Bruno Piglhein and the PSYOP Guard

Bruno Piglhein ~ Christmas Morning ~ ca. 1890

Bruno Piglhein (1848-1894) was German sculptor and painter I came to know by Bram Dijkstra’s book Idols of Perversity. I referred to Dijkstra’s book in a previous post on the Pre-Raphaelites. While Idols of Perversity is a great source of information, Dijkstra’s interpretation of art is most often absurd due to political agendas. Instead of attempting to understand the art works in terms of the period in which they created, Dijkstra imposes notions of oppression into the art works. For example, Piglhein’s Christmas Morning is accompanied by the text, “Thus a genre was born in which crass child pornography disguised itself as a tribute to the ideal of innocence, and even children fell victim to man’s fearful retreat from woman who knew too much about the sins of the flesh.” Frist of all, Piglhein’s sleeping child is as innocent as the Christ child and cherubs which appear in hundred of Renaissance paintings, therefore it’s certainly not crass child pornography. Second, Dijkstra imposes post modern feminist ideology of gender in order to tarnish the experience of the work.

Bruno Piglhein ~ Star of Bethlehem

Why would Dijkstra do this? The agendas of many within the art-historical establishment can be compared to the Red Guards of China. In 1966, Mao Zedong mobilized a student movement during China’s Cultural Revolution. The ruling elite saw traditional culture as a threat to its power, if cultural artifacts were considered to represent one of the Four Olds, they were to be destroyed. Historic sites were assaulted and religious texts and figures were confiscated and burned. In the West, the attack on tradition is not carried out physically on culture but rather psychologically. Actual artifacts are not physically destroyed, instead the PSYOP Guard attempts to destroy the experience of culture. It may seem progressive to reject “Euro-centrism” in the name tolerance and sympathy for other cultures but the inability to enjoy warm sentiments expressed in romantic art reflects a hardness of heart which undercuts the very possibility of progress and humane values. Beautiful painting which manifest values to resist the state are interpreted as a form of oppression so that one is estranged from the foundation an authentic self which can resist the political agendas of the elite.

Bruno Pighein

Bruno ~ The Blind Woman in a Poppy Field

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Paul Édouard Rosset-Granger

Paul Édouard Rosset-Granger (1853 –1934) was a talented French academic artist who is not well-known today. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Alexander Cabanel, Edouard Louis Dubufe and Allexis-Joseph Mazerolle. Rosset-Granger’s works benefited from his familiarity with Bouguereau but are different in how he incorporated figures in landscapes. His compositions are comparable to Maxfield Parrish. He lived well in the 20th century working as an illustrator for the press and publishing houses. A wordpress site (in French) dedicated to him can be found here.

Paul Edouard Rosset-Granger ~ La Charmeuse ~ 1883

Paul Edouard Rosset-Granger ~ Orphée ~ 1884

Paul Edouard Rosset-Granger ~ Ophelie ~ 1889

Paul Edouard Rosset Granger ~ Hide and Seek ~ 1890

Paul Edouard Rosset-Granger ~ Etude ~ 1878

 

 

Hebe: The Goddess of Youth

Bertel Thorvaldsen ~ Hebe ~ 1816

Hebe was the Greek goddess of youth. She was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe served as cupbearer for the gods of Mount Olympus, until she was married to Hercules. Hebe was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth, and in art is typically seen with her father in the guise of an eagle, often offering a cup. She was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth. As a subject in art, Hebe was given little attention in art in ancient times. But she became a remarkably popular subject in art in the period from about 1750 to 1900. The interest in her I believe symbolized a need to revive the vitality in culture which was fading with the growth of industrialization. Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture and Carolus Duran’s painting are among the best examples.

Carolus Duran ~ Hebe ~ 1895

I recently read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the first time. The book has much more depth than the campy Hollywood adoptions; the ape-like Mr Hyde seen in the films is really not accurate to the novel. It is usually overlooked that Mr Hyde is a ‘damnable young man’; the dark side of the civil middle-aged Dr Jekyll is manifested in a smaller youthful Hyde. At the end of the edition I read, there was a commentary which recognized the criminological Darwinism reflected in Stevenson’s story. In the late 19th century, scientism influenced eminent authorities to believe children were born criminals. To quote the commentary, “This meant the human child was considered to be closer to less evolved life forms ‘primitives’ and animals, but also criminals and lunatics. This logic was interchangeable; if the criminal or lunatic was a product of arrested mental development, so he or she was also ‘arrested’ at an early stage of individual (as much as species) growth.” I find this view to be bizarre since traditionally, childhood is regarded as a state of innocence. Although criminological Darwinism is not refered to today, it seems to exist as a subliminal subtext of contemporary culture. You may ask what Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has to do with Hebe? I am certain if Dr Jekyll drank from the cup of Hebe he would have not turned into Mr Hyde.

