Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) – An Artist in His Studio, 1628
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

VISION COMES, Roger Housden writes, “from the light of the imagination, not at the expense of physical existence but as an enrichment of it. In fact, the bald facts without it are dead things. Lifeless”. (How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful, Imperfect Self – page 38)

The young Rembrandt’s work, as early as 1628, was possessed of a “light that began to glow” and a certain something which “conjures a sense of merging, an awareness of the connection between things”. He was only 22 when he completed The Artist in His Studio about which masterpiece and metaphor Housden has this to say:

“A diminutive figure”, standing before a huge canvas, “is contemplating it with eyes that are not actually looking. They are empty eyes, large black holes. They are looking not outward, but inward … He isn’t Rembrandt; he isn’t any artist in particular. He is the archetype of an artist, the man of imagination lost, not in the wonders of the outer world, but in contemplation of the image in his mind’s eye; an image that, somehow, he has to translate onto that daunting canvas, the whole edge of which gleams with a bright and fearsome light. The painting is a quasi-mythical, even mystical, rendering of the act of creation itself: that pause, that silence, that darkness out of which all else springs.” pp 40&41

Roger Housden’s archetypal artist might be – and probably is – you, or maybe me. Or both. At prayer. Being aware. Looking within. Or as Housden further writes:

Contemplating, you might say. Beholding. Reflecting upon. These are words we barely use anymore to describe ways of seeing, and the loss is ours; for along with the loss of the word, we can lose the activity it points to.

A felt response is far from the knee jerk of attraction or aversion. It is not merely emotional; it is a sensation as much as a feeling, a sensation that carries intelligence. It is a response of the whole person, and that is something that takes time. You can’t have a felt response to something or someone in two seconds of sharp focus. – page 46

What might you, or I, paint upon a blank canvas wheresoever the only inspiration available to us, in the plain and unadorned “studio” of our daily lives, was that revealed to us from within? Dare we turn our eye inward? Dare we contemplate? Dare we give of the love and of the time it would take to catch sight of a response “far from the knee jerk of attraction or aversion … not merely emotional … a sensation as much as a feeling, a sensation that carries intelligence … a response of the whole person … something that takes time”? Dare we?

What is the artist, in you or in me, in a “studio”, before a large blank canvas, to paint upon it? Hopefully, we must pray that “we’ll see”.

One thought on “IN HIS MIND’S EYE

  1. Thanks Simon. A lovely post. I liked the Housden quote about the small artist looking inwards. That is very helpful, particularly in my current baffling preoccupation with what supervision is.

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