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Posts Tagged ‘William Blake’

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“I have been prostrated these two or three days back by my first acquaintance with Tintoretto; but then I feel as if I had got introduced to a being from a planet a 1,000,000 miles nearer the sun, not a mere earthly painter”

–John Ruskin, letter to Joseph Severn, 1843

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While in Alexandria area for my opening, we shot over the Potomac into DC for a quick visit to the National Gallery of Art. It’s always a great pleasure to wander through the marvelous collection plus this year there was the first retrospective exhibition ever staged in America of the paintings of Tintoretto, the great Venetian Renaissance painter.

Tintoretto–Self Portrait ca 1588

Now, to be honest here, I went in not knowing a lot about Tintoretto so I wasn’t overly excited. Oh, I like a number of paintings from many Renaissance painters– particularly Titian, Raphael and my favorite, Bellini. But sometimes the repetitive nature of the religious subjects of much of the work from that era overwhelms my sorrowfully short attention span. I sometimes find myself becoming bored in a gallery full of exquisitely painted panels.

But as I walked into the first gallery for this extensive exhibit, the painting at the top of this post, Spring, was the first thing to greet my eye from a distance as I stood in the doorway. I was instantly captivated. It felt out of time, as though it could be a piece from any point in known art history, its composition seeming so bold and modern. Just spectacular.

A wonderful intro to a great exhibition.

Walking through the galleries as they progressed through the stages of Tintoretto’s remarkable career, I was struck by both the size and scale along with the changes in the progression of his work. In may pieces you could see influences that would be carried forward by the generations of artists that followed him. For example, looking at the first painting below, The Creation of the Animals,I can’t help but think that William Blake references Tintoretto in some of his best known paintings.

Most of the work was very large, best suited for spaces in huge churches or palaces. The second image below, The Virgin Mary Reading, is probably anywhere from 15 to 20 feet in height and was installed opposing another piece of the same size. It had a real wow factor walking into the space. They also did a fantastic job in hanging the whole show, with long views through the many entrances framing large eye-catching works in the next gallery that pulled you along. Each gallery had its own unique feel and strength. Each gallery in itself would be a great show in many museums.

The way I often judge a museum exhibit is how small I feel as an artist coming out of it. By that standard, this was a magnificent exhibit. I understand a bit more how John Ruskin must have felt when he wrote the lines at the top of this post. But conversely, as small as it made me feel, it also made me want to be better, to strive further, to make the most of my own meager talents.

And that also makes it a great show.

If you’re in DC before July 7th, when the exhibit ends, try to make it into the National Gallery to see for yourself. It’s just plain good stuff that you may not see again here in the Americas in your lifetime.

Tintoretto- The Creation of the Animals

Tintoretto–The Virgin Mary Reading

Tintoretto- Paradiso

Tintoretto- The Conversion of St. Paul

 

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The moon, like a flower

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.

—William Blake

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Finished this new painting just the other day. It’s a very quiet, almost meditative piece that I am calling Moon Flowers.

It’s a piece that I find myself looking at a lot these past couple of days. While it is simply constructed, there are some there things taking place in it that keep my eye occupied. The relationships between the beds of flowers, for example, with their individual color vibrations and shapes. Or the relationship between the moon and the path below. There seems to be a connection between the two.

These relationships and the organic quality of the lines within it give it an abstract quality that I like very much. If I just let my mind go where it desires, it allows me to move beyond what seems to be represented and see something quite different.

Or rather, feel something quite different.

And ultimately, that is what I hope for in my work– to move the viewer beyond the representation of the image presented. How that’s done, I do not know. Maybe the answer is somewhere on that path under that moon. Maybe that is what I am seeing in this picture that is pulling me in.

Only time will tell.

So, for this Sunday morning music let’s go with a piece with an apt title, Moonflower, the title track of a 1977 album from the great Carlos Santana. Hard to believe this piece is over forty years old now. Time!

Have a great day.

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Blake

William Blake- The Ancient of Days ca 1821

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If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite.

William Blake 

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On yet another gloomy morning in what seems to be an endless parade of gray and rainy days, the only infinite this morning I am seeing is infinite dreariness. On a morning like this, a few pieces from William Blake seem like the right choice to ponder.

The work of British poet/printmaker/painter William Blake (1757-1827) seems drastically different from the work of his contemporaries in the early 19th century. It went beyond representation and dealt with a metaphysical reality/unreality with which most artists of the time were not dealing. Much of his work deals with a complex mythology revolving around Urizen, a godlike figure representing reason and law.  He is shown in the famous image shown at the top of this post and in the first below.

To be honest, I can only pretend to understand his work at the most basic level. But his visual work and his writings have a definite attraction for me.  It remains vital and interesting work, forever tinged with the mystery of the ages.

And that mystery is something to ponder, especially on a dreary, rainy morning.

Maybe this rain is attempting to cleanse those doors of perception?

I’ll let you know if anything shows up…

Urizen Worshipping Before the World He Has Forged

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The Chamber Idyll 1831 Edward Calvert 1799-1883

Edward Calvert The Chamber Idyll 1831

Edward Calvert was a British artist born in 1799 .  He was trained in the Royal Academy as a painter and had a distinguished career as traditional painter of his era.  But in his early years, he also learned wood and copper engraving as a member of a group of artists who were followers of visionary artist and poet William Blake.  They called themselves The Ancients.

It was during this time that Calvert created a series of prints from his engravings that are considered visionary masterpieces.  I know that when I look at them they seem to be out of time and almost modern in feel, certainly not something you would expect to see from Britain in the 1820’s.  His last engraving from this time was The Chamber Idyll, shown at the top, finished in 1831.  It is considered his masterpiece and would be the last print he ever did, abandoning printmaking altogether to pursue his career as a painter.

He didn’t carry the visionary feel of his early print work into his paintings, choosing to work in the traditional style of the time.  While he had a long career as a painter, his painted work is not considered in the nearly the same regard as his prints which are considered to be some of the most important British prints made. I think they are pretty wonderful and  find myself just staring at them, taking in each composition’s  design and use of space within the picture.  Just beautiful…

The Sheep of his Pasture circa 1828 Edward Calvert

Edward_Calvert_-_The_Ploughman_

Edward Calvert- The Ploughman 1827

Edward Calvert The Brook 1829

Edward Calvert -The Lady and the Rooks 1829

Edward Calvert -The Flood 1829

Edward Calvert -The Cyder Feast 1828

Edward Calvert -The Bride 1828

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