The rationalism of the modern period brought a disenchantment from the spiritual aspects of life. Romantic art was a reaction against the one-sided rationalization which marginalized the subjective side of humanity which perceives love and beauty. Very often artists depicted youth to symbolize wholeness of mind and body as well as heart. If only Hyde could have met Hebe for her to correct Dr Jekyll for his denial of the existence of the heart.

 

 

September Morn

Paul Émile Chabas ( 1869 -1937) was a French painter and illustrator who trained under William Adolphe Bouguereau. He was a member of the Academie des Beaux. Chabas is best known for his painting September Morn which brought fame as well as controversy in the early 20th century. Theatrical pieces were inspired by the painting and reference were common in the media. I knew of the painting since I was a teenage but I knew nothing of its fame or the scandal. When a reproduction of September Morn was displayed in a window of a photography shop in Chicago, the store owner was charged with indecency. The claim of indecency really surprise me since the pose of the girl is innocent. The pose of the figure in September Morn is similar to the standing girl in Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak, which was the most popular art print of the early 20th century. Parrish’s painting may have been partly inspired by Chabas’ figure.

Paul Chabas ~ September Morn ~ 1913

The largest images of the painting on the web are almost in a monotone of gold, but descriptions of the painting refer to cool silver tones. So I brought the image into photoshop to adjust the colors to be closer to what they may be in the actual painting.

Paul Chabas lithograph

I was impressed by the unusual asymmetrical composition of this painting. I find the work to be spiritual, the figures are standing in holy water.

Paul Chabas ~ Bathers

 

Paul Chabas ~ Premier Bain

 

Paul Chabas ~ The Bather

 

You needn’t wait for September Morn to show up

 

Paul Peel

Paul Peel (1860 – 1892) was a Canadian academic painter who is best known for his light-hearted paintings of children. Peel was one of the first Canadian artists to receive international recognition in his lifetime. But like Bouguereau, his work was neglected in the 20th century due to modern critics’ scorn of his sentimental subjects. However, like many 19th century academic artists, his work has gained attention in recent years.

Paul Peel III poses with the two Paul Peel paintings ~ Self-Portrait 1882 and Awaiting the Bath 1890

Several of Peel’s works remained in the possession of his family. Peel gave his self-portrait to his brother Frederick on a trip back to Canada. Frederick named his son Paul in his brother’s memory, and the name has been passed down the generations. In the Spring of this year, Paul Peel III placed a self-portait of his grand-uncle up for auction. The family decided to sell the painting with a pre-auction estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. But the sale exceeded their expectations and sold for $79,250.

Paul Peel The Tired Model

 

Paul Peel ~ Young Gleaner ~ 1888

 

Paul Peel ~ The Young Botanist ~ 1888

 

Paul Peel ~ The Little Shepherdess ~ 1892

 

Peel Paul ~ The Discovery of Moses ~ 1888

 

 

Pigtails Reformation

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the creation of Celestial Venus. But it is also the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his ninety-five these on the door of the church at Wittenberg Castle. This action launched the Protestant Reformation which had a widespread effect across Europe. When this site was created, I didn’t know the significance of the date. Now I take it as good omen.

Luther Bible ~ illustration by Lucas Cranach 1534

Luther translated the Bible into German and his close friend Lucas Cranach the elder illustrated it with engravings. The title of page of the Bible features cute cherubs, several of them nude. The Bible is illustrated with nude figures of Adam and Eve and several other figures which would never appear in a contemporary Bible. This may be surprising some, but the image reflects a balanced view of life which existed till only recent times. For years I had pondered why the perception of the figure had changed and this site was created in one sense to restore perception to what it had once been. Such a reform of perception would be as significant as Luther’s reform of the indulgences.

diagram for Sears

The lack of balance in perception is to a great extent the result of cultural conditioning. The diagram above shows the optimum balance of qualities required by Sears, the executive values of other companies can expected to be about the same. The theoretical, economic and political are valued by the company while aesthetic value is practically zero. Sears notes that aesthetic values, “accept artistic beauty and taste as a fundamental standard of life. This is not a factor which makes for executive success.” It can be certain that in earlier times beauty was more valued, aesthetic values would have been at least at the 50th percentile on the diagram.

Benjamin West ~ Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky

How did this change in values come about? In Max Weber’s essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the ideology of present forms of capitalism are traced to values promoted by Benjamin Franklin. Many American colonists held the notion that secular vocations were appointed by God. In his autobiography, Franklin made a quotation from the Bible which reflected this view: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before the Kings.” (Proverbs 22:29) From this Franklin found his virtue, he preached “Time is money” and “Remember, that money is of the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on.” But Weber points out that this state of mind, “would both in ancient times and in the Middle Ages have been proscribed as the lowest sort of avarice and as an attitude entirely lacking in self-respect.” An absurd ascetic materialism developed, one would renounce enjoyment of creation yet work for worldly money as an end to its self. This portrait of Franklin by his contemporary Benjamin West reflects that colonial artists were at odds with the utilitarianism of Franklin.

