Henry Coombes: The Bedfords
A film portait of effortless finesse
The Bedfords tells the story of English painter Edwin Landseer’s commission to paint a family portrait of the Bedfords at their home in the Scottish Highlands.
Like a twenty minute moving painting, the film is a portrait study of Landseer and contains a variety of sub-plots that entice and demand to be developed into a feature-length rendition.
A notable figure within 19th century British art, Landseer was also known for his fragile mental state. His uneasy relationship with the natural world is a motif throughout the film. Landseer’s genteel nature is attracted to the fecund possibility that this wildness could undo him. Through an interplay between comfortable domestic surroundings and the wild outdoors, Landseer is pulled out of his depth. An untamed force of nature seeps through and attempts to push the artist to the edge of delirium.
We get a glimpse into each character: while Landseer and the lady of the house engage intimately, the Duke kills his fish whilst uttering ‘beauty, beauty, beauty’, and Landseer’s son comes to terms with the death of a rabbit. Grandmother pulls the boy close and abruptly licks his face and Grandfather – played with poise by Alasdair Gray – is entertained by his own thoughts and shares them at the dinner table in bouts of giggles.
The film culminates in the finished family portrait which celebrates the Scottish sporting tradition of hunting a stag, a grouse and a salmon in one day. The trophy goes to Henry Coombes for having written, directed and designed The Bedfords with effortless finesse.
Sorcha Dallas Gallery Until Friday 9 October 2009