Paintings 2013 (Jesse Waugh)
My Pulchrist Experiment in Verisimilitude
Having lived as an experimental ‘artist-at-large’ for the past two decades, I took it upon myself to try my hand at representative oil painting this year. I moved to Florence, Italy, in December, 2012, because I wanted to see how renaissance painters created Beauty on canvas.
What I found was that far from being hyperrealist in the execution of their paintings, the Old Masters simply attempted to create Beauty in as realistic a way as was possible. Trompe l’oeil was and is a niche technique. The unitiated often fetishise hyperverisimilitude, believing it to possess the greatest intrinsic artistic value. But my goal is to create Beauty. I’ve even created my own art movement which I call Pulchrism. So I attempted realism in painting this year merely as a potential vehicle for Beauty.
Drawn somewhat unconsciously to silent movie imagery, I began this quest with a still image capture from an old movie, interpreting its general form into my Sacred Hermaphrodite diety 5=6 who descends onto Florence’s Via del Moro.
From there I pursued more realistic body contouring with Suffrage and Beauty Disarming Love, learning about background detailing along the way.
Finding a beautiful head shot of silent movie actress Lilian Gish on the Internet, I was inspired to recreate a version of her in oil paint. I fell in love with her at first sight, and therefore had to name her Galatea.
When the summer came to Florence I decided it was time to migrate to my air-conditioned apartment in New York City’s Bowery District. There I painted Cascading Orchids as a still life practice exercise in preparation for Butterfly Goddess – a much larger, more complex work. I soon after completed Unicorn Purifying Water, an accomplished work in my estimation, one inspired by an exhibition of unicorn imagery at the Cloisters in northern Manhattan.
After spending a month in Japan seeking out Shinto shrines and Japanese Art Nouveau, I finally returned to the UK and ventured to recreate hothouse flowers in Pitcher Plants.
Having a strong desire to make large canvases depicting beautiful butterflies, I endeavored to reproduce the extraordinary colour of the Madagascan Sunset Moth in my last painting of the year.
Jesse Waugh, November 2013
Oil on canvas, Florence, Italy
“The image reminds of me the intents of the pre-Raphaelite… perhaps its emphasis on simplicity and purity.”
– Liliana Leopardi, Art Historian, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Galatea gazes lovingly upon Pygmalion as she completes her metamorphosis. A torrential rain cascades down while a Morpho butterfly hovers above announcing the event.
Inspired by Louis Gauffier’s depiction of Galatea at the Manchester Art Gallery, and modelled after a famous portrait of the silent movie actress Lillian Gish, Jesse Waugh’s Galatea is the first fully Pulchrist work of painting, embodying all of the tenets of Pulchrism, the art movement advocating Beauty in the arts.