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The Dark Fantasy of Fransisco De Goya

The Colossus

The Colossus

The Spanish painter Fransisco de Goya lived from 1746-1828 and painted dark subject material unlike anyone else until well into the 20th century.

The interesting thing is that he was a court painter.In the 1770s he became noticed through his frescos for Cathedrals and designs for tapestries in the royal tapestry factory in Madrid. He soon became established as a portrait painter to the Spanish aristocracy, was elected to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in 1780, named painter to the king in 1786, and made a court painter in 1789.

Charles IV of Spain and His Family,

Charles IV of Spain and His Family,

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Fransisco de Goya

“A serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind. He evolved a bold, free new style close to caricature. His portraits became penetrating characterizations, revealing their subjects as Goya saw them. In his religious frescoes he employed a broad, free style and an earthy realism unprecedented in religious art.”

Fransisco de Goya

Incantation

Incantation

The violence in Europe surrounding him inspired him to a darker view of humanity. The French Revolution had given way to horrible violence and atrocity, which was followed by the rise of Napolean and his invasion of Spain. After this Spain fell into civil war, and of this upheaval was bloody and chaotic.

The Shootings of May Third 1808

The Shootings of May Third 1808

During the French occupation he painted court paintings for the French, and later, after the Spanish Civil War when the Spanish monarchy was restored, this caused some problems. He was officially pardoned, but the new king wanted no part of him and he was brought before the Inquisition because he had painted a naked woman, something not done in Spain at that time.

Clothed Maya

Clothed Maya

Naked Maya, the first painting in all of western art where a woman has public hair

Naked Maya, the first painting in all of western art where a woman has public hair

Tribunal of the Inquisition

Tribunal of the Inquisition

De Goya lived in seclusion from then on and his paintings went even darker and more fantastic.

Saturn devouring His Sons

Saturn devouring His Sons

Witches In The Air

Witches In The Air

The Witches Sabbath

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The Plague Hospital

Yard With Lunatics

Yard With Lunatics

In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there on April 16, 1828.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and Other Gorgeousness From Sargent

This is one of my favorite paintings.

I discovered it whilst perusing the Tate in London during one of the recording sessions for the Steampunk Opera. it is by John Sargent who we shall feature today.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Sargent

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Sargent

Painted in 1886, this painting took a year to paint since Sargent was determined to capture the exact light of just after dusk and thus could only paint for 20 minutes a day. He had two girls as models and would set up the exact scene every day, paint for 20 minutes when the light was just right, then fold it up and resume the following day.

The name, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is after a hit song from 1885.

Sargent became the most celebrated portrait painter of his day, but since i don’t like portrait paintings, i’m not going to feature them here. Instead, i present some other highlights of his career:

El Jaleo:

El Jaleo by John Sargent, 1882

El Jaleo by John Sargent, 1882

El Jaleo is a shout (eLAYoh!) that comes at the height of some spanish dances like this one. Think “oLAY!”

Venetian Interior:

Venetian Interior by John Sargent 1882

Venetian Interior by John Sargent 1882

 

Gondolier’s Siesta:

Gondolier's Siesta by John Sargent, 1905

Gondolier’s Siesta by John Sargent, 1905

 

An amazingly striking painting, Sargent’s reaction to the horror of WWI. Gassed:

Gassed by John Sargent, 1918

Gassed by John Sargent, 1918

 

Venice In Grey Weather:

Venice In Grey Weather by John Sargent, 1882

Venice In Grey Weather by John Sargent, 1882

Muddy Alligators:

Muddy Alligators by John Sargent, 1917

Muddy Alligators by John Sargent, 1917

 

Moraine:

Moraine by John Sargent, 1908

Moraine by John Sargent, 1908

Brenva Glacier:

Brenva Glacier by John Sargent, 1909

Brenva Glacier by John Sargent, 1909

The Chess Game:

