Henry Oliver Walker

Henry Walker ~ A Morning Vision ~ 1895

Many paintings by Henry Oliver Walker (1843 –1929) were included in the last post of the Library of Congress but Walker’s work outside of the library is just as beautiful. Walker’s paintings reflect how influential European traditional art was on the American artists active in the late 19th century. The influence of traditional culture is apparent in the illustrations and advertising in American publications at the turn of the century.

Henry O. Walker ~ Musa Regina ~ 1905

Henry Walker ~ The New Moon

Henry Walker ~ Eros and Musa

Henry Walker ~ Contemplative Nude by a Stream


The Murals of The Library of Congress and the Enviroment of Fascism

Henry Oliver Walker ~ Lyric Poetry ~ 1896

The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. The Beaux-Arts style building is decorated with the works of more than fifty American painters and sculptors. The murals of the building seem to be influence by the atheistic of the French Symbolist painter Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) The work of Henry Oliver Walker (1843-1929) is predominant in the building. Walker was part of the Cornish Arts Colony in New Hampshire which included Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), it seems that the younger artist was influenced by Walker.

Henry Oliver Walker ~ Endymion ~ 1897

For many, it is difficult to imagine how paintings of nude women and children would be permitted in a government building. The fact that prelapsarian images are not supported by institutions today is due to the growth of fascism. Wilhelm Reich recognized that fascism was not limited to “political parties” which had formed in Germany and Italy, rather it was the organized political expression of the psychological structure of modern man’s character. Reich defined fascism as “the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life.” Since the suppression of life affirming character occurs during childhood, it is not too surprising that art which affirms the fullness of being is perceived as a preoccupation of pedophilia. This view is due to the liquidation of all values outside of rationality of machine civilization. The pose of the figure in Walker’s painting Endymion is a quote from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.

Charles Sprague Pearce ~ The Family and Education ~ 1897

Henry O. Walker ~ Boy at Winander ~ 1897

Walter McEwen ~ Bellerophon ~ 1897

Abbott Thayer: Angels

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Angel ~ 1889

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849 – 1921) was an American artist. Thayer is often claimed to have been a naturalist but this classification is misleading. He is best known for his angel paintings which reflect the spirit of the Pre-Raphealites. Granted, his spontaneity and improvisation of his artistic methods was very different than the technique of Pre-Raphealites. He began to paint winged in the late 1880s to express the transcendent qualities he saw in the female subject, he said:

“Doubtless my lifelong passion for birds has helped to incline me to work wings into my pictures; but primarily I have put on wings probably more to symbolize an exalted atmosphere (above the realm of genre painting) where one need not explain the action of the figures.”

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Boy and Angel ~ 1918

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Angel

Abbott Handerson Thayer ~ Caritas ~ 1895

Hugo Simberg: At the Crossroads

Hugo Simberg ~ Tampere Cathedral fresco and The Wounded Angel

I find the work of Hugo Simberg (1873-1917) fascinating and intent on making several posts to cover the range of his art. Simberg was an important figure in the symbolist movement and is regarded as the most influential Finnish painter. Simberg is best known for his unconventional allegorical paintings. Many of Simberg’s paintings depict moody boys which seems to reflect an understanding of what C.S. Lewis called the “dark ages of boyhood.” At first, the public found Simberg’s symbolic figures and narratives to be rather odd but they gradually accepted his efforts, and he was commissioned to paint the frescos for the Tampere Cathedral.

Hugo Simberg ~ The Wounded Angel ~ 1903

Simberg’s The Wound Angel is his best known work, it was voted Finland’s “national painting” in a vote held by the Ateneum art museum in 2006. Simberg himself declined to offer an interpretation of the painting, suggesting that the viewer could draw their own conclusions. I will only say that the painting may express the despair of modern youth Lewis described in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.

Hugo Simberg ~study for The Wounded Angel ~ ca.1903

The Finnish National Gallery’s Archives has a collection of nearly a thousand photographs taken by Simberg. The artist often had the family of friends model for his paintings. His photographs offer a unique insight into Simberg’s method of working. I will dedicate a post in the future to his photography.

