Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joan of Arc

I wanted to share my favorite painting with you today. This is "Joan of Arc" by Jules Bastien Lepage, painted in 1879. She hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and I've had the fortunate privilege of seeing her in person four or five times.

Without fail, I've cried every time I see her. I often ask myself what it is about this painting that moves me so. Is it the story of Joan of Arc, her passion, her mission? Is it the beautiful naturalist style of the work, controversially combined with the two surrealist angels Joan saw in vision? Can you see them? I missed them the first time. Perhaps it is her sheer size (I've included a photo with me and the painting so you can get an idea). Like my 8-month-old seeing the Christmas tree lights turn on for the first time, there is a sense of wooooah......

I think the real reason I cry whenever I see this painting is because I wish I had painted it. Have you ever felt that way about something? I look at Joan and think, "your face, your skin tones, the folds of your dress....and those wrists have got to be the most beautiful wrists in the world.....why can't I paint something like that?" She intimidates me. The tears are those of stress and fear. Fear that I will never be the artist I want to be. Fear that I will spend yet another day doing everything an artist is supposed to do (including blogging about art) but not actually painting.

I have been procrastinating a painting commission I need to finish, and my wise husband suggested I make two paintings: one for me, and one for the person who commissioned the work. The idea behind this is that with the version I paint for myself, the pressure for it to be perfect will be gone and I will lose the fear to start on the project. I think this is helping. I started on the painting yesterday and made some progress, but told myself the entire time that this one was for me anyway, so I could just have fun with it. We shall see.

I used to have a quote hanging on my door that I looked at every day. It said, "If it didn't have to be perfect, I would try...." At one point, that thought was the driving force behind me finally recording a CD of the songs I had written, a goal I had been procrastinating for ten years. Perhaps I need to hang that quote back on the door. Maybe this time I will allow myself to paint and make mistakes and struggle and in the end, have my work look absolutely-nothing-like Jules Bastien Lepage. And be okay with that.


  1. I just know you could paint something that amazing.But it will be your style(your masterpiece) Your paintings already are amazing.I have not painted a lot but the painting that mean the most to me came out of something greater than me. I agree with painting it for you, it will bring more meaning to it. I still look at the painting of the trees I did. What makes the painting special is that I was listening to an inspiring book on tape when I painted it(about a blind man and how he could see light and how everything even trees had a light). I truly went to that other place of creativity and felt like each stroke has some special meaning.I imagined how the essence of a tree might look as I painted.Yet at the same time I was paying attention the rules of color and dark and light. For me a song or story will inspire me and become part of the painting. Now when others look at it they notice it. They can actually feel it! They do not always know what it is but they do feel something. When I look at your favorite artist painting. I can tell that she did that. I do not know exactly what it is but it is something that cannot be forced or duplicated. For me it does not mean the picture is perfect(could find my flaws again) but it does have that life to it. I am sure this piece you will paint will turn out well.

  2. I agree with Heather.

    Besides, your paintings perfectly capture something that I feel is very important.


  3. We love our painting from you! Remember the Mormon Ad "Be your own kind of beautiful" and be happy with your style. And put that quote back up & record another CD. =) My sister-in-law plays it so often that my Mother-in-law recognized it at Thanksgiving when my ipod was playing!

  4. I loved this post. And I love Joan in the Met. Good luck with your painting, Loralee, I have no doubt it will inspire!

  5. Yes this painting is my own personal mountain to some day climb. Ever since I saw it, I have been inspired by what painting can be! Some day I will be able to pay homage to this piece properly! I enjoyed your post!