Peter Brandes (1944-), Sketch for The Nineteenth Song of Homer's Odyssey, 2001-02
With these illustrations for a recent edition of The Odyssey, yet another of the great tales of Antiquity has been brought to life by Peter Brandes. Brandes has a long-standing fascination with ancient Greek culture. It is a soundboard that he repeatedly returns to, creating resonances that echo in his imagery within painting as well as ceramics.
The sketch's motif
In the sketch for the nineteenth song, Ulysses is recognised by his old nurse as she is washing his feet. Before she can cry out, he puts his hand on her mouth. He is not yet ready to reveal his return to Ithaca. This sketch is the most significant of a sequence of several sketches in which Brandes approaches the intense scene. The scar that the old nurse recognises him by is clearly seen. It is the dramatic element that triggers the action; Ulysses, his arm stretched, pushing back her head.
The expressive style of drawing
The tension field arising between the two characters is loosely outlined in pencil. The expressive style of drawing is typical of Brandes. The dark hues in Ulysses’ face testify to the intense charcoal work, and the coarse contours have a certain naivism to them. The strength of the finished illustrations resides in this tension between open contours and dense darkness.