John Bratby RA (1928-1992)
A Woman Painting in a Studio, date unknown
Oil on Canvas
Portraits: What you lookin' at?
John Bratby is one of the foremost British post-war artists and has become famous for his Kitchen Sink Realism, a style which depicts domestic objects and scenes in a rather sober and often grim way. A Woman Painting in a Studio depicts a woman, thought to be his wife Jean Cooke. She is painted so that only the back of her body are visible, creating a sense of distance between viewer and subject. We the viewer seem to be creeping up on her. She continues to paint unaware of our presence.
Bratby and Cooke were known to have a tumultuous relationship, with him being possessive and jealous of Cooke’s success as an artist. This portrait reflects Bratby’s desire to control Cooke, monitoring her as an artist, as a wife, as a woman.
In some places the paint is applied brutally thickly, in a manner which appears incredibly intense and almost aggressive. However, in other places paint is applied so rapidly that the texture of the canvas is evidently visible. This conveys a sense of spontaneity and ephemerality, as if the artist is permitting the viewer to see just fleeting moment, captured by his swift brushstrokes. The palette used is almost exclusively warm, ranging from deep brown to vivid tones of yellow and orange, reiterating a sense of intensity and passion.