The face of Keats

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Raphael » Sun Nov 13, 2011 1:47 am

Joseph Severn was a very good artist I think and I think overall his portraits of John Keats were the most accurate.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Ennis » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:15 am

jesleeall wrote:Question: I read somewhere - I think it was in Andrew Motions biography - that Severn made two deathbed portraits of John. One, of course, would be the one we're all so familiar with, but I've never seen the other one. Do any of you know anything about it?


Yes! It's copied in the most recent biography of Severn, the one by Sue Brown entitled Joseph Severn: A Life. I'd scan it if I could, but my brother's computer isn't "hooked up" to do such. Anyway, the drawing is on page 103 and the caption reads "A previously unpublished pen and ink sketch by Severn of Keats in Rome together with lists of the books Severn and Keats had with them there." The text says this about the picture:

"Sitting up in the middle of the night around this time, desperately trying to keep awake, Severn hit on the idea of sketching his friend. (This is the one we're all familiar with: my note). It was the second drawing of Keats he had attempted in Rome. The first, which has never previously been reproduced, was done after Keats took to his bed. Even so, it shows a powerful figure and though the eyes are large and pleading, the mouth is still full. One hand lies open in a characteristic Baroque gesture of supplication. As Severn worked on it he may have felt hope, but having begun to ink in his outline, he quickly abandoned the sketch. Perhaps he was distracted. Perhaps Keats lost patience holding the pose. Late in January there was no resistance."

You all might be interested in a book entitled Portraits of Keats by Donald Parson (I think that's his last name). The entire book is devoted to discussions of nothing but portraits/busts, etc. of Keats. Some are, needless to say, very interesting! Again, I wish I had a scanner!!
Last edited by Ennis on Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Raphael » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:31 am

Yes! It's copied in the most recent biography of Severn, the one by Sue Brown entitled Joseph Severn: A Life. I'd scan it if I could, but my brother's computer isn't "hooked up" to do such. Anyway, the drawing is on page 102 and the caption reads "A previously unpublished pen and ink sketch by Severn of Keats in Rome together with lists of the books Severn and Keats had with them there." The text says this about the picture:

"Sitting up in the middle of the night around this time, desperately trying to keep awake, Severn hit on the idea of sketching his friend. (This is the one we're all familiar with: my note). It was the second drawing of Keats he had attempted in Rome. The first, which has never previously been reproduced, was done after Keats took to his bed. Even so, it shows a powerful figure and though the eyes are large and pleading, the mouth is still full. One hand lies open in a characteristic Baroque gesture of supplication. As Severn worked on it he may have felt hope, but having begun to ink in his outline, he quickly abandoned the sketch. Perhaps he was distracted. Perhaps Keats lost patience holding the pose. Late in January there was no rersistance."


I'd love to see this drawing.My finances don't stretch to buying new books lately- only second hand ones in town! Maybe Amazon will have a used cheaper copy sometime- I live in hope.....

You all might be interested in a book entitled Portraits of Keats by Donald Parson (I think that's his last name). The entire book is devoted to discussions of nothing but portraits/busts, etc. of Keats. Some are, needless to say, very interesting! Again, I wish I had a scanner!!


I am indeed interested in having a copy of this book too- sounds very interesting.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Cath » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:44 pm

Ennis wrote:You all might be interested in a book entitled Portraits of Keats by Donald Parson.


Ooo another great book recommendation! I hadn't heard of Parson's book - I'll have to check it out. The guy even has a "Keatsian" surname, made me think of JK's tender letter answering his sister's religious questions which he signs "Your affectionate Parson, John".
"Why should we be owls, when we can be Eagles?" (Keats to Reynolds, 3 February 1818)
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Ennis » Thu Dec 22, 2011 3:02 am

Since I can't scan that drawing of Keats, I suppose I could do my best at describing it (ha! :lol: )!

Keats is lying on his left side on his bed, propped up on pillows (or so it appears), with his face in semi-profile, turned away from the artist (obviously). His hair is longish, parted in the middle, and spread upon his pillow. His right arm is bent at the elbow and the (right) hand is lies across his left wrist. His left hand is outstretched toward Severn with fingers spread and palm up. Keats's face and left hand are the only parts of the drawing done with any detail, especially the left hand. The one eye that is visible in the drawing has almost a glazed look to it -- in my opinion.
The list of books is in the upper left-hand corner of the drawing; one has to turn the picture sideways in order to read the titles. They are listed in two columns, next to each other, even though I've listed them differently:

S
Bible 1
Shakespeare 7
Milton 2
Spenser 2
Tasso (?) 1
Scott (I think) 1


K
New Testament (! That surprises me.) 1
Dante 3
can't decipher the writing 4
Old (?) Poets 4
can't decipher the writing 1
Guida (?) 1
Don Quixote 2

I imagine the numbers refer to the number of volumes.

Anyway, thought y'all would be interested.
The Donald Parson book is probably out of print. I found it, I believe, on the Biblio.comUK site. Its publication date is in the 1950s.
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Raphael » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:43 am

Thanks for the description Ennis- hope I see this drawing one day!
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby BrokenLyre » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:11 am

Thanks - interesting find
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby MrsRsCat » Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:58 am

Hallo.
Believe this the drawing you mention can be found here: http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/hought ... /keats.cfm
I find it quite hard to look at.
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Raphael » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:31 pm

Thank you Mrs Rs Cat- you are right- it is hard to look at. Out of all the drawings/portraits there are of dear John, this is by the far the most moving, immediate, poignant.....
His beauty and suffering are expertly captured by Joseph Severn. I still stand by my view that Severn, of all the artists to draw/paint John, most accurately showed him as he was. One really gets a sense of him in Severn's portraits.I wonder why this drawing has never before been printed in any books about John Keats? I would love to know who Severn gave this drawing to, how long he kept it for, who did he show it to...did Fanny Brawne ever see it...?

One hand lies open in a characteristic Baroque gesture of supplication. As Severn worked on it he may have felt hope, but having begun to ink in his outline, he quickly abandoned the sketch. Perhaps he was distracted. Perhaps Keats lost patience holding the pose. Late in January there was no resistance.


I think Ms Brown is quite mistaken- this was no pose but a real moment. It is so evocative of This Living Hand that I am quite lost for words.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Ennis » Sun Jan 01, 2012 12:43 am

MrsRsCat wrote:Hallo.
Believe this the drawing you mention can be found here: http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/hought ... /keats.cfm
I find it quite hard to look at.



Well done, MrsRsCat!! That's it!. Now, if you could just locate that second deleted scene from "Bright Star" (that I spoke [wrote] of in the "Bright Star" thread) I'll be eternally grateful!!
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby jesleeall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:27 pm

I just saw these posts about the "missing" sketch by Severn. Thank you, Ennis and MrsRsCat! I'm really grateful to be able to see this. And thanks, also, Raphael for bringing up This Living Hand...very moving. You are all right; this is a difficult picture to look at.
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby jesleeall » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:44 pm

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Re:

Postby Ennis » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:34 pm

Despondence wrote:Image
This is a photo of a drawing in a book, which I took with my dejikame (I don't have a scanner). Sorry if the focus isn't perfect ;)


The drawing looks an awfully like the carved image of John on the plaque at his gravesite. I could be (and probably am wrong: where I am now, I don't have access to my Keats's books to verify).
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: The face of Keats

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:53 am

jesleeall wrote:http://www.artfinder.com/work/john-keats-joseph-severn-1/


Wow- who drew this- Joseph Severn? This is so alive, his character shines through the paper, he looks so young and there is a vulnerable air...so beautiful!!! Be still my beating heart....
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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