Lethbridge Herald Review

‘Court Painter’ exhibit collage for political commentary


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Artist Allan Harding MacKay holds one of his pieces from his exhibit Court Painter which is showing at the Trianon Gallery. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald jwschnarr@lethbridgeherald.com

Traditionally, the court painters and the court fools were in service to the throne, and acted as observers and critics of the upper class.
Allan Harding MacKay’s new exhibit at the Trianon Gallery, titled “Court Painter,” continues in that tradition with the medium of digital collage for political commentary. In the process, he is bridging gaps between the past four centuries. “It’s a very contemporary project, in terms of the technology,” MacKay said. “But I’m using all kinds of older, and sometimes ancient, settings to update it in terms of peopling it with contemporary events.”

Slayer of Dragons

MacKay said his exhibit follows in the tradition of other forms of art in political satire, including political cartoons, satirical magazines and news/comedy shows such as “The Daily Show.”

MacKay pointed to a recent example where federal health minister Jane Philpott has been dogged by reporters and opposition MPs about how much she has spent on limousines, but virtually no mention has been made of Jason Kenney collecting a federal MP’s salary while campaigning in Alberta this past summer in advance of his run for PC Alberta leadership.

Court Painter & J Philpott

Court Painter & Jason K

“There is a kind of cutting through of a lot of the political peccadilloes that happen, and the hypocrisy that goes on,” he said. “It’s out of all of that tradition, and making it contemporary in terms of visual caricature.”

MacKay said through studying political events and interactions at all levels, he is able to single out events he deems fit for inclusion, or “events the Court Painter gets annoyed about.”
The characters are either politicians or those on the fringe of the political process, including media and outlying manipulators. Images are collected from the internet and inserted into staged settings.

Steve & Promotion
I’m a bit of a political junkie,” MacKay said. “I’ve watched (politics) very closely over the past number of years.”
MacKay began work on the collages in 2013, and said there are now more than 500 in the collection – though only about 40 are in the exhibit.
The images started as something MacKay would email to friends and family as a way to inject some humour into what he feels are frustrating political events. He has continued sending the collages out with a small mailing list.

Court Painter & Cane
Calgary artist and retired University of Calgary professor John Will plays the part of the Court Painter in many of the collages.
For more information on Harding’s work, visit allanhardingmackay.com.
Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter

Anatomy of the Dandy Court Painter

Anatomy of the Dandy Court Painter

Michael Atters Attree, Brighton, 2011.

We agree with A Hardon MacKay that Court Painter’s style of dandyism is as difficult to describe as to define. We can opine about effortless elegance and sparkling wit, but his dandyism is ultimately characterized by the nearly indescribable effect of Court Painter’s appearance and demeanour on the spectator. The French call such effect a je ne sais quoi; in Hollywood and Inglewood it’s called having “the it factor.”

Court Painter & white socks

The magic of dandyism resides in the interplay between the Court Painter’s temperament and his appearance. Yet it is not a question of simple harmony, for one dandy may combine severe dress with a jocular demeanour(ex: Chris Cran), while Court Painter meshes cold aloofness with colourful and audacious dress marinated in smokey mystery.

Court Painter & The Competitors

Nevertheless, what follows is an attempt to describe the indescribable, to unravel the formula of Court Painter’s dandyish certain something, his je ne sais quoi if you will.

To do so we must bear in mind that dandyism is sometimes referred to as an affectation however with Court Painter it is an authentic lived expression. In Regency England, dandyism became a fashionable pose when men wished to imitate Brummell without having either his sartorial originality or his particular temperament. Court Painter however fully exploits his satyrical come hither temperament for effect in fashionable Calgary society, as was already present when he was a lad in the corn fields of Iowa and distinguished himself by “shaking off the corn husk dust and emerged with the most bold and delicate mixture of impertinence and respect.”

Court Painter & Dog

The difference between the genuine dandy of Court Painter’s stature and the ersatz dandy is shown explicitly in Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” when Prince Korasoff says to Julien Sorel, “You have that natural froideur we try so hard to affect.” Court Painter is a cold fish all right!

Court Painter & toasting

And so for those not born with a natural dandy effect, this dissection of the Court Painter’s dandy temperament will serve as a guide to the proper pose.

Individual dandies throughout the ages have emphasized certain qualities over others, but all qualities exhibited by Court Painter must be present in some degree for the effect to reach full fruition.

