David Warrilow in a Vermeer Interior
| Image Notes
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Vermeer, Woman with a Lute, c. 1664, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
David Warrilow, actor: born Staffordshire, December 28, 1934; died Paris, August 17, 1995.
| Artist's Notes
At dinner here, David Warrilow said he would like me to paint his portrait. I told him I would like to paint him as a crow, and he mailed me a photograph of himself in very dark glasses looking very much like a crow.
This was a year before David showed me some excellent photo portraits of him by Craig Massey. They are black and white. David is in light from the left and the light shows his features with a considerable amount of space behind the hat on his head.
One of the best ways to teach drawing the human figure is to have a brimmed hat on the head of the model. The brim of the hat catches light from any light source, which causes the brim of the hat to float over the model's shoulder and an illusion of form can readily be determined for any art student to challenge.
David's head with a hat became a drawing. First a small soft lead pencil (drawing), then a large wash drawing in brown ink. While working on the wash drawing I noticed the lighting on David Warrilow reminded me of Vermeer's Woman with a Lute, at the Metropolitan Museum.
New drawing of David Warrilow placed in the Vermeer painting instead of the Woman with Lute. I cropped the Vermeer painting and worked out a detail of the Vermeer window to the left, a part of the table in the foreground so that the background would be empty and the light would graduate from light to dark gray behind the head of Warrilow showing his brimmed hat as three-dimensionally as it deserved.
As this drawing developed the details began falling in place. In the photograph David is holding, sort of toying with, a pair of shiny opera glasses. He has a cigarette in his lips. These props became typical of David as the painting continued.
Because Vermeer is known to have been interested in lenses for viewing arrangements for his compositions, (with) the thought of David Warrilow holding binoculars in a strong light from a window at the left I could imagine a portrait of him in gray and yellow with some use of blue in his tie, trousers, and in Vermeer's curtain which hangs on the far side of his window.
It's at this time I knew I am able to do a portrait as a painting.
Portraits are difficult to understand as paintings nowadays… The Portrait of David Warrilow in a Vermeer Interior shows how I paint and make a painting have the qualities of a Vermeer painting, plus a close likeness to David Warrilow.
Likeness is very illusive. If we were able to see Mona Lisa walking down the street we would not be able to recognize her until she gets behind a picture frame and strikes the pose Da Vinci painted. (excerpt from a Notebook, 1981)