GREENVILLE — Nobody would ever call Yvonne Herd Arrowood a copycat, even though her artistic output is mostly stuff that has been done before. She is known as a painter of variants. A variant is an intentional reproduction of another’s work, done as closely as possible to the original. Arrowood’s variants are so spectacular that the Piedmont Deanery branch of the S.C. Conference of Catholic Women decided to make some money from them.
On April 24, the conference exhibited oil paintings by Arrowood at Gallivan Hall on the campus of St. Mary Church. Not everyone thought that an exhibition of the work of a Baptist painter would benefit Catholics.
“I admit that I thought ‘this is not going to work,’ ” said deanery president Jessie Bowens. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Bowens was surprised because the exhibition itself was beautifully done in an airy, well-lighted space that allowed viewers to see both the massive paintings in perspective and the smaller ones up close. The crowd that walked through the gallery in steady droves for the three hours of the exhibit all seemed as taken with the art as Lindamarie Richardson had been. It was she who invited the artist to exhibit.
“I was absolutely floored when I saw her work,” Richardson said.
Arrowood uses the same techniques as the old masters when she reproduces one of their paintings. She underpaints, for instance, and uses the same color valuing system as the masters. The result is a reproduction that is uncannily like the original. She was taught as a youth in the classical style by Robert Bruns, with whom she learned even to stretch Belgian linen canvasses. Her later art teacher was Frank Covino. Arrowood was recently invited to paint at the Louvre in Paris, joining an exclusive club.
“She really understands the meaning behind the paintings,” said Chris Kerley, a friend of Jonathan Arro-wood, the artist’s 26-year-old son. “Her artwork is very Catholic.”
The artist researches the art of a master before she attempts to reproduce his work. She credits the church for the magnificent pieces done by such artists as Rembrandt, Raphael, Botticelli and Reni, all of whom she has reproduced in detail.
“We have so much to thank the Catholics for. They sponsored the artists who did these great works,” Arrowood said.
She said that she is especially attracted to classic renditions of the Virgin Mary. She has attempted to paint one major piece depicting the Virgin from each century starting in 1400 and going to 1800 — a quest that she is closing in on completing.
Arrowood also has another connection to the Catholics who came to admire her work. Her youngest son may have been influenced by the paintings of his mother, Richardson said; he converted to Catholicism two years ago.
“Jonathan always takes an intellectual approach to things, and he was baptized in the Catholic faith because that is where he felt most at home,” Arrowood said.
Yvonne Herd Arrowood felt at home in a Catholic parish last month. She said the people who came to see her work at St. Mary were wonderful, and that she was happy to benefit the SCCCW. Her work was not sold at the exhibition, but is available online.
For more information
Arrowood’s artwork is available for sale through her Web site, www.portrait-art.com/arrowood.htm.