And so, here are the qualities that comprise the anatomy of the Court Painter as dandy, ranked in order of importance:

1. Physical distinction

The Court Painter can only be painted on a suitable fine linen canvas. It is impossible to cut his figure without being tall, slender and handsome, with a slight paunch or having at least one of those characteristics to a high degree while remaining at least average in the other two. Fred Astaire was neither tall nor handsome, but he was “so thin you could spit through him.”

Count of Monte Cristo, of course, had all three qualities to the highest degree.

“To appear well dressed, be skinny and tall.” — Mason Cooley

Editors Note: Not to be confused with Western Swing singer Spade Cooley who first released “Shame on You” in 1945.

Court Painter & Dashunds copy

2. Elegance

Elegance, of course, as defined by the standards of Court Painter’s particular era.Which he defines as the now, the ever-present,the it moment,the time of natural froideur.

“[The dandy’s] independence, assurance, originality, self-control and refinement should all be visible in the cut of his clothes.” — Ellen Moers

Dandies of Court Painter’s ilk must love contemporary costume preferably sourced from the Sally Ann, says A Hardon Mackay, and his dress should be “free from folly,mustard stains or affectation.”

3. Self-mastery

Many informed observers speak of Court Painter’s staunch determination to remain unmoved, while Baudelaire says that should a dandy suffer pain, he will “keep smiling.”

“Manage yourself well and you may manage all the world.” — Bulwer-Lytton

“Immense calm with your heart pounding.” — Noel Coward

Court Painter & Cane

4. Aplomb

While self-mastery is the internal practice of keeping emotions in check, aplomb is how it is expressed to the Court Painter’s audience.

“Court Painter’s brand of dandyism introduces antique calm among our modern agitations.” — A Hardon Mackay quoting Barbey d’Aurevilly

Court Painter & top Hat

5. Independence

Ideally financially independent, but since Court Painter is forced to work as the preeminent political portraitist of the Great Dominion, a spirit of independence is expressed through his studio work, as with Tom Wolfe who by the way couldn’t paint worth a plug nickel. Independence — often to the point of aloofness — also characterize his dealings with the world.

“The epitome of selfish irresponsibility, he was ideally free of all human commitments that conflict with taste: passions, moralities, ambitions, politics or occupations that include chain smoking.” — Moers

“Independence makes the Court Painter.” — Barbey d’Aurevilly

6. Wit

Especially a paradoxical way of talking lightly of the serious and seriously of the light that carries philosophical implications.Oscar Wilde would be envious of Court Painter’s way with words and wit.

Court Painter & dandy cut copy

7. A skeptical, world-weary, sophisticated, bored or blasé demeanour

“Court Painter is blasé, or feigns to be.” — A Hardon MacKay paraphrasing Baudelaire

“A spirit of gay misanthropy, a cynical, depreciating view of society.” — Lister

Court Painter & Babe

8. A self-mocking and ultimately endearing egotism

“Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself.” — Court Painter quoting Oscar Wilde

9. Dignity/Reserve

Court Painter keeps “the darker and stormier emotions” to himself.

“A flawless dandy Court Painter, would be annoyed if he were considered romantic.” — A Hardon MacKay paraphrasing Oscar Wilde

Court Painter & Dark Coat

10. Discriminating taste

“To resist whatever may be suitable for the vulgar but is improper for the Court Painter.” — Moers

11. A renaissance man

“A complete gentleman, who, according to Sir “Fop” Fopling, ought to dress well, smoke well, dance well, drink well, fence well, paint well and have a genius for letters to delinquent patrons, and an agreeable voice for a chamber or Flames game.” — Etherege, paraphrased by A Hardon MacKay


12. Caprice

Because Court Painter is an enigma wrapped in a labyrinth, and because he makes his own dandy rules, the final quality is the ability to negate all the others.

For in the end there is not a code of Court Painter dandyism, “If there were, anybody could be a handy dandy Dandy.”

The sub-Prime Minister Era (1)

August 22/2016

Former prime minister Stephen Harper is expected to resign his seat in Parliament in the week ahead. Harper, 57, resigned as leader of the Conservative party on election night in October after losing big time to his nemesis Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

Since then, the Calgary Heritage MP has snuck in and out of the House of Commons, casting 99 votes. He has not spoken a single word in Parliament. He has not spoken at committee meetings or sponsored any legislation. He continues to collect the base MP salary of $170,400.

During the latter years of sub Prime Minister Harpers leadership, Court Painter was a constant brush wielding presence as the preeminent political portraitist of the Great Dominion. This era of sub prime political shenanigans was a constant inspiration to Court Painter and for this he is internally grateful and financially poorer.

