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Jonathan Cooper

Harry Steen

Dining room, Mount Vernon

Signed 'HWS' (lower left) and dated 'MMXXIII' (lower right)

24 x 28 ins (61 x 71.1 cm) (artwork size) 26.38x 30.31ins (67 x 77cm) (framed size)


"Washington’s dining room, the loveliest room in the house, except perhaps for the little bedroom right next to it. The walls are glazed with Verdigris, which is copper acetate, a mysterious and treacherous pigment which changes drastically some time after being applied. On exposure to air, it changes hue from bright green-blue to emerald green at best; at worst it goes black, and no one seems entirely sure of the chemistry involved. In easel painting, the change can be prevented by isolating it with varnish as soon as it’s dry, but since the walls here are decidedly green, the Washington family must presumably have had their dinner in a bright turquoise room for several months, having been assured by the painter that it would eventually turn the proper colour.

I did consider using real copper acetate in this painting. But I haven’t yet learned how to do so safely, so I soon came to my senses, and decided against it. Doubtless, it’s for the best..."

Harry Steen, July 2023

Harry Steen lives and works in Calgary, Alberta. He received a BFA in Art, from the University of Calgary (1999-2002).

Inspired by classical cultures - especially Greek - his paintings of elaborately decorated interiors and ornate garden scenes infuse realism with the beautiful and frightening, often using hidden symbolism from these civilizations.

As well as the influence of Balthus, Steen’s surfaces, colours, and pictorial language also point to the influence of the Venetian Renaissance, in particular Titian, Giorgione, and Bellini.