As If in The Act of Blessing

«…Dürer portrayed himself as the Christus. Robert often fantasized and photographed himself as the Christus.»

Jack Fritscher
Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

 

Portrait of Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1986

 

Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar, Albrecht Dürer, 1500  

 

Painted early in 1500, just before his 29th birthday, it is the last of his three painted self-portraits. It is considered the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits, and the one that has become fixed in the popular imagination. The self-portrait is most remarkable because of its resemblance to many earlier representations of Christ. Art historians note the similarities with the conventions of religious painting, including its symmetry, dark tones and the manner in which the artist directly confronts the viewer and raises his hands to the middle of his chest as if in the act of blessing.

 

Blessing Christ, Hans Memling, circa 1433–1494  

 

Dürer chooses to present himself monumentally, in a style that unmistakably recalls depictions of Christ—the implications of which have been debated among art critics. A conservative interpretation suggests that he is responding to the tradition of the Imitation of Christ. A more controversial view reads the painting is a proclamation of the artist’s supreme role as creator. This latter view is supported by the painting’s Latin inscription, composed by Celtes’ personal secretary, which translates as; “I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in appropriate [or everlasting] colours aged twenty-eight years”.

Ode on Melancholy

Melencholia I, Albrecht Dürer, 1514

 

NO, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 25
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

John Keats

 

Ode on Melancholy is one of five odes composed by John Keats in the spring of 1819, along with Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Indolence, and Ode to Psyche. The narrative of the poem describes the poet’s perception of melancholy through a lyric discourse between the poet and the reader, along with the introduction to Ancient Grecian characters and ideals.

While studying at Enfield, Keats attempted to gain a knowledge of Grecian art from translations of Tooke’s Pantheon, Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and Spence’s Polymetis. Although Keats attempted to learn Ancient Greek, the majority of his understanding of Grecian mythology came from the translations into English. Ode on Melancholy contains references to classical themes, characters, and places such as Psyche, Lethe, and Prosperine in its description of melancholy, as allusions to Grecian art and literature were common among the “five great odes”.

The First Sodomite

Der Tod des Orpheus,(The Death of Orpheus), Ferraresischer Meister, 1470 -1490

 
 

Der Tod des Orpheus, Albrecht Dürer, 1494

 
 

In this Albrecht Dürer‘s 1494 drawing, the banner hung in the tree reads: Orfeus der erst puseran (“Orpheus, the first sodomite”). The word puseran(t) derives from the Italian “buggerone”, which in its turn derives from Latin “bulgarus” from which come also the terms “bugger” in English and “bougre” in French. Though the drawing could be taken as a Northern European reaction to sodomy, it is actually based on an original, now lost, by the Florentine Italian master Andrea Mantegna.

Greek mythological figure, the son of the muse Calliope, noted for his magical art in music and poetry. Whether Orpheus was a historical personality is disputed, but if so he lived in the generation before the Trojan War, therefore in the thirteenth century B.C. Orpheus in Antiquity. A number of important aspects of the career of Orpheus are recounted by ancient Greek writers. Of Thracian origin, Orpheus possessed musical skill that could enchant animals and plants and cause them to do his will. Trees would transplant themselves for him, while birds and even fish gathered to hear his song. As a member of the expedition of the Argonauts, he beat time for the rowers and stilled harsh winds.

When his wife Eurydice died of the bite of a poisonous snake and was taken to Hades, Orpheus obtained her release by giving a concert for the ruler of the Underworld. Warned not to look at Euridice on the trip home, Orpheus yielded to temptation and lost her forever. Orpheus then gathered around him a group of Thracian young men, to whom he introduced the new practice of pederasty. Greek vase paintings show this ephebic entourage enchanted by the splendors of his song. Yet Orpheus’ influence provoked resentment among the forsaken female companions of his new lovers. The women-sometimes identified with the maenads of the Dionysiac cult-ganged up on him, attacking the musician with spears, axes, and stones. Orpheus was dismembered, his head separated from the rest. Eventually the head floated away, still singing, together with his lyre. Orpheus’ head washed ashore on the island of Lesbos, where it received the honor of a shrine. The shrine could still be visited in ancient times, and reputedly the head might be heard faintly singing. Some scribes claimed to have taken down the words, which then presumably provided the texts for the Orphic hymns. Around these hymns developed a religious cult, Orphism, whose role and significance are still the object of debate by historians. Most images of Orpheus in Greek and Roman art are either representative depictions of him as singer or dramatic scenes of his later career-his leadership of the male band in Thrace, his death, and the survival of the head. These last events were important to the Greeks not only because they laid the foundation for his influence after death, but because he was regarded as the inventor of pederasty. Although he was not the only candidate for this honor, his nomination reflects the Greek penchant for attributing significant cultural achievements to particular individuals. The Eurydice episode, which in modern consciousness has become virtually synonymous with Orpheus, was less important to the Greeks, and may even be a later grafting onto the earlier torso of legend.