Hugo Simberg ~ At the Crossroads ~ 1896

At the Crossroads is not as well-known as The Wounded Angel but I think the painting is just as effective. The little angel could be the same angel in both paintings. A man stands at the crossroads of life, he is persuaded by an fair angel and a juvenile devil to take opposite paths. I believe that men as children are inclined to follow the angel but unfortunately, the modern educational system is a cause of disillusionment. So the man may be duped by the dark side. I can imagine the gray little devil ridiculing the man so that he will not follow the path of the gentle angel. He would shout crude accusations, “You’re just a pathetic dirty minded sissy if you follow her! Be a real man and take the rocky path.” It seems the crude little devil of Simberg’s painting has gotten the best of contemporary society.

Edvard Munch: No Place of Rest

Edvard Munch ~ The Scream ~ 1893

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker. He is famous for his intense use of color and body attitudes to express love, sickness, and anxiety. He planned much of his work as a “frieze of life,” on the theme of “the joys and sorrows of the individual human seen close…” His exhibitions greatly influenced the German expressionist movement of the early 1900’s. His best known work is The Scream, painted in 1893.

Edvard Munch ~ Eye to Eye ~ 1894

I thought it would be appropriate to cover Munch at this time so that a few of his “frieze of life” paintings could compared to allegorical paintings of the previous post. In the past, art often expressed a spiritual longing but Munch’s art seems to reflect the state of a person who is hardly capable of joy. Humanity has a longing for a state of harmony with God, this can be expressed by what Francis Schaeffer calls integration points. For example, music can bring a quietness. While tranquil landscapes are often thought as a place of rest, it has been forgotten that sex is also a point of integration. Munch’s despair may have been from trying to make sex a final integration but lost sight of the fact that the union of a man and woman is a genuine place of rest.

Edvard Munch ~ Anxiety ~ 1894

Erich Fromm made a case in The Sane Society that the rational structures of modern society can destroy a genuine experience of self. People can be conditioned to be estranged from the deepest needs of the heart. Unfortunately, the patrons of the arts who are in high positions of industry are often the most alienated members of society. The morbidity of Munch’s paintings would appeal to the elites who had lost the capacity for happiness. The fame of Munch seems to illustrate a point made by Fromm, “As a matter of fact, his defect may be raised as a virtue by his culture.”

Edvard Munch ~ Puberty ~ 1894

Considering how academia is blind to the recognition of these issues, it was surprising to find insightful reflects on Munch’s Puberty in an art history textbook. John Canaday wrote:The flaw in Munch’s art is that this mood, being unrelieved, becomes monotonous. Adolescent is certainly a time of uncertainty and unbalance, but it is also a time of passionate curiosity and exciting discovery. Making no concessions, Munch suffers from the mistaken idea, an immature one, that pessimism and profundity are synonymous in any observation of the human condition.”



António Carneiro: Life

António Teixeira Carneiro Júnior (1872–1930) was a Portuguese painter, illustrator, poet and art professor. He was born into a working-class family but was orphaned at the age of seven 7 years old when was he abandoned by his father, he lost his mother not long after. But fortunately his talent for drawing was recognized at the Santa Casa da Misericordia orphanage. He was able to enroll at the “Escola Superior de Belas-Artes do Porto.in 1884, where he studied with Joao Marques de Oliveira until 1888. That year, he turned eighteen and left the orphanage. In 1891, he wrote his first poems and, two years later, was married.

António Carneiro ~ A Vida (Life) Hope, Love, Longing ~ 1901

Most of Carneiro’s paintings are of the common genres, portraits and landscapes. A Vida (Life) triptych stands apart from the rest of his work. The titles of the three panels Hope, Love, Longing reflect spiritual and philosophical concerns, thus the work reflects the tendencies of the symbolist movement of the late nineteenth century. The aesthetics of Life show the strong influence of the French Symbolist painter Puvis de Chavannes. The work may have been inspired by Edvard Munch’s Frieze of Life, which Carneiro observed in Paris when it was exhibited in 1897. Jose-Augusto Franca considered Life to be without kinship in Portuguese art. Considering that Carneiro was a poet, it’s a bit surprising that he did not create more symbolist paintings.

In the left-hand panel, a young boy plays by a lake of water lilies, a woman who may be the child’s mother, holds a lyre in her left arm. In Greek art, Erato was represented holding the lyre, so the figure may be the muse of poetry. The figure with her back to the spectator raises her right arm to the far hills, as in a hymn of Hope.

