The Musician - Alison Jewell (b. 1915 - d. 1979)
Oil on Canvas
One of a series of paintings of blind pianist Benjamin Schwarz which Jewell completed over three years (1937 - 1940). She was fascinated by the emotion with which Schwarz performed; the following is taken from her journal at the time:
"[Schwarz] will only ever see the world with his fingers and his ears, and as I watch him play, as I watch the way he so slightly hesitates before he presses each key, and the way he seems to grasp the music with both hands and hold each note close, I feel as near as anyone can come to seeing another's soul laid bare. I do not even envy those who can hear him, although I'm told he plays beautifully..."
Jewell draws focus to Schwarz's playing by picking out his figure and the piano keys in precise detail, while using clumsy brushstrokes and almost abstract representations throughout the rest of the painting.
Jewell in turn became the muse for Schwarz's piano concerto "The Painter", completed in 1938. Despite their mutual difficulty communicating, the two were married the same year. A friend of the pair observed:
"...they will sit in perfect stillness for hours at a time, which seems strange to those who do not know the couple well. Upon being in their company for a while, and being privileged to see such unreserved closeness, one wonders whether it is simply two parts making up a whole..."
The marriage was short-lived, however, as Schwarz was tragically killed during a German bombing raid in early 1940. His death affected Jewell enormously, and between 1940 and 1954 she appeared to stop painting altogether.
Between the mid fifties to the mid sixties, she once again started to publish her work, and held a number of relatively successful exhibitions. During this period, the artist moved away from portraiture, instead concentrating on a series of increasingly bleak landscapes, which were often characterised by the inclusion of a single, usually indistinct figure. Jewell's last piece, "Beach and white sand", was released in 1965, fourteen years before her death.