The Apple Orchard

Adam and Eve, Albrecht Dürer, 1504

 

“Come just after the sun has gone down, watch
This deepening of green in the evening sward:
Is it not as if we’d long since garnered
And stored within ourselves a something which

From feeling and from feeling recollected,
From new hope and half-forgotten joys
And from an inner dark infused with these,
Issues in thoughts as ripe as windfalls scattered

Under trees here like trees in a Dürer woodcut –
Pendent, pruned, the husbandry of years
Gravid in them until the fruit appears –
Ready to serve, replete with patience, rooted

In the knowledge that no matter how above
Measure or expectation, all must be
Harvested and yielded, when a long life willingly
Cleaves to what’s willed and grows in quiet resolve.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Metamorphosis of My Guardian Angel

Metamorfosis de mi ángel guardian (Metamorphosis of My Guardian Angel), by Cheiro (my former pseudonym or “incarnation”), 1998. This mixed media drawing, made in one night (while I was drinking a bottle of Chilean wine) was inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Salvador Dalí and Dürer

 
 

Wing of a Blue Roller, Albretch Dürer, 1512

 
 

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dalí, c.1937

 
 

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Salvador Dalí, 1946

A Miraculous Part of the Natural World

Stag Beetle, Albrecht Dürer, 1505

 
 

“It is indeed true,” wrote Albrecht Dürer, “that art is omnipresent in nature, and the true artist is he who can bring it out.” The Stag Beetle is one of Dürer’s most influential and most copied nature studies.

 
 

Stag Beetle, Hans Hoffmann after Albrecht Dürer, 1574

 
 

Georg Hoefnagel appropriate the Stag Beetle on not fewer than three occasions. Archetype studiaque patris Georgii Hoefnagelii shows close-up portraits of plants, insects, and small animals. It initiated at the time of its publishing in 1592 (Frankfurt) an immediate admiration of the art and nature lovers. The designs were created by Georg Hoefnagel and engraved by his son, Jacob who was said to be 17-years old at the time of the publishing (in reality he was 19-years old).

 
 

Singling out a beetle as the focal point of a work of art was unprecedented in 1505, when most of Dürer’s contemporaries believed that insects were the lowest of creatures. Dürer’s keen interest in nature, however, was a typical manifestation of the Renaissance. This beetle, rendered with such care and respect, seems almost heroic as he looms above the page.

Seen up close, the creature’s legs and spiky mandibles suggest its kinship to imaginary beasts in late Gothic depictions of Hell or the temptation of Saint Anthony Abbott.

 
 

Madonna and Child with a Multitude of Animals, Albrecht Dürer, 1503

 
 
Landscape with the Virgin and child seated at centre, several animals in foreground (e.g. dog, beetle, slug, butterfly, dragonfly, fox on a leash, frog, owl in tree trunk, spider crab), an angel addressing a group of shepherds in background at right, a bay with a city in background at left

In antiquity, insects had been included in trompe l’oeil and memento mori paintings to demonstrate technical virtuosity and as symbols of evil and death, while butterflies represented transformation and resurrection. Insects in themselves were considered unworthy of consideration as subjects for painting.

By the 17th century, the obsession with natural history —and with insects as a miraculous part of the natural world— took precedence, and symbolism was left behind. Insects became subjects of study and fascination. Dürer, as always, ahead of his time, brings his masterful draughtsmanship to his watercolor, of a beetle—which he considered a finished work of art, not a study. Durer’s realistic rendering of this humble bug is a tribute to the minutest in nature, that which is often overlooked or summarily destroyed, its importance lost to ignorance or neglect.