In the middle panel, a young couple ride white horses over a path in a forest. The young man dressed in medieval armor appears to have rescued the maiden from a dragon. The bond of the figures reflects the theme of Love.

The mood of the last panel express despair. An enigmatic Sphinx – representing the mystery of Life, stands above the figures of a mother and child. A widowed woman, dressed in black, seems to be missing her lover. The child who, in his innocence, is unaware of her suffering. The boy meditates on the flower of hope. Although the mood of the third panel is darker in mood than the preceding three panels, the overall mood of the work is not nearly as pessimistic as Munch’s Frieze of Life. Carneiro’s work seems to reflect a belief in a real source for man’s longing.

C.S. Lewis wrote: Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.


A World Without Love

Scott Affleck ~ Beyond Recovery ~ 2018

Today is the third anniversary of the creation of Celestial Venus. I’ve been too occupied with a music project for the last couple of months to be active here, but fortunately, Susan has kept the fire burning.
I’ve become rather disillusioned by the current art scene. The artists and gallery owners I speak with treat art as if it is just a business enterprise. They have little interest my work which challenges the zeitgeist of the contemporary culture. In contrast, I continually find insightful films and songs that were produced around 1970 that reflected the resistance to the current state of affairs.

I thought I may be able communicate better through the medium of music. Although the music scene seems to be as superficial as the art scene, there is significant difference, people often complain that contemporary music is awful. I’ve spent much of the last two months setting up my synthesizers to record an album. I have original material to record but I plan to record some songs of other artists. People usually dislike covers of songs, so I think if I could make recordings that are better than the originals I could get notice. As Salvador Dalí once said, “Dalí is only good because the other painters are so bad!”

The Beatles in 1957

A World Without Love was penned by Paul McCartney when he was only 16 years old. The Beatles recorded a demo of the song but the recording was never released. When McCartney moved into the London home of his then-girlfriend Jane Asher in 1963, he shared a room with her brother Peter Asher of the singing duo Peter and Gordon. Asher asked him if he could use the song after he had signed a recording contract.  Peter and Gordon’s recording of the song reached No. 1 on the charts of both the US and the UK. Many other artists recorded the song later, including The Supremes, Del Shannon, Patty Duke, Terry Black and the Mavericks.

Please lock me away
And don’t allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay
In a world without love

Birds sing out of tune
And rain clouds hide the moon
I’m OK, here I stay with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay
In a world without love

So I wait, and in a while
I will see my true love smile
She may come, I know not when
When she does, I’ll lose
So baby until then

Please lock me away
And don’t allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay
In a world without love

Please lock me away
And don’t allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay
In a world without love

So I wait, and in a while
I will see my true love smile
She may come, I know not when
When she does, I’ll lose
So baby until then

Please lock me away
And don’t allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay
In a world without love

I suppose the lyrics have been disregarded as mere bubble gum pop. However, I believe the lyrics reflects the perception of the state of the world by young person who has just left the innocence of childhood. Which I will say is more accurate perception than the desensitized perception typical of adulthood. In a sense, I lived a life reflected in the lyrics. While I was locked away, I read a lot of books! The ugliness of the contemporary culture is due the loss of hope for a “true love’s smile’.
There’s tendency to dismiss pop culture as kitsch but very often this is due to a poor interpretation of the original concept. Why is Bobby Rydell smiling and dancing as he sings “I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love?” I thought this would be a great song to cover because with the exception of the Beatles recording, all the other recordings of the song are rather bad.

When I sat down play the song I was struck by McCartney’s inventive chord changes, its hard to believe the song was composed by a 16 year-old. The harmony of the piece has implications of epic music, the pop arrangements of the song really conflict with the expression the lyrics. I think my arrangement of the song expresses the true beauty and despair of the piece.

Peter & Gordon ~ World Without Love ~ 1964

William Bartlett: Hesitation

William Bartlett ~ The Return from the Seal Hunt ~ 1881

William Henry Bartlett (1858-1932) was a Irish painter of rural life and its landscape. Little information is available about him on the web. But it is known that he was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. During the 1890s, he passed several summers in Connemara, County Galway drawing inspiration from the local inhabitants and rugged scenery. Bartlett’s Return From the Seal Hunt is typical of his work.

