Same Strokes

Hendersonville artists reinterpret the Old Masters

By Bill Abel (after Van Gogh’s Starry Night)

Pablo Picasso was bold off-canvas, too. In 1953, he met Jacqueline Roque at the Madoura ceramic factory in Vallauris, France. She was 26 and he 72, but Picasso still made advances, fetching a rose for Jacqueline every day for six months until she agreed to court him. 

During the couple’s 11-year marriage, Picasso painted more than 400 portraits of his bride, capturing her dark eyes and high cheekbones in broad, exaggerated strokes. But in all those portraits, there’s one thing Picasso forgot: a refreshing beverage for the muse. 

“If she were alive and sitting in a room with Picasso today, she would be drinking a Cosmo.” So says Diane Dean, president of the Art League of Henderson County. Inspired by “Jacqueline with Flowers,” a 1954 portrait, Dean produced her own version of Picasso’s muse. The new rendition breaks from the original by incorporating paper collage, acrylic paint, and a martini glass. 

Dean’s rendition will be featured in Fabulous Fakes, an exhibit and sale of copies of paintings by the Old Masters, including Renoir and Van Gogh. Some 40 members of the Art League will be represented in the show. Proceeds benefit the artists, all of whom can legally profit from their reproductions since the famous inspirations for them are considered public domain.

By Diane Dean (after Picasso’s Jacqueline With Flowers)

Of course, mimicking the greats is nothing new. Artists have been doing it for millennia, starting with the Romans, who replicated sculptures from the Greeks. Centuries later, during the Renaissance, painters began copying works as a means of honoring the original creator, as well as self educating. 

“It’s a way for artists to study how [the Masters] handle[d] composition, how they work[ed] with color, how they built contrast,” says Dean. “It gives artists an opportunity to translate traditional oil techniques into other mediums.” 

But the Fabulous Fakes exhibit breaks from the time-worn tradition in that participating artists are encouraged to include a visual twist that makes the painting their own. Hendersonville-based folk artist Gladys Shelton, for instance, copied “Shoes,” a still life by Van Gogh. But rather than produce an exact facsimile, Shelton added a docile mouse peeping out from one of the loafers. She calls it “Hey, Vince. Where’s the Cheese?”

“The little mouse just came to mind — it makes the piece lighthearted,” she says. “Though nothing Van Gogh did was lighthearted.”

Bill Abel, a watercolorist who recently moved to Hendersonville from Virginia, also chose to reproduce work by Van Gogh. Abel’s piece reimagines “Starry Night,” but instead of the French village shown in the ubiquitous 1889 painting, Venus in this case shines on downtown Hendersonville.

“Painting this piece took me deeper into the creation of the original,” says Abel. “I now have a richer connection to Van Gogh — but I had some fun with it, too.”

The Art League of Henderson County (artleague.net) exhibits Fabulous Fakes through Saturday, May 22, at The Center for Art & Entertainment (125 South Main St., Hendersonville).The exhibit will be open noon-4pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Sunday, May 16, at 1:30pm, art historian Gabriele Hoffman will speak about each of the Masters represented in the show, in a limited-space in-person event that will also be livestreamed. For more information, call 828-697-8547 or see thecenterae.org. 

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