Pierced by Arrows

Anonymous Nuremberg (XV cent) : St Sebastian (c. 1440). Bibilothèque Nationale (Paris, France). Woodcut.

 
 

Saint Sebastian is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. This is the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian; however, according to legend, he was rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Sometimes Sebastian is known as the saint who was martyred twice.

The earliest representation of Sebastian is a mosaic in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (Ravenna, Italy) dated between 527 and 565. The right lateral wall of the basilica contains large mosaics representing a procession of 26 martyrs, led by Saint Martin and including Sebastian. The martyrs are represented in Byzantine style, lacking any individuality, and have all identical expressions.

As protector of potential plague victims (a connection popularized by the Golden Legend) and soldiers, Sebastian occupied an important place in the popular medieval mind. He was among the most frequently depicted of all saints by Late Gothic and Renaissance artists, in the period after the Black Death. The opportunity to show a semi-nude male, often in a contorted pose, also made Sebastian a favourite subject.

 
 

His shooting with arrows was the subject of the largest engraving by the Master of the Playing Cards in the 1430s, when there were few other current subjects with male nudes other than Christ.

 
 

Andrea Mantegna

 
 

It has been suggested that the first picture was made after Mantegna had recovered from the plague in Padua (1456–1457). Probably commissioned by the city’s podestà to celebrate the end of the pestilence, it was finished before the artist left the city for Mantua. According to Battisti, the theme refers to the Book of Revelation. A rider is present in the clouds at the upper left corner (pic. 1). As specified in John’s work, the cloud is white and the rider has a scythe, which he is using to cut the cloud. The rider has been interpreted as Saturn, the Roman-Greek god: in ancient times Saturn was identified with the Time that passed by and all left destroyed behind him.

 
 

Giovanni Bellini (1460-64)

 
 

Sandro Botticelli (1474)

 
 

Albretch Dürer

 
 

Giovanni Antonio Bazzi “Il Sodoma” (1525)

 
 

The saint is ordinarily depicted as a handsome youth pierced by arrows. Predella scenes when required, often depicted his arrest, confrontation with the Emperor, and final beheading. The illustration in the infobox is the Saint Sebastian of Il Sodoma, at the Pitti Palace, Florence.

 
 

Cesare Da Sesto (1523)

 
 


El Greco

 
 

 San Sebastiano curato da un angelo (St Sebastian Healed by an Angel), Giovanni Baglione, c. 1603

 
 

Anton Van Dyck (1621-1627)

 
 

Peter Paul Rubens

 
 

José de Ribera (1651)

 
 

St Sebastien Attended by St Irene, Georges de La Tour, (c. 1649)

 
 

Honoré Daumier, 1849-52

 
 

A mainly 17th-century subject, though found in predella scenes as early as the 15th century, was St Sebastian tended by St Irene, painted by Georges de La Tour, Trophime Bigot (four times), José de Ribera, Hendrick ter Brugghen and others.

 
 

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, by Ángel Zárraga (1911)

 
 

This may have been a deliberate attempt by the Church to get away from the single nude subject, which is already recorded in Vasari as sometimes arousing inappropriate thoughts among female churchgoers. The Baroque artists usually treated it as a nocturnal chiaroscuro scene, illuminated by a single candle, torch or lantern, in the style fashionable in the first half of the 17th century. There exist several cycles depicting the life of Saint Sebastian. Among them are the frescos in the “Basilica di San Sebastiano” of Acireale (Italy) with paintings by Pietro Paolo Vasta.

 
 

Antonio Bellucci, c. 1716-8

 
 

Saint Roch with Saint Jerome and Saint Sebastian (after a picture attributed to Alessandro Oliverio), John Singer Sargent, circa 1880-1881

 
 

Egon Schiele painted a self-portrait as Saint Sebastian in 1915

 
 

During Salvador Dalí’s “Lorca (Federico García Lorca) Period”, he painted Sebastian several times, most notably in his “Neo-Cubist Academy”

 
 

While Lorca was not a practicing Catholic, he was fascinated by Catholic liturgy and ritual, leading him to seek inspiration from religious themes such as the lives of saints which he would have studied while reading The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Vorgine. Sebastian relate to Lorca’s poetics as well as his relationship to Salvador Dalí.

