"The Lady of Shalott" - J.W. Waterhouse
The painting chosen this month for the Challenge is also by a Victorian artist, though it's a world apart in execution, theme and emotional outlook. “Fairy Feller's Master Stroke” was painted by Richard Dadd, a patient at Bethleham Hospital--known popularly as Bedlam-for murdering and then dismembering his father. The director of the hospital made painting supplies available to Mr. Dadd, who had attended the prestigious London Academy of Art and had a respectable, if not stellar, reputation as a painter before he went off the rails.
I found the painting very disturbing, to say the least, for a number of reasons. Nothing is alive or growing in the woods surrounding the figures-- it is the dead, brown landscape of autumn. The Victorian loved their colors deep and rich and painters of the era were master colorists, layering tints in transparent washes over base tones to achieve startling effects of intensity and depth, even in a muted palette like that in Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott painting. The only noticeable colors used in Dadd's painting, at least in the larger reproductions I searched out on the Tate Museum's site were the primary colors of red, blue and green. The level of detail, which is what most people notice, is truly astounding; in fact, it is somewhat 3-dimensional. Apparently the Tate lights the painting from the side, so visitors can appreciate the dimensionality of its diminutive 15 X 20” size.
My goal was to create a piece of wearable jewelry--not mimic the painting-- so I made several large lentil beads in the same way as the sample, adding subtle gold highlights to elevate the somber tones of Dadd's very neutal palette with gilding.
I brought in the muted primary colors using two tube beads covered in clay done in a mokume gane technique with midnight blue, ocher yellow and burgundy. The pods and seeds allowed me to play with my raku technique and after I used metallic powders on them, they were glazed with a wash of Byzantia brand metallic paint and highlighted with colored pencils to bring out the primary colors.
I looked through my stash for similar-sized beads to complement the raku elements and added some yellow faux jade beads, picture jasper rounds from my local Ben Franklin variety store, and gold-painted polymer clay melon beads that I detailed with gunmetal acrylic paint—all separated by African rough bronze spacers from Objects & Elements.
A second layer of smaller elements was added to jazz up the neutrals and intensify that sense of over-the-top Victorian embellishment. I made a clasp using brass washers and some bronze wire for an s-clasp so I was able to layer the smaller strand over the larger one.
This was overall a very intense and time-consuming process but I enjoyed doing it more than any piece I've done for the challenges so far. I call the style tribal Victorian and named it "Lady of Shalott".
"Lady of Shalott"