COMBAT GOOGLE SUPPRESSION! For regular updates, please subscribe via RSS or email (r/h sidebar)

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

ART: "Las Tres Gracias", by Alejandra Hernández

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist
This is a new work by the Colombian-born artist (1), part of a solo show at Marseilles entitled "Art-O-Rama". (2)

There are many things that attract and interest me about this painting, which I think is a masterpiece.

In the first place, it is women's nudity seen by a woman, and does not have that Peeping Tom feeling of so much conventional nude art, in which the models often seem to be irritated, resentful, uncomfortable. By contrast, I don't think there is much in men's art to match e.g. Zinaida Serebriakova's portraits of her daughters, clearly proud of them physically, in their entirety, and also full of love for them as her children and as extensions of that very confident, sexy and determined self that was apparent in her early dressing-table self-portrait. (3).

With Hernández's painting here, too, the figures are unembarrassed yet not showing off to a male eye. Not knowing at first the circumstances, I had the impression of flatmates in a hot climate, passing through the most enervating part of the day.

As Catherine Beaumont has observed to me, the girl at centre is not staring back at us directly, and this allows the eye to rove around the picture and explore the objects (the artist encouraged sitters to bring artefacts of personal significance with them). I love the innocent absorption on the face of the melodica player and she introduces another dimension - sound - which teases us to imagine what she may be playing and what the timbre might be like (and the puzzle of the grey fingers - a potter, perhaps?) I'm also drawn to the creature - a piranha? - with savage teeth; the fly-whisk; the rather young-child's toy at bottom right; the items on the wall; the studio light.

Then there are the different attitudes, again informal and demonstrating the unconsciously beautiful suppleness of the female body (I'm reminded of a favourite D H Lawrence word, "flexuous"). A series of meetings and conversations paved the way for the palpable atmosphere of relaxation and trust. There is clearly a sense of familiarity and engagement with their emotionally charged objects, with each other and the artist herself. In this nurturing one sees a parallel with Rubens' nude portrait of his young wife in a fur coat - her slight smile and shining eye said, as my wife noted, that she trusted him. (4)

There is humour in the extravagant, abandoned inversion of the girl on the left and its juxtaposition to the tensed concentration of the middle girl, while the one on the right is bored or patient, half-dreaming and with (if I see right) rather modern tattooed eyebrows. All are natural in their own way, but in a way not often seen in art, and merit the term Graces.

And the energizing colours! I love that milky blue, the sort of hue chosen to make you feel less oppressed by heat, yet contrasting with the sharp reds on the shawl and some of the other items.

The girls are self-possessedly adult and yet, because of the socks and some of the items they have chosen to accompany them, also still very young, a picture of transition, a group that will soon separate: I think of Larkin's trainful of people arriving at the final destination - "A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower / Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain." (4)

(1) Her site:
(5) "The Whitsun Weddings" -


Catherine said...

This is such a fabulous article Rolf, truly fascinating! You have such a brilliant response to the painting, I love the way you compare such a modern painting to classical themes like the three graces, and Baroque painters like Rubens! I really love this link with art history that you have made, it makes you think about the transmuting yet linear passage of art through time, each generation of artists like torchbearers for the next! Really fascinating article, and thank you so much for showing me this very absorbing painting! A brilliant discussion of a modern masterpiece!


Sackerson said...

Hi Cathy, unfortunately it's only a personal response and not a professional one. Do you have any technical comments, as an insider, so to speak?

Sackerson said...

Oh, and thanks for the head-swelling praise!