 
 

Gabriele  d’Annunzio come S. Sebastiano, A. Salvini. In 1911, the Italian playwright Gabriele d’Annunzio in conjunction with Claude Debussy produced a mystery play on the subject.

 
 

St. Sebastian with St. Irene and Attendant,Eugène Delacroix, 1858

 
 

The American composer Gian Carlo Menotti composed a ballet score for a Ballets Russes production which was first given in 1944. In his novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann hails the “Sebastian-Figure” as the supreme emblem of Apollonian beauty, that is, the artistry of differentiated forms; beauty as measured by discipline, proportion, and luminous distinctions. This allusion to Saint Sebastian’s suffering, associated with the writerly professionalism of the novella’s protagonist, Gustav Aschenbach, provides a model for the “heroism born of weakness”, which characterizes poise amidst agonizing torment and plain acceptance of one’s fate as, beyond mere patience and passivity, a stylized achievement and artistic triumph.

Sebastian’s death was depicted in the 1949 film Fabiola, in which he was played by Massimo Girotti.

 
 

In 1976, the British director Derek Jarman made his debut film, Sebastiane, which caused controversy in its treatment of the martyr as a homosexual icon. However, as several critics have noted, this has been a subtext of the imagery since the Renaissance.

 
 

Also in 1976, a figure of Saint Sebastian appeared throughout the American horror film Carrie, directed by Brian de Palma

 
 

Pietro Vannucci Perugino’s painting (c. 1495) of Saint Sebastian is featured in the  movie Wit  (Mike Nichols, 2001) starring Emma Thompson. Thompson’s character, as a college student, visits her professor’s office, where an almost life-size painting of Saint Sebastian hangs on the wall. Later, when the main character is a professor herself, diagnosed with cancer, she keeps a small print of this same painting of Saint Sebastian next to her hospital bed. The allusion appears to be to Sebastian’s stoic martyrdom – a role the Thompson character has willingly accepted for the betterment of all mankind. There may be a touch of authorial (or directorial) cynicism in making this “saintly” connection.

 
 

tumblr_lm64izZk8c1qcdvnmo1_1280Still from R.E.M.’s  Losing My Religion (Tarsem Singh, 1991) promotional music video

 
 

*I will be posting more artistic representations of St Sebastian on The Genealogy of Style´s new Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.597637210325056.1073741828.597542157001228&type=1&l=9328e23d78

Black Epiphany

“It is a useful art when it is of godly sort and is employed for holy edification. For the art of painting is employed
in the service of the Church and by it he sufferings of Christ and many other profitable examples are set forth.”
Albrecht Dürer

 
 

 

Anbetung der Könige (The Adoration of the Magi), Albretch Dürer, 1504

 
 

The work itself bears Albretch Dürer‘s monogram and the date 1504, but many historians date it completed in 1505. This painting was commissioned by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. It has been suggested that the painting may have originally been created as the central panel of a triptych in conjunction with Job and His Wife and Two Musicians as exterior panels (also dated 1504 and commissioned by Frederick the Wise) and the images of Sts. Joseph, Jachim, Simeon, and Lazarus believed to originally have been painted on the back of these two panels. The influence of Italian background landscapes can be seen when comparing Dürer’s painting to Leonardo da Vinci‘s. Dürer’s use of architecture, the free standing arches, is also reflective of Leonardo’s work. In addition, the pose of the Holy Mother, the Infant Christ, the first king, and some of the background figures are reminiscent of the gestures and poses of Leonardo’s figures.

What were the main historical influences on German life at the time Dürer painted Adoration of the Magi? The European view of the world was expanding. The voyages of Christopher Columbus to America and Vasco da Gama to the southern end of Africa and India in the fifteenth century had opened the way for travel through two of the most important oceanic routes.

 
 

Study of the Head of an African, Albretch Dürer, 1508

 
 

The black slave trade had begun on the coast of Africa. Having succeeded his father Frederick in 1493, Maximilian I was king and he had involved Germany in the Italian fray which resulted from the French invasion of Italy in 1494. Medieval protective feudalism was slowly being replaced by modern competitive capitalism. The suffering of the Black Plaque of the mid-fourteenth century which reduced Europe’s population by one-third was giving way to modest recoveries within European life at the beginning of the sixteenth century. But this society within transition was still haunted by the ever present threat of sickness, death, and famine.

