Saturday, January 23, 2010

Focus In Art

The Arnolfini Portrait is an oil painting on oak panel dated 1434 by the Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck.From Wikipedia


It is unusual that this picture would have anything to do with triathlons.

Well it doesn't . When I was studying in the UK over 20 years ago , life as a student wasn't too bad . In the year I spent in London , I did the minimum to get through but spent a number of enjoyable hours absorbing as much "culture" as I could . I especially loved musicals and the theatre but I had a very soft spot for the National Gallery.

http://nationalgallery.org.uk
It was free and the repository of some of the greatest works of art . I didn't know much about art but enjoyed the many hours wandering the galleries . It was just off Trafalgar and Soho and whenever I had a spare moment I would wander in .Not to learn but to admire.

One picture in particular and I don't know why that I would always gravitate to is the Arnolfini portrait (above) (painted in 1434) by Jan Van Eyck died 1444 .

I learnt many years later watching one of the docos on painters that Van Eyck painted this couple probably at the request of Mr Arnolfini in memory of his wife. The painting is full of symbolism . There are lots and I won't give an essay on the painting surfice to say if interested there is a good summary on wikepedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnolfini_Portrait

Here are a few of the items in the painting with significant symbolism and meaning :

* It is also believed that the couple is already married because of the woman’s headdress. A non-married woman would have her hair down, according to Margaret Carroll. [21]

* The cherries on the tree outside the window may symbolize love. The oranges which lie on the window sill and chest may symbolize the purity and innocence that reigned in the Garden of Eden before the Fall of Man.[22] They were uncommon and a sign of wealth in the Netherlands, but in Italy were a symbol of fecundity in marriage.[23] The fruit could more simply be a sign of the couple’s wealth since fruit was very expensive during this time. [24]

* The cast-aside patten clogs are possibly a gesture of respect for the wedding ceremony and also indicate that this event is taking place on holy ground, although these were normally only worn outside. Husbands traditionally presented brides with clogs.[22] It can also be seen as indicative of domestic stability and tranquility.


Everytime I went back there was something new to learn or discover about the painting. Van Eyck was clearly a genius and a very good painter .

It is controversial in so far that there are many interpretations of what the picture means. For me it was and is a source of great memories and just a nice picture.

When I look back now , I see an artist who was great now as he was then and the focus , the dedication , the talent , the patience , the genius to produce such a work of art .

For me , we can all take away a lesson no matter how obscure the subject matter or experience . The Arnolfini Portrait is about many emotions . First and foremost , a memory of a time in my life , a great painting and about a great artist and focus. Evrytime you look you see something new and learn something new as I have.

As it is with triathlons. I learn as I grow in the sport . I talk to lots of people and I try my best to put together what works for me .It is a process of patience and error.