The Sleeping Scholar is 2 PM in my Hours of the Day series. After finishing his lunch the scholar sleeps as neighborhood delinquents spread the pages of his manuscript across the parched grass of a suburban park. Flowing water gurgles the soundtrack to his dreams out of a black pipe that empties into a mercuric pond floating a burning toy sailboat. The younger of the boys is disturbed by the smoke, but the elder reveals a face devoid of any emotion except malice.
I used a real-life scholar for my model: Professor Gerald Ackerman, longtime friend and the world expert on Jean Leon Gerome. His head rests on a Ribera book, one of my favorite Spanish painters, and a Goya book is also in the pile. While the image of the handwritten manuscript floating away on the breeze should bring a shudder to any academic, the little inside joke that kept me giggling through the painting process was this: the actual legible text is a pornographic tale of a tryst between the ugly Spanish queen and the court portraitist, Francisco Goya.
For some reason this painting took forever for the gallery to sell. I would have thought otherwise. Only 2 are still in my possession, and I understand why those never sold (Floodplain and Noah Forgotten). Just now, as I’m typing this, the image above is cut in half. I can only see the bottom part, and it looks very pleasant: sleeping man, books, and water. When I isolate the top half, the feeling is entirely different: parched, with that evil looking kid. I guess he overwhelms the rest.
Congratulations, Scott! What an accomplishment — a series like this! I look forward to seeing them all together in a museum sometime soon. I also love your picture on the magazine cover. It is Lucien Freud-ish, but still you, at the same time. Kudos on all!!
Thanks, Terry (for some reason I’m just discovering your post now). The Hours showed twice (OCMA in 2001, and Laband Gallery in 2002), and I doubt they will ever come back together again. They are spread across the country. One was damaged in shipping, and I don’t think that collector will ever let it travel again.
The magazine cover was a surprise to me. They’d asked for studio shots for the article, and I sent two, one normal, and the other posing as an art world bad-boy with a giant brush. Guess which one made the cover!
Maybe they will be brought together again when you have your retrospective at LACMA. The post was in response to somthing else and ended up under this painting! Also have really been enjoying your interview, which I have been listening to in stages. Thank you so much for sharing all of this!
congrats scott, on uploading all this. I know it is a hassle, but it is worth it for us to get your insights into the paintings. thanks!
Thanks, Kenny. I’ve really enjoyed posting it. I feel it gives a pretty good idea of how I put a painting together, and that there will be a few artists that will find it useful. For many it is probably way too much information, but for that very few…
I am continually amazed at your energy and prolific accomplishment! From one post to the next you really must never sleep! This series is like a novel – will there be a book of this work? For people to be able to study the whole sequence complete with the adjunct preparatory drawings? I hope so! Will they be exhibited together If so please let me know I would make every effort to see it.
Hi Judith. There is a catalogue of the show, from the Orange County Museum of Art in 2000. It didn’t have the drawings, but did have short fiction from me under each image, and a 23 page essay on the Hours of the Day from Richard Vine. There might still be some available from OCMA, and there are usually some to be found on Amazon, but used. The book was really beautiful, in a cloth slip-cover, designed by Liz Finger.
I’d love to get it published with the drawings and commentary. What I need is a business manager to take care of this kind of thing!
Hah! It is so funny you should say that, Ashley. When my eldest daughter was three we traveled through Spain. I’d given her a book on Goya, and as soon as we got inside the door of the Prado Museum she started chanting, “Goya, Goya, Goya!” I wanted to look through the paintings on the first floor, but she’d have none of it. We had to go upstairs to look at the Goyas before she would quiet down.