Monday, December 3, 2012

Austenesque Artwork

I call this painting Kitty Coughing, though it is not a title Masha Laurence, the artist, gave to it. Isn't it lovely? I was so fortunate, amidst all the joy that was Austen in August, to win a commissioned watercolor by Miss Laurence, the Antique Fashionista. It arrived during NaNoWriMo, which is why it took me so long to openly declare my thanks, where all may read it and share this beautiful addition to my art collection. I plan to hang it beside the only other Austenesque artwork I own, an image of Cassandra and Jane walking through the snow by Jane Odiwe (see it here, at the bottom of my review of Searching for Captain Wentworth).

As part of my prize, I got to choose the idea for the painting, and having just finished Second Glances, which is primarily about Kitty, I asked for a rendering of my favorite Kitty moment in Pride and Prejudice:
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply; but unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.

"Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven's sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."

"Kitty has no discretion in her coughs," said her father; "she times them ill."

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully.
Having had frequent bouts of bronchitis as a teenager, I always sympathized with Kitty so much at this moment. It is easily argued that Austen was illustrating the weakness of her character by giving her such ridiculous words to say, but it is here when Kitty comes most alive for me. I love the perspective which Miss Laurence's chose for her portrayal. Mrs. Bennet is seated in green beside Mr. Bennet, hiding behind his paper. Lydia is standing, and Jane and Elizabeth are seated behind her (I like to think Elizabeth is in yellow). Kitty, of course is the lady holding her hand to her mouth. I really like the fact we can't see her face, as it gives me leave to think of her not as coughing, but laughing, as Elizabeth appears to be doing, at the ridiculousness of her family. It is also reminiscent of Cassandra's watercolor of Jane, in which we only see her back. I do miss Mary, but we must assume she is busy adding her share to the scene in the form of atrociously played music. I am absolutely delighted. Thank you, Masha, for doing such a beautiful job.

Other than Miss Laurence and Miss Odiwe, I know of only one other Austenesque artist, Dawn Schreiner, an illustrator who did a fabulous series of portraits featuring some of the actors who have interpreted Austen's heroes (see them here). Perhaps one day there will be a gallery featuring nothing but Austen inspired artwork, or even an entire Austenesque art movement, and my nascent collection will then be of great value. Regardless, these paintings inspired by Jane will be a continual source of joy to me and many others. Please keep painting ladies!

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