The featured Painting of Week 17 is “Hamlet” by Carel Weight (1908-1997), created in 1962. It is an oil painting on canvas measuring 206 x 206 cm and is housed in the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.
The artwork presents a unique perspective of the well-known moment from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” where the protagonist holds the skull of his old friend Yorick. In this depiction, Hamlet and another figure in the foreground resemble laborers, illuminated by the glow of purgatory’s fires and positioned within a recognizable brick arch. Observers in the background watch against a tumultuous sky.
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Carel Weight: Rediscovering An Obscured Artist
Carel Weight, once esteemed as a Royal Academician, has regrettably faded into relative obscurity. Prestigious institutions like the Tate and the V&A hold examples of his work, but they rarely exhibit them. Encountering one of his pieces elsewhere is a stroke of luck, albeit one that may evoke both eerie and disconcerting feelings. Weight’s paintings often feature multiple perspectives, conflicting emotions, varied moods, and the coexistence of the realms of the living and the dead on a single canvas.
In the Painting of the Week 17, his depiction of reality is chaotic and ambiguous yet infused with humor, as seen in his portrayals of animals escaping from zoos. Furthermore, there’s a vein of social commentary and documentary in his art, linking him to Ford Madox Brown, while his work also anticipates the London depicted by David Harrison. The scarcity of recent publications on Weight’s work is lamentable, and there is a keen interest in editing a new book dedicated to his art.