The Chess Game by John Sargent, 1907

The Chess Game by John Sargent, 1907

Statue of Perseus By Night:

Statue of Perseus by Night by John Sargent, 1902

Statue of Perseus by Night by John Sargent, 1902

 

A Tyrolese Crucifix

A Tyrolese Crucifix by John Sargent 1915

A Tyrolese Crucifix by John Sargent 1915

 

Seascape:

Seascape by John Sargent, 1875

Seascape by John Sargent, 1875

 

In case you’re wondering where all the paintings from the 1890s are, that’s when Sargent made all his money doing portraits. TONS of portraits. He does have some nice impressionist work from that decade, but you can look that up your own. Til tomorrow…

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Descent Into The Underworld

We all know i’m writing a Dieselpunk Opera so there’s no point being coy about it. We all know i won’t actually begin making music for some time (months) but in my spare time i work out the stories (although as i already have 2 out of 3 it’s going a bit faster then i expected) and ideas for the music. So ideas and tangents it leads me on are fair game for this blog.

The most interesting tangent i have run across required me to refresh myself on Inanna, a Sumerian goddess who descends into the underworld and which is a favorite myth of mine. It prefigures most other known myths and certainly all other underworld descent myths. The progression of the meme from the Sumerian Inanna to the Babylonian Ishtar,  the Greek Orpheus, the Norse Baldar, the Welsh Pwyll, the Hindu Sāvitrī, to up to andf including the Christian Jesus is fascinating. Mythological memes are beautiful to behold make their way through the viral legends of history.

Thus today, i’m going to touch upon this subject visually only and feature some great works of art depicting the various Greatest Descent Into The Underworld Hits of all time.

There wasn’t even painting yet when Inanna descended to the Underworld to either rescue a sister, brother or attend a funeral.

Ishtar IS Inanna, just changed slightly as Babylonian culture became dominant. the stories are almost identical.

Orpheus is of course the most famous, descending into the underworld to rescue his dead love Persephone.

Orpheus in the underworld, Jan Brueghel the Elder 1594

Later, the Romans reworked the Persephone story and had Zeus, at her mother Demeter’s request send Hermes to the Underworld and successfully rescue Persephone.

The Return of Persephone, Frederick Leighton

Heracles (Hercules) also went to the Underworld, but unlike almost everybody else who did it to rescue a lost loved one, he did it just to kick the giant dog gaurdian’s ass, prove he was a bad ass and cross it off his bucket list  12th labor as part of his sentence for being driven mad by Hera and killing his wife and children.

The Twelve Labors of Heracles, The Capture of Cerberus, Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

Hermod (Hermóðr) went to the Underworld to bargain for the return of Baldur, who was killed by Loki and whose death would begin the chain leading to Ragnorak, the last battle of the gods.

Hermod pays respects to Hela

Pwyll became surrogate Lord of Anwyn for a year and a day. Now technically Anwyn is OTHERwordly as opposed to UNDERworldly, but it is, or at least became synonymous with a land of the dead. While this became even more pronounced when Christianity showed up, Anwyn as an otherworldly place of souls was already well in place so it counts.

A fantastic painting of an Underworld rescue by Jeff Pellas, of all things my old college roomate during the year and a half i actually went to college:

“Untitled” (Intaglio) by Jeff Pellas

And of course, we would be criminally amiss not to include history’s current most popular visit to the Underworld:

The Descent into Hell, Jacopo Tintoretto

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Italian Futurism

As we here at The Steampunk Opera blog are interested in all aspects of the past imagining the future, the time has come to turn our wayward attention to the early 20th century art movement that named itself after the very future itself, Futurism!

Materia by Umberto Boccioni, 1912

Futurism began in Italy in 1909. It was an attempt to throw off the confines of the Victorian era, to embrace change, the future, the power of industry, acceleration, the thrill of speed, the challeng and excitement of conflict and the glory of war. It saw a tumultuous, fast changing, industrial future and wished to embrace it with great aggression. It wanted the young, the strong to celebrate humanity’s triumph of technology over nature.

