23 Mar 2011

Inspired by art...

National Portrait Gallery: The Bronte Sisters
On a recent trip to the National Portrait Gallery I unexpectedly fell in love with the above portrait of Emily Bronte (c.1833). After browsing the famous Hans Holbein Tudor portraits I'd wanted to see for a very long time, we came to a room mostly full of portraits of stern-looking men in stiff collars. Amongst these fine figures from Victorian England, two battered, damaged portraits (as tucked in a corner as they could be in a gleaming art gallery) caught my eye. One depicted a group of three female sitters (below), the other, as you can see above, featured a lone female sitter, her ice-white face popping out of the gloomy darkness of the background. I walked over to them and, without noticing the information card, leant in close to the glass to take in every detail of these strangely dark portraits and, though cracked and marked by folds and scuffs, I thought they were rather perfect. I like the simple lines, the long curve of Emily's neck, the gloom of the backgrounds and the simplistic representations of their faces - compared with all the masterpieces in the room, I found them refreshingly 'real'. 
It was only when my eye eventually turned to the information cards and I discovered these portraits were of the Bronte Sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne (c.1834), with the solo sitter being Emily Bronte - author of Wuthering Heights.
Other than knowing the Bronte Sisters had been incredibly talented writers, I'd never had cause to find out anything more about them, but, inspired by the portraits - painted by their brother Patrick "Branwell" Bronte - I decided to do some research and now am fully enthrawled by the tragic stories of their short, yet incredibly significant lives.
I won't go into all the details of their lives here, if you would like to find out more try good old Wikipedia as a first stop or the Bronte Parsonage Museum's website. I just had to say how much I loved the portraits and how art had inspired me to do further research and now, after years of thinking I probably should read it, I have finally started to read Wuthering Heights. (Although, I must admit, every time the moors are described, my imagination pencils in a little Kate Bush dressed in red dancing wildly in the background.) 

Has a portrait or a piece of art ever grabbed you and drawn you into it's world like these pieces did to me? I'd love to know.

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