William Bartlett ~ Hesitation ~ 1886

It seems that Hesitation is the only nude figurative painting that Bartlett created. I find it much more appealing than his other paintings, what’s the appeal of hunting seals? I can identify with the meditative figure of the young girl. People often play a recording of tranquil classical music to bring quietness. I find paintings like Hesitation to have a similar effect. The sense that a nude figure can express a state of rest has been lost in our barbaric age.


Snow White: Exposing the Queen’s Complex

Rollo May made a case in his The Cry for Myth that myths should be respected for the truth they express. Fairy Tales should be given an equal respect. J.R.R Tolkien noted that the “”the association of children and fairy-stories is an accident of our domestic history.” A few weeks ago I had difficulty sleeping, I looked thought my book shelf and found my copy of the Golden Book edition of Walt Disney’s Snow White. As I read, I was surprised by the insight reflected by the narrative.

Snow White title page

Snow White is a German fairy tale which was first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. But the tale is likely is much older, for example, “Iron John” was first set down by the Brothers Grimm around 1820 but Robert Bly estimated that the story could be “ten or twenty thousand years old.” Considering their respect for folklore, it should not be surprising that C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien went together to see Walt Disney’s adaptation of Snow White. They both hated the vulgar depiction of the dwarfs in the film. In a 1939 letter to a friend, Lewis wrote, “Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music.” But despite the faults of the film, the essence of the story is in Disney’s production.

Snow White page 1

I suppose everyone is familiar with the scene of the wicked Queen asking her magic mirror “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?” and the Queen’s hatred for Snow White when she is named the fairest. But I did not know how the story began. Snow White’s mother was a loving Queen who thought,”If only I had a little daughter, how happy I would be.” One day the good Queen was sewing, as she was daydreaming she accidentally pricked her finger with her needle.Three drops of blood fell on the snow white linen.The Queen thought “How lovely my little girl would be if she had lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow and hair as black as ebony.” Some time later, a daughter was born to the Queen and she was as beautiful as the Queen had hoped she might be. The happy mother named her baby Snow White. But the Queen was very ill, while Snow White was still a little girl, her mother died. Snow White’s father, the King, was broken-hearted from the loss but a year later he took a new wife. His new Queen was very beautiful to look upon but her heart was cold and wicked.

The fairy tales that have come to us through the generations contain a great understanding of human nature. The narrative of the loving Queen gives a standard of how to regard the beauty of others. Beauty is to be enjoyed without vanity. In contrast the narrative of the wicked Queen is given as an example of a twisted interest in beauty. I’ve read much about the theory of beauty in art criticism but I believe none of what I have read has really gotten at the core of the issue. For most of human history beauty was regarded by the values of the good Queen but in the early 20th century the perception of beauty began to be twisted by the values of the wicked Queen.The thought that the charming images of Snow White are sentimental kitsch reflects the contempt of the Queen.

When the vain Queen would ask her magic mirror who was the fairest, she was happy if she was named. But sometimes an other was named and the Queen would fly into a terrible rage and order the poor girl to be killed. As Snow White was growing up to be more and more beautiful. The Queen could not stand the sight of the lovely Princess no longer. She banished Snow White to servants’ quarters. Snow White’s fine clothes were taken away from her, and she wore the rags of a servant. And like the other servants, Snow White had to work very hard. She slaved from early morning until late at night. What can occur as relationship between two can exist on the larger scale of a whole society. I believe to a great extent our culture reflects this narrative.

Snow White pages 6 & 7

Notice that the Queen does not have Snow White executed as the others named fairest by the magic mirror. After all, Snow White is the daughter of the King, she will need to careful of how she can act against the young princess. When the mirror does name Snow White to be fairest, the Queen proceeds with caution to have Snow White executed. Of course the Queens of our age can’t simply have beautiful daughters executed, they need to be much more cunning than the Queen of old. The Queens pretend they act for the benefit of the daughters. They teach that the concept of beauty is a form of sexual oppression. Daughters are taught that their self-worth is to be found by toiling at a job; they have been made to be servants to the economy. At least Snow White could have daydreams of a handsome Prince who would carry her off to his castle in the clouds. Today love is dismissed as reflecting base biology. All this deception is fruit of an embittered heart. Men are rather pathetic in their acceptance of these lies of the age.

