Bacchus & Ariadne
The year toils on, March is upon us, and in line with my new year’s resolution, I have made painting the very heart of my year’s endeavours. In that vein, I am progressing well with a new collection of abstract interpretations, not only of my own experiences, but also of well known masterpieces. Following hot on the heels of my interpretations of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, I have now painted what must be my favourite of my entire new collection, an interpretation of Titian’s masterpiece, Bacchus and Ariadne.
With its stunning sky of ultramarine and the sheer energy of the central character, Bacchus, jumping into the air, the painting has always been one of my absolute favourites in the collection of The National Gallery in London. Painted as part of a cycle of paintings on mythological subjects produced for Alfonso I d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara, the painting is based on a tale told by Roman poets Catullus and Ovid. It depicts Ariadne, daughter of Minos, being deserted by her lover Theseus on the island of Naxos. She is rescued by Bacchus, god of wine who, in a chariot drawn by two cheetahs, sweeps into the scene with his retinue of drunken followers in a campaign to seduce Ariadne. In so doing, he promises her the sky, where, he declares, she will become a constellation of stars, like the Northern Crown which can be seen glimmering in the sky.
The composition and the colours are so striking that in painting my own version, I wanted to change neither, instead choosing to retain the stunning blue sky with its rolling fair-weather clouds, while in front simplifying the forms of the characters, the trees and the landscape. In finding ways to “abstract” the figures, I discovered various triangles across the composition, and used this shape, in particular, in depicting the masculine figures in the scene, while for the feminine figures, I used curving forms.
Nothing can repeat the true genius of the Venetian master, Titian, but my version of this painting, created in perfect ratio to the original, is certainly something of a high point in my new collection of a freshly revolutionised style.
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