Bratby, John - Walker A dangerous man
A big picture in every way! Bratby's portraits vary enormously in quality but this is without doubt one of the strongest. Walker was a dissolute young man who was very much into drugs and alcohol and - according to Bratby - had a talent for inciting others to take up similar pursuits. There is no shortage of ambiguity here. What, for instance, is Walker holding in his hand? Is it a book - or a meat cleaver! Technically this is a remarkable painting too. The impasto oil paint is sculpturally thick, with a vigorous use of contrasting colours, especially in the subject's face, where they clash in almost hallucinogenic fashion when viewed up close. The painting comes with a provenance letter from the Bratby specialist and author, Jonathan Riley, relating how he discussed the painting and its subject with Bratby himself at the artist's home in Hastings.