Saturday, March 3, 2007

"Oh Susanna"

9 x 12"

oil on masonite


I'm not firm on the title - it was the first thing that popped into my head. And let me explain that....

The painting the woman was studying is "Susanna and the Elders" by Thomas Hart Benton, which hangs in the DeYoung Museum. It is one of my top favorites in that museum - one, because it's Benton's, whom I've admired since I was about 10 - and two, because of the subject.

The story is from the Book of Daniel - in short, Susanna was sentenced to death, falsely accused of adultery by the town's two elders, who were also the judges in such matters. The two men lusted for her and after witnessing her bathing nude (on her own property), they blackmailed her by giving her the choice of having sex with them or stand accused of meeting another man in secret. She refused, stood trial and would have been executed if not for Daniel challenging the elder's stories and proving Susanna's innocence. Benton's painting was found very offensive in 1938. Too erotic. Two interesting points - one of the 'elders' is a self-portrait of the artist and this was the first time an exhibited painting included pubic hair on a female.

When I was 15, I convinced my high school principal to let me paint an "American History" mural in the hallway. It was about 50 feet long and about 2 feet high and it was my personal homage to Thomas Hart Benton. All of the figures were elongated and exaggerated and the colors were vibrant. It was my first mural.

Click here if you'd like a larger view and purchase info.


Sarah said...

great story, good old Daniel, at least one man around the place had his head on where it should be! I used to paint murals too. Love the girls leg in this painting!

Anonymous said...

Cool painting....great backstory!

Jelaine Faunce said...

Now I can't get that song out of my head.

Anna L. Conti said...

I painted this scene too, in 2001!

Making A Mark said...

What an interesting story.

Today I posted my sketches from last Saturday of people looking at Renoir's Landscapes at the National Gallery in London. And as I was posting them I wondered why mine looked different to yours (apart from the obvious fact you work in oils and mine are pencil sketches.) Then I realised that nearly everybody in mine has a headset for their audio guide on - so lots of bands over the top of their heads and black blobby bits over their ears!

I'm curious - do you leave them out or have audio guides not caught on yet in US art galleries?

Karin Jurick said...

Katherine - I can only say that sometimes I like the addition of the headsets - most often not. Not many of my photos are taken literally, for a painting, anyways. I think less is more.
I must mention - the MOMA in New York offers these new handsets - they look like cellphones from the 80's, big, clunky things, although they're supremely functional. Nice to use, but unfortunately I think people would look silly holding those things to their ears. In a painting, that is. :)

Making A Mark said...

And of course art is knowing what to leave out! ;)