Nicholas Todhunter, Artist
Nicholas Todhunter, Artist
Art Historian Joss Johnson introduces portrait artist Nicholas Todhunter
Last month Sulis Fine Art’s director, Bill Nadel, was celebrating his wedding anniversary in the beautiful city of Venice. Whilst there, he discovered the eye-catching portraits of Nicholas Todhunter and was so charmed by them that he insisted we share them with you.
Todhunter, born in Paris in 1981, has lived and worked across Europe, America and Asia. He studied a foundation at the Chelsea School of Art in London before moving to Florence to study at the Charles Cecil Studios, the only atelier in Europe where traditional realism was taught. He spent three years there, learning drawing and painting and being introduced to the visual language and techniques of painters from earlier centuries.
“Being an artist is not just a question of making pretty things, it's a way of thinking about things. It's a way of living in the world. It's a way of digesting experience. You make a mark with paint, it holds that mark, for as long as anyone is going to look at it. That movement is now held in a material. You combine all those energies and you make something which is a living record.”
For Todhunter, portraiture is the ultimate subject matter and working primarily in oil, he creates life-size portraits of his friends and family. Borrowing inspiration from Titian, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Turner, not to mention Francis Bacon, Todhunter’s portraits have a timeless quality. His muted palette and his sitter’s often simple attire suggest that they could be from any century. Indeed, without the distraction of bright or decorative clothing which would give some indication of a sitter’s profession or style, Todhunter uses light to guide the viewer’s eye through the subject’s face. Here we see their personality, thoughtfulness, seriousness, playfulness.
Nicholas Todhunter, Elisa
“The point to painting is that it is a different language. Its an attempt to translate your sensation. Everything that you feel about the mystery of life, the pain, the vision, the joy, the despair, the sorrow, the happiness, life, death. All those things as acutely and as passionately as you can into the work of art. So that you convey in the painting the sensation that is as close to what you feel about being alive as you can. You can't get that sensation but you are always striving for it - that is the strange thing about painting.”
Todhunter shows that portraits are more than just a likeness of people. He employs the dramatic chiaroscuro techniques of the Italian Renaissance painters alongside a soft expressive line to give his subjects an ephemeral quality; they are at once coming into focus and dissolving into their backgrounds. This transitory feel charges his sitters with energy and imbues them with life so that through each highlight it is as if they have just turned and caught the light. In paintings such as Marco this light gives his sitter an almost saintly quality. One could also read the influence of Rembrandt in this technique where the dramatic light and shadow on the subject's nose creates a contrast which is then echoed throughout the rest of the painting.
Nicholas Todhunter, Enrico
“We have a short moment of existence, and it’s a way of crystallizing time and of crystallizing the moment of one's existence. Why one wants to do this you may say is a mystery. Because we can’t ever know whether we've done it. The point to painting is that it is a different language. Its an attempt to translate your sensation. Everything that you feel about the mystery of life, the pain, the vision, the joy, the despair, the sorrow, the happiness, life, death.”
Todhunter now lives and works from a studio in the centre of Venice where he works obsessively to understand the methods and techniques of the great classical art that the city has to offer. Venice never loses its capacity to enchant and for Todhunter, Venice is the heart of portraiture and the source of limitless inspiration.
Nicholas has exhibited throughout Europe and is held in private collections throughout the world. To view the full collection click here.