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A painting by James Smetham,
Lovers in Richmond Park (Windsor
Park). The paint is not applied in smooth gradients, but instead the
colors lie thickly in strokes with well‐defined edges. The effect is not
quite abstract, but the lack of fine detail gives the entire thing an
almost dreamy feel.
The centerpiece of the painting is a pair of tall trees with spreading branches and the herd of red deer resting in their shade, though equally eye‐catching is the human couple lounging in the lower left corner. The manʼs outfit is what draws the attention—it is the largest single dark patch in the otherwise‐bright quadrant (and, indeed, most of the entire left half); while the art style does not provide much detail, he wears a black or dark brown coat and tailored pants of the same color. He has a broad white collar or cravat around his neck, and his chestnut hair hangs to his coat just slightly below that. While it is possible to see that he has a short beard and mustache, no more detail is visible. His legs are slightly bent in front of him, propping him against the raised garden or hillock upon which they rest, and he has turned his head away from the book he is holding up to look at the woman lying beside him. She is dressed in a long and flowing white dress, seemingly held slightly into the air by a crinoline, and has her hair loosely pulled back. Unlike her partnerʼs more upright posture, she has propped herself on her elbow, almost lying against the taller plants behind her. She is facing away from her partner, looking directly at the painter.
Given their postures, neither happens to be looking at the deer at the moment captured in the painting, but several of the latter are watching the former; as the herd easily numbers over thirty individuals, and no more than five are them any paying attention, the couple seems to have been here and been still for some time. Those deer under the trees and following the right edge of the forest in the background as it curves into the distance appear calm, lying down or standing still, resting. Those to the left of the trees have been caught as they leave the rest of the group at a run. While it is easy to view the deer literally, the abrupt flight of only half the group and the way the herd has spread into a consistent ribbon no more than two or three wide and long enough to fade into the distance in both directions, suggests that it may be meant more figuratively, perhaps as a marker of the progression of time.
Between the two groups stretches a golden meadow, the grass only depicted in any detail along the bottom edge of the painting (to the right of the couple) where darker browns, greens, and judicious whites resolve into tall stalks and undergrowth. The cloud‐like forest filling the background gives way to the meadow towards both sides of the painting as it recedes into the distance; a separate stand of trees sits on the left edge of the painting, with the meadow splitting around it. The sky overhead is textured with thin clouds, and in the gap over the meadowʼs incursion between the forest and left copse, it fades to yellow towards the horizon; it is, perhaps, the very beginning of sunset.$background-details-end$