Bratby, John - Walker A dangerous man

Artist: Bratby, John
Materials: Oil on canvas
Dimensions (cm): 127 x 101.5
Dimensions (inches): 50 x 40
Frame: Good stained wood frame
Stock No: 1058
Provenance: REFA acquisition

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Genre: Human figure, Portrait

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.