James Hayllar - At the Theatre (1866)
Giovanni Paolo Bedini - The Reading (1885)
I would like to start my December Double my sharing ‘At the Theatre’ by English painter James Hayllar and ‘The Reading’ by Italian painter Giovanni Paolo Bedini, two works which depict individuals engaged in the arts. We see neither the performance enjoyed by the ladies in Hayllar’s painting, nor are we provided any information about the book in Bedini’s, but as the viewer we can at least observe the subjects’ reactions to each piece, which is second to experiencing them for ourselves. In ‘At the Theatre’ the woman in the center looks intently though her binoculars, absorbed in the act onstage, while her companions, flanked at either side, are equally captivated by the show. All three women are on alert, commanding a feeling of urgency to the scene. By contrast, our woman in Bedini's watercolor has leisurely propped a large book in her lap, an almost comical sight complimented by the satisfied expression on her face.
I can't help but point out that these two paintings share narrow orientations—one horizontal and one vertical. The balcony curtains draped at either side of the three patrons in Hayllar's painting effectively frames the action, and the playbill laid before them on the ledge is a nice touch, firmly establishing the scene. I would assume a higher resolution file of this painting would yield more information within this playbill, but in this image it is unreadable.
Bedini's watercolor has a very different composition, providing empty space both above and below the subject. The open area above our cheerful woman allows plenty of room for the large, open book to breathe, suggesting that its contents are worthy enough to symbolically occupy this empty space. I would argue that more tightly framed scene, cropped just above and below the woman, would yield a much different, less interesting painting.
More importantly though, that's some fine, handsome wallpaper!