Ralph Hedley R.B.A.
Sketch for
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
(Art is long, life is short
Greek aphorism, expressed in Latin)

oil on canvas
359 x 305 mm
SIGNED r: RH 1900


Ralph Hedley: Tyneside Painter,
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1990-91


South Shields Museum
and Art Gallery
Ocean Road NE33 2JA
Reference TWCMS : G4282
Given by Thomas Reed, 1921


Ralph Hedley Archive reference

Sketch for
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

Ralph Hedley’s title comes, originally, from Greece more than 2,000 years ago. In ancient Greek it is βίος βραχύς, δ τέχνη μακρή, in Latin it is Ars longa, vita brevis, and it translates as ‘art is long; life is short’. The finished picture, (1900_w018), now untraced, was shown at the Royal Academy, London in 1900. 

There may be a hint of Hedley's humour in the title, but the picture ishows sympathy for the elderly towards an aging artist, whose circumstances drive him to paint sitting on the corner of his bed, with his easel and the paraphernalia of his craft to hand around him. 

Has he nodded off to sleep in the middle of his work, or does his stance suggest friendless, regretful despair?

Ralph Hedley R.B.A. Sketch for  Ars Longa, Vita Brevis