Sandro Chia "Water Bearer" 1981
- CREATOR Sandro Chai. Italy.
DATE OF MANUFACTURE c.1981.
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES Gold Wood, Acrylic.
- CONDITION Good. Minor wear consistent with age and use.
DIMENSIONS 24 in. x 36 in. Framed: 28 in. x 42 in.
Chia's paintings at the time of the ‘Water Bearer’ were almost all of figures, usually engaged in some startling action. He had several times before depicted men with fish, notably in the etching ‘Self Portrait with Fish’, 1978, in which a large fish lies along the bare feet of the standing figure. The artist said in conversation (17 April 1986) that the origin of the ‘Water Bearer’ was his chance sight of an illustration of a classical sculpture of the same subject. He made several preparatory drawings including a complete study in colored chalks (24 × 11", signed and dated 1981, Josh Baer Gallery, New York); the colors in this are less bright, notably lacking the strong red of the fish's tail. The subject, he said, was its title, and both were invented together: since the fish lives in water the man, by association, is a water bearer.
Chia's subjects are often men or boys traveling, and usually also enacting some role. An essay by Anne Seymour based on conversations with the artist was published by the d'Offay and Sperone Galleries for the London exhibition of 1981 which included the ‘Water Bearer’. She describes the metaphorical character of these subjects:
This perhaps gives substance to the feeling one has, that the male figures in Chia's pictures are searching for something, or perhaps that they are pilgrims of a sort, for they often seem bound on some unidentified mission. They are, the artist points out, figures born of painting and thus possessed of a strong code of morals and justice, for the rules of painting are strict and the responsibilities heavy. He sees them as having something in common with heroes and with monks, and their moment of action in his painting as being their moment of ecstasy. Embodying thus the moral lessons of painting they become part of man's great pursuit of the absolute and their existence a physical step towards mystery.