Since it’s the last day of May and emerald birthstones, have some emerald art by Erte. He certainly seems to have been taken by this gem!
Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
“The fact is that genius and madness are intertwined functions of the brain. A work of art is the result of two mental processes and his illness: acquiring the visual impression and elaboration of the latter to transform it into a work of art.” Felisati and Sperati
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes and Vincent van Gogh were born on the same day over a century apart. Both men are renowned for the expressiveness of their work and the hint of madness that at times seemed to fuel it.
Mostly sneaking back by to give a brief shout out to a kickstarter. I’d spoken about it on here before and it didn’t run, this time its going and they’re at reach goals now.
The project is called Losing Altitude. It’s a collaborative art book featuring threatened and endangered bird species from allover the world, illustrated by over fifty artists, also from all over the world. Arras, who is spearheading this, will be researching each species, so this should be an awesome mix of art and information. I’m excited to be getting my copy next year!
I don’t have the requisite illustrative skills, so I’m contributing some key and tree pendants towards the kickstarter incentives.
A friend sent me a link to a bird nest pendant tutorial. I’ve seen plenty of the pendants, and make enough other styles, but most of the rings I’d seen involved a wire nest glued to a base. Since I don’t have the setup for soldering I decided to try to make the nest and ring from the same wire. It’s a bit bulky, I found the thickness of wire that makes a stronger ring shank makes for a large nest, but as said, work in progress.
And now for gratuitous Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
As I’ve confessed before, William Blake tends to wax a bit too metaphysical for me. I do appreciate their very visual nature. After all, who reads The Tyger without fantastic images filling their mind?
Even if it’s the images of others and not his own that come to mind first!
I think perhaps one of the Flemish floral still life paintings would suit this poem more than his own illustration.
I suppose they are big, enveloping pieces too large for a small poem, but the textures and fine details seem to fit it better.
Take his poem,
“The Sick Rose”
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
In the case of still life painting during the Northern Renaissance they might even have shared a certain metaphysical/metaphorical point of view.
Flowers in still life painting were popular because they were a way to show off detail, and also the wealth of the individual. Often the flowers were rare, a tulip bulb could cost more than a painting!
The most expensive bloom was normally placed at the top of the bouquet. In the painting to the right it is a Semper Augustus tulip, the most expensive bulb of its time. According to some records it was worth 100x the average working man’s yearly salary! Its unique pattern was caused by a particular form of mosaic virus, so the only way to get it was in offsets of the original bulb. It no longer exists.
Sometimes they would be collections of flowers from different continents, or that bloomed at different times of the year. An artist might use a reference book for the flowers and/or insects-something similar to what Maria Sibylla Merian would be creating a century or so later.
Besides being prestigious, they could also act as a subtle vanitas painting- after all, flowers very beautiful but don’t live very long!
On a tour the guide told us that in some of the paintings the flowers are slightly overblown and that the insects were symbols of the coming decay. So there was a hint of mortality about overindulgence tucked into some of the paintings.
The worm at the heart of the rose, if you will.
Seuss was one of the pseudonyms of Theodore Seuss Geisel.
He’d started using it in college when he’d gotten caught drinking (breaking Prohibition) and was forced to quit editing the college humor magazine. He also used L. Pasteur and D. G. Rossetti. (Makes you wonder if the teachers weren’t paying attention or were turning a blind eye…)
When he graduated and started doing cartoons for magazines he signed his work Dr. Theophrastus Seuss. A year later he shortened it to Dr. Seuss. He tried to make a name for himself as a cartoonist and sort of fell into advertising, which became his career.
Before World War II he wrote a piece that became his first children’s book:And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
During the war he concentrated on political cartoons and doing propaganda and training animations for the military. His work was very supportive of Roosevelt’s handling of the war and went on the offensive against those who criticized Roosevelt back home. (Interestingly, he did cartoons about how racism against the Jews and African Americans was damaging and how it hurt the war effort, yet in his cartoons he treated all Japanese Americans as traitors. The dedicated one of his later books to a Japanese friend. Complicated man.)
After the war he returned to writing children’s books. Why children’s books? His story was that it was the only type of writing that his advertising contracts didn’t forbid. Biographers wonder at the timing-his first book was written the year his wife found out that she couldn’t have children.
The Cat in the Hat was the result of a challenge from Ellsworth Spaulding, director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin.
Spaulding had read a report on illiteracy among schoolchildren which concluded that they didn’t like learning to read because it was boring. Geisel seemed like the right man to change that. Spaulding came up with a list of what he thought were the most important words for first graders to know and narrowed it down to the 250 words, which he gave Geisel.
Nine months later Geisel gave him The Cat in the Hat, using 236 of those words.
It was an enormous hit, and its success inspired Geisel and his wife to start Beginner Books, a division of Random House. (Besides his own work, they published the Berenstain Bears and my childhood favorites, the P.D. Eastman books.)
Green Eggs and Ham came from another bet-write a book using only 50 different works.
He wrote these beginner books with their limited palette of words, as well as continuing to write books with a point. The Lorax dealing with environmental destruction (as he put it-it’s anti-pollution and anti-greed-it’s a powerful book, still challenged in some places and banned in others) and the Butter Battle Book dealing with the terrifying ridiculousness of the nuclear arms race.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go was Geisel’s last book, written in 1990. And left it with good parting advice.
“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”