Scott Affleck ~ Progression ~ 2014

Weber called this development of capitalism an Iron Cage, since man’s basic humanity is denied by its structures. In this passage he accounts for the history of the Iron Cage:

Christian asceticism, at first fleeing from the world into solitude, had already ruled the world which it had renounced from the monastery and through the Church. But it had, on the whole, left the naturally spontaneous character of daily life in the world untouched. Now it strode into the market-place of life, slammed the door of the monastery behind it, and undertook to penetrate just that daily routine of life with its methodicalness, to fashion it into a life in the world, but neither of nor for this world.

Lucas Cranach ~ Martin Luther ~ 1529

Norman O. Brown recognized a profound conflict of values between American capitalism and the founders of the Protestantism. Luther’s motivation to post his ninety-five these was from the offence by the Roman Catholic Church selling indulgences, therefore money was seen as the Devil’s primary tool for corruption. The essence of Luther’s position was this world is ruled by the Devil, so the notion that visible vocation in this world is appointed by God, grossly misrepresents the Protestant view. Brown writes,”All around him Luther felt the irresistible attraction and power of capitalism, and interpreted it as the Devil’s final seizure of power in this world, therefore foreshadowing Christ’s Second Coming and the Devil’s final overthrow.” Luther denounced this worldliness often in his writing,”Germany is sheerly swallowed up by the merchants and companies, by means of usury.” “It is the world’s way to think of nothing but money, as thought it hung as soul and body. God and our neighbour are despised and the people serve Mammon. Horrible times will come, worse even than befell Sodom and Gomorrha.”

Hieronymus Bosch ~ The Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail Prince of Hell)  1505-1510

In his Table Talk, Luther gives a vivid account of his encounters with the Devil. Luther was assaulted by the Devil numerous times, all the attacks took the form of vulgarity of an anal nature. Hieronymus Bosch depicted the Devil’s character in his painting of Hell, Satan is enthroned on a privy, from which the souls who have passed out of his anus drop into the black pit. “The painters paint the Devil black and filthy,” says Luther. (note the small figure pooping coins into the black pit)

I find this significant, since the Devil’s aesthetic method for corruption is through a debasement of the body. If one’s perception of the human body is only vulgar, one is  alienated from one’s dignity of being created in the image of God. Francis Schaeffer reflected on the benefits of Renaissance thought, he writes:

“From a biblical viewpoint nature is important because it has been created by God, and is not to be despised. The things of the body are not to be despised when compared with the soul. The things of beauty are important. Sexual things are not evil of themselves. All these things are involved in the fact that in nature God has given us a good gift, and the man who regards them with contempt is really despising God’s creation. As such he is despising, in a sense, God Himself, for he has contempt for what God has made.”

Lucas Cranach ~ Charity Standing ~ 1537-50

This balance view of one’s relation nature is reflected in the work of Luther’s close friend Lucas Cranach the Elder. It is almost ironic that Cranach is as well-known for his portraits of Luther as he is for his allegorical nude figures. Cranach conveyed Lutheran religious concerns in his paintings but I believe the influence of the Reformation on his series of charity paintings has not yet been recognized. Charity is the foremost of the three theological virtues “And now abideth faith, hope charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity”(I Corinthians 13:13) The word ‘love’, is a closer definition to the modern ear because the word ‘charity’ has the overtone of giving to the needy. During the Renaissance charity was symbolized as a loving mother with three or more children. Charity is the very antithesis of greed which was denounced by Luther as the greatest evil of worldliness. The nudity of the figures reflect the early Christian ethic and the rejection of Devil’s materialism in this world. Some have interpreted the little girl holding a doll as following the example of the mother but it seems that the way the mother holds the girl’s raised arm may be an act of discouragement. The mother may be directing the girl to put down the fashionably dressed doll and the things of the world.

Scott Affleck ~ Peaceable Kingdom ~ 2002-2006

Years ago I saw Cranach’s Charity painting, his work seemed to incarnate the perfect harmony that I sought, soon afterward I painted Peaceable Kingdom. Which had the effect of putting my art in opposition with contemporary culture. The Iron Cage of capitalism has degraded the archetype of paradise written on the heart of man. The counter-culture of the 1960’s still held the archetype of Eden but since then the archetype has been lost. I thought a great amount to understand why modern art and mass culture forfeit beauty for emptiness or vulgarity. Now I understand the emptiness has its roots in the ascetic materialism prescribed by Franklin. If souls are lost by aesthetic alienation, it is only beauty which can recover the heart. I call for a Pigtails Reformation, because in fairy tales the beautiful maiden can restore a soul lost to the beast.

