Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris, ca. 1972
Jean Cooke RA (1927 - 2008)
RA Collection: Art
This self-portrait was painted as Jean Cooke’s marriage to fellow artist John Bratby (1928 – 1992) was falling apart. They had had a turbulent and intense relationship since meeting as fellow art students in 1953, but Bratby became increasingly controlling and aggressive in later years.
The directness of Cooke’s gaze and blank expression reflect her stoicism and determination to continue painting despite the emotional struggle she was experiencing. Bratby had attempted to place increasing restrictions over Cooke’s artistic output, dictating when she could paint and painting over her works when he did not approve.
Cooke used the medium of self-portraiture throughout her career as a means of self-expression and self-examination. The title of the work is a line from the sonnet ‘La Beauté’ by Charles Baudelaire, from his volume Les Fleurs du mal (1857). It translates as “And I never cry, and I never laugh”, reinforcing her increasing emotional detachment from her husband.
This painting was given by Cooke to the Royal Academy as her Diploma Work on her election as Academician in 1972.
457 mm x 457 mm
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