I remember the first time I fell in love with a painting. It was a Renoir. Dance in the Country, Musee D'Orsay, June 2003. I was struck by those two figures in their warm, dancing embrace. I remember that feeling of looking and wanting to know who those people were as clear as if it were yesterday. I did not want to leave the gallery, but rather, leap into their sunny, glorious space and observe them from the cool shade of the leafy growth behind them.
Dance in the Country, Renoir, 1883.
That full, rosy - cheeked lady stole my heart forever with her romantic red bonnet, gay yellow gloves and dress of scarlet flecks of posy. With her head tilted slightly back, she casts a look of gentle, feminine sensuality upon the viewer while the man she dances with smothers her in deep affection, gathering her close to him.
It's these sort of romantic female figures that I have always been drawn to in paintings. I find Whistler's paintings of women in white dresses particularly fascinating at the moment. These are sad, contemplative women in flowing, virtuous white.
Symphony in White, No. 2. Whistler, 1864
Symphony in White No. 1 is perhaps, the most compelling. The work depicts Whistler's mistress and she is an enigmatic but melancholy beauty. She stands alone on a bear skin rug with a single white flower in hand. Her hair, a mane of rumpled auburn, contrasts with the fussy details and pristine whiteness of her dress. It is that dishevelled mass of hair and those dark, sorrow ridden eyes that bring about that familiar onslaught of questions - who is she and what is she thinking of?
Symphony in White No. 1. James MacNeill Whistler, 1862