The Little Girl in Mark Ryden

The first thing someone might be interested to know about Mark Ryden is that in the 90s when he was still working as a commercial artist, years before he was to became “the grandfather of pop-surrealism”, he was acquainted with Michael Jackson and did the album cover for Dangerous. Mark is unfortunately mum about the time they spent together.

Mark Ryden - album cover Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" (1991)

Mark Ryden – album cover Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” (1991)

Ten years later, Mark was on a new career path. Having shifted from commercial to fine art, he rose to Art World superstar—selling his paintings for six figures and having his exploits followed by celebrities like Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.

“His work had become increasingly popular through mass exposure, particularly in the Low Brow Art publications HI-FRUCTOSE and Juxtapoz.” (Joseph R. Givens, LOWBROW ART)

Mark Ryden - Incarnation (2010); Magazine Cover "Juxtapoz" December '11

Mark Ryden – Incarnation (2010); Magazine Cover “Juxtapoz” December ’11

Lowbrow Art emerged in the 70s and its unofficial spokesman is Robert Williams, who coined the phrase. But by the late 90s the movement was splitting in two. In one camp were the loud, sarcastic, anti-establishment originators while in the other were a new breed of artist who painted with exacting technique, referenced the Old Masters and began to appear in major galleries, being accepted by the canon. The term “Pop Surrealism” was first used by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum for their 1998 show. Mark, and others like him, who had been educated by the very artists the early Lowbrow artists rejected, brought figurative art back to the fine art scene for nearly the first time since Abstract Expressionism had wiped it out almost a century ago.

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

Mark Ryden names as his own classical artistic inspirations: David, Ingres, Bougereau, and Bronzino (BL!SSS Magazine). Girl art fans will realize that Bougereau painted Before the Bath, The Little Thief, The Nut Gatherers and so on, while Bronzino immortalized Bia de’ Medici. Contemporary artists who inspired Mark include Marion Peck, James Rosenquist, Loretta Lux, Ana Bagayan, Julie Heffernan, John Currin, Darren Waterston, Neo Rauch, and maybe not surprisingly, Balthus (Brian Sherwin, Fanny Giniès, HI-FRUCTOSE, The World Observer).

Marion Peck is none other than Mark’s ex-wife. They were powerfully inspired by one another.

Marion Peck - Peaceful Slumber (2007)

Marion Peck – Peaceful Slumber (2007)

The same clean, cutesy sentimentality often pervades both their paintings.

Mark Ryden - Awakening the Moon (2010)

Mark Ryden – Awakening the Moon (2010)

Mark attributes his deep realizations about philosophy to Marion: “he had been asleep; his spirituality was ‘isolated, and…progressed slowly’ before they met” (Amanda Erlanson, Juxtapoz, 2011).

Mark Ryden - The Apology (2007)

Mark Ryden – The Apology (2007)

Not a few of Mark’s little girls on wood panels are reminiscent of another artist who graced the covers of HI-FRUCTOSE and Juxtapoz: Audrey Kawasaki.

Mark Ryden - Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Or from this series painted on wood slabs:

Mark Ryden - Girl Color Study (2006)

Mark Ryden – Girl Color Study (2006)

Mark is trying to evoke wonder. His paintings are laden with metaphysical allusions and all sorts of things which are puzzling and ponderous: Cyrillic and Chinese script, numerology, religious iconography, meat and little girls and on and on. Of meat, Mark explains, “it’s dualistic: it’s just a packaged product, and at the same time it is a symbol of the other side, meat is our living avatar in the world.”

Mark Ryden - The Meat Train (2000)

Mark Ryden – The Meat Train (2000)

But Mark’s signature inspiration, which gives his work it’s idiomatic style, is swap-meet junk: kitsch, sentimental, nostalgic, melodramatic camp such as figurines of Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, big eyed bobble-headed dolls, old toys, and taxidermied animals. Mark’s flea-market finds define his painting—a regular cast of which appear in nearly every one of his works.

Mark Ryden - The Piano Player (2010)

Mark Ryden – The Piano Player (2010)

Mark has also been influenced and inspired by his daughter Rosie.

Eric Minh Swenson - Marion, Mark, and daughter Rosie (2014)

Eric Minh Swenson – Marion, Mark, and Daughter Rosie (2014)

He included Rosie in many of his paintings, one of which later appeared on the cover of HI-FRUCTOSE.

