Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

(1966), the South­ern Downs Re­gional Coun­cil Art Col­lec­tion. Do­nated by Wil­liam Bow­more. On dis­play, Stan­thorpe Re­gional Art Gallery, Stan­thorpe, Queens­land.

THE se­duc­tion of Bathsheba by King David is a story that has en­joyed enor­mous pop­u­lar­ity as a theme among the most cel­e­brated artists, rang­ing from Rem­brandt and Paul Cezanne to Marc Cha­gall and Pablo Pi­casso. The nar­ra­tive, from the sec­ond Book of Sa­muel in the Old Tes­ta­ment, de­scribes how David, while walk­ing on the roof of his palace, glimpses the beau­ti­ful Bathsheba tak­ing her bath. He is en­tranced and, even though she is the wife of one of his army gen­er­als, he or­ders that she be brought to the palace so he can make love to her. When she be­comes preg­nant, David ar­ranges for Bathsheba’s hus­band, Uriah, to be killed in bat­tle so he can have her for him­self. When Uriah is killed, David mar­ries Bathsheba, but their child sur­vives only a few days. David sub­se­quently does penance and the cou­ple’s sec­ond son, Solomon, even­tu­ally suc­ceeds David as king.

The most fa­mous ver­sion of the Bathsheba story is Rem­brandt’s Bathsheba at her Bath, in the Lou­vre. Un­like many pre­vi­ous paint­ings on this theme, David is nowhere to be seen. In­stead, we watch Bathsheba read a sum­mons to the royal bed.

In­ter­est­ingly, the let­ter is not men­tioned in the Book of Sa­muel so Rem­brandt added his own take on the story.

Rem­brandt’s paint­ing proved to be an in­spi­ra­tion for Pi­casso’s adaptation of the Bathsheba story. In one of the many prints that Pi­casso pro­duced on the sub­ject, he gave Bathsheba the fea­tures of his wife, Jac­que­line. In that print, Pi­casso also de­picts him­self ‘‘ grotesquely, as the grin­ning maid­ser­vant wash­ing her mis­tress’s feet in prepa­ra­tion for the royal rape’’, ac­cord­ing to Si­mon Schama in his New Yorker essay Rem­brandt’s Ghost: Pi­casso Looks Back.

An­other Pi­casso print that rein­ter­prets Rem­brandt’s Bathsheba is in the col­lec­tion of Queens­land’s Stan­thorpe Re­gional Art Gallery, about 250km south­west of Bris­bane, near the NSW bor­der.

It may come as a sur­prise that a re­gional gallery could boast a Pi­casso. The litho­graph, Bathsheba at her Toi­let, came to the gallery thanks to the gen­eros­ity of Wil­liam Bow­more, who do­nated 30 works, in­clud­ing the Pi­casso and works by artists such as Mar­garet Ol­ley and Charles Black­man.

Bow­more, who do­nated many mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of art to var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions, had a col­lec­tion that Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia di­rec­tor Ron Radford once de­scribed as ‘‘ the most bril­liant, au­da­cious and widerang­ing pri­vate col­lec­tion of art as­sem­bled in Aus­tralia’’.

In 1998 two rep­re­sen­ta­tives

of the Stan-

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