Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto
Rebecca Szeto is an artist with a love for art history and for the humble, dirty old paintbrush on its last leg. With her paintbrush portraits, she is referring to the history of painting by using its own tool. She whittles the handle of the brush in order to make a canvas. By whittling, she is “reducing the brush to its core value or essence.” In this series of ladylike portraits, she celebrates lost, obscure women across history and geography.
I learned the most amazing fact from Szeto’s website. Have you heard of the Tapada from Peru? It was a skirt and cloak worn exclusively by women from Lima, Peru as a revolutionary outfit symbolizing women’s freedom and worn for three centuries. All you could see was one eye. The subversive nature of the cycloptic eye allowed women from all social classes a “costume that used concealment for purposes of coquetry.” A similar piece of clothing, but completely opposite reasoning, is found in the Muslim hijab and the Afghan burqa.
Below is Emilie du Chatelet; she actually enjoyed poring over Descartes’ analytic geometry as a teenager and became one of Newton’s greatest interpreters. She was highly educated in match, literature, and science and fluent in French, Latin, and Greek. She led a progressive lifestyle even by contemporary standards. She married du Chatelet, had a relationship with Voltaire, and got pregnant by the poet de Saint-Lambert. All three men were at her deathbed after complications from childhood at age 42.
You recognize the Girl with the Pear Earring, right? Szeto renamed this whittled paintbrush portrait The World is Your Oyster.
Recognize this sweet little baby? It’s our favorite (favourite) British royal baby, Georgie Porgie.
I think this piece is really cool with the extra whittled wood attached to make the hair. This is Reina Marianna of Austria. She married her uncle, King Philip IV of Spain, when she was 14. She suffered an unhappy marriage due to Philip’s infidelities and the deaths of four of her five children during her lifetime. She escaped from her woes into religion – to an excessive degree, even for her time. I love the little freak below. Szeto calls her “Rescue Annie.” In the late 1800s, the body of a 16 year old was pulled from the Seine River near the Louvre. It was apparently a suicide, as her body showed no signs of violence, but her beauty and her enigmatic smile led a mortitian to order a plaster death mask of her face. In 1958, the anonymous girl’s features were used to model the first-aid mannequin Rescue Annie. Though her identity remains a mystery, her face, it’s said, has become “the most kissed face of all time.” This one is my favorite! Szeto’s website doesn’t provide a description of her, but it’s called Dark Habits, and makes me want to figure out how to solve a problem like Maria.
All photos and descriptions come straight from Szeto’s website.