Dürer had taken an attitude of opposition to the Church of Rome, and was now beginning to create his own theory of art. The traditions of theology were being viewed in new ways; directly affected by the development of the Gutenberg printing press and the invention of typography in the fifteenth century. These inventions, along with an increase in literacy, allowed direct knowledge of the religious controversies to reach thousands throughout Europe in relatively short periods of time. These events also resulted in greater availability of scriptures for the larger population. Humanistic thought was expanding.

Adoration of the Magi was completed on the brink of two significant periods of new thought within the history of European religion, art, and architecture, the Protestant reform movements and the Renaissance. This painting gives insight into Dürer’s relationship to the religious and cultural changes of this time.

According to Paul H. D. Kaplan, it is believed that the first true appearance of the black Magus/King in European art occurred in the fourteenth century. The black figures appeared not only in painting but on coat of arms as well. In earlier centuries Africans also had appeared as saints in images in European art. In addition, the depiction of the black Queen of Sheba had also been prominent. Kaplan states in The Rise of the Black Magus in Western Art that by 1505 as many as 140,000 to 170,000 Africans had been sold into European slavery. He also states that Dürer used slaves as models, which was probably the case of the figure represented in this painting. “If the Magi symbolized all the peoples of the world, it was becoming clearer that on proportional grounds a black might reasonably be included among them. And the new iconography of the pious African Magus with its affirmation that all were eligible for conversion and salvation, could serve to distract the European audience from the moral problems connected with slavery . . . Thus the proliferation and standardization of the black Margus/King may have been a convenient means of disguising and deflecting consideration of the moral and theological dilemmas posed by black slavery.”

 
 

Anbetung der Könige (The Adoration of the Magi), Albretch Dürer, 1524

 
 

Dürer is described as the first northern Renaissance man, the most important German artist during the transition period from the late Gothic Era to the Renaissance. He combined Italian Renaissance ideas and forms with the late Gothic style of the north. Although an accomplished painter, earlier in his career Dürer was more widely praised for his woodcuts and engravings. A master of art theory as well, he developed an extensive treatise on the art of painting and graphics. Dürer’s contributions in all of these areas made him one of the greatest artist of all times.

 
 

 
 

A decade or more later, in 1521, Dürer produced Portrait of the Moorish Woman Katharina. Dürer saw her in Antwerp, where she was the servant or slave of the Antwerp agent of the king of Portugal. The inscription says Katharina allt 20 Jar. The drawing is in the Uffizi in Florence.

The Artistic Side of Death

View of a Skull, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1489

 
 

Saint Francis in Meditation, Caravaggio, 1605

 
 

Skull, Albrecht Dürer, 1521

 
 

La Calavera Catrina (Dapper Skeleton or Elegant Skull), José Guadalupe Posada, 1910-1913.

Much memento mori art is associated with the Mexican festival Day of the Dead, including skull-shaped candies and bread loaves adorned with bread “bones.”

 
 

Self-portrait With Death Playing the Fiddle, Arnold Böcklin, 1872

 
 

Engraving by M.C. Escher, 1919

 
 

Untitled-Death Outside the Head-Paul Eluard, Salvador Dalí, 1933

 
 

Head with Broken Pot, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1942

 
 

Sin esperanza (Without Hope), Frida Kahlo, 1945

 
 

Detail of Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central, Diego Rivera, 1946-1947

 
 

Three Study Portraits of Lucian Freud, by Francis Bacon

 
 

Artwork by Sergio Toppi

 
 

Drawings by Edward Gorey

 
 

Knowledge of the Past Is the Key to the Future: Some Afterthoughts on Discovery, Robert Colescott, 1986

 
 

Riding with Death, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988

 
 

Black Kites, Gabriel Orozco, 1997

 
 

For the Love of God, Damien Hirst, 1997

 
 

The Orientalist, Walton Ford, 1999

 
 

Painting by Pascal Vilcollet

 
 

Confetti Death, Typoe, 2010

Portrait of a Mother

Anna Mathilda McNeill in Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Whistler’s Mother) James Abbott Whistler, 1871

 
 

Shushan Adoyan by Arshile Gorky, 1936

 
 

Cornelia Nobel in Woman I by Willem De Kooning, 1952

 
 

Ginevra de’ Pozzi by Guido Reni, 1612

 
 