HI-FRUCTOSE Vol.3 - Mark Ryden - Rosie's Tea Party (2006)

HI-FRUCTOSE Vol.3 – Mark Ryden – Rosie’s Tea Party (2005)

“I photographed my daughter Rosie for the Tea Party painting several years ago. It was the first time she ever modeled for me. She took to it with unbelievable skill even at the age of three. Now she is almost eight and she still loves to pose for me. I usually have a sketch that she imitates. She instinctively understands the expression and gesture needed for a pose. I use her as a model even when the figure is not going to be a likeness of her. The little girl in Rosie’s Tea Party is an actual portrait of her. It is fun to have her face in the painting but it is more difficult and very different creatively than the faces I invent. Rosie enjoys being in my art. She and Jasper (my son) seem to understand my art better than many adults. They respond to it instinctively and they don’t over-intellectualize it. Unlike adults they don’t get stuck, they just experience it. Children in general respond well to my art. I feel I have been successful when a child is captivated by one of my paintings” (Annie Owens, HI-FRUCTOSE, 2006).

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

Mark sees a special relationship between children and art and has often mused on the topic:

“One of my favorite quotes is by Picasso: ‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ I think this is very true. When making art, children can be so much more imaginative than adults. I think a quality that defines many successful artists is that they never lose a sense of wonder of the amazing world around us. I think it comes rather automatically when one is young” (Nate Pollard, Verbiside Magazine, 2013).

“It is only in childhood that contemporary society truly allows for imagination. Children can see a world ensouled, where bunnies weep and bees have secrets, where ‘inanimate’ objects are alive. Many people think that childhood’s world of imagination is silly, unworthy of serious consideration, something to be outgrown” (Artist Statement – “Wondertoonel”, 2004).

“Children have no inhibitions when making their art. I’ve never seen my 4 year old son have a creative block; and his art is much more interesting than most adult’s art. Children are miraculous” (Artist Statement – “The Meat Show”, 1998).

Mark Ryden - Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

Children appear often in Mark Ryden’s artwork, but it is especially female children–little girls–who haunt his canvases and sketch pads.

Mark Ryden - Saint Barbie (1994)

Mark Ryden – Saint Barbie (1994)

Mark talks plainly and directly about the value he puts on the feminine and of the danger of ignoring it:

“As you look back into what has gone on in western civilization, you can see that patriarchy has been the cause of much strife and suffering in our world. It is the masculine dynamic that has caused our society to place money and corporate profit above human beings. It has allowed the earth to be viewed only as a commodity to be exploited. The feminine perspective sees things differently. She sees the earth and all its inhabitants as entities to be revered and cared for. She sees individual human beings as more important than the relentless advance of capitalism and competition. It is my hope, perhaps indirectly expressed in my work, that the divine feminine is reawakening”(Gachman, Interview Magazine).

One critic, Elliott David, has suggested likewise of the little girl in Mark Ryden, “Hidden in these girls’ oversized eyes is the imperialism and the blood of heritage aristocracy, a sort of false innocence that might imply evil but is really coy subversiveness lurking within.”

Mark Ryden - sketch for Pine Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – Sketch for ‘Pine Tree Nymph’ (2006)

Mark is himself mostly elusive about the meaning of the little girl in his work:

“There are many symbolic meanings in my art that I myself am not necessarily conscious of.  The most powerful meanings in art come from another source outside an artist’s own literal consciousness. To me, tapping into this world is the key to making the most interesting art. Some people find my refusal to explain everything in my work deeply dissatisfying. They can’t stand mystery.”  (Joseph R. Givens, LOWBROW ART).

Or,

“I like for viewers of my paintings to feel presence of meaning and story but I like for them to come up with their own interpretations. I think if I explain too much of a painting away the painting loses a sense of mystery and curiosity” (Kitty Mead, Art Beat Street).

Mark Ryden - Sophia's Bubbles (2008)

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Bubbles (2008)

While Amanda Erlanson observed that, “Languid girls who exude both a doll-like innocence and a knowing sensuality appear in nearly every painting.” None-the-less, when asked by Maxwell Williams: “[a]nother leitmotif of your paintings are young girls. Why do you feel your world is populated by these waifish little girls, and how did this evolve?” Mark replied, “A lot of people can’t get past the sexual part of a girl. For me, there’s truly nothing sexual at all” (Juxtapoz; Hollywood Reporter).
Mark Ryden - from "Pinxit" (2011); The Long Yak (2008)

Mark Ryden – From ‘Pinxit’ (2011); The Long Yak (2008)

Mark is so coy about the meaning of the little girl in his work because she is mysterious to him too.  He says, “I’ve had to think about that myself and work backwards.  My wife actually said something really funny, and I think she’s right, in that they’re sort of self-portraits. They’re anima figures; they’re soul figures… They’re sort of everybody. They’re you when you’re looking at the painting.”

Marion Peck expands on the little girl as self-portrait idea: “each of the girls Mark paints is in one sense a self-portrait. In his paintings, the anima manifests as Sophia—the muse, the fount of creativity, and the goddess of wisdom” (Amanda Erlanson, Juxtapoz, 2011).

