Jacob and the Angel

In the mood for playing with paint, I sat down and made this from my head the other day. It was first inspired by the Botticelli Mystical Nativity I sketched at the National Gallery, that has men being helped by angels. I loved the weight and force in their embrace, and it reminded me of a Gauguin ‘Jacob’ in his painting Vision After the Sermon. The historian in me wanted to do some more research into the topic, but instead I decided to go with my impulses and just paint and have fun, and see what happened. It’s only about eight inches square, but a satisfying process to paint straight from my head and not be tied to a source or observation.


Now I’ve finished, I sit back and wonder a little at where it comes from, what my instincts are, or what they’re inspired by. I’m not sure I believe in ‘pure’ instincts that haven’t been shaped and moulded into the subconscious by experience. I’m sure that many of the things I’ve been studying  and enjoying few years are now embedded in me, and bubble up and mix as I develop my own ideas. I recently quoted Picasso’s advice ‘Good artists borrow, Great artists steal’ to some Foundation students I’ve been teaching as part of a painting transcription project. I’ve not yet tried to deliberately steal, but in hindsight looking at this I’m sure I’ve borrowed plenty…

The angel is probably still Botticelli’s.


The colours red and blue may be taken from him but also feel quite Japanese.


The strong contrast of tones, and enjoyment of the right shadowed leg could be borrowed from one of Daumier’s graphic paintings, particularly The Burden.


The muscular figure of Jacob reminds me of a painting of Soldiers’ Backs by Edward Burra that I loved at the Pallant House show.


But it could also be an echo of the bodybuilders that I loved drawing just over a year ago.