Friday, May 10, 2013

A Foregathering of Witches

George Romney (1734-1802) mainly worked as a society portrait painter in London, contemporary with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. The three images above (watercolor and black ink wash over graphite on paper, dated c. 1776-7) are from one of Romney's sketchbooks, now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Tom Lubbock reproduced these for one of his weekly essays on art contributed to The Independent between 2005 and 2010. Lubbock emphasized the gigantic gulf between Romney's profitable conventional public portrait-business and his virtually unknown informal exploratory private work.

"His drawings evolve in page-to-page sequences. They're not moving towards some solution. Transition is their natural state. There's an extraordinary series of wash drawings representing (just) the witches scene from Macbeth in a wild and rocky scene, with spooky trees and a cloud of sacrificial smoke rising. To see one of them is never enough. The movement between drawings is part of the effect. They are a semi-abstract storyboard."  

The witch drawings are included in a posthumous collection of Lubbock's columns called English Graphic, the second collection issued since his death from brain cancer in 2011 at age 54.

Tom Lubbock's final piece of writing has not yet come into my hands, but it soon will. Until Further Notice, I Am Alive is the journal he kept during the final year of his life, fully aware that he would soon be dead and that his wife and young son would be moving on into the future without him.