Well, I finally have a third piece to display here. It is called Centauresses and was designed to resemble classic Art Nouveau and Jugendstil illustrations. It was, as with the others, drawn on 14″ x 17″ Bristol board, first in pencil and then in black ink. Hope you enjoy it!
Another youthful Cupid and Psyche, this one painted by Italian artist Andrea Schiavone. An early one too, from the Renaissance.
A pair of Norse gods portrayed as a youthful couple in love, by Ludwig Fahrenkrog. This is leading up to my next big post, which, barring any unforeseen interruptions, I will get to tonight.
A French Romantic painter, Camille Roqueplan did mostly landscapes and outdoor scenes. This first painting fits in the same tradition of lost virginity as Jean Baptiste Greuze’s The Broken Pitcher and was clearly an influence on Greuze’s piece (it dates from six years earlier), even if the symbolism isn’t quite as overt as Greuze’s was. Note again the flowers in her dress, a direct reference to Robert Herrick’s poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, a plea for young girls to put themselves on the market, so to speak, while they’re still young because youth and beauty are fleeting. Hard to believe that poem was written in the 1600s.
There is a little girl in this work, though you must look closely to see her.
I can’t tell you how much I adore this artist’s work. Gallen-Kallela was a Finnish Symbolist who focused mostly on illustrating the legends and fairy tales of his home country, and in that respect he was a bit of a nationalist. But one should be careful slinging around that word, because it is all too easy to confuse the native pride of Gallen-Kallela’s stripe with the kind of nationalist fervor that put the Nazi party in power in Germany. That was certainly not what he was about. Anyway, these early mythological paintings tended to be lighter, softer and more romantic, but when his not-yet-school-age daughter Impi Marjatta died from diptheria, his work became darker, more aggressive, more contemplative and sorrowful. Some of his pieces were tightly and technically rendered, putting one in the mind of illustrators like Dean Cornwell, and others are more Impressionistic, like the Odilon Redon-esque “The Girls of Tapiola”. Whatever mode he’s in, his work resonates with power and vigor.
This next work is stunning. It depicts the fairy tale of a young girl named Aino, from the Finnish epic Kalevala written by Elias Lönnrot. In the story, an old sorcerer and fisherman named Väinämöinen (who, by the way, may have influenced Tolkien’s creation Gandalf) is challenged by the youth Joukahainen to a contest of lyrical song. But the pompous boy taunts the old man, pushing him too far, and Väinämöinen magically invokes the earth to swallow the youth up to his neck. In order to free himself, the frightened boy promises that his young sister will be Väinämöinen’s bride. The oldster accepts and frees Joukahainen.
However, things do not go smoothly, as the girl simply doesn’t want to be married to the elder and runs away in grief when her parents and brother inform her of her fate. We see this plot point in the left panel of Gallen-Kallela’s Aino triptych. At last she finds herself at the water, strips down and swims out to an island which promptly sinks and drowns her; this is depicted in the right panel. She then becomes a little fish and when, by serendipity, Väinämöinen catches her and tosses her back in the water, she transforms back into herself, taunts the old man, and escapes forever, this final scene being the centerpiece of the triptych.
Now, here’s the really fun part: Aino didn’t reject the old man because she was repulsed by his grizzly appearance, but rather she lamented the fact that he wasn’t interested in sex with her and merely wanted a servant to cook and clean for him, whereas she wanted someone who could meet her sexual needs. Quite different from how such a story would be told today, isn’t it? In a modern setting the story would be about a horny old perv and an innocent girl, but that’s not how the story plays out here.
Aino is great, but this is my absolute favorite of the artist’s works. It really puts me in the mind of Cornwell. This is actually one of the fresco paintings for the Jusélius Mausoleum, commissioned by wealthy European industrialist F.A. Jusélius in honor of his daughter, who had passed away at age 11. Having lost a daughter of his own at a young age, one can see why Gallen-Kallela would be keen on undertaking that particular project. Unfortunately, the originals were destroyed by fire, but Gallen-Kallela’s son Jorma repainted them in their entirety in the 1930s based on his father’s original sketches and designs. Thank God for those!