Lucas Cranach ~ Charity Landscape

The Snow Queen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, novels, and poems, Andersen is famous for his fairy tales which include The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Snow Queen. Robert Bly, the author of Iron John thought that Andersen’s images were not to be trusted as much as the fairy tales that have come to us through the ages. But when I read Anderson’s The Snow Queen, I thought Anderson possessed an incredible comprehension of the alienation of modern man. I wondered if Anderson was influenced be the insights of Friedrich Schiller but I have found no evidence of this so far.

Marcel Duchamp ~ In Advance to a Broken Arm ~ 1915

There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he was in high spirits because he had made a mirror which reflected everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it dwindled almost to nothing, but anything that was bad and ugly stood out very clearly and appeared much worse. The most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach. The nicest people looked repulsive or seemed to stand on their heads or had no middles, and their faces were so distorted that they could not be recognized. And if anyone had a single freckle you might be sure it would look as if it had spread over his whole nose and mouth. That’s the funniest thing about it, thought the hobgoblin.

One day the hobgoblin was flying high among the clouds, maliciously flashing his mirror on all the countries below. Suddenly it slipped from his hands and crashed to the earth, shattered into millions and billions of pieces. And now Came the greatest mischief of all, for most of the pieces were hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world. If anyone got a speck of the mirror in his eye there it stayed. From then on he would see everything crooked, or else could see only the ugly side of things. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power as the whole mirror. Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, for then the heart would turn into a lump of ice. A few of the fragments were large enough to be used as window panes, but how terrible it would be to look at one’s friends and neighbors through such a window! The hobgoblin was so pleased he laughed till his sides ached, as the tiny bits of glass continued to whirl about in the air.

In a large town, where there were so many people and houses that there was not enough room for everybody to have a garden, lived two poor children. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other just as much as if they were. Their parents lived opposite one another in two attics, and each family had planted a rose tree and sweet peas in a window box. In summer the two children were allowed to sit out underneath the rose trees and play lovely games together all afternoon.

In the winter they could not do this, so they heated pennies on the stove and put them against the frozen window panes. These made perfect peepholes through which they could gaze at each other across the frozen gutters.

His name was Kay, and hers was Gerda. One day it was snowing very hard.

“Those are the white bees swarming,” said the old grandmother.

“Have they got a queen bee too?” asked the little boy, for he knew that the real bees have one.

“To be sure,” said the grandmother. “She flies wherever they swarm the thickest. She is the Snow Queen and is the biggest of them all, She never remains still upon the earth, but always returns to the black clouds.”

The next day the weather cleared. Not long after, a thaw set in and spring appeared. With the warm spring sunshine, the countryside turned a soft green, the swallows worked busily on their nests and Kay and Gerda played together once more in their little garden high on the rooftop. They knew that summer had come at last when their little rose trees burst into glorious bloom.

One day the children were looking at a picture book. The clock in the great church tower had just struck five, when Kay suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! Something has stung my heart, and now I’ve got something in my eye!” Gerda threw her arms around his neck. He blinked his eyes again and again; but no, she could see nothing in them.

Pablo Picasso ~ Bust of Woman with Hat, Dora

“I think it is gone now,” said he. But it had not gone. It was one of the tiny splinters from the magic mirror we have heard about, the mirror that turned whatever was fine and good reflected in it into something small and ugly. And a splinter had found its way to poor Kay’s heart, which began to change into a lump of ice. His heart did not hurt him at all, but the splinter was still there.

“Why are you crying?” he asked Gerda. “It makes you look so ugly! There’s nothing the matter with me. Just look! That rose is all worm-eaten, and this one is stunted! What ugly roses they are!”

 And he began to pull them to pieces.”Kay, what are you doing?” cried the little girl, and she threw up her hands.

When he saw how frightened she was he pulled off another rose and ran inside to his window, away from dear little Gerda. When she came later on with a picture book, he said that it was only fit for babies, and when his grandmother told them stories, he always interrupted with, “But”, and then he would get behind her and put on her spectacles and mimic everything she did. Very soon he could imitate whatever was odd or ugly about the people who lived on their street.

When winter came, he began to love the cold. Each day he would take a magnifying glass and hold it over his blue coat while the snowflakes fell on it. “Look in the glass, Gerda! They are much more perfect than real flowers. If only they did not melt!”

 One morning Kay went out with his warm gloves on and his little sled hung over his shoulder. He shouted to Gerda, “I don’t want to play with you, I am going to the marketplace to be with the other boys,” and away he went.

