Friday, May 6, 2011

My Son's Chess Set

Red King and Queen
16x20 oil on linen $1200

White Queen
8x10 oil on linen $300

The Lewis Chess Set

For Christmas my son received a chess set. The set is a replica called The Lewis Chessmen, and while over 800 years old, is know to teens and tweens from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". One morning, struck by the clear, winter light hitting the pieces I immediately got down on my hands and knees for a closer look. 

The Lewis Chess Set is actually the best of four different sets. They were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 by a farmer walking the beach after a storm. The rising seas had exposed a stone chamber near the ruins of a nunnery. One version of the story has the young farmer actually falling into the chamber during the storm. Startled by the arranged pieces illuminated in a flash of lightning, he ran home to his wife saying he'd been captured by "the little people". Practical-minded she marched him back to the find, then sold them to a dealer in Edinburgh.

No one knows how the sets came to the remote Isle of Lewis, or why they were entombed. Experts agree the sets are 12th century Scandinavian in origin. They were carved from walrus tusks and they accurately represent the dress and customs of the time. Carved on their faces are the realities of a warfare that was brutal, close and personal. There is no glory - just horror and survival.

On that winter day I was struck by the humanity of the little pieces, a quality not normally found in a chess set. I wanted to paint them.

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About Me

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Elmira, New York, United States
In many ways I think like a photographer. The image itself is becoming more and more important to me; the actual application of paint less and less. Blasphemy in some painterly circles. I choose to paint figures and portraits because I consider them the most difficult subject.