Blackpaint 241


Van Gogh

Interesting to read in the Taschen VG the symbolism of his painting of April 1885 of the Bible and Zola’s “Joie de Vivre”, which he called “Still Life with Bible”.  The bible represents his father (solidity, authority, religion) and the dead candle signifies his recent demise.  The Zola volume is VG himself.  Zola’s story asserts the value of life and the life force in the face of sufferings, whilst the bible is open at Isaiah 53, which exalts those who suffer.  This sort of reading is more familiar to those who have read the Hagens’ interpretations of Renaissance paintings, which abound with symbolism, but it can still be used with more modern artists. I don’t have Van Gogh’s complete Letters, but my selected Letters doesn’t include such an analysis by VG himself – I imagine that it is the (plausible) effort of the authors, Walther and Metzger.

Veneziano

In the Uffizi guide, the Santa Lucia dei Magnoli Altarpiece.  That green and rose pink background remind me of Fra Angelico (Man of Sorrows) and maybe Duccio.  The really memorable aspect, however, is the rough, vigorous peasant face of John the Baptist, staring out at the viewer.  Nobody in the picture – two other saints and the Virgin and Child – is looking at anybody else; it’s like a room full of statues (the flesh tones on the V and C are pretty stone-coloured too).  Oddly, it seems to increase the picture’s power, in the same way that della Francesca’s figures sometimes do.

Altdorfer

Still perusing the Uffizi guide and Altdorfer’s “the Martyrdom of St. Florian” strikes me.  Florian, with a massive white millstone chained to his neck, kneeling on the rough logs of a pier or bridge with a great throng of people behind him.  Several of them look surprisingly solicitous, taking his cloak, gesturing towards the water, as if assuring him that its not too cold.  Florian looks unpersuaded.  Things are not looking good for him.

Leonardo

His early painting (c.1480) of St. Hieronymus contains the first really credible picture of a lion that I have seen in the early Renaissance.  Durer’s efforts, for instance, seem to me to flounder when it comes to the eyes; his lions have human eyes, if somewhat large.  The Hieronymus lion, although unfinished, has the unmistakable profile of a genuine African male.

Quiz

In the Sickert picture “Ennui”, what is the old boy at the table doing?

Listening to Martin Carthy, “Newlyn Town”:

“I robbed Lord Golding, I do declare,

And Lady Mansfield in Grosvenor Square;

I shut the shutters and bid them goodnight,

And home I took my loot,

And home I took my loot to my heart’s delight…”

Blackpaint

10.01.10

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