Later in the 20th century, Winston Churchill’s last day in office included having the Rubens taken down so that he could improve upon a hazy mouse.
Same or different?
Churchill, an artist himself, would have known the unwritten law that forbids one artist from touching another artists’s canvas with a wet brush even if help had been requested. Analyze, point, comment, but DON’T TOUCH. If possible, honour Thumper’s mother’s dictum: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” That said, I understand completely that said mousey had been a bur under Winston’s saddle for years and and for heaven’s sake, the painting is entitled “The Lion and the Mouse.” Lord Mountbatten described this act as the supreme example of courage.
But then again, Rubens was dead at the time. Real courage would have been to try that with Rubens on site. I suspect that he would have slapped Churchill silly. I guess Winston’s cardinal mistake was to tell Lord Mountbatten, who simply didn’t understand the poor man’s imperative to fix the problem while he still could. Given that the mouse is actually the moral compass in the fable and the star, she IS, quite honestly rather hard to locate even if you know the painting's title.
People who love art are happy hostages to its addiction. I often lose track of the plot in a show if a wonderful piece of art in the background hogs my attention as I soak it all in. Churchill had a long time in office to stew about the mouse.
Speaking of soaking and stewing, while in the bathtub last week, I was idly staring at one of my own paintings and thinking for the umpteenth time thatthose two white pansies should have been sitting on one of two of the focal points instead of falling off the edge and taking the viewer’s interest with them. Guess I had a Winston moment. The offending pansies are finally now sitting on my easel and about to be tweaked, perhaps for the last time. Or perhaps not. It’s my painting and I get to decide. Until I’m dead. More awkward, of course, is being confronted by a poor decision in one of my own paintings which is no longer mine. I hate that.
I do admit to deliberately “hazing a mouse” in some of my big paintings. The bottom right quadrant of “The Ancients” #4, for example, or the upper right in “The Ancients #5 both use suggestion rather than delineation as a way of keeping the focus on the firmly rooted tree. Jon unsuccessfully argued both decisions but they felt right to me and I left them.
Note to self: don’t hang either of them near the tub because Jon knows where I keep my brushes and paints. If, on the other hand, Rubens materializes in the bathroom with a burning urge to fix those paintings, knock yourself out, Peter Paul!
BTW -- Don't you wish that somewhere on the web there would be a visual comparison of Before and After? And which one is this? I think it is the new and improved version. Painters try to put their darkest dark and their lightest light together at their focal point. I suspect that the Honourable Winston was doing just that. And one more thing: if you are googling "Rubens lion," do take a moment to look at the red conte sketch. Rubens was definitely a cat fancier.