Versions, Variations & Copies

A Collector's Decision to Commission a Reinterpretation of an Existing Work of Art

Patricia Watwood has explored her decision to paint a second version of one of her most well received works, Pandora. She described her thinking about doing the second work as well as her discussions with the commissioning collector. As that collector, I had my own concerns.  

The variations in the detritus around Pandora, both the 2011 and 2012 versions. The variations in the detritus around Pandora, both the 2011 and 2012 versions.
The variations in the detritus around Pandora,
both the 2011 and 2012 versions.

The starting place for any later version is, of course, the first work. When I saw Pandora on "Women Painting Women" (a great site), I could tell it was extraordinary. This led to a phone call with the disappointing news that Pandora had been sold. I now had a choice: walk away, pick another work, watch Patricia's inventory for something that appealed to my sensibilities, or commission a variant.  

In our conversations, Patricia and I were both intrigued with the idea of a "second version" but, at the same time, wary of it. So, we talked about "variations." How many times did Pearlstein render the same scene or Munch paint The Scream? (Munch made four variants, none identical). In any case, we agreed that painting an idea for the first time is wholly different from painting it again. 

In the end, we agreed to a reinterpretation: use the second time as an opportunity to see it anew, correct anything not liked, experiment with prior ideas not implemented. We also discussed ways in which the first painting could change: rearranged or different "junk" around the figure, different dimensions, a new model. Patricia rejected this suggestion as she had a rapport with the first model, so we agreed that she would work from life a second time. Everything else, esp. how closely to follow the original composition, was left to Patricia. I didn't need to see the work in progress nor did I ask for sketches. I wanted Patricia to follow her own instincts.  

The variations in feet of Pandora, both the 2011 and 2012 versions. The variations in feet of Pandora, both the 2011 and 2012 versions.
The variations in the feet of Pandora,
both the 2011 and 2012 versions.

If you have read Patricia's comments, clearly painting the second work was a learning experience and a metaphysical journey. In the end, I was surprised at how much the two paintings resemble one another. Indeed, had Patricia asked me about tracing version one as a starting place for version two, I would have discouraged her. Nevertheless, for me as a collector, I found the result to be the gratifying outcome of a trusting collaboration that resulted in another extraordinary work of art.

Undoubtedly, viewers and artists will want to place the two variants side by side for comparison.  For me, however, I think the two works stand alone and together quite nicely.  I wouldn't change a thing.

–Steven

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Steven Bennett

About Steven Bennett

Steven Bennett is a fine art collector who resides in Texas. Among other things, he specializes in the paintings of contemporary realists, in particular living women figure painters.

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