Monday, March 23

Kathleen Gilje, add her to my list of favorite artists.


An art restorer of Old Master paintings by trade, Kathleen Gilje is also a practicing artist in her own right. I recently learned of her work in an online newsletter I receive from about.com; I was instantly drawn to her paintings and am enamored with her ability to reveal the old master works in a new way. The exhibit highlighted in this morning's newsletter is called '48 Portraits / Sargent's Women, Restored' at Francis Naumann Gallery of Fine Art. John Singer Sargent was known for his portraits of high society women during the turn of the nineteenth century; those women were finely adorned and jeweled. Often when reading texts about these portraits the most discussed aspect is the clothing. The following is a text from the Peters Corporation in Santa Fe New Mexico, where the portrait currently hangs.“Three-quarter-length seated portrait of Katharine Chase Pratt (1875-1942) wearing a white dress. Her left hand is on her hip and her right hand is on her chest with one finger playing with her beaded necklace. The backdrop consists of a landscape with a dark tree.”Though the portrait conveys so much more of Katherine Pratt than her white dress and beaded necklace, those are the most obvious features. By removing the excess accessories, Gilje has emphasized the woman and her character, rather than her social standing.

A woman painting in the style of the Old Masters, mostly men, it is easy to claim Kathleen Pratt as a feminist artist. Her alteration of the subject matter also makes this interpretation of Gilje as a feminist an easy jump; she is reclaiming the women portrayed in this project as sexual beings, topless, in their own right instead of possessions hiding in the decorum of high culture. However, her project also asks if it is possible to see the works of the old masters in a new way. After seeing this collection of works by Gilje, I certainly see Sargent's works in a new way.

'Louise Burkhardt' by Kathleen Gilje 2007

'Lady with Rose(Charlotte Louise Burkhardt)' by John Singer Sargent 1882

'Mrs. Wilton Phips' by Kathleen Gilje 2007

'Mrs.Wilton Phips' by John Singer Sargent 1884

'Katharine Pratt' by Kathleen Gilje 2007

'Katherine Chase Pratt' by John Singer Sargent 1890

'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw' by Kathleen Gilje 2007

'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw' by John Singer Sargent 1892

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