Marguerite Merlet by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1860

 
 

Eugénie-Desirée Fournier by Édouard Manet, 1880

 
 

Ernestine Faivre by Georges Pierre Seurat, 1883

 
 

Marie-Francoise Oberson by  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1838

 
 

Lucy Read by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797

 
 

Laura Catherine Bjølstad by Edvard Munch, 1899

 
 

Countess Adèle Tapié de Celeyran by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1883

 
 

Katherine Kelso Johnston by Mary Cassat, 1878

 
 

Sophie Maurice by Franz Marc, 1902

 
 

Marie Soukupová by Egon Schiele, 1911

 
 

Anna Cornelia Carbentus by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

 
 

Alina Maria Chazal by Paul Gauguin, 1890

 
 

Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert by Paul Cézanne, 1866-67

 
 

Barbara Holper by Albrecht Dürer, 1490-93

 
 

Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck by Rembrandt, 1630

 
 

Gemma Cervetto by Giorgio De Chirico, 1911

 
 

Elizabeth Griffiths Smith by Edward Hopper, 1916-20

 
 

Anne Mary Hill was the inspiration and model for Mother Tucking Children Into Bed by Norman Rockwell, 1921

 
 

María Picasso y López by Pablo Picasso, 1896

 
 

Laura in Mum by David Hockney, 1985

 
 

Lucie Brasch by Lucian Freud, 1983

 
 

María del Pilar Barrientos by Diego Rivera, circa 1904

 
 

Flora Angulo by Fernando Botero, 1990

 
 

Felipa Domenech Ferrés by Salvador Dalí, 1920

 
 

Julia by Andy Warhol, 1974

Tender or Mischievous

Albrecht Durer, Young Hare

 
 

Vincent Van Gogh, Field with Two Rabbits

 
 

Drawing from original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Lewis Carroll

 
 

John Tenniel, White Rabbit

 
 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Salvador Dalí, Down the Rabbit Hole

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

According to Arthur Paul, the designer of the playboy logo, he chose the rabbit because of its “humorous sexual connotation” and also because the representation was “frisky and playful”. The playboy logo is undoubtedly mischievous in its nature.

 
 

Robert Crumb’s drawing

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Boy-By-The-Sea1Terence Koh, Boy by the Sea (2008)

 
 

Jeff Koons

 
 

Illustration by Han Hoogerbrugge

 
 

Chuck Jones and Bugs Bunny

 
 

Rabbits (David Lynch,2002)

 
 

John Updike may have chosen the name Rabbit for his character for its echo of Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt (1922).  Previously to Rabbit, Run (1961),Updike had written a short story entitled Ace In The Hole, and to a lesser extent a poem, Ex-Basketball Player, with similar themes to this series.

 
 

“It had a bed, a table, and a chair. The table had a lamp on it, a lamp that had never stopped burning in anticipation of her return, and on the lamp perched a butterfly with two large eyes painted on its widespread wings. Tereza knew she was at her goal. She lay down on the bed and pressed the rabbit to her face.”

 
 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Robert Zemeckis, 1989). The Wolf and other characters were based on Tex Avery’s Red Hot Ridding Hood.

 
 

The animation of Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992) was strongly influenced by the house styles of Fleischer Studios and Terrytoons. Bakshi had originally intended to cast Drew Barrymore instead Kim Bassinger  in the film’s leading role.

Great Piece of Turf

Das große Rasenstück (Great Piece of Turf), Albretch Dürer. 1503

 
 

6

“A child said, What is the grass?

fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child?..

I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,

out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,

Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners,

that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child

. . . .the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,

And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,

Growing among black folks as among white,

Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff,

I give them the same, I receive them the same…”

 

(Taken from Song of Myself)

Walt Whitman

Natural Selection

Walton Ford, a "rara avis"

 
 

Walton Ford was born in New York’s asphalt jungle at the end of the 60’s. He graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA degree. Though he first inspired to be a filmmaker, Ford would soon trade his camera for brushes, palettes, canvas and any other artistic supplies for printing and painting stills taken from wildlife.

 
 

Falling Bough

 
 

Even as a toddler he felt fascinated by fauna. His parents encouraged his love of nature by taking him on Canadian getaways and to the Museum of Natural History in New York. Thanks to frequent visits to those places, his devotion for Akeley’s dioramas grew up. Biologist and sculptor Carl Ethen Akeley is considered the father of modern taxidermy.