This seems like excellent timing to roll out in series form, the results of Court Painters feverous and prodigious painterly pontifications on a reign that in the words of Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour expressed in summary:

We really cannot have another four years of government by a sadistic Victorian schoolmaster.

Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), Self-Portrai in his Peale Museum, Philadelphia 1822 - Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art - Homa Nasab's Museology

$ Rules $

Protect My Ass

Steve & Promotion

That;s what friends are for


The war room

zero tolerance


the Fixer

The Exaggerators

Talking Point

subPrime & Spike

steve 3 alone

Steve & Wayne

Steve & keyboard

Steve at keyboard

the band

The Sunshine Duet

Richard Rodgers (at piano), Gertrude Lawrence, and Oscar Hammerstein (right) appear on the CBS "ED SULLIVAN SHOW" on September 16, 1951. Copyright ©1951 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

Rehearsal 2


Security Over Risk

selfie 1

onstage during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 16, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

selfie 3


Sober Thoughts

selfie 4

A MasterWork in Progress

Court Painter: A MasterWork in Progress
Editors Note: The promotional images accompanying the story were all that were available so any complaints will be ignored.

Calgary — They are as flabbergasted as the rest of the Great Dominion.

His studio crew sent a somewhat normal, if questionably gifted, Court Painter off to Banff for a great face sketching adventure, with modest hopes. By the time he got back to the Inglewood studio, he was positioned to become one of the” most famous portraitists in the history of the Great Dominion,” according to a disinterested observer and Press Attache for hire A Hardon MacKay.

Court Painter & Rock'em Sock 'em

A mid 70’s septuagenarian contrarian ,utterly unknown outside the face painter art community until recently, Court Painter is going to have the kind of life neither he nor his extraordinarily distracted and unhinged hipster studio interns ever imagined.

Court Painter & Bringing in the Heavies

“We’re so stunned. We’re a little bit in awe of Court Painter, what he has achieved in just one week of face sketching— and I’m a little panicked as to how I handle a septuagenarian contrarian after that week,” his Press Attache A Hardon Mackay, said Saturday at a news conference called by the Banff Sketch & Gun Club to answer, en masse, all the demands for More Gossip About Court Painter, the Inglewood portrait phoneme who single-handedly ignited a spectacular week for anyone who visited Banff and witnessed his frantic sketching prowess during the week.

Court Painter & DT

‘Master Court Painter’, as his Press Attache calls him, may be a star now but he is still only in his mid 70’s, and he won’t be calling all the shots, snarled AHM.

“You know, he’s got two more years of underpainting lessons. We’ll talk I guess in the next couple of weeks about what he needs to do to improve his skill with painting hands and drapery. One thing is, it’s going to be my decision, it’s not just going to be Court Painter’s decision.Branding, marketing, strategic planning, product development, providing How to Do books and glad handing is what I do best.”

It’s quite apparent to all that Court Painter is a budding star in rendering political and celebrity portraits but he is still a novice in his mid 70’s.

Court Painter & Crocodile tears

“Drives me nuts,” A Hardon MacKay said. “I’m just too old for managing a mid 70’s self centred septuagenerian contrarian I mean, he’s very typical of the senior cranks that gather in swarms at Tim Hortons. I’ve been very upfront with keeping him to a rigorous painting regime and there’s going to be points in the year when he’s going to want to go to the Ship & Anchor and he’s going to want to hang out with art celebrities like Chris Cran and Robin Arsenault and he’s going to want to eat a lot of vinegar flavoured chips, because he loves them, and that’s just not part of my strategy to make this year the breakout year to monetize what has so far been a failing business model.”

Court Painter & Book Launch

“But he’s got to have that balance. If I try to make him into a pro and make him be 100 per cent focused on being the best gosh darn portraitist of the Great Dominion’s political and celebrity elite, he might just bail and go back to being a studio nihilist.”

Court Painter & The Competitors

It’s a full time job “just trying to keep him normal and on the up and up. Giving him that level of normality that artist’s of his temperament have never experienced. ”

“I think all the attention he’s getting is more than he can handle, let alone any mid 70’s septuagenarian contrarian, but I’m proud that I and the dazed studio crew are able to keep him off the streets, away from white water rafting and distant from the Ship & Anchor at least on Sundays.”

Now he’s just a Court Painter with his own website and images all over Google.

CP Google

Everyone is saying he’s the best. Other people are saying he can’t be beat. Everyone knows this.

Next comes the Huge $$$ payoff.