In the marketplace the boldest boys often used to fasten their sleds to the rears of the carts of the farmers, and then they got a good ride. That day, when Kay and the other boys were in the middle of their games, there drove into the square a large white sleigh, and in it sat a figure dressed in a white fur cloak and a white fur cap. The sleigh drove around the square twice. Suddenly it came to a short stop, and Kay fastened his little sled behind it and was pulled away. The sleigh began to go more and more quickly. The driver turned around from time to time and nodded to Kay in a friendly way, as if they had known each other before. Every time Kay tried to unfasten his sled the driver nodded again, and Kay sat still, and so they drove swiftly out of the town.

The snow began to fall so thickly that the little boy could not see his hand before him as they sped along. He tried to unfasten the cord to get free of the big sleigh, but it was no use; his little sled could not be loosened and on they went like the wind. He cried out, but nobody heard him. He was dreadfully frightened.

The snowflakes grew larger and larger till they looked like great white birds. All at once the large sleigh stopped, and the figure who was driving stood up. It was a lady, tall and slim and glittering. Her fur cloak and cap were made entirely of snow. It was the Snow Queen.

“We have made good time,” she said. “But you are almost frozen. Creep in under my cloak.” And she held him close to her in the sleigh and drew the cloak over him, He felt as though he were sinking into a snowdrift.

“Are you still cold?” she asked, and kissed him on the forehead. The kiss was as cold as ice and reached down to his heart, which was already frozen into half a lump of ice.

“My sled! Don’t forget my sled!” He thought of that first, and they fastened it to one of the white birds, who flew behind with the sled on its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay again, and he forgot all about little Gerda, his grandmother and everybody else at home.

“Now I must not kiss you anymore,” she said, “or I will kiss you to death.”

 Then away they flew over forests and lakes, over sea and land. Around them whistled the cold Wind, the wolves howled and the snow hissed; over them flew the black shrieking crows. But high up the moon shone large and bright, and thus Kay passed the long, long winter night. During the day he slept at the Snow Queen’s feet.

Little Gerda did not know what happened when he did not come back. What had become of him? Nobody knew. The other boys told how they had seen him fasten his sled to a large one which had driven out of the town gate. Gerda cried a great deal. The winter was long and dark to her.

Then the spring came and with it the warm sunshine. “I will go and look for Kay,” said Gerda. She traveled a great distance into strange lands. Far in the north she was captured by a band of robbers. But the daughter of the robbers liked her and took her as a friend. While Gerda was in the camp she learned that Kay was taken by the Snow Queen to her palace.

One night when her mother had fallen asleep, the robber girl went to the Reindeer and said, “I am going to set you free so that you can run to Finland. But you must go quickly and carry this little girl to the Snow Queen’s palace, where her playmate is, You must have heard all that she told me, for she spoke loud enough!”

The Reindeer leaped high for joy. The robber girl lifted up little Gerda and tied her firmly onto the Reindeer. She even gave her a little pillow for a saddle.

“You must wear your fur boots,” she said, “for it will be cold; but I shall keep your muff, it’s such a pretty one! And I’m going to give you my mother’s big fur gloves so that you won’t freeze. They will come right up to your elbows.”

The robber girl opened the door, called in all the big dogs, cut through the Reindeer’s halter with her sharp knife and said to him, “Off with you now! But take good care of the little girl.”

And Gerda stretched out her hands with the large fur gloves toward the little robber girl and said, “Goodbye! ”

Then the Reindeer flew over the ground, through the great forest, as fast as he could. The wolves howled, the ravens screamed, the sky seemed on fire. “Those are my dear old Northern Lights,” said the Reindeer. “Look how they glow.”

And he ran faster and faster still, day and night. They stopped at a wretched little house. The roof almost touched the ground, and the door was so low that you had to creep in and out. There was no one in the house except an Finn woman. The Reindeer told Gerda’s whole history, but first he told his own, for that seemed to him much more important, and Gerda was so cold that she could not speak.

“Ah, you poor creatures!” said the Finn woman.

Inside it was so hot that the Finn woman wore al most nothing. She drew off Gerda’s fur gloves and boots and loosened her clothes. When Gerda was warmed up and had something to eat and drink, the Finn woman gave directions to the Snow Queen’s palace.

“Won’t you give the little girl a drink so that she may have the strength of twelve men and overpower the Snow Queen? asked the Reindeer

“The strength of twelve men!” said the Firm woman. “That would not help much. It’s true that little Kay is with the Snow Queen, and he likes every thing there very much and thinks it the best place in all the world. That is because he has a splinter of glass in his heart and a tiny chip of it in his eye. If these do not come out, he will never be free, and the Snow Queen will keep him in her power.”

“But can’t you give little Gerda something so that she can have power over the Snow Queen?”

“I can give her no greater power than she already has. Don’t you see how great it is? Don’t you see how men and beasts help her when she wanders into the wide world with her bare feet? She is powerful ale ready, because she is a dear little innocent child. If she herself cannot conquer the Snow Queen and remove the glass splinters that are in little Kay, we cannot help her! The Snow Queen’s garden begins two miles from here. You can carry the girl so far; put her down by the large bush with red berries that stands in the snow. And you must come back here as fast as you can.”

Then the Finn woman lifted Gerda onto the Reindeer, and away he sped. “Oh, I have left my gloves and boots behind! “cried Gerda. She missed them in the piercing Cold, but the Reindeer did not dare to stop. On he ran till he came to the bush with red berries. There he sat Gerda down and kissed her, and big tears ran down his cheeks. Then he ran back, leaving the poor girl without shoes or gloves in the middle of the bitter cold of Finland.

She went on as fast as she could. A regiment of gigantic snowflakes came against her, but they melted even before they touched her, and she continued with fresh courage.

Inside the Snow Queen’s palace Kay was not thinking of Gerda and never dreamed that she was standing right outside. The walls of the palace were built of driven snow, and the doors and windows of piercing winds. There were more than a hundred halls in it, the largest several miles long; all made of frozen snow. The bright Northern Lights lit them up, and very large and empty and cold and glittering they were! In the middle of the great hall was a frozen lake which had cracked in a thousand pieces. Here the Snow Queen used to sit when she was at home.

Little Kay was almost black and blue with cold, but he never felt it, for the Snow Queen had kissed away his feelings and his heart was a lump of ice, He was sitting in the hall, pulling about some sharp, flat pieces of ice and trying to put them together into a pattern He thought they were beautiful, but that was because of the splinter of glass in his eye. He was able to fit them into a great many shapes, but he really wanted to make them spell the word “Love.” The Snow Queen had said, “If you can spell out that word you will be your own master. I shall give you the whole world and a new sled.” But Kay could not do it.

“Today I must fly to warmer countries,” said the Snow Queen. “I must go and stir up my black kettles!” (This was what she called Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius.) And off she flew, leaving Kay alone in the great hall trying to do his puzzle, He sat so still that you would have thought he was frozen. Then little Gerda stepped into the palace hall. The raging winds quieted down as if they had fallen asleep when she appeared. She caught sight of Kay and ran to put her arms around his neck, crying, “Kay! Dear little Kay! I have found you at last!”

PJ Lynch ~ The Snow Queen

 But Kay sat quite still and cold. Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast and thawed his heart so that the glass splinter was dissolved. He looked at her and burst into tears. He cried so much that the splinter swam out of his eye. Then he recognized her and cried out, “Gerda! Dear little Gerda! Where have you been so long? And where have I been?”

And he looked around him. “How cold it is here! How huge and empty! ” He threw his arms around Gerda, and she laughed and wept for joy. It was such a happy time that the pieces of ice even danced around them for joy. When they grew tired, Kay and Gerda lay down, and as they slept they melted the ice, form ing the word that the Snow Queen had said Kay must spell in order to become his own master.

Gerda kissed his cheeks and they grew rosy. She kissed his eyes and they sparkled like hers. She kissed his hands and feet and he became warm and glowing. The Snow Queen might come home now, but they had his release the word “Love” stood written in the sparkling ice.

They took each other’s hands and wandered out of the great palace. They talked about the grandmother and the roses in the Window boxes, and wherever they went the winds calmed down and the sun came out.

Gerda and Kay went home hand in hand. There they found the grandmother and everything just as it had been, but when they went through the doorway they found they were grown up. There were the roses in the window boxes. It was summer: warm, glorious summer.

Hans Christian Andersen, abridged by Susan Jungen

The Frog Prince

Fairy tales are far more than entertainment for children. They carried wisdom from one generation to the next. Many of the narratives reflect the growth of a person as threefold being, a unity of body, soul and spirit. Today, life is no longer shaped by this wisdom but rather by the narrative of the Iron Cage, which reduces life to a program to serve the machine. A common theme of the tales concerned a prince who is restored to his true nature by the kindness of a young girl. I believe the loss of this archetype in our culture has led to much confusion and ugliness. The Frog Prince is the first story that appears in the Brothers Grimm’s collection Kinder- und Hausmärchen, which was published in 1812.

William Robert Symonds ~ The Princess and the Frog

In the olden days, when wishing was still of some use, there lived a King. He had several beautiful daughters, but the youngest was so fair that even the sun, who sees so many wonders, could not help marveling every time he looked into her face.

Near the King’s palace lay a large, dark forest, and there, under an old linden tree, was a well. When the day was very warm, the little Princess would go off into this forest and sit at the rim of the cool well. There she would play with her golden ball, tossing it up and catching it deftly in her little hands. This was her favorite game and she never tired of it.

Now it happened one day that, as the Princess tossed her golden ball into the air, it did not fall into her uplifted hands as usual. Instead, it fell to the ground, rolled to the rim of the well and then into the water. Plank, splash! The golden ball was gone.

