by Debra Keirce
12” x 16”
17 ¼” x 21 ¼” Framed
Oil on Panel
My favorite painting in a recent Dutch Masters exhibition at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was Gerrit Dou’s piece, "Astronomer By Candlelight.” I could stare at this composition for hours. I love portraiture and still life, and both are given equal weight in Dou’s painting. It evokes a memory of me as a college student in the 1980’s studying by candlelight. (We always had candles burning in the 70’s and 80’s.) It also engages my love of science and art. While I didn’t want them to be the focus in my painting, the hands are set in the most intriguing pose in Dou’s composition. I really enjoy painting hands, and I knew right away that these two would be a fun challenge to paint, with complicated foreshortening and the most intricate value and hue changes. I wasn’t disappointed.
I posed a willing model who actually is a scholar. In two years, he hopes to be gainfully employed on the business side of running a sports team. So instead of a globe, the basketball seemed a logical prop. He doesn’t smoke cigars. That’s a nod to my grandfather, who gave me a box of pencils in a cigar box when I was nine, and told me there were enough to last me through college. He was right. The pink highlighter references the the feminine. True fact, the model is my daughter’s boyfriend.
For all these reasons, I was drawn to paint this piece. My hope is that viewers sense the heat of the candle, get a little thirsty looking at that jug of water, squint a bit as if they too are in a darkened room, and feel the weight of a blanket draped over their shoulders as they remember late nights of their own spent studying.
“Astronomer by Candlelight”
by Gerrit Dou
Oil on Panel
Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA