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The Art Of Esoteric Symbolism: Jean Delville

Jean Delville was a Belgian painter (1867-1953) who painted heavily symbolic scenes with a occult oriented spiritual perspective.

He grew up in the Belgian town of Louvain, but when his outstanding talent became apparent went to Brussel to study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts where he stood out and won some awards. He started exhibiting at 20, but it was a few years later that the focus of his work became cemented.

After Academy he traveled to Paris where he met  Sâr Joséphin Péladan, an eccentric mystic and occultist, who defined himself as a modern Rosicrucian. Delville became enamored with Peladan’s ideas and mysticism and from then on Delville dedicated his craft to esoteric themes. In the mid 1890s, shortly before turning 30, Deliville joined the Theosophy movement, whose ideas and interests would inform much of his inspiration.

The basic summation of his views was Neoplatonism, Delville believed that visible reality was only a symbol, and that humans exist in three planes: the physical (the realm of facts), the astral (or spiritual world, the realm of laws), and the divine (the realm of causes). These higher planes of existence were the only significant ones. Materialism was a trap, and the soul had to guard against being trapped by its snares. The human body he considered to a potential prison for the soul.

Let’s look at some of his work, shall we?

Parsifal

“Jean Delville’s drawing of Parsifal was done around 1885 at the height of the Occult Revival in Europe. In this stylized image, he depicts the secret of the dog-headed clairaudience: the eustacian tubes, columns of air that work like antennae to mediate frequencies beyond the range of normal hearing.

He shows the columns shooting down from Parsifal’s ears, and around the head, the horns of clairvoyance, another set of antennae but receptive to light rather than sound, particularly the soft, lunar Organic Light. Delville wanted to depict Parsifal as the example of the trained initiate able to send and receive clairvoyantly and clairaudiently.”

Parsifal

Parsifal

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Prometheus

Begun in 1904–5 and finally completed in 1907, Delville made great efforts to find theosophical significance in the theme of Prometheus. For example, the star taken by Prometheus is also the symbol of the White Order of Brussels. In 1907 the work suddenly took on increased importance with the publication in French of the fourth volume of The Secret Doctrine, in which Helena Blavatski had dedicated an entire chapter to Prometheus. No longer the thief of fire of ancient mythology, Prometheus was from this point on assimilated into theosophy as a prophet, a light bearer, revealing with his theosophical flame the suffering of humanity.

Prometheus

Prometheus

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Orpheus

After being torn apart and decapitated by bacchanals (female followers of Bacchus), Orpheus’ head and lyre were thrown into the river where they eventually washed up on the shore of Lesbos. The head awoke and became an Oracle. The lyre was placed in the night sky as a constellation. For Delville this would be a perfect subject matter. After suffering in the material world, the initiate finally transcends to a state of otherworldly knowledge.

Orpheus

Orpheus

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The Love Of Souls

While lovely and romantic on one hand, this work also portrays the coming together of the female and male aspects of humanity, which only when combined can create the perfect being. This new being is the point of the painting, as the man and woman are actually only the tail, beneath the tail even, of the phoenix which is manifesting above them.

The Love Of Souls

The Love Of Souls

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Satan’s Treasures

Delville’s vast undersea world, ruled by Satan, is almost certainly an image of the material abyss. Satan, lord of the physical realm, presides over its sleeping inhabitants. Wrapped in delusion, the dreaming men and women are mesmerized by Satan’s spell, and trapped by their own desires. Satan’s “treasures” include not only their sensuality, but also their attraction to worldly riches, represented by the pearls, coins, and corals that surround them. Above all, the entranced people themselves are the treasures of Satan.

Satan's Treasures

Satan’s Treasures

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The Age Of Splendor

Delville’s 1894 painting can be seen as an illustration of this next phase of human development, transcending the entrapment of matter.The realm of matter is represented by serpents and tangled thorny roses at the bottom right of the canvas. A male figure, with raised arms and upturned eyes similar to those of Mrs. Stuart Merrill, sits half in and half out of the material realm. On his left, a luminous and almost bodiless female angel rises upward, with the fluid and transparent folds of her dress surrounding the man in a circle of light. A vast landscape spreads out, far below the figures. It is filled with jagged hills similar to those in Satan’s Treasures. Here, however, they are painted in luminous purples and golds and rise out of a bright blue sea.

This scene can be viewed in two ways. If it is inspired by the episode from Schuré’s Initiation of Isis, the man would be the disciple’s discarded earthly self, falling back, and swallowed up by matter. In this case, the angel would be what Schuré describes as “another, purer, more ethereal self,” which has just been born. Alternatively, if the story is not taken directly from Schuré, the angel can be seen as a separate being (perhaps the man’s higher self), guiding him up from the abyss.

The Age Of Splendor Jean Delville

The Age Of Splendor Jean Delville

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The Women of Eleusis

Eleusis is an actual town in Greece, where the Eleusinian Mysteries were centered. So, you all know Elysium? Those of you who have listened to the Steampunk Opera will be more than familiar (and just WAIT til we get to the Atompunk Opera). Elysium is the final resting place of the virtuous. However, it was also specifically  a netherworld realm, located in the depths of Hades beyond the river Lethe. Its fields were promised to initiates of the Mysteries who had lived a virtuous life. In Delville’s worldview this would of course be a transcendent place where the purified initiate might arrive at their destination.

The Women of Eleusis, Jean Delville

The Women of Eleusis

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The Wheel Of Fortune

This painting is AWEsome and it stand pretty self evidently. Thus we bid you adieu on this fine day.

The Wheel Of The World

The Wheel Of The World

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Surreal Dreamland of Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda is a Romanian painter.

I do not know much more than that. His website is here.

It does not matter because these speak for themselves:

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

Adrian Borda

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Russian Futurism

Futurism was embraced in Pre-Revolutionary Russian heartily by a small but ambitious group of artists and poets. They published their own manifesto (OF COURSE) called A Slap In The Face Of Public Taste. (points for a good title)

They spawned in 1912 and like their Italian counterparts they adopted the painting style of Cubism in 1913, although apparently independently of the Italians. Aristarkh Lentulov came back from Paris having adopted the Cubist style and the Russian Futurists embraced it zealously, just like the Italian Futurists did.

The Russians developed in their own way. Although they too embraced dynamism, movement, machines,modernity and an absolute disdain for the past, they eschewed the Fascist ideology of the Italians, were much more active in literary futurism, openly disdained war (but embraced the Russian Revolution whole heartedly as the dawn of a new era and the end of the old) and denied influence from ANYbody, not even Marinetti, the Italian founder of Futurism, himself.

In fact, when Marinetti visited Russia the Russian Futurists messed with him at every turn and declared they owed him nothing.

The Russian Futurists embraced both the Revolution and Communism when it came and Futurism thrived briefly under Communism before being engulfed and absorbed by the Communist style which would emerge triumphant and which we can all still picture today.

The Russian Futurists even made some Futurist Opera. You know how much i love you. You know that i wouldn’t leave the 3 of you who are still interested in these Futurist posts hanging in morbid curiosity as to what on earth Futurist Opera from 1913 is like. Well, it’s like this:

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Paintings of Fairyland

We are not concerned with modern depictions of faery things. Some of it is quite nice and lovely, a few things amazing and most, for my tastes, cheesy and droll.

However it was in the Victorian era that fairy painting really got started and even taken seriously as groupd like the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Symbolists embraced it as worthy subject material.

Richard Dadd: The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, 1864

John Anster Fitzgerald: The Captive Robin, 1864

Joseph Noel Paton: Study for The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, 1849

John Everett Millais: Ferdinand Lured by Ariel, 1850

Edwin Landseer: Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom, 1851

Walter Jenks Morgan: A Fairy Ring, 1880

The Fairy Raid Carrying off a Changeling – Midsummer Eve, 1867, Sir Joseph Noel Paton, 1867

Richard Doyle: The Enchanted Fairy Tree, 1870

Arthur Hughes: Will o’ the Wisp

Hume Nisbet, The Fairy Falls, 1908

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Derby Day

Hi everybody. The sessions are complete, the entire show is recorded and over the next 2 weeks i will be mixing, mastering and putting the finishing touches on the project.

Since that process isn’t really newsworthy or particularly exciting to discuss (except for me, for whom it’s riveting) the blog will resume it’s regular shenanigans.

Side note: Shenanigans is pretty much the most awesome word ever except for shpielhosen and skullfuck. Not only do i use it a lot in these posts, you may be assured i will continue to use it with the same fervor. The way you’ll know i have been abducted and replaced by an inferior double is when “shenanigans” is no longer used on this blog.

I spent a great deal of down time in London going to museums and in particular i highly enjoy paintings. Here’s on that’s worth mentioning as it’s fun, and a great window into Victorian society: The Derby Day:

It was painted over 15 months by William Frith from 1856 to 1858. It captures the famous Epsom Derby, a series of horse races which occurred once a year around May or June and drew enormous crowds made up of all classes of Victorian society. The attendance is estimated at 500,000, insane even by today’s standards. It is noteable in that while for the rest of the year the various classes of British society did not mix, on Derby Day they did, something that makes it ripe for a complex painting.

The painting was a huge sensation in an age when going to see paintings was a very popular activity and the center of many a date, afternoon or evening out. An hour was the time most commonly accepted to spend looking over The Derby Day and rail had to be put up to block the painting from over enthusiastic crowds who would touch it.

The painting, Frith’s undisputed masterpiece shows an incredible cross section of characters and social situations all happening. The dress and mannerisms of each person are key, since not only is the artist telling numerous stories through simply their positions, but he is representing various caricatures and sterotypes of victorian society through clothing and physical features.

 It can be essentially divided into 3 sections.

“There are three main incidents. On the right is the young woman in the carriage, referred to by Hodgson as a ‘Traviata’, the title of Verdi’s famous opera about a courtesan, and a characteristic Victorian way of referring euphemistically to a ‘fallen woman’. She is the kept mistress of the ‘high class fop leaning against the carriage. Related to her is the woman in brown riding clothes, on the extreme left of the painting, who is one of the ‘pretty horse breakers’, high class prostitutes, who at this period daily paraded in Hyde Park on horseback. These women reflect the phenomenal blossoming of prostitution at every level in London in the middle years of Victoria’s reign, also the subject of Holman Hunt’s ‘Awakening Conscience’.

 

“In the centre, is a father/son acrobatic team. The father beckons his son to come and begin an act, but the child acrobat  who looks longingly over at a sumptuous picnic being laid out by a footman provides a poignant tableau of the social divide. Behind them are carriages filled with quite high class spectators.”

“On the far left, next to the Reform Club’s private tent, a group of men in top hats focus on the thimble-rigger with his table, inviting the audience to participate in the game. The man taking a note from his pocket is the trickster’s accomplice. He is tempting the rustic-looking man in a smock, whose wife is trying to restrain him. On the right of this group, another man, with his hands in his pockets, has had his gold watch stolen by the man behind. the focus is on the ‘thimble riggers’ who have cheated the ‘city gent’ in his top hat out of his money. On his left, a young countrywoman restrains her man from following the same foolish path.”

“The courtesan in the carriage at the picture’s far right  is balanced on the far left by the woman in a dark riding habit, one of a number of high-class prostitutes who daily paraded on horseback in Hyde Park.”

One may note that absolutely none of the people depicted are actually paying any attention to the actual races.

The painting is on display at the Tate Britain, and indeed exploring the two Tates, (Tate Modern and Tate Britian) were two of the best sections of down time i spent in London.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Voyage Of Life (Thomas Cole)

You know what? Let’s do one last Thomas Cole painting series. It’s a classic. The Voyage Of Life.

Cole actually painted the entire series twice. The first time was as a commissioned work, but Cole wasnot happy to learn the patron had no intention of publicly showing the work, so in 1842 Cole painted the series again so it could be seen by the public. If you search around you can find 2 slightly different copies of each of the painting, although they differences are not major.

We are featuring here the second set:

The Voyage Of Life: Childhood by Thomas Cole

The Voyage Of Life: Youth by Thomas Cole

 

 

The Voyage Of Life: Manhood by Thomas Cole

The Voyage Of Life: Old Age by Thomas Cole

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Course Of Empire (Thomas Cole)

Thomas Cole was an American painter who lived the first half of the 1800s. He is known for pastoral paintings of natural landscapes and was the founder of the art movement the Hudson River School. He and the movement were dedicated to landscape paintings, with a very Arcadian point of view/

Arcadia, which we will be exploring alongside Elysium in later posts, refers to an ideallic state of nature, usually before the rise of man and technology. It is Eden. It is lost and unnattainable.

Between 1833 and 1836 Thomas Cole painted a magnificent series of paintings called the Coarse Of Empire. We present them here for you today.

“There is the moral of all human tales;

‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First freedom and then Glory – when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption – barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,

Hath but one page..”  – Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

The Course of Empire 1: The Savage State

The Course of Empire 2: The Arcadian or Pastoral State

The Course of the Empire 3: The Consummation

The Course of Empire 4: Destruction

The Course of Empire 5: Desolation

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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