The well was deep and the Princess knew it. She felt sure she would never see her beautiful ball again, so she cried and cried and could not stop. “What is the matter, little Princess?” said a voice behind her. “You are crying so that even a hard stone would have pity on you.” The little girl looked around and there she saw a Frog. He was in the well and stretching his fat, ugly head out of the water. “Oh, it’s you — you old water splasher!” said the girl. I’m crying over my golden ball. It has fallen into the well.”

“Oh, as to that,” said the Frog, “I can bring your ball back to you. But what will you give me if I do?”

“Whatever you wish, dear old Frog,” said the Princess.”I’ll give you my dresses, my beads and all my jewelry, even the golden crown on my head.”

 The Frog answered, “Your dresses, your beads and all your jewelry, even the golden crown on your head, I don’t want them, But if you can find it in your heart to like me and take me for your playfellow, if you will let me sit beside you at the table, eat from your little golden plate and drink from your little golden cup, and if you are willing to let me sleep in your own little bed: if you promise me all this, little Princess, then I will gladly go down to the bot tom of the well and bring back your golden ball.”

“Oh, yes,” said the Princess, “I’ll promise anything you say if you’ll only bring back my golden ball to me.” But to herself she thought: What is the silly Frog chattering about? He can only live in the water and croak with the other frogs; he could never be a playmate to a human being.

As soon as the Frog had heard her promise, he disappeared into the well. Down, down, down, he sank; but he soon came up again, holding the golden ball in his mouth. He dropped it on the grass at the feet of the Princess, who was wild with joy when she saw her favorite plaything once more. She picked up the ball and skipped away, thinking no more about the little creature who had returned it to her. “Wait!” cried the Frog. “Take me with you, I can’t run that fast.”

 But what good did it do him to cry out his “Quark! Quark! ” after her as loud as he could? She didn’t listen to him but hurried home, where she soon forgot the poor Frog, who now had to go back into his well again.

The next evening, the Princess was eating her dinner at the royal table when: plitch, plotch, plitch, plotch, something came climbing up the stairs. When it reached the door, it knocked and cried:

Youngest daughter of the King, Open the door for me!

The Princess rose from the table and ran to see who was calling her. When she opened the door, there sat the Frog, wet and green and cold! Quickly she slammed the door and sat down at the table again, her heart beating loud and fast. The King could see well enough that she was frightened and worried , and he said, “My child, what are you afraid of? Is there a giant out there who wants to carry you away?”

“Oh, no,” said the Princess. “It’s not a giant, but a horrid old Frog!” And what does he want of you?” asked the King.

“Oh, dear Father, as I was playing under the linden tree by the well, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so hard, the Frog brought it back to me; and because he insisted so much, I promised him that he could be my playmate. But I never, never thought that he would ever leave his well. Now he is out there and wants to come in and eat from my plate and drink from my cup and sleep in my little bed. But I couldn’t bear that, Papa, he’s so wet and ugly and his eyes bulge out!”

While she was talking, the Frog knocked at the door once more and said:

Youngest daughter of the King, Open the door for me. Mind your words at the old well- spring; Open the door for me!

At that the King said, “If we make promises, Daughter, we must keep them. So you had better go and open the door.”

 The Princess still did not want to do it but she had to obey, When she opened the door, the Frog hopped in and followed her until she reached her chair. Then he sat on the floor and said, “Lift me up beside you.” She hesitate: the Frog was so cold and clammy but her father looked at her sternly and said, “You must keep your promise.”

 After the Frog was on her chair, he wanted to be put on the table. When he was there, he said, “Now shove your plate a little closer so we can eat together like real playmates.”

 The Princess shuddered, but she had to do it The Frog enjoyed the meal and ate heartily, but the poor girl could not swallow a single bite. At last the Frog said, “Now I’ve eaten enough and I feel tired. Carry me to your room so I can go to sleep.”

 The Princess began to cry It had been hard enough to touch the cold, fat Frog, and worse still to have him eat out of her plate, but to have him beside her in her little bed was more than she could bear.

“I want to go to bed,” repeated the Frog.”Take me there and tuck me in.”

 The Princess shuddered again and looked at her father, but he only said, “He helped you in your trouble. Is it fair to scorn him now?”

There was nothing for her to do but pick up the creature: she did it with both hands and carry him up into her room, where she dropped him in a corner on the floor, hoping he would be satisfied. But after she had gone to bed, she heard something she didn’t like. Ploppety, plop! Ploppety, plop! It was the Frog, hopping across the floor, and when he reached her bed he said, I’m tired and the floor is too hard. I have as much right as you to sleep in a good soft bed. Lift me up or I will tell your father.”

 At this the Princess was bitterly angry, but she picked the Frog up and put him at the foot of her bed. There he stayed all night; but when the dark was graying into daylight, the Frog jumped down from the bed, out of the door and away, she knew not where.

