Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Favorite Art and Why

I can’t imagine my life without art. I think it is sad that so many people go through life without ever really enjoying any art other than cartoons when there are so many beautiful paintings to enjoy!

Currently, I am a sophomore in highschool. Having studied around 45 artists since first grade and having a collection of around 200 prints, today I went through my album and picked out my three favorite artists and three favorite prints and I thought I’d share them with you. Picking out the artists was easy. I knew right away that John William Waterhouse, William Bougereau and Frederick Leighton would be my favorites. (I would have replaced Leighton with Thomas Kinkade in a heartbeat, but I haven’t collected his paintings, or really studied them, so he doesn’t count.) If you quickly scan a few of their paintings, you’ll realize rather quickly that all three of these artists have very similar styles. They are all three realists, and all three paint lots of figures from mythology/poetry/literature, and mostly young girls and children.Most of Waterhouse’s paintings are figures from mythology or poetry. His favorite subjects seem to be Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and The Lady Of Shallot. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I accidentally stumbled upon his painting called, “‘I am half sick of shadows’, said the Lady Of Shallot.” This is a line from Tennyson’s poem The Lady Of Shallot, and one that has always stood out to me. Waterhouse’s other subjects include: Jason and Medea, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Penelope, Danae, Pandora, Thisbe, Circe and Ulysses.

Bougereau’s paintings make me think of silk. The faces in his paintings are so smooth that they make you want to stroke them. He has a way of making skin look like light. He especially paints beautiful pictures of children. I think he was probably the most skilled of all the painters I have ever studied, with the possible exception of Thomas Cole. Unfortunately most of his paintings seem to have been attempts to glorify the human body rather than the Creator.

Leighton was, perhaps, the most sensuous of the Pre-Raphealite painters. He struggled all his life to find meaning and perhaps to make an absolute out of sensuality. (He failed, by the way) Why would I choose him as a favorite artist? His paintings are beautiful. To me, art is about beauty. Contrast the wretch Leighton with the wretch Gauguin and notice that although both of them were desperately lost and searching for meaning in all the wrong places, one of them made beautiful paintings and the other did not. An ugly painting with a good meaning is nothing to me, because art is not just about meaning. AND a beautiful painting with “no meaning” is still beautiful to me. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as art without a meaning. I think that every artist, whether he likes it or not, is putting down meanings with every stroke of his brush, even if he is only saying, “look how fearfully and wonderfully made I am! I can look at this thing that I see before me and put it down on paper…God is incredible.”

Out of all the many artists I have studied, I like these ones the best because of the skill and beauty in their paintings. It’s amazing to me what they are able to do with paint. I love artists who can capture moods and expressions in people’s faces and I think that the human face is the most intriguing subject for art. I find that I also like surrealistic and/or idealistic landscape paintings but these seem to be a relatively modern interest in art and I have not actually studied any particular artist who painted works of this type, so I cannot list them.

It was quite a bit harder to choose my favorite paintings, but I eventually managed to narrow them down to three.

The first is Jacques Louis David’s Napoleon. I cannot think of any other painting that evokes such feelings in me as Napoleon. I like it because I think it is a beautiful illustration of mankind. Although this may sound odd, it makes me feel a greater capacity to love. I think how hated the historical Napoleon is (and perhaps rightly so) and then see this “romanticized” version and think that it shows him looking rather like a frightened child, pointing vaguely up the mountain towards the “great things” he wants to do. To me he looks like he is giving one of those parting glances we leave with people we love dearly and may never see again. “Think well of me. I did my best.” This is no defense of or excuse for the historical Napoleon, obviously – it’s just the way the painting makes me feel.

Another of my favorite paintings, Forget Me Not is by Arthur Hughes, I think the most admirable of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Rather than only dreaming about the heroism and perfection that most of the other Pre-Raphaelites failed to live out, Hughes was more devoted to his principles in real every-day life.

Although I greatly appreciate Waterhouse’s paintings of mythological and literary characters that I recognize and enjoy, I cannot imagine choosing any of them to be my favorites paintings. They lack the significance that I look for in anything that I choose to be my “favorite.” Although it is not as skillfully done, perhaps, as many of his other works, I chose The Annunciation as my favorite of Waterhouse’s paintings. It has incredible significance. I love the purplish-blue combination and the way the colors compliment each other so well. I also love the humble way in which he portrays Mary here. Unlike most of his female subjects, she looks completely pure.

So, anyway, those are a few of my favorites when it comes to art. What about you?

Seize The Day!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cultural Literacy Contest and Goats

We have a herd of Boer goats, 35 in all. Each time a kid is born, we spend a good deal of time discussing, disagreeing, debating and deciding what to name it. I thought it would be fun if I listed some of their names and see if you can figure out who they are named after. All names are well known in history, art, movies or literature. One is in the foreign language I speak (You will know which one if you read my blog regularly) but it should be easy to find out its meaning. That one is extra credit. : ) Most of the names are females, since most are nannies. But we have some males as well. Leave you answers in the comments section and in a week we will announce the winner (the one who named the most original sources correctly) and we will also post the answers. Here are their names:

1 Carmen
2 Princess Leia
3 Kızıl Ok
4 Jason Argonaut
5 Rosie Cotton
6 Catriona
7 Torfrida
8 Good Queen Bess
9 Boudicca (Boadicea)
10 Brunhilde
11 Gazelle
12 Marie Antoinette
13 Myrtle Hardbottle
14 Wendy Moira Angela Darling
15 Rose Salterne
16 Jerusha
17 Sassafras
18 Thing One
19 Thing Two
20 Bambi
21 Luthien
22 Tinuviel
23 Padme Amidala
24 Freya
25 Odin
26 Emrys
27 Castor
28 Pollux

Ready, set, GO.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Viva La Republique!

I wrote this poem a couple weeks ago. It deals with the young men who fought in the emeute (rebellion) in Les Miserables. They called themselves the Friends of the ABC ("abaisse" - French for abased, poor) Hugo apparently put a lot of effort into making these men express certain views. The Friends of The ABC were an utterly miserable set of young men whose utmost goal was death. They truly did care about the poor class of France but they had nothing to give to them. Even giving up their lives did absolutely no good to help their cause. They succeeded only in killing themselves and others with them. However, Hugo feels infinitely sorry for them and tries to show their wretched condition. In fact, when the book was published, many people were offended by the sympathy with which he portrayed these rebels.

The poem is meant to discuss both the bitter facade of apathy and the hopeless desperation that characterizes these men.

(I finally finished the book by the way!)


Somebody said suicide

And then could we refuse?

There are many ways to die

And nothing left to lose.

So the fray is making noise,

It rains sometimes, what then?

And all of us are little boys

Pretending to be men.

We don’t think of surrendering

We die for liberty

The fact is, we are wandering

And so seem to be free.

To wander and to seem free

That is to be lost

And lost is bad enough in life

But worse when you’re a ghost.

Live in Hell, die in Hell

Tell me someone cared

We're so used to Hell by now

But GOD, we are so scared!

-B.J.J. aka StrongJoy

Seize The Day!