The Sankofa Review asked its newest editor, Colin Keane, to give his immediate thoughts on Reclining Nude (Thin Adeline), a 1906 work by English painter Walter Richard Sickert.
Pure nonchalance. As an onlooker, I’m standing in a forbidden room, invisible. Four color schemes converge from every corner of the painting; at its center, a woman is imbued with gravitational force. If I could meet the artist, I would ask him, “Is she based on someone real or imaginary?”
There’s an antithesis to the gravity. The white bedspread stands out in a room flooded with color and exposes the figure of the woman, giving her an ethereal quality—her energy is careless and light; she might be draped upon a cloud.
I would call this painting, “Busy Afternoon”. As a writer, I look at this painting and immediately begin to imagine the woman’s story. Narratives form. Who is this woman? What time of day is it? I get lost in thinking about the world implied by the painting rather than the colors on the canvas.
For instance, what if the woman is in a locked room within a house bustling with activity, a party, or afternoon tea? I’ve imagined that she is indeed, and that everyone in the house is wondering where she could possibly be! The woman’s solitude is slightly nuanced: multitudes of people are nearby, making her nonchalance all the more dramatic.
For me, great art inspires and unleashes the imagination. As I wonder what led to this woman’s afternoon, I admire her casual defiance, but also Sickert’s ability to capture it. Ironically, the world beyond the woman’s room—and thus the woman’s world beyond Sickert’s frame—is what I’m imagining, and it’s also the last thing on the woman’s mind.
Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) lived and worked primarily in London, with recurring stints in France and Italy. Born in Munich, Sickert moved with his family to England in 1868 and obtained British nationality. After working briefly as an actor, he enrolled in London’s Slade School of Fine Art in 1881 but abandoned The Slade within a year to study under American artist James Abbot McNeill Whistler. Whistler, along with Edgar Degas, became Sickert’s greatest influences.
Stay tuned for Colin Keane’s upcoming piece for TSR, “Brahmin Rock Star: Kurt Cobain, monk in disguise”
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