Mark Ryden - Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

Mark Ryden – Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

But not everyone loves the little girls in Mark Ryden. Robert Williams satirized them in a drawing in which the cartoon girl’s head is so big she can’t hold it up; Joseph R. Givens explains, “Mocking Ryden’s sentimental themes, Williams drew a banner above the melancholy figure with the words ‘caring, nurturing, fawning.’ As a slight to Ryden’s childlike persona, Williams signed his drawing ‘Bobbie Wms.'”

Robert Williams - Pop Surrealism (2011)

Robert Williams – Pop Surrealism (2011)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine what is actually anti-establishment as opposed to conformist about Robert Williams’ pornographic ultra-violence. Sexualization of women, callousness and blood are almost the most monotonous things someone could paint, perfectly in step with the patriarchy.  Elliott David’s perception that the girl in Mark Ryden “is really coy subversiveness [of] imperialism” is a keen one.  Mark’s work and his portrayal of the little girl is personally vulnerable, sensitive, and touching—precious qualities to be sure.

Mark Ryden - Yak Dream (2008)

Mark Ryden – Yak Dream (2008)

Pip Starr did a post on Mark Ryden a couple years back as well so visit here to see more. It includes a closeup of the girl in the Dangerous poster and a couple of interesting comments. -Ron

Mark Ryden’s personal site

Half-Naked, Half-Dressed

The rhetoric about child nudity reminds me a little of the metaphor of glass half-full versus glass half-empty people; which are you? Like most people, I purchase things that appeal to me and I do not always understand why at first. This was the case with a decorative plate entitled Amber. Serious art critics might derisively refer to this as kitsch and pay it no heed, but the fact that a particular style gains popularity says something about our psychology and our society and should be examined. I eventually realized that what intrigues me about this piece is that on the one hand, the girl shows a lot of bare skin, but the parts that are covered are actually quite dressy: nice frilly panties and proper dress shoes and socks. Her golden hair is also impeccably groomed with ribbons neatly tied into bows. It is clear from this state of affairs that she is getting ready to go out and is only one garment away from being fully dressed. She simply needs her dress to be slipped on over her head.

Glenice - Amber (1982)

Glenice – Amber (1982)

This piece was released by R.J. Ernst Enterprises, Inc. as part of “The Yesterday’s Series” in 1982. The plate refers to the artist simply as Glenice but it is probably Glenice Moore, a renowned painter and instructor who has had her work appear on at least 35 collector’s plates to date. It seems Amber was especially popular which may have prompted the company to also produce a figurine based on that image.

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

There are at least three plates in this series but the quality of the online versions are too poor to show here. Anyone having good pictures of these plates is encouraged to come forward and share. All three deal with children in the intimate setting of their toilette in days past. Amber takes place at a time before indoor plumbing evidenced by the wash basin she is using. Elmer is about to pull the chain on one of those old-fashioned toilets and Katie has completed her bath in a metal tub strategically placed by a wood-burning stove. I would love to learn more about the story behind the commissioning of these pieces.

Silver Light: Dod Procter

Dod Procter (1890-1972) was born Doris Margaret Shaw and at age 15, she moved with her mother and brother to Newlyn in Cornwall, UK to study at the Forbes School. There, she met her future husband Ernest Procter and the pair were considered among the school’s star pupils. In 1910 and 1911, they went to Paris together to study at Atelier Colarossi and were influenced by the Impressionists, Post-impressionists and the artists they met there—most notably Renoir and Cézanne. In 1912, they got married and had a son a year later. They worked together many times, sharing commissions or showing their work together at exhibitions. Procter remained a lifelong artist even after the untimely death of Ernest in 1935. She traveled subsequently to the United States, Canada, Jamaica and Africa.

Starting around 1922, Proctor painted a series of simplified, monumental images of young women with whom she was acquainted. When her painting, Morning, was displayed at the 1927 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, it was voted Picture of the Year and bought by the Daily Mail for the Tate gallery, where it now hangs.  Both the public and critics responded to its style claiming it evoked the west Cornish “silver light”. The model for the work was a Newlyn fisherman’s 16-year-old daughter, Cissie Barnes. The painting made her a household name of the day.

Dod Procter - Morning (1926)

Dod Procter – Morning (1926)

The subjects of her pictures were largely portraits and flowers. During her travels to Jamaica in the 1950s, she painted several works of children. The style and subject matter of Dod Procter’s later works changed considerably and included landscapes, paintings of children and still-lifes.

Dod Procter - Little Sister (1962)

Dod Procter – Little Sister (1962)

She died at age 80 and was buried next to her husband at St. Hilary Church in Cornwall. A book featuring her work, A Singular Vision: Dod Procter by Alison James, was published by Sansom & Co. in 2007.

