Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time

Watercolor by C. E. Brock
"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are."

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"

"Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished." Pride and Prejudice chapter 8

Event:        JASNA CWNY May Meeting
Topic:        Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time by Sharon Buzard

When:       Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 1 pm
Where:      Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

In an era before photography, painting and drawing were the only ways to record a scene. Painting also served an important function in the decorative arts. References to the art of painting and drawing occur throughout Jane Austen's novels. According to Charles Bingley, painting tables was one of the prime accomplishments of young ladies. 

In Emma, Emma uses the taking of Harriet's likeness to further her scheme of uniting Harriet and Mr. Elton. 

"What an exquisite possession a good picture of her would be! I would give any money for it. I almost long to attempt her likeness myself. You do not know it I dare say, but two or three years ago I had a great passion for taking likenesses, and attempted several of my friends, and was thought to have a tolerable eye in general." Emma chapter 6

Emma, Harriet, and Mr. Elton look through Emma's past efforts and Emma decides on a full length watercolor.

She had soon fixed on the size and sort of portrait. It was to be a whole-length in water-colours, like Mr. John Knightley's, and was destined, if she could please herself, to hold a very honourable station over the mantelpiece. Emma chapter 6

Mr. Elton is delighted, of course, to watch Emma paint Harriet's portrait. 

While Emma uses painting to further Harriet's romantic interest. Lucy Steele, in Sense and Sensibility, uses the art of miniature painting as a weapon.

"Yes; and heaven knows how much longer we may have to wait. Poor Edward! It puts him quite out of heart." Then taking a small miniature from her pocket, she added, "To prevent the possibility of mistake, be so good as to look at this face. It does not do him justice, to be sure, but yet I think you cannot be deceived as to the person it was drew for.--I have had it above these three years."

She put it into her hands as she spoke; and when Elinor saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of its being Edward's face. She returned it almost instantly, acknowledging the likeness. Sense and Sensibility chapter 22 

At that moment Elinor must acknowledge to herself that Edward is committed to another. She will not show the pain, but she will feel it.

The Regency period produced a great many notable painters. Perhaps the greatest was J. M. W. Turner, who was born in the 1775, the same year as Jane Austen

J.M.W. Turner Self Portrait
By J. M. W. Turner - http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-self-portrait-n00458, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63864933
Turner was famous for his dramatic landscapes such as this watercolor of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

Eruption of Vesuvius by JMW Turner
At our May meeting Sharon Buzard will speak to us about the art of watercolor, providing a deeper appreciation for the art which is so important in Jane Austen's novels. Please join us for "Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time".