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Portrait Detectives

Extra Information on 'Mrs Mounter'

Whole portraitWho Is She?

Mrs. Mounter was Harold Gilman's landlady when he lived at 147 Maple Street, London. She was his model in several paintings. This portrait is the artist's masterpiece.

What Is Gilman Showing Us?

We might expect a woman in a portrait to look beautiful, rich or talented. This portrait does not make Mrs. Mounter look any of these things. Instead the artist tells us quite a lot about her through her face and surroundings.

Mrs. Mounter probably did not commission (pay for) this painting. She does not look comfortable being in this portrait. The painting also has quite an unusual, experimental look, using vivid colours and light.

The wallpaper in the background and the cups at the front of the painting are of the same brightness. We would usually expect the background to be darker than the foreground (front of the painting). Instead Gilman shows depth by making the cups and teapot at the front larger to make them seem nearer.

This is quite an ordinary room but the colours and the patterns in the painting brighten it considerably. The painting is typical of an artist who liked to paint pictures without natural colours. The walls glow turquoise and even the teapot and cups sparkle like jewels. The paint has been put on the canvas very thickly, creating lots of layers that reflect light. This effect can be seen particularly on Mrs. Mounter's face. It is a patchwork of colours that are reflected from the room in which she sits. However, despite being a rather harsh painting Gilman still manages to show his respect and sympathy for his landlady. She looks solid, homely and gentle.

Gilman produced lots of paintings like this one, of everyday people in ordinary streets and rooms. He did not use paint to imitate the real colour and texture of things. Instead he used bright, pure colour with unusual contrasts. He was influenced in his use of colour and light by French painters such as Matisse and Derain, and took his strong, expressive brushwork from French post-impressionists like Van Gogh and Gaugin.

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