Teenage Dirtbag t-shirt

The symptoms of this twisted perception of beauty are so apparent to me. I often notice what teenage girls wear when I am out in public places. The poor girls seem to be preoccupied with being the foulest of us all. Often I see Goth girls wearing T-shirts with messages like Teenage Dirt Bag. My initial response is one of bewilderment, I think, “Why on earth would anyone wear something so horrible?” But then I apply the insights from my reading and can make sense of it. The young girls have accepted the terms of the Wicked Queen, the ancient values of the Good Queen are likely alien to them. Under the debasing marks of tattoos, many of these young ladies are beautiful but there is really no place for their beauty in the postmodern organization of the world.

Miguel Blay: The First Cold

Miguel Blay ~ Los primeros frios (The First Cold ) ~ 1892

Miguel Blay y Fàbregas (1866-1936) was a Spanish sculptor who should be better known today. He was only 15 years older than his peer Pablo Picasso, like most of the artists featured on this site, Blay’s work has been overshadowed by the trends in modernism. I find it rather odd that Blay’s best known work Los primeros frios is classified as a modernist piece.

Blay was born in the city of Olot, to a humble family. He began his formal education in the Municipal Drawing School and the studio of El Arte Cristiano where he was a disciple of Josep Berga i Boix and the painter Joaquim Vayreda. In the studio of El Arte Cristiano he drew and painted various religious pieces. At the end of 1888, he receives a grant from the provincial government of Girona to study in Paris.

In Paris he studied at Ecole des beaux-arts and at the Academie Julian under the sculptor Henri Chapu, whom Blay credits to having a large influence on his sculpture. Blay leaves Paris for a few months to study in Rome and return to Olot. In 1889 he won a gold medal in the Universal Exhibition in Paris and the following year was  named knight of the French Legion of Honor. In 1892, Blay competed in the National Exposition of Fine Arts and won first prize for his work Los primeros frios (The First Cold). The piece was also awarded a gold medal in Barcelona in 1894.

Miguel Blay ~ Los primeros frios (Detail) ~ 1892

Although several sites document Blay’s The First Cold, there is little information available concerning the symbolism of the piece. Most of the articles claim that the work reflects the influence of modernism through the sculpture of Rodin. Like the Impressionists, Rodin did not finish the surface of his work. Many of Rodin’s sculptures actually look unfinished. It was difficult for me to judge the surface quality of Blay’s piece from many of the images available on the web. But this detail of The First Cold makes it clear of how fine his technique was. Blay had such a mastery of the medium that he was able to accurately sculpt the texture of the wrinkles of the old man’s skin. This certainly not an “Impressionistic” sculpture!

Miguel Blay ~ La niña desnuda ~ 1892

La niña desnuda was created as a study for The First Cold. Some may refer to this piece as an example of Blay’s “modernism” due to the way the figure emerges from the stone as some of Rodin’s figures. But Blay’s delicate modeling of the young girl is nothing like Rodin’s bumpy gouged roughened surface found in a study for a monument to Balzac. I would say the expression of Blay’s piece is anti-modern because the essence of modernism is a cold formalism which suffers from an ascetic conception of life.

Miguel Blay ~ Los primeros frios (The First Cold) ~ 1892

I thought there may have been a meaning for the title Los primeros frios in the Spanish language that doesn’t exist in the English translation. I asked a friend who is fluent in Spanish if there was a subtext for the title in Spanish culture. He seemed to indicate there was none by saying “It probably had to do with the first onset of Winter, the hunger and cold that looks ahead.” But I believe the title implies more than an allegory of the changing of the seasons. I did find an article that stated “The “cold” is not only a low temperature in this sculpture but it can also represent the bad times that are coming, politically and socially, and can refer to the passage of time, to the cold of the death of the older man, with respect to the girl’s youth.” But I feel the article understated the depth of the “cold” anticipated by the piece. I think the words of Max Weber come close to expression of the work: “Not summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness”. Weber was speaking of the drastic dehumanizing effects of modern organization on society. Works like The First Cold are rarely sculpted today because we live in the age of icy darkness.

Miguel Blay ~ Los-primeros-frios (The First Cold) ~ 1892