Friday, March 8, 2013

Death Beckons

William Henry Margetson

-Gabriel Diego Delgado 

William Henry Margetson studied at the South Kensington Schools and at the Royal Academy, where he exhibited from 1885. Known more as an illustrator for literary classics like The Tiger of Mysore, Trefoil, The Spider's Eye, A March on London, Red Morn, The Lights of Sydney, and Straits of Time by Christopher Hare; Margetson executed a series of small paintings he titled “In the Straits of Time”- a collective of watercolor/gauche paintings and prints that were based on a play of the book by Hare.

Usually upbeat and full of whimsical muse, Margetson’s female figures border on illustrious Art Deco beauties, however with “In the Straits of Time”, he  forces us to ponder the lives of the misfortunate.  Recounting tails of death, famine, misery and the Black Plague, Margetson provides a monotone palette of black and white melancholic images that evoke a sense of dire straits.

Of the 5 works available, one can be singled out as a masterfully denoted summarization of such a series. The singular painting depicts the scene in the book/play where four completely different types of people inhabit the same room; each wholly concerned about the deteriorating health of a little girl.

Grimly silhouetted in the background, a Catholic Nun and a Victorian Englishman lurk off to the left hand side. Concealed in shadows, they come to represent so much more than mere mortal aspirations.  Metaphorically, the older man’s grimace and fragility mocks the innocence and jubilation of the adolescent little girl, while the Nun ponders an existential afterlife bound by the glory of faith, accepting of her inevitable fate and infantile demise.

Stark contrasts can be drawn between the two characters [caregiver and child]. Head wrap, shawl, bedding, and nightgown give sterile misconstrued assumptions of purity. Engulfed  in a tender embrace, the motherly figures have eyes that are shut with tenderness; a sentimentality one can only give with sincere compassion; while the dazed and widen eyes of the child turn a gaze to the unknown, with an apprehension of a beckoning light drawing ever closer.

©Gabriel Diego Delgado

5 paintings by W.H. Margetson available at J.R. Mooney Galleries of Fine Art
11” x 8”, watercolor/gauche, on paper, artist signed $500.00 each

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