If you are strolling through the Royal Academy this summer, enjoying the artworks on display in its Summer Exhibition, and you pass by something that looks almost, but not quite, like Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece The Arnolfini Portrait, make sure you stop and take a closer look.
The photo pastiche is by former Abbots Langley resident Anna Grayson, and is a funny yet fond take on the Early Netherlandish classic artwork of 1434.
“With van Eyck’s portrait, I’ve always worried that the couple aren’t looking over-interested in each other – almost as if there are other things on their minds apart from their union,“ laughs Anna, who now lives in Devon but maintains a base in Watford. “It is also the oldest oil painting in our national collection, well known and a huge favourite.
“I took my pastiche picture, An Allegory of Modern Marriage, in our own dining room with my husband as the other model, using a ten-second delay.“
Anna has loved art since early childhood but “ended up“ studying science at university and applying for a graduate training course at the BBC, where she went on to work as a writer and broadcaster, presenting programmes on science and landscape.
Her creative side came to the fore after she presented a series for BBC Education called Learn to Earn, about re-training and re-inventing yourself, and decided to take her own advice and enrolled in art college.
As well as ceramics and drawing, Anna began to use her love of history of art to make photo pastiches.
“I’m interested in the subject matter, composition and use of light, but most of all I want to rejoice in the fact that the best art is rich in interpretation, and may hold other meanings and nuances as well as being adaptable to a different medium.“
Which is just what Anna has done in An Allegory of Modern Marriage. Her interpretation includes a number of modern touches that make it her own.
“The reflection in the mirror in mine shows a Canon camera, rather than the artist that’s in the original,“ explains Anna.
“And we don’t have a dog, let alone one that would sit still as a symbol of faithfulness for the required long exposure, so I used a stuffed wombat as a symbol of naughtiness and anarchy.
“The trappings of the modern middle-class home still include fruit – there are oranges in the original but mine has bananas, as the shoot did feel a little bananas.“
- Anna’s An Allegory of Modern Marriage will be on display in the Summer Exhibition 2014 at The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Picadilly until August 17. Details: royalacademy.org.uk