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Saturday Art: Waiting For The Verdict By Abraham Solomon

Waiting for the Verdict by Abraham Solomon, is hanging at the D’Orsay, as part of a special exhibit, Crime and Punishment. It is owned by the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery in Tunbridge Wells, England, about 40 miles southeast of London.

The D’Orsay is renovating the Impressionist wing, and has loaned out a number of those paintings during the renovation, and relocated some to the lower floors, displacing a lot of French Salon art and many of Honoré Daumier’s works. As a side note, the move shows us something important about Impressionist art: it loves light. The usual location is flooded with natural light. When it is shown in the side galleries, poorly lit by fluorescents, it loses its luster. Many of the paintings usually hung there actually benefit from that lack of light, their dark foreboding is multiplied.

Major museums focus on major artists, and this exhibit gives us a chance to see works from smaller galleries, which tend to focus their collections on art from their region, and from specific periods. I’d guess Waiting for the Verdict is one such, an excellent example of Victorian art. Here is a fascinating example from the museum at Beaune, France.

We can read this painting without more information. This is the area of the courthouse where friends and family of the accused can wait apart from the prying eyes of the tabloid press and the gawkers. The light streams in through the window, illuminating both the fine wood paneling and the cracked and dirty floor. The father of the accused sits with his head in his hands, in a fever of fear. The wife is sick to her stomach with worry; how can she survive if he is convicted? How can she endure the shame that will come onto her family, especially her children?

The kids are acting like kids, one sleeping at mother’s knee, the other bouncing in glee, on grandmother’s knee. Grandmother’s expression is amazing: deep fear, battling with the pleasure of the small one giving her the faintest hint of a smile. The sister is the only one who has noticed that the Judge is going into the courtroom, and her tension is shown by the raised left arm. She’ll tell her family in one second, and their blood pressure will skyrocket.

The painting is part of the Tate Collection, whose curators tell us the important thing about this painting.

Despite the gloomy subject matter, both this picture and the sequel … were well received. Prints reproducing them sold well across the country.

Trials appeal to everyone: they seem so dramatic, although those of us who have read the live-blogs of trials here can see that there is a lot of blather, and believe me, you wouldn’t want to go to see a serious money trial, with reams of paper and long recitations by accountants explaining their work-sheets. The Exhibit makes a point of this fascination, with yellowing sheets of newsprint about spectacular trials of the past, doubtless billed as trials of the century by the local papers. In fact, one famous painter of the era didn’t even try to compete with the tabloids of the day; although he did a number of drawings of a famous execution, he realized they were better, according to the curators.

Paintings like this one remind us that every trial involves a lot more people than just the accused. And the sequel painting will relieve your suspense: The Acquittal.

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