First post, nervous, where to begin? I think I’ll start at the top with…
The Greatest Artist Who Ever Lived
The greatest artist who ever lived was Hans Holbein. Arty friends, I welcome alternative suggestions; I can think of at least two others who are in the medals. But non-arty friends just take it as read that I’m right. It will spare you a lot of inner debate, if you can be bothered, about something which is not the most relevant issue in you life.
If you’re looking for the mysterious and essential in art then you can’t go far wrong than gazing into the eyes of one of Holbein’s sitters. They don’t stare you out, full of status and pride. Holbein had a habit of capturing his courtly people lost in private thoughts. Those thoughts – about business, marrying off the kids , whether the serf remembered to put the bins out – now frozen for hundreds of years. Some look as if they have time travelled through five centuries only to gaze over your shoulder at the door to the gift shop.
As with most paintings repro does not do Holbein justice. It’s not just how he painted his people that makes them special, it’s the luxury of their texture and surface too. This one –Portrait of Robert Cheeseman– is one of my favourites. The fur, feathers, and the indent the fingers make in those feathers, are eye-wateringly beautiful.
That said, every time I see this beauty I can’t help but be reminded of Dennis Waterman. If the 70’s was one face, that face would be Dennis Waterman’s, with his skinny suits or flared trousers and unshiftable thinning mullet. This is the thing about Holbein. all the faces seem familiar, reincarnated in the people around you. Holbein captures, somehow, what it means to be a Human Being, in any place, at any time.
Where to see…Robert Cheeseman now watches the gallery lights go on and off , for the long foreseable future, in the Mauritshuis in the Hague. But closer to home you can see the stunning Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, or lose yourself in the black velvet folds of Christina of Denmark‘s dress in the National Gallery. It’s an eyes-of-wonderment guarantee.