I was surfing the internet and came across a piece of art that I was drawn to. It was a piece done on black velvet by Charles McPhee like the one above. I have always been attracted to velvet art, or I should say good velvet art. I have yet to acquire a piece of velvet art but I felt the need to learn more about this artist. Here is some insight on him:
Charles McPhee was born in Australian and went to Western Samoa in 1939 as a muscular young signwriter and mandolin player in search of adventure. There he married a lady named Toila and took a wartime job as a police officer. But he wanted to be a painter. He practiced his painting skills on American servicemen and warships, and the couple named their son, Paul Gauguin McPhee. The marriage ended and McPhee moved to Tahiti, where he learned the difficult and painstaking technique of painting in oils on velvet from American expert Edgar Leeteg. He fell for one of his mentor’s models, Elizabeth. She became his model for a series of Tahitian Girl, which he continued to paint for an eager public after the couple settled in New Zealand in 1951. Those who have seen versions of Tahitian Girl over the years find it romantic that the girl in the painting never seemed to age along with the model, Elizabeth. In his eyes, she retained her youthful beauty. His son, Paul McPhee, was unable yesterday to cast light on the mystery. “It’s a hard one. Yes, Elizabeth posed for father on several occasions and, yes, the look of the women stayed the same. “Elizabeth was beautiful … but we can’t infer he used her as a body for all his paintings.” Paul McPhee said he had a collection of his father’s paintings. “I had to buy them off my father because he never had any … If he kept one it would be sold. Someone would come to the house and say, ‘I’ll take that one’ and he would sell it to them.” McPhee died in November 2002 at the age of 92.
He was such a prolific artist and produced such cool pieces. I guess I am really keen on his work because of our efforts in our Tiki Room. We would love to have one of his pieces in our collection but they are not that common and can be kind of expensive.
The black of the velvet really makes the imagery jump off the canvas. It is obvious he was an artist who was a master of his technique, and showed a fine eye for the human form in sensual portrayals of women and athletic warriors.
He mostly painted Samoa natives but occasionally painted other things like landscapes and clowns.
Velvet art was pretty common in a lot of the trendy Tiki restaurants during the 50’s.
It was interesting learning about Mr.McPhee and to see a sampling of his work. It would really be something to be able to paint like him. I will look upon the piece I found on-line with a little more interest.