery, London (An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning, c.1636). The lines of the land and the general disposition of the light are established, while the distinctive features of the original, such as the house, the farm wagon, clump of trees and hunter, are eliminated, along with all detail. The result is an exploration of tones, without any apparent external reference.
Artist:Jessie Semple
Artwork type:easel painting
Material:Oil on hard board
Measurements:208 x 320 mm
Rights owner:Jessie Semple-Mathani
Rights status:UK HE use only
Institution:University of Leeds
Notes:When Quentin Bell was Professor of Fine Art at Leeds University, he began a scheme whereby students from other university art departments and colleges of art were commissioned to produce so-called translations, or interpretations of historic paintings. The commissions were adopted as projects by the college tutors, and Bell purchased the successful results for the University of Leeds. Copying Old Master paintings was part of a traditional training in Fine Art, but Bell was looking for free interpretation rather than rigorous imitation. The subjects were set by the tutors or students; the only directive from Bell was that the students "choose subjects stylistically remote from their own or their contemporaries' work. Much of the value [derives] from the fact that the works of art have been translated into a new pictorial language."(Bell correspondence, Art Collection archives) Jessie Semple - Mathani's departure from her usual precise and representational manner provides an astonishing instance of what Bell was seeking, and her concentration on the study of atmospheric light and the construction of space through colour and tone an interesting play on Rubenisme at its extreme. Translations were also part of the Bloomsbury artists' aesthetic agenda, and a number of such works by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant are held in the University Art Collection. Bell's scheme ran from 1959 until c.1964.

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