 
 

Litographic folio by Audubon

 

Illustration by Edward Lear

 
 

At first glance, Walton Ford’s stunning high definition and large scale watercolors evoke 19th century naturalistic plates made by John James Audubon, George Catlin or Edward Lear. This makes sense, as Walton drew his inspiration from them. When we stare at his pieces, a brand new world is revealed: a complex, uncanny and disturbing one, full of symbols, hidden jokes and references to operatic characteristics related to natural history representative themes.

 
 

Page from the original Pancha Tantra

 

Pancha Tantra cover

 

Pancha Tantra

 
 

Beasts and birds that wander around in the life-size paintings of this contemporary artist are never mere subjects, but dynamic actors that struggle in great allegorical fights. They are an extensive set of plates that subsequently were scraped together for a de-luxe limited edition of the book Pancha Tantra, released by Taschen. Pancha Tantra is a 3rd century anthology of Hindu animal tales, written in Sanskrit, centuries before La Fontaine or Aesop wrote their fables.

 
 

Space Monkeys

 
 

Watercolor techniques demand precision and Walton’s work is nothing if not precise. He stays away from unfinished or sketchy allure. Paradoxically, that kind of impressive hyperrealism that seems an impromptu note is very typical of him. It happens because he thinks nature is always unpredictable. Sometimes wild life is cruel, untamed, irrational, tender, perturbing… in other words, always multifaceted. Nature is never static, although he may paint an animal posing in fraganti.

 
 

Avatars, The Birds of India

 

The Orientalist

 

Baba

 

Buddha Purmina

 
 

Marginalia written with elegant old-fashioned calligraphy is an infallible element of his drawings. In these annotations he synthesizes the rest of the exposed message. It is an epilogue, a key that allows decoding the mystery around the image.

 
 

The Red Kite

 

Bula Matari

 

Boca Grande

 

Borondino

 

Serprent Eaters

 

A cabin boy to Barbary

 

An encounter with Du Chaillu

 

La forga de un rebelde

 
 

His pieces have political commentaries. He said, “I use a source that comes from the period that suits the natural history image, like this Alexander Kingslake book called Eothen, which is a beautiful book. And I try to bring it up to date and think about how it affects the way we think today and how similar the nineteenth century is to now. That moment of empire is almost the same. That moment of fear and first contact and misunderstanding and misapprehension is exactly what we’re going through right now. And we haven’t seemed to figure anything more or less out since then. You still feel like you would be carefully shot and carelessly buried if you made the wrong move.”

 
 

Madagascar

 

Eothen

 
 

Besides Eothen, there are other sources of backing: Benjamin Franklin’s letters; Leonardo da Vinci’s diaries; testimonies from a zoo manager; excerpts from José Martí, Ernest Hemingway or Marquis of Sade’s books; or The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by E.P. Evans (1906). In Walton Ford’s paintings we can notice an approach to Goya, Rembrandt, Brueghel, Durer, or even Robert Crumb’s humor. Nonetheless, Walton insists that Audubon (the Haitian artist who claimed to be a Jacques Louis David pupil) is his main inspiration.

 

 

Chaumière de Dolmancé

 
 

“Part of the reason I got interested in using watercolor is that I was interested in painting things that looked like Audubons. They were like fake Audubons, but I twisted the subject matter a bit, and got inside his head, and tried to paint as if it was really his tortured soul portrayed. As if his hand betrayed him, and he painted what he didn’t want to expose about himself. And it was very important to me to make them look like Audubons, to make them look like they were a hundred years old—like he painted them but that they escaped out of him. Almost like A Picture of Dorian Gray, but a natural history image.”

 
 

Ornithomancy

 
 

“And once I was sort of finished with that, I realized that I sort of did those for my own amusement. And I was doing bigger oil paintings; I was doing constructions at that time. I was doing all kinds of stuff, trying to find my way. You go through these periods in your artistic evolution where you’re trying a bunch of different things out. And that was just one of the things I was trying out at that time. And I felt like it was more successful than most of the other things I attempted to do, partly because I had all these years of drawing, since I was a little kid. So, they were more convincing, right off the bat.”