I was asked by the DPSC if I would submit a painting for a special exhibition to celebrate the clubs 140th anniversary. Each artist was asked to select a painting done by a previous painter of note who had exhibited with the club and create a painting using the original as the theme. I selected John Singer Sargent’s ‘The Breakfast Table’ (1884) featuring the artist’s younger sister Violet. The original shows a classic Victorian interior with dark background and very strong directional light flooding across the table casting strong shadows and clipping various pieces of silver with pin-points of light.
I decided from the beginning that I did not want to copy Sargent’s painting but rather to represent a modern day breakfast table with cereal packets, toast, marmalade etc. One of the main differences between then and now is we live in a world with a lot more colour and are less formal, I wanted this to be reflected in my painting. That said there had to be some connection with the original. I started by setting up the table in my studio around an old fireplace that had been renovated when the house was restored, it dates from around 1850. I created a false wall on the return at the back using a wood panel to emulate the same depth of field and then began raiding the kitchen for things to put on the table.
It looked OK but there were two problems, one of which I had been expecting. It looked flat. The light in my studio was coming from two sides and it lacked the sense of drama created by the single light source in Sargent’s original painting. I went out to my store room and found an old photographic light which has an 800w tungsten bulb. I set it up just out of picture to my right, flicked the switch and hey-presto!
The second problem was not so easily solved. I could not get back far enough from the subject because my studio was not big enough and ended up backed into a corner but decided there was nothing I could do about that and the composition looked OK so started painting. This explains why in my picture the objects on the table are more prominent and there is a little less foreground.
Both paintings are the same size: 21 3/4" x 18 1/4"
Top: The Breakfast Table by Tomas King 2014
Below:The Breakfast Table by John Singer Sargent 1884
Post published by Tomas King 12-02-2014