Tuesday, April 15, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - Samson (Solomon J. Solomon)

Today I finish off the 19th century with Solomon J. Solomon's kind of strange but very cool "Samson."  It depicts a scene from the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, where it appears Samson has woken up to find Delilah has cut his hair, and it appears Samson is having to be restrained from attacking her.  I really love this painting because of the way Solomon has painted the figures using every bit of their strength to hold Samson back.  Solomon freezes these figures in motion.  I love the tension on the figure with his back to us, and the curve of his back really stands out.  Actually, as we look at the painting, we can see how many of the main figures in the painting have this curvature in their bodies, which heightens that sense of movement.
I also love the texture of the fabrics and the tiger fur on the floor, but it's obviously the various poses of the figures that I'm drawn to the most.  They remind me of a contemporary painter that I'll be talking about in a couple of days, who specializes in painting and drawing the figure in motion, and also captures dynamic poses such as these that puts tension on the muscles, making for more interesting paintings.
Unfortunately, Solomon J. Solomon is one of those somewhat obscure painters to me, and I don't know of very many of his works, and I have no idea if any of them are located in the U.S.  But of the paintings of his I do know of, they are usually quite striking both in terms of their execution and their narrative.  "Samson" is, again like many of these 40 Days of paintings, the first work of his that I ever knew of.  I thought it was a very strange piece at first, and I guess I still kind of do.  The facial expressions are so dramatic, as are the poses.  It looks like a scene from a theatrical play version of the story.  Or it looks like a 19th century equivalent to the Baroque style. 
In any case, often when I look at a painting, one of the things I think about is how difficult a painting it would have been to create.  There have been a lot of those in the 40-Days pieces, and I think this is among the top 10.  There is so much going on in this painting, and everytime I look at it, it seems I always find some new detail that I didn't see before.  I also often wonder how an artist went about painting the piece.  Where did he start?  Where did he finish?  I don't suppose it matters, because whatever the process was, we ended up with a masterpiece.

oil on canvas

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