Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews

Hats, figures and enigmatic emblems; Pippa Young and others

At the opening of the exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones at the Victoria and Albert Museum, he is said to have commented;”Hats are a great antidote to what’s going on. It’s really their purpose to put a happy face on a sad world.”

Portrait of a Peasant with a Headdress
Portrait of a Peasant with a Headdress


The image or drawing which is shown below has some of the intensity of a realist drawing by, say Kathe Kollwitz. Her naturalism shares the integrity which we associate with Van Gogh. Indeed her second cycle of works concerned the German Peasant War which began in 1525. However, this is not by Kollwtz, who seems to have rarely depicted persons with headdress, but by Tamara de Lempicka.

lempicka The pellucid definition and monumental stocky quality might also have suggested this in her sketch of a Russian peasant. Headgear was a recurring interest for Lempicka.

La Mexicane by Tamara De Lempicka
La Mexicane by Tamara De Lempicka

In Pippa Young’s paintings, which she specifically states are not to be considered as portraits, the headwear seems to confer meaning. It renders significance and gives import. Blank spaces and highly modelled backgrounds add to this general effect. She states, “Often the figures are posed to echo art-historical characters: Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian, or one of Vermeer’s subjects. When context is removed the figures become something else, oddly familiar; occupying an empty pictorial space, free from imposed narrative; timeless and unadorned.”

One theme which appears in the headdress then is a kind of 15th Century Flemish cap which is detailed at

Self Restraint by Pippa Young
Self Restraint by Pippa Young

However, many of the male figures appear with antlers or horns and give the impression of dreams and mythology. There is a wide variety of different meanings which can be attached to such headdress or headgear. They may be symbols of earthy virility or alternatively give a suggestion of darker activities. These matters are discussed at and further unusual images of horned masks are at In some of Pippa Young’s paintings the texture of the headwear or clothing looks rather like thin polythene sheeting and seem, possibly, to suggest environmental concerns.

Tim Thumb
Tim Thumb
Pippa Young

The ornate quality also resembles the exuberance of Chinese ethnic dress as at

ghost of a departed Pippa Young
ghost of a departed
Pippa Young
Self Absorbed Pippa Young
Self Absorbed
Pippa Young

Returning to thoughts about horns must remind some of Falstaff in Act 5 of The Merry Wives of Windsor where he is dressed as Herne the Hunter and taunted and humiliated for his bad behaviour. As Shakespeare makes him say earlier in the play,” The Windsor Bell has struck twelve; the minute draws on. Now the hot-blooded gods assist me! Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa, Love set on thy horns- O powerful love that in some respects makes a beast a man, in some others a man a beast!

Pippa Young’s figurative work is finely drawn and the palette which she uses adds to the mysterious and evocative quality in her work. Her present collection can be viewed at the Cornwall Contemporary  Gallery at

Her work is in some respects interesting to contrast with that of Cristina Iotti whose work can be seen at
Covenant by Pippa Young
Covenant by
Pippa Young

By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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