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Paintings depict psychological types

By Edith Decker of the Grants Pass, Oregon, Daily Courier

Few human conditions are not expressed somewhere in Shakespeare's canon. From the grasping of would-be kings to the desperation of the goofball in love, the Bard has covered the bases. 

Consider the catalog of Shakespeare's characters and situations throughout his plays. That's a lot of people - many of them immediately recognizable thanks to English teachers in every school district in the country.

When painter David Baldwin of San Diego pondered the panorama of  Shakespeare, he conceived a huge series of oils in his own style that would allow him (and us) to delve into the characters, character flaws and situations from Shakespeare's pages.

A large set of them are displayed at the Grants Pass Museum of Art in Riverside Park, through Aug. 9.

In an early Picasso-esque style that emphasizes blues and purples, geometric patterns, and recognizable  but not purely realistic faces, Baldwin offers snapshots of Shakespeare's people and emotions.

Vengeance: Iago whispering poisonous words about Desdemona to Othello.

Good humor: Hamlet verbally sparring with poor old Polonius.

Fear: Lady Macbeth, dreaming and guilty, peering into the dark- ness with only a tiny candle.

Contemplation: Prospero, looking down on malformed Caliban , while the spirit Ariel - a dotted outline in the sky -plays music.

Heartbroken madness: Lear, his beard a series of geometric patterns, raises his hands like trees to heaven and tells Cordelia, in prison with him (and a pig), that they shall sing like birds in cages.

Disdain: Julius Caesar, his hand up and his expression saying "No way" as the soothsayer rises from the crowd to tell him to "Beware the Ides of March."

And there are lesser-known characters whose situation is just as touching and thought-provoking. There's Henry IV, bothered by his conscience and having fitful sleep. His eyes impossibly wide, he clings to his sheet in "The Head That Wears the Crown.”

Or there’s the snooty but smitten Malvolio convinced his boss Olivia will be won over by a ridiculous costume including bright yellow stockings and a constant, toothy smile.

The key to Baldwin's work is the way he conveys the expressions on the characters' faces. Jacques from "As You Like It" has the perfect face for a man who enjoys being melancholy. Richard III's expression is exactly right for a man who's asking his minions to help his own uncle along to death so he can gain the crown.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, his painting style, Baldwin finds the profound heart of the characters and portrays it in their eyes, smiles and body language.

With such a strong theme, a standard color scheme and such talent, the show holds together as if it's been cemented with super glue. Any of the paintings could stand alone. But together they have a haunting impact. For Shakespeare and Baldwin, there is strength in numbers.

Copyright © 1997 Daily Courier


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