Oil on canvas, 60 X 120 inches, acrylic painted wood frame: 6 inches wide
June 1980 – October 2009
Psychomachia was conceived in 1973 when I was eighteen years old. The initial objective was to give myself a challenge, as a vehicle for exploration that was well beyond my understanding of art. It is a very autobiographical work and became a sounding board for all of my ideas for many years. I looked to the work of van Eyck, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, David, Turner and Church, among others. I often referred to the writings of the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Three Metamorphoses (Thus Spoke Zarathustra: First Part) while composing this work. It eventually came to represent the process of self-discovery explicated there: first becoming a camel to be loaded with the knowledge of our historical traditions in all realms of thought; then becoming a lion to challenge the canons of established authority (repression by authority) represented by the dragon of a thousand scales each inscribed “thou shall’ that must be destroyed by the self, represented by the point of the lance of “I will” that establishes new paradigms; finally freeing oneself to become the eternal child free to create without bounds. This process of transformation is best exemplified by the stylistic discoveries and attitudes of such artists as Vincent Van Gogh, Gustave Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Chuck Close.
The composition of this painting was worked out in plans and drawings between 1973 and 1980. The canvas was stretched in the summer of 1980 and the composition laid out in gray tonalities in the following year. The bulk of the background landscape was completed by 1987 and the dragon by 1995. The painted frame was begun in 1997, and is meant to give more space to the composition while introducing an abstract mosaic element. The horse and rider neared completion and the lion cape was added in 2000. In the summer of 2003 I worked mainly on the foreground grass and rocks. After so many years it was finally finished in 2009.