The Singing Angel: Study for Eatons Christmas Window, Toronto
Drybrush Watercolour on 300 lb Paper,
Like the oil paintings The Conversation and Store-Window Madonna, this watercolour is a study for The Annunciation: Eatons Christmas Window, Toronto. All three paintings are based on a Christmas window display at Torontos historic Eatons department store in 2000. Despite their different media, these paintings share several features: the starkness of the figure viewed against a neutral background creates a powerful visual effect. Both paintings also challenge the viewers perception of the boundary between mannequin and human. In The Singing Angel, the fleshy, anthropomorphic arms contrast in an unsettling way with the metallic texture of the skin and the patent artificiality of the figure (for example, the seams between the hands and arms are clearly visible). The torsion of the garment and the verticality of the figures gesture creates a columnar effect, suggesting stasis and strength. Conversely, the ethereal, painterly quality of the wings suggests motion.
The artist originally intended to add a branch covered in Christmas lights to the right side of the painting; the pencil drawing of the branch is faintly visible. However, as the angel took shape, he felt that additional detail would compromise the starkness of the composition and lessen its impact. This is a good example of how a painting can change from its original conception: in order to preserve serendipitous effects, the artist abandons his original idea, thereby changing the meaning of the composition.