In 1909 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published the Futurist Manifesto. I believe there is evidence that during the 19th to mid 20th century no one so much as redecorated their wardrobe without releasing a manifesto to announce the philosophy behind their intentions. In any case, the Futurist Manifesto attracted both attention and followers and the Futurist movement was born.

Speeding Automobile by Giacomo Balla, 1912

Here are some highlights of the Manifesto:

MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM

1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.

2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.

3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggresive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.

4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.

9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.

10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.

Number 9 is of course very interesting and we will touch upon their intense patriotism and love of violence and war in just a second.

Funeral of the Anarchist Galli by Carlo Carrà, 1911

From an artistic standpoint they embraced ” universal dynamism”. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings. How to best represent this was debated and they attempted paintings in a Divisionist style. Divisionism is a method you probably know through the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat, in which the entire painting is made up of dots of color which the eye puts together into a picture.

However this style was several decades old by this point, hardly a method of the future and the Futurists were derided by some as backwards. Hence, one of their leading painters, Gino Severini headed off to Paris, the mecca of the avante garde art world to see what was up. He discovered Cubism and thus the Futurist love of Cubism was born.

The Galleria in Milan by Carlo Carrà, 1912

The movement became enormously vibrant, not only in painting but in sculpture, architecture and even music. They were serious about changing perception and developing utterly modern forms with no ties to the past. In music they threw off the shackles of tradition harmony, chords and instrumentation. One technique they embraced was imitating the sound of machines and industry as part of music, foreshadowing not only Industrial music, Stockhausen and John Cage, but also certainly A Steampunk Opera. We’ll touch upon architecture in a later post.

Their influence and obsession extended across Europe and into America. Russia had its own particular Russian Futurism, an offshoot based on a mistranslation who disavowed all connection with Italian futurism’s founder Marinetti and which we’ll get into tomorrow.

By 1914 the Futurists got even more political They openly embraced violence and were extremely patriotic. They began campaigning heavily for and against certain politicians and paritcularly against the Austria Hungarian Empire. They championed war and when it came they were delighted. Most futurists enlisted immediately and marched happily into World War I.

They all died of course and there was the end of the first wave of Italian Futurism.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Narrative Painting: The Awakening Conscience

Among the lush and gorgeous Victorian art movement known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were artists who not only painted narrative paintings, that is paintings that tell a complex situation in their details, but more so and more novelly, did so using original scenes.

In other words, painting a scene in which by examining the details one can work out an entire narrative was nothing knew. But these scenes were always well known events. In Victorian times these events were obsessively biblical. You can find hundreds of detailed scenes on biblical events. But William Holman Hunt, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who as a group stressed a return to abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions started doing something even more daring, he painted scenes with narrative that he just made up himself.

Non-biblical scenes! Making up your own stories! Bolderash! Preposterous! Poppycock! What kind of arrogant bastard would make up his own situations instead using classical, biblical or even major current events? Theodore Gericualt, the reknowned French painter who had died shortly before the birth of the Pre-Raphalites made detailed narrative paintings based on current events, pretty novel, but at least he humbly chose important national situations, not made up ones. What cheek!

So you get the idea. In any case, what we really care about examining here is how Holman gets across an incredibly detailed situation in a single painted. As our first illustration of this we shall turn to one of his msot famous works, The Awakening Conscience. (Note, this last time i was in London i was strolling through the Tate Britain when i stumbled across this guide leading a small tour and talking at length about certain paintings. I turned off my ipod and followed them. This woman leading the group was AWEsome to listen to. She discussed some of these very paintings and i was utterly transfixed by the stuff she pointed out. I mention it lest you think i’m smart or cultured enough to figure out this stuff on my own. I wish i knew her name cause i’d tell you to take one of her painting tours if you’re ever in London.)