The scene depicts people who have died waiting for their turn to cross into Tuonela, the Land of the Dead in Finnish lore, akin to the ancient Greek Hades. Those in the boat have stripped off their clothing, thus shedding the last traces of their worldliness. We see a young girl standing on shore, beginning to remove her dress. She appears to be about 11, making her the same age as Jusélius’s daughter, and we can read her as a representative of the real-life deceased girl. Taken from the bright, sunny world above all too soon, she is clearly unhappy, and we too feel saddened for her as we watch her ready herself to meet her fate.
Alternately she could be Tuonen tytti–the Maiden of Death–who, much like Charon in Greek mythology, serves as the ferryman who transports souls to Tuonela via boat. This whole scene resonates with meaning.
Another one of the frescoes from the Jusélius Mausoleum:
Gallen-Kallela would go on to paint another part of the story of old Väinämöinen. Here we see the old wizard sitting quietly amidst a boat full of naked pubescent girls. Yep, it was definitely a much different time.
The Gallen-Kallela Museum (Official Site)
A couple from Otto Greiner. The first image actually does appear in Jugend and I may go ahead and repost it, but I liked the vivid colors of this one.
Otto Greiner (Official Site? Contains several of his more notable pieces, although they could stand to be a little larger. Be sure to check out the one of demons holding a giant penis.)
Something a little different today. Spanish artist Luis Ricardo Falero’s work never appeared in Jugend as far as I know, but I had to post this because it is simply stunning. Falero was mostly known for his nude women, and this piece is no exception, but it is unusual in that it also contains a gaggle of nude little girl putti. Female putti are extremely rare, but it makes sense that they would be present in a painting of Venus, the goddess of beauty. In this painting the planet named for the Roman goddess appears in the background as well. Falero was ahead of his time–his work still looks fresh and contemporary, and he was clearly an influence on many contemporary genre painters, particularly fantasy artists. His paintings are positively steeped in eroticism, and many of them fit quite comfortably in the Symbolist tradition.
Well, I have clearly taken a detour from my original plans for this month. I have been doing a lot of sculpture lately, so let’s continue with that, shall we?
This is excellent all around, perhaps one of the most beautiful objects in existence, and it is, of course, in Paris, France, a city chock full of beautiful objects. Before you peruse this post, I recommend you read the Wikipedia page on Pont Alexandre III and some other pages you can find about it because it has quite a lot of history behind it and I am not going to recount all of it here. Suffice it to say, this bridge is an amazing piece of architecture in a number of ways. It spans the river Seine between the Champs-Élysées and Les Invalides portions of the city, near the Grand Palais.
What’s most fascinating to me about this bridge is that a number of sculptors worked on the decoration for it, but they all did pieces that complemented the work of the others, holding to a style that was nicely balanced between Neoclassicism and art nouveau, with touches of Rococo thrown in, a heady mix indeed. The bridge was in fact only one portion of a large-scale project which also included the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, all done as a lead-in to the Exposition Universelle that took place in 1900.
Among the sculptural works on the bridge are four children–two girls and two boys–representing different aspects of the sea. Two separate sculptors tackled these four pieces, a boy and girl each. André Massoulle worked on “Génie au trident” (boy) and “Néréide” (girl) while Léopold Morice undertook the sculpting of “Enfant au crabe” (boy) and “Fillette à la coquille” (girl). We, however, are only concerned with the girls here, but I recommend that you take a look at all of these pieces, as well as the fabulous candelabras made by Henri Désiré Gauquié. The candelabras at the ends of the bridge, one of which you can see above, are ringed with putti. It is worth noting that Gauquié not only kept the traditional male putti but also went out of his way to make some of them female, as can be seen by comparing the two examples below:
Now to Massoulle and his “Néréide.” The Nereid comes from Greek mythology and was one of the fifty daughters of the Sea Titan, Nereus, and his wife Doris. Massoulle, in keeping with the child theme of these four figures, has made his Nereid a little girl. It may at first be difficult to tell this figure is female, but one can tell first by the slight swelling of the aureoles, denoting a girl just entering puberty, and second from the elaborate hairstyle.
Now we move on to Léopold Morice’s “Fillette à la coquille” which is perhaps my favorite of all the sculptures on the bridge. She listens intently to the sound of the ocean so magically captured by the hollow chambers of the conch shell, a subtle smile touching her lips:
Wikipedia: André Paul Arthur Massoulle (Page is in French)
Wikipedia: Léopold Morice (Page is in French)
Also, here is the French Wikipedia page on the Pont Alexandre III, which gives a far more detailed account of the various artists that worked on the bridge as well as the history of the bridge and its vital specs.