He has photographed soldiers in Vietnam. He has filmed news in the United States and the Middle East. He has painted Saudi Arabian kings as well as his young granddaughter, portrayed in a frilly nightgown flying over Nantucket, sprinkling stardust onto the twinkling land below.
Award-winning artist Peter T. Quidley deserves a prize for versatility. You can see his range for yourself at Quidley & Company (118 Newbury Street), where his works are on display through June 25.
It is difficult to believe that this Boston native taught himself how to paint. His signature technique, glazing, involves applying very thin layers of oil paint to paneling, allowing light to shine through. He then applies varnish and finely sands the piece, buffing it to a glass-like shine. Without knowing about his technique, it would be easy to bet (and lose!) that some of his pieces, especially “The Sketch” (see picture at right) are set behind glass.
The glazing effect also gives his pieces a luminous quality, as if they are bathed in sunshine. The effect can seem as somewhat of a purposeful contradiction. Take his piece “The Storm” in which two women are walking on a beach; one woman is in a long, flowing dress, and the other is wrapped in a towel. Their backs are turned to the viewer, who acts as an observer walking behind them. The scene is in soft focus, with light wisps of pink, blue, and white. It’s serene and airy, save for the gray clouds entering the scene in the distance, competing with a light blue sky. The women, linking arms, walk slowly toward the storm clouds, not seeming to notice or care. The painting’s luminescence causes the viewer to almost have to search for any sign of the storm after which the piece is named.
“Stardust” which features Quidley’s granddaughter, nearly sparkles off the wall. His subjects, as in this piece, are often in nightgowns or in long, flowing dresses adorned with lace, which adds to the ethereal quality of his works. The women in his life “" his daughter and granddaughter, for example “" are his muses. His paintings act as windows looking out on moments in time, whether real or imagined. His eye for detail and composition speaks to his experience behind the camera lens.
His works take up only a small space in the back of the modestly sized Quidley & Company “" which is owned by the artist’s son, Chris “" but putting together a show at all is a challenge, said Rob Giacchetti, managing partner of the company.
“His work is so sought after that it’s unusual to have this many pieces” he said.
Because of the intricacy of his technique, Quidley paints only eight to 12 works a year. And unless you’ve got as much money as a Saudi Arabian king, his prices will astound you; “The Storm” is priced at $8,500, “The Sketch” at $42,000, and “Labor of Love”? $67,500! But can you really put a price on a work of art? For the rest of us, many of his prints can be found on the artist’s website, www.Quidley.com, for $25 to a few hundred dollars.
And though relatively speaking the exhibit may house an impressive number of Quidley’s works, don’t expect to spend all day there; it is a small collection that deserves a look while spending the day shopping or dining on Newbury Street.