A painting recommendation by by Lee Sandstead

Ayn Rand opened The Fountainhead with these lines: “He stood naked at the edge of a cliff…He felt the wind behind him, in the hollow of his spine…He had come here for his only relaxation, to swim, to rest, to think, to be alone and alive, whenever he could find one hour to spare.” Have you ever wanted to see this scene in paint, a portrait of a passionate valuer, alive even at rest?

Young Man Nude by Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864), shows us a man, much like Roark, who seeks the solemn and thoughtful, even at rest, and like Rand’s masterful opening to The Fountainhead, Flanderin uses an intriguing subject, beautiful imagery and simple visual devices to hold our attention.

The man serenely sits with his head upon his knees atop a granite pinnacle high above a sea. He is young, virile and full of health; he is beautiful. The man dominates the painting, and the composition is such that wherever the eye falls upon the painting, it is immediately drawn back to him; the lines of his granite seat thrust our eye upwards, only to be stopped by the angle of his arm, which connects the clouds in the upper-left to the crag in the lower right. The effect is that the composition directs our attention in a circular motion around his torso. If the primary function of painting is contemplation, then Flanderin definitely succeeds.

Flanderin asks us to think about rest as it should be — an act of thinking, an act of valuing, an act of enjoying. Notice how the man is enraptured in himself. Notice how strong he is. Notice where he is and think of what he had to do to get there. Think of the great lengths Flandrin went to focus and direct our eye on his subject. One does not normally conceive of rest in such passionate terms, but Flanderin asks us to think of rest as something other than freedom from activity. Ironically, Flandrin gave us a highly inspirational and beautiful painting — about the act of rest!

If you buy a print of this painting and hang it on your wall, as I have, then let it serve as a reminder to pursue rest with the planning and thought of a career goal or loved one. Make the act of rest highly personal, highly valued, and most of all, highly restful.

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