Harry’s advent calendar of paintings, day 9: Saville

Whoops, nearly forgot to post one for today. So here’s Plan, by Jenny Saville:

It’s another one where the size is relevant — it’s actually 9 feet tall and 7 wide. So it’s a big painting; it changes it from an intimate perspective into something more monumental.

I’ve always found the subject of size in art kind of fascinating, incidentally: not just big paintings versus small ones but the difference between reading a 900 page novel and a 200 page one, or a poem of 14 lines versus one of 400.

Although the comparison between literature and the visual arts doesn’t quite hold up, because you can’t just keep a novel the same but make it twice as long; whereas you could scale a painting or a sculpture. How different would Vermeer’s paintings seem if they were three times the size? Or if Michelangelo had made David life size instead of 17 feet tall?

Indeed we frequently do see works of art in the wrong size, because we often see them in photographs, and it’s not an unusual reaction, I find, to see the real things for the first time and be surprised by their size — like Gauguin, whose paintings were surprisingly small.

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