The Awakening Conscience

The Awakening Conscience, William Holman Hunt, 1853

So what’s happening here?

This woman is the man’s mistress, a kept woman with no money of her own. He is using her for hanky panky, has no intention of ever marrying her, and she is utterly dependent upon him and when he tosses her aside, as he absolutely will, she will likely end up an alcoholic prostitute. Basically she is like Fontaine in Les Miserables just before she is pregnant and tossed aside by her callous, deflowering lover. However, unlike Fontaine, this woman is having a spiritual epiphany right this moment, one that is likely to cause her to change her life, her situation, certainly get rid of this bum, and live a virtuous life.

We know all this because the details in the painting tell us all this and more. Let me demonstrate:

She has rings on all her fingers except the ring finger. So she’s unmarried, sitting on this guy’s lap AND wearing a sleeping gown. The hat on the table says the man is a visitor and not a permanent resident.This makes the young woman clearly the man’s mistress, not a young maiden he’s courting for marriage.

The objects around them fill everything in. The cat is toying with a bird and both are in a the same perspective as the woman and the guy. This signifies the man is toying with the woman with the same callow disregard. However, just like woman,  the cat’s been distracted by something (probably the young woman standing up so abruptly), and the bird has a chance to escape.

A tapestry hangs unfinished on the piano, the threads of which lie unravelled on the floor; also lying discarded on the floor is a musical arrangement of Tennyson’s poem “Tears, Idle Tears”; on teh piano is the sheet music for a well known song at the time, Thomas Moore’s Stilly Night”, the lyrics of which speak of missed opportunities and sad memories of a happier past. A soiled, discarded white glove on the floor symbolizes the woman’s fate if she stays with her lover. The picture on the wall shows the biblical story of the women taken into adultery. A the print of Frank Stones’s Cross Purposes on the wall.

Many of these details clearly would not be recognizable to a modern audience but would be obvious to  a victorian one. Here is an especially poignant one: “The room is too cluttered and gaudy to be in a Victorian family home; the bright colours, unscuffed carpet, and pristine, highly-polished furniture speak of a room recently furnished for a mistress. Art historian Elizabeth Prettejohn notes that although the interior is now viewed as “Victorian” it still exudes the “‘nouveau-riche’ vulgarity” that would have made the setting distasteful to contemporary viewers.[1] The painting’s frame is decorated with further symbols: bells (for warning), marigolds (for sorrow), and a star above the girl’s head (a sign of spiritual revelation).”

However, the woman is rising. Literally rising. The centerpiece of the entire painting is actually not the woman, it’s something beyond the room, beyond the woman, beyond the situation, it’s a shining light of natural beauty,and nature to the Pre-Raphaelites symbolizes morality and truth.The natural world, in all its splendor, is calling to the young woman with an offer of redemption. Plus, the painting is called, you know, The Awakening Conscience. So there’s that clue too.

And here’s a killer detail:  The model for the image of the young lady? Well, it was actually Holman Hunt’s own mistress, Annie Miller. Hunt was trying to convince Miller to leave behind her life as a mistress, and reform herself into a good woman of society he could marry with dignity. She never did take to this idea of becoming his Good Wife and they eventually broke up.

Well! To tell you the truth, when i started this post i was going to run down and analyse  several paintings but this post has actually reached what i consider to be an optimum maximum length. Longer than this and i feel the post becomes too much. This is the internet after all. I want you to be able to get your bite sized morsel and carry on. So let’s do this again one day, shall we?

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Twilight Paintings (and douche)

And by twilight paintings is do NOT mean paintings of ******* Edward whatshisname the douchey, twinkly vampire. I would shoot myself in the ***** first. No, only slightly less douchey, today we feature paintings of twilight.

Now i know what you’re saying. “Paul, for someone who’s taking the piss out of Twilight for being douchey and admittedly a). it is b). I LOVE Twilight and you suck (although it’s still pretty douchey i just love it anyway) your idea for a post today is preeeetty damn douchey. Paintings of twilight? Dude, that’s douchey.”

