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Studying Leighton...

Victorian art was systematically removed from public memory during the onslaught of Modernism. In the quest for a universal standard for judgement, or in other words, no set standard at all, anything associated with privilege(of talent, of skill, of wealth, or even poverty!) was considered redundant. A painter's talent was not measured by his or her skill(which of course, should never be the sole criterion for judgement, but a very important one nonetheless). Skill was indicative of exclusivity, which implied stratification in society - a strict no-no by Modern standards.

It is pointless to engage in a battle of "isms" since Modernism has already died. Notwithstanding unipolar declarations of a New World Order(whatever be the country or faith), human civilization, as a whole is just begining to enjoy an unprecedented era of diversity. In India, where I seriously doubt whether there ever was Modernism(as a unifying, all-encompassing principle) traditional "vote banks" are undergoing a serius overhaul. They are being re-classified, segregated, mixed, re-defined and becoming increasingly "local". Voices are being heard, and quite prominently too, from the furthest corners of the country. It is not any more "hip" to be a brown sahib. Brown Sahibs are out of fashion. Speaking English with flair definitely helps, but what helps more is the ability to apparently disguise that ability while not being wholly successful. Traditional and local in action, Global in thoughts - this is the raging "mantra" of the day.

And where does Lord Frederick Leighton stand amidst all these?(not my Lord, obviously, but only the colonially hung-over would feel insecure addressing an en-nobled British painter as Lord. Nowadays, even an act of courtesy to the English Queen is fun and exotic!). Right where he used to stand about a century ago, smack within the fame of his Victorian glory. The Dadas, the Fauves, the Rothkos, the Pollocks, or whoever came inbetween or thereafter can hardly diminish his stature.

We are all in the same soup brother, only the tastiest morsels will stick to memory, unlike the flashes in the Critical Pans!

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a) The Blue Skirt, 44 KB download

Adapted to monochrome watercolor from the original oil.

b ) "Thinker", 31 KB download

Even though the original was in oil, rendering this work in graphite has been like a revelation. Only then could I make out the perfect balance of the posture and the definite, yet soft contours of her body. I am almost goading you take a closer view by clicking the image.

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c) Slipper, 42 KB download
   

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