A Prequel to The Trilogy of Remembrance.
You remember me, I hope? I’m James Helmsworth, the art dealer for that marvellous landscape painter, Alexander Wainwright. It was in the Bloomsbury Gardens that I promised to tell you more about Alexander and his visions.
This week Alexander invited me to the National Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square in London. There was a special exhibition of Vermeer’s paintings which are always delightful to visit.
It was a late Friday afternoon and so the gallery was quiet. We would have time to really look at the paintings and I would be able to concentrate on what he had to say. I was extremely impressed with this young artist and wanted to learn everything I could about him and his art. After we last met I could not stop thinking about his hallucinations or visions during a serious childhood illness— ridiculously but aptly named—Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Today we walked through several exhibition halls until we came to the Vermeer paintings, three of which had been grouped together. Girl with the Red Hat, Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Lace Maker.
Half way across the hall, Alex sank to a bench and sat as if transfixed. I saw that a blissful smile had spread across his face.
He tugged on my sleeve. “James? Just look! I brought you here because I want to show you what I am trying to achieve in my art.”
“Vermeer is always an excellent place to start!”
“Tell me. When you look at the Earring and the Red Hat paintings, what do you see?” he asked.
I sighed with pleasure. “They give such a lovely sense of peace. At the same time, their expressions say that they have stories to tell us. Definitely, we’ve surprised them—perhaps caught them in a private moment of reflection.”
Snapping his fingers, Alex jumped up. “That’s absolutely right Jamie, but I’m thinking more about the light in the picture. What about the Red Hat painting?”
Feeling on put the spot, I stopped to consider my next words more carefully. “I’m more intrigued with that girl with the hat. Much more of a mystery to me.” I could see he was sill not very satisfied with my words. “But you’re right. The light is truly splendid in both works. His chiaroscuro effect is very well done. I love the deep contrasts between light and dark. I believe Vermeer worked with a camera obscura— a box with a hole with a lens in it. The inside of the box is painted white and using a series of lenses and mirrors it reflects the outside image within”.
I was pleased with my recollection of the use of such a device but I knew I was sounding too professorial. But I felt odd, as a man primarily of commerce, lecturing such a supremely talented artist about technical matters. When he began to pace in front of the paintings, I could tell he felt I was not getting his meaning.
“Mr. Helmsworth? Do you see it in The Lace Maker?” he asked.
I admit I was confused. “But I just spoke about the light. It’s lovely…”
The man looked near tears. “It’s the light in The Lace Maker painting that I’m trying to create and surpass. Vermeer nearly achieved what I’m seeking. Doesn’t it look as if a whole other world is just behind or within that light and is bursting to get into this one?
When he had finished, he stared at me with a look of desperation on his face. Desperation for what? To find the words to express what he saw? To be understood?
Suddenly I had a flash of insight–or so I thought. I sank to the bench. “Alex? Does this have something to do with what we spoke of the last time? The visions you experienced when you were ill as a child?”
His face brightened and he gave a delighted laugh. “Yes! I’m so glad you see. A very special light permeates, suffuses these canvases. To me it speaks of another place or dimension. Don’t you see, Jamie? Vermeer’s getting closer to my visions…the ones I saw when I was so sick.”
Eyes gleaming with excitement, he sat down close beside me and said breathlessly, “At times there were so many visions above my bed that I felt like I was floating free in a butterfly sanctuary. You know- where those beautiful creatures flutter about and land on a flower or a finger….they filled the room and they made me think that I was in another place…not there in my room…nor any other place on this earth.”
I stared at him for a long moment. “Alex! I think you see the world in a very special way…differently from other people who do not have your creative genius. “
“You don’t think me mad, do you?”
I shook my head slowly. A sense of awe came gently over me. “No! Of course not! You must work tirelessly to convey your visions. Few, if any, have your gifts–seeing as you do.” It was at that moment I became a true convert to the man’s art.
“You know Jamie! I am convinced that something lies beyond or behind or underneath all the things in this world…I can almost see it in that light.” His head hung down as If he were dejected. He whispered. “I want to paint and to capture that light and bring it into this world for everyone to see. But I need to be able to express it coming through the physical objects and people in this world.”
Again, I simply stared at him trying to grasp the implications of his talent and vision.
“That is my task Jamie and I want you to help me. I need you to understand what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Both of us turned at the sound of footsteps coming through the doorway of the hall.
The guard said, “Closing time at the gallery, gentlemen.” He gave us a merry wink and nodded in the direction of the paintings..”Did you have a pleasant visit with my three lovely ladies?”
Both Alex and I chuckled. “We did…”
He put his hand on Alex’s sleeve. “Verneer’s paintings– so elegant! I’ve been with these three lovelies for many a year. But it’s the light that is so marvellous. Just like seeing another world. I wish the painters today could be half as good!”
I tell you this story so that you will understand what drove Alexander throughout his magnificent artistic career. Alex found his share of dead ends, mind you. But rarely did he lose his vision of what he called the beyond. I wrote The Trilogy of Remembrance in homage to the man and his vision which you may find here:
Please have a look in the BOOKSTORE for The Trilogy of Remembrance [The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing] and The Osgoode Trilogy, [Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One]. Just click the cash!
These stories are developed from the novels of The Trilogy of Remembrance [The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing] and are designed to entice you to read them. Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape painter and visionary artist, is the star. Think of them as delightful appetizers. Enjoy and respond