Seven Years of my Artistic Life at Oak Tree House

The Painter’s Studio: A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life (Omans, France,1855) by Gustave Courbet (d.1877) An inspiring painting

From my Journal Epiphany 2017.” I keep on coming back to this painting, again and again! The Fugitive Stag (TFS) is my journey over the last few decades – visiting many new places, but also returning, recently, to old ones, in order to get to know them better – and more intimately. On one level it has been a journey into my ‘Wasteland’. Europe 21st century. My Dad was 2 years old when T S Eliot published his Wasteland in 1922. My paternal grand-mother was born in 1889, a year after T S Eliot.

We have a ‘domestic’ piece of furniture also dated from ‘1889 Bethesda’ (the NW Wales one and not the USA one), my paternal home at the heart of a quarrying community. The house was called ‘Creigle’ (Rock Place). But unlike Eliot’s, my Wasteland ended up also celebrating beauty and sensuality as well as acknowledging the “rats’ alley where the dead men lost their bones.”

Epiphany 2020. ‘The Artist’s Studio’ has become even more symbolic three epiphanies on. I have been busy in my ‘studio’ – my study – finely tuning a myriad of characters and events in order to tell my story. Coincidentally, it has also been seven years of my artistic life, here at Oak Tree House.

My Muse is still there alongside me, or to be more accurate, I am alongside her. Actually, I now know that she is more than a Muse or a ‘Platonic Mistress’. She is something new.

Someone altogether new. I doubt Plato would recognize her!

Courbet’s title contains a contradiction: “real” and “allegory” have opposing meanings. In his earlier work, “real” was a rejection of the heroic and ideal in favour of the here-and-now. It was also a ‘home truth,’ often linked to changing values and standards of morality.

An “allegory” is a story or an idea expressed with symbols. The Fugitive Stag contains both.

Courbet used his title to point out the contradictions and double meanings in the image. The large dim landscapes on the rear wall appear to form a continuous horizon line from panel to panel. They dissolve enough so that we are not sure if they are actually paintings or windows that frame the landscape beyond.

Is it “real” or is it a representation? Courbet seems to muddy the distinction and allow for both possibilities.

10 February 2020 Oak Tree House

Oak Tree House viewed from under the Victorian Railway Tunnels

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