Twenty minutes after seeing this painting by Charles Matton, I bought it. I will try to explain my thought process in this post.
The same photo flipped upside down:
After turning down three solid candidates this month, I had my heart set on bidding on this wonderful portrait by John Graham-Gilbert of his wife:
This portrait is incredibly well executed–the star attraction of this painting–and throughout the canvas are interesting passages of brushwork that brought to mind Gilbert Stuart. I was preparing to accept the fact that this is a very large painting at 40″ x 50″, and that it is on stretched canvas. I thought that this one was plenty good enough to justify its size, unlike the triptych in the post below. However, like the Mater Dolorosa that I compared it to, this Matton portrait just demanded my attention, for the following reasons:
- The price was fixed and in US dollars, and very affordable compared to what I was preparing to pay for the Graham-Gilbert portrait at auction in Portugal.
- The painting was on my favorite material, oil on wooden panel, and more in line with paintings that I usually buy: small, intense works that demand close viewing.
- Matton was from the middle of the 20th century, a period I felt that I was sorely lacking appreciation for. The brief research that I did before making my decision impressed me the more that I looked into what he did–movies, paintings, drawings, dioramas, and even a close friendship with Jean Baudrillard, who wrote a number of prefaces to Matton’s exhibitions. \
- I suppose the kicker was that this work was documented as being in a series of three on Matton’s website in the period of 1951-1956 (the nude on the right sold at auction several years ago), and is probably in his retrospective book, Enclosures:
All of this meant that, while Graham-Gilbert’s portrait is beautiful, Matton’s portrait is beautiful, mysterious, challenging, and essential. By the way, when I first saw Matton’s painting, the first thing that popped into my head was this portrait by Michael Hussar: