Gilbert Lewis, Untitled [Copy of a Greek Portrait, I]

Watercolor on watercolor paper
Credit Line
Gift of Eric Barton Rymshaw, 2017
12 1/2 x 9 1/8 in.

Lewis spent long hours in museums, studying and absorbing ideas from the art of the past. Here, he interprets a Coptic portrait, capturing the flat forms, strong lines, and deliberate stylization of the figure. Coptic art is a term that refers to any of the visual arts associated with the Greek- and Egyptian-speaking Christian peoples of Egypt from about the 3rd to the 12th century. In Coptic art, the eyes are enlarged to convey an individual’s openness to spirituality and the light of God. To this day, we say that eyes are “a window to the soul.”

Lewis’s approach to the figure was similarly stylized. Some of his figures have narrow faces, large eyes, and elongated torsos or necks. The distortion of the figure can be alternatively elegant or awkward; he achieves a unique balance in each work.

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