Reportrait: Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery
One of the most arresting images in this exhibition is inspired by skilled, but historically marginal Dutch painter Govert Flinck (1615-1660) and his 1645 character study Bearded Man with a Velvet Cap. This painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, but while Flinck’s work is of impeccable technical prowess he is better known for being a student of the great Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), whom he studied under for years. In fact, many of his early portraits and history paintings were so similar to that of his mentor that their respective canvases were confused by collectors. This painting bears a passing resemblance to Rembrandt, but scholars argue it is a tronie (meaning “face” or “expression”), in which both the subject and technique were designed to appeal to art connoisseurs. As a curious and especially fitting side note in the context of Brown’s Reproduction, Flinck painted this Bearded Man over a finished portrait of a woman, thus saving the wood panel from a commission that went awry. Brown’s version retains much of Flinck’s composition but turns his skin a radioactive yellow and his eyes cloudy – creating a striking parallel with the sister 2014 painting In My Time of Dying. In this painting the beard maintains more of its integrity while continuing to be a striking vehicle for painterly virtuosity. The red velvet cap also draws comparison to renowned Dutch painter Jan van Eyck’s 1433 Portrait of a Man in Red Turban, where the sitter’s headdress demonstrates the painter’s technical mastery. The title of this work has no specific source – instead lingering between suggestions of spawning as well as the photographic reproductions Brown regularly employs while referencing art history.
– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA