Purple Knight has always been one of my favorite Joe Rice paintings. No matter how many times I puzzle over the naked figure's mottled skin tones and impossible anatomical dimensions, I find it intriguing. In person, the "knight" has a bruised cadaver-like quality. As a teenager I would imagine what kind of mission or quest he was on. I always felt something akin to pity for the knight, so vulnerable in his nakedness and trapped inside that stiff helmet with only narrow slits to peer out of.
After my father moved to Sonoma, the painting hung near his front door. Feeling daring on one visit, I told him I'd always loved it and asked if I could have it. His wife wasn't overly fond of the painting and had no objections. I brought it home and hung it in my foyer. After a few uneasy comments and concerned looks from parents of my youngest child's playmates, I took it down. The painting now hangs at my son's house.
"Purple Knight, a naked man with lavender skin and a helmet over his head, hung at the top of the stairs just outside my bedroom door. I once asked Dad if there was a head or face under the knight’s helmet or if he had painted the helmet on top of a bloody stump. He laughed until his eyes filled with tears, then offered a more prosaic explanation. 'Faces are hard to paint,' he said. 'Faces and hands. Very difficult.'"
The Reluctant Artist: Joe Rice 1918 - 2011