I have often found it difficult to frame a message by just painting a face. A lot of people ask me ‘OK, who is this – rather than – what are you trying to say by painting this face..’. Sometimes the title tends to reinforce the painting but few today tend to dwell on titles.

I got thinking about this more a couple of days back as I was reading a review in the New York Times about an exhibition “Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760-1830” (underway at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England). The portraits at the show tended to focus on the ‘message’ rather than the medium, movement or technique (as opposed to the majority of shows today which tend to focus on one or more of the latter). The article also made a reference to the fact that over time, the message tends to fade away while the techniques and talent employed in creating the work live on. While it is commendable that technique and talent stand the test of time (and should), exhibitions like these are relevant in showcasing the effects of social situations on paintings and how painters were influenced symbioticallyby the social milieu ultimately chronicling the society they lived in.

From the article in the NYT (I somehow got to it, but it might ask for a subscription):

Yet this exhibition’s purpose is radically different: it is to dwell on the message, not the medium. Rather than celebrating the artists as such, it presents them as witnesses to the social and political convulsions of their times. It shows them recording a crucial moment of history as it unfolded.”

What does this painting tell you?

I am interested in your response before you look for my interpretation here.