The next night it was the same. The Frog came back, knocked at the door and said:

Youngest daughter of the King, Open the door for me. Mind your words at the old well- spring; Open the door for me!

The only thing the Princess could do was let him in. Again he ate out of her golden plate, sipped out of her golden Cup, and again he slept at the foot of her bed. In the morning he went away as before.

The third night he came again, But this time he was not content to sleep at her feet. “I want to sleep under your pillow,” he said.”I’d like it better there.”

The girl thought she would never be able to sleep with a horrid, damp, goggle-eyed Frog under her pillow. She began to weep softly to herself and couldn’t stop until at last she cried herself to sleep.

When the night was over and the morning sunlight burst in at the window, the Frog crept out from under her pillow and hopped oil the bed. But as soon as his feet touched the floor something happened to him. In that moment he was no longer a cold, fat, goggle-eyed Frog, he had turned into a young Prince with handsome, friendly eyes!

“You see,” he said, “I wasn’t what I seemed to be! A wicked old woman bewitched me. No one but you could break the spell, little Princess, and I waited and waited at the well for you to help me.”

 The Princess was speechless with surprise, but her eyes sparkled. “And will you let me be your playmate now?” said the Prince, laughing. “Mind your words at the old well- spring!”

 At this the Princess laughed too, and they both ran out to play with the golden ball. For years they were the best of friends and the happiest of playmates, and it is not hard to guess, I”m sure, that when they were grown up they were married and lived happily ever after.

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Wanda Gag

 

 

Arnold Böcklin: A Painting Poet

Arnold Böcklin ~ Isle of the Dead

Arnold Böcklin (1827 – 1901) was an influential Swiss symbolist painter. Böcklin is best known for his painting The Isle of the Dead. For a long time, I associated him with this kind of haunting imagery. But when I began my research for this post I realized he had a much wider vision. Böcklin had a great gift for composition and poetic painting.

Arnold Böcklin ~ Isle of Life ~ 1888

Albert Schweitzer had insightful reflections on Böcklin’s work which are worth quoting:

Böcklin is a poet who has got among the painters. It is the poetic imagination that has led him to the fictions of his wonderful but, in the last resort, unreal landscapes. His visions master him to such an extent that impossibilities in composition, even errors of drawing that are at first sight disconcerting. (What? Böcklin was quite a master draftsman) He had recourse to pencil and the palette because he thought he could thus reproduce most vividly his poems of elemental forces. His paintings are in the last resort symbols of poems that were inexpressible in words. It is thus quite natural that the reaction against him comes from the French painters, who, with their objective realism, have no sympathy (That’s for sure!) with such a relation of poetry and painting, and combat an art showing tendencies of this kind from the standpoint of absolute painting, just as the partisans of absolute music make war on the music that bases itself on poetry.

Arnold Böcklin ~ Spring Evening ~ 1879

Arnold Böcklin ~ Odysseus and Calypso ~ 1883

Arnold-Böcklin ~ Daphnis et Amaryllis

Arnold Böcklin ~ Vita Somnium Breve ~ 1888

Arnold Böcklin ~ Catonhottinroof

Arnold Böcklin ~ Summer Day

Arnold Böcklin ~ Nymph and Satyr

Anselm Feuerbach

Anselm Feuerbach (1829-1880) was a kind of German Ingres, struggling against the current to perpetuate the academic classical tradition. He was very successful in his lifetime, his works are housed at leading public galleries in Germany. When he died in 1880, Brahms composed Nanie, a piece for chorus and orchestra, in his memory. In the later part of the century, Feuerbach was overshadowed by the mysterious Symbolist paintings of his German peer, Böcklin. Despite what is said in art history books, I find many of Feuerbach’s painting to be as poetic as Böcklin’s.

Anselm Feuerbach ~ Nanna ~ 1861

When I did a google image search on Feuerbach, most of the images that first appeared were simple portraits, as Nanna. I find portraits like this to be rather boring because the form of the subject provides the composition of the painting. The fact that images like this first appear, makes me believe that people are out of touch with the poetry of art to appreciate Feuerbach’s genius.

Anselm Feuerbach ~ Mother with Children

I am much more impressed with Feuerbach’s painting Mother with Children, which reminds me of the poetic art of the Italian Renaissance painters Giorgione and Titian. The great Bouguereau, who was Feuerbach’s French contemporary, is known for his paintings of women and children but most of his compositions are very simple, with the figure sitting in the center of the painting. As far as composition and poetry, I find Feuerbach’s paintings to be much more interesting.

Anselm Feuerbach ~ Medea

Anselm Feuerbach Ricordo di Tivoli ~ 1866

Anselm Feuerbach ~ Am Strande ~ 1867

Anselm Feuerbach Kinder am Strande ~ 1867

Anselm Feuerbach ~ The Judgement of Paris