Judith is Divine

16 Oct

I am in LOVE with Stephen O’Donnell‘s series of portraits.   Self-taught artist, O’Donnell’s education was adjunct to his love of history and biography.

Le Melancolique

Le Flegmatique

The illustrations in books, paintings of places and people, first drew me in. Palaces, clothes, jewels; all the rarified externals. My broader interest in painting and art history and design was rooted there. … Being as retrograde in my tastes as I am, my greatest artistic enjoyment and appreciation still lies with the great portraiture of history. As an art form, the portrait, whether recording aristocracy or something much humbler, still completely fascinates me.

O’Donnell almost always uses self portrait in his work to avoid the limitation of portraiture being “about” someone specific.      Gender play is his most recognizable thematic device, such that he is often referred to as the “man in a dress” artist.

Le Sanguina

Le Colerique

… I feel a connection to the Native American concept of berdache – or two-spirit – the idea of a person who embodies a blending of both genders. I may dress as a man, but I think I do feel some degree of being both. So, perhaps, the way I represent myself in my paintings is a way to honor and reconcile those feelings. To create scenarios that express my ideas about beauty and my particular sense of humor. Even to glamorize myself. To live a “life in paint” that isn’t possible in reality.

His favorite genre has become portrait historié – literally a historicized portrait – in which a recognizable subject is depicted in historic or mythological costume.   It was a favorite device of the Dutch masters and European court painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, in which the subject of the portrait painted is dressed in clothes of a period previous to their own.   In O’Donnell’s portraits he appears as a member of the European Court of the late 18th century – complete with overdone hair.

And thus he gives us Judith, triumphantly and haughtily grasping a courtier’s severed head.

Stephen O’Donnell, “Judith and Holofernes,” 2010, Acrylic on panel, 36 x 24 in, Winston Wachter Fine Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington, US

i LOVE the hair.   Especially on the chest.


Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Glory


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2 responses to “Judith is Divine

  1. Stephen O'Donnell

    November 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks so much for featuring my work and for your very complimentary words. And just so you know, BOTH heads in “Judith et Holopherne” are mine; I’m sure that must signify some sort of – dreadful – personality disorder. ; )

    • judith2you

      November 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      No more than the dreadful disorder that compels me to post pictures of severed heads on a daily basis. I am glad you found the mention since I am behind on my alerts to artists. Your creations are truly one of my favorites – along with the praying mantis. Thanks for including Judith in your work.

      Judith – The Other One


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