Yes, i admit the douche potential is strong with this one, BUT… but but but it’s all in the execution. I lay out my case as follows:

Cool:

Twilight Venice 1908, Monet

Douchey:

Twilight fucking Eve

See? Douchey is a CHOICE.  It’s not like being gay. Being gay means you want to have sex with other women/men but it is your choice if you have sex with DOUCHEY women or men.

Evening Twilight at Acapulco, Diego Rivera 1956

Oh yeah? Well I’VE never had sex with a douchey partner. All my partners are hot and killer.” In that case, i hate to say it, but YOU are their douchey partner.

Twilight, Gwendolyn Kerber

“Oh so YOU’VE never been someone’s douchey partner?”

Twilight Up North, Bonnie Mincu

Let’s see…. i’ve been the dirtbag partner, the dumbass partner, the dy-no-MIIIIITE partner… the dickhead, the the daring, the dashing, the dork… no…. nope, not the douche. Okay, maybe a time or two way back.

Twilight in New Orleans, Diane Millsap

The doucheBAG partner… yeah, defintiely the doucheBAG. But that is NOT technically the same at all.

Twilight Visions, Lena

Do women even douche at all anymore? Didn’t that, like, die out in the 70s? Damn, the crap women have had to put with.

Twilight Landscape, Theodore Rousseau 1850

Look, the point is this, twilight is the bestest time of the entire day. THE BEST. PERIOD. It’s awesome. It is NOT douchey.

Twilight Summoning, Richard Hescox

Yes, okay, i realize these pics are gorgeous and it’s better if i don’t talk.

Twilight Time, Maya Green

Twilight Repose, Yoram Raanan

Twilight Fantasy, Edward Robert Hughes

Twilight in the Wilderness, Frederic Edwin Church

Twilight zone over bas strait

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Mad Fairy Painter: Richard Dadd

As long as we’re on the subject of slightly unhinged creative types, i present to you now a famous Victorian painter known for his faerie and other supernatural themed paintings: Richard Dadd.

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

Richard Dadd was born in 1817 and recognized for his talent at an early age. He was admitted into the Royal Academy of Arts at age 20.

Where it gets interesting is when was 25. The former mayor of Newport, Sir Thomas Phillips asked Dadd to accompany him as his draftsman on an expedition through Europe to the Middle East and Egypt. They left in July of 1842 and as the months passed the long journey grew more and more grueling.

The Flight Out Of Egypt, Richard Dadd, 1850

At the end of December, while boating up the Nile, Dadd snapped. He became delusional and increasingly violent, and believed himself to be under the influence of the Egyptian god Osiris. Then again, who hasn’t? I have some pretty out there stories from a couple times when i was tri…. ah never mind, let’s keep going.

Titania Sleeping, Richard Dadd, 1841

When Dadd returned home in the spring of 1843 he was declared to be of unsound mind and taken to the pretty little village of Cobham, Kent to chill out and recuperate.  Which didn’t quite work. In August Dadd became convinced that his father was the Devil in disguise (and once again, who hasn’t?) and stabbed his father to death with a knife.

Sketch Of An Idea For Crazy Jane, Richard Dadd, 1855

He fled to Paris. He made it to France but before actually getting to Paris he tried to kill a tourist with a razor (and admit it, maybe you haven’t but you’ve sure wanted to), was apprehended and sent back to England where he was committed to the psychiatric institute we all know as Bedlam. (The actual name is however Bethlem).

Come Unto These Yellow Sands, Richard Dadd

He remained institutionalized for the next 40 years until his death in 1888,  but was allowed to paint. In fact, most of the paintings for which he’s known were painted while committed.

Bacchanalian Scene, Richard Dadd, 1862

Contradiction: Oberon and Titania, Richard Dadd, 1858

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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