'In my own case the change has been towards a simplification of technique, a sacrifice of expected qualities of surface in order to obtain more rapidity and flexibility of handling and a greater force of accent. With this has gone a simplification of form, dispensing with exactitudes of drawing to obtain greater emotional weight in line. Add to this a disregard for logical chiaroscuro, when this was found to hamper the sharper detachment of one plane from another, and this is all. All these are technical changes and all have been adopted instinctively in the search for new forms of beauty.'
Glyn Philpot established a distinguished reputation as a painter of society portraits in the years before the outbreak of the First World War, and was rewarded with election as an A.R.A. in 1915 and R.A. in 1923 at notably young ages. He was never content to rest on his laurels, however, and the last years of his career in the 1930s saw him adopting a style heavily influenced by progressive Parisian painting which alienated much of his clientele.
While portraiture was his main source of income, Philpot always interspersed commissioned portraits with subject paintings ranging from genre and ballet subjects to the religious, mythological and mystical. The more eccentric of these often received mixed reviews and caused controversy at the Royal Academy when exhibited.
Painted in his last years of his life Young Love in the Lap of his Mother references Greek myth, a theme that Philpot revisited numerous times throughout his career. The title suggests it is a depiction of the God Eros, the daemon (personification) of love, and his mother Aphrodite. Philpot’s more progressive style is evident in the bold lines, his loose brushwork and the elegant, almost mannerist, composition.
If not for the title, the present work could easily be understood as a Pietà, the depiction of the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ. Philpot was deeply religious having converted to Catholicism shortly after he turned 21, in October 1905. His interest in religious themes was clearly heightened by his election in 1929 as President of the newly constituted Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen, formed to celebrate the centenary of Catholic emancipation.
Similar to more traditional religious paintings, the composition of the present work draws the eye around the canvas as it follows the drapery and the sculptural limbs of the two figures. The carefully positioned hands of both mother and son hark back to Renaissance paintings and sculpture in their stance, yet the striking cobalt eyes and bold use of colour convey Philpot’s innovated aesthetic.