Hans Baluschek and the Small Universe of European Art

If one is a long-time follower of this blog or a fan of the European arts prior to the Postmodern era, then he should now be aware, if he wasn’t before, that that world was often a fairly small and insular one.  Many of the most notable artists knew each other well, or at least knew of each other.  It could be said that much of what was recognized then as the cream of European arts and letters really became so because of the fact that a goodly number of these folks were friends and acquaintances, and I would not argue the point . . . much.  It’s true that before Postmodernism changed the creative landscape, a great deal of what registered on critics’—and by extension the public’s—radars obtained its esteem by virtue of these relationships.  Of course, whether it remained there or not in perpetuity depended on many factors which had more to do with the quality of the art and the fickle tastes of high society, but it cannot be denied that many decent artists remained unknown or ignored in their own time due to a lack of the right social connections.  This type of class elitism was hardly confined to the creative fields, of course, but it certainly existed strongly there.

Consequently, the biographies of seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century men and women of the humanities often reads like an episode of James Burke’s wonderful television series Connections (which Ron has mentioned here before), a chain of creativity reaching back into the Middle Ages, fostered largely by wealthy patronage and by the academies.  Even those artists who sought to change this unfair system through their work or through their social standing were still necessarily a part of it.  Such was the case with Hans Baluschek, a German painter and graphic artist associated with the Symbolists and especially the Berlin Secession.  Like many of the artists of that movement, Baluschek identified with the working class to some extent and sought to empower them, using his art to portray what he perceived as both the inherent dignity and the terrible conditions of the working class.

Hans Baluschek - Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Lost (1920)

Hans Baluschek – Transient Workers (1926)

Hans Baluschek - The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – Working Family (1920)

Hans Baluschek - Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek – Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek - Summer Night (1928)

Hans Baluschek – Summer Night (1928)

Although Baluschek preferred to depict the working classes in his drawings and paintings, he wasn’t opposed to presenting the higher classes either, particularly in contrast to the poor, such as in the work Berlin Fairgrounds.  Note the lower class boy smoking in the foreground of the image.

Hans Baluschek - Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

Hans Baluschek – Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

I mentioned earlier how many of these artists were connected, if not directly then at least through third parties.  Such was the case with Baluschek and noted German Expressionist painter and sculptor Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.  Although Kirchner was never a member (officially anyway) of the Berlin Secession, he and his group of artists and architects known as Die Brücke were associated with it, and Baluschek and Kirchner had another connection through the person of Dr. Oskar Kohnstamm, a psychiatrist whose children became the stars of their own play and children’s book, Peterchens Mondfahrt (often tranlated into English as Peter and Anneli’s Journey to the Moon) which Baluschek illustrated.  Kirchner was a patient of Kohnstamm, whose sanitarium treated those with chronic depression.  The play’s and book’s author was Gerdt von Bassewitz, and Peterchens Mondfahrt proved to be his most–indeed, his only–successful work.

Hans Baluschek – Image from ‘Peterchens Mondfahrt’ (1915) (1)

Hans Baluschek - Image from 'Peterchens Mondfahrt' (1915) (2)

Hans Baluschek – Image from ‘Peterchens Mondfahrt’ (1915) (2)

But one of Baluschek’s most interesting paintings—to me at least—is uncharacteristic of his work in a number of ways.  First, while most of Baluschek’s paintings had urban settings, this one presents a sparse country scene.  Secondly, while the allegorical context of many of his artworks tended to be subtle, this one (called Death) is a fairly obvious Symbolist comment on a major social problem of his day: the abuse of opiates.  Opiates were fully legal in Germany in the late 19th century when this piece was created and were sold as an over-the-counter remedy for a number of ailments, even for children.  But here the children represent both the naivete many people had about the medicine’s dangers and the sort of child-like feelings of carefree bliss that opiates can sometimes induce.  Another factor which sets this piece apart from most of his later work is the odd, simple composition.  In fact, it is because of the simplicity of the composition—Baluschek relies on a handful of small, light elements at the right of the picture to balance out the heavier, darker elements on the left—that one can discern that it isn’t quite successful overall.  The left side is too heavy.  However, this is somewhat mitigated by the strange buoyancy of the poppy flowers.  The flowers appear to be almost consciously seductive, and we can see the children have fallen under their spell, with one of them, the little girl lying in the background, already presumably dead.  No doubt the boy will suffer the same fate soon enough.

Hans Baluschek - Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Hans Baluschek – Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Wikipedia: Hans Baluschek

German Cards: Hans Baluschek

Post Split! Otto Lohmüller

I remember when I was little and someone explained to me about stocks and how sometimes they did this amazing thing called a split because they had become so valuable.  Likewise, when I posted a couple of random postcard images, the response was amazing and now I feel there has been so much supplemental information that this artist and those in the previous post (Pierre et Gilles) deserve their own separate posts.

The following image is a painting by Otto Lohmüller and when researching this artist, I was amazed to discover that he drew and painted mostly boys—both clothed and nude. However, there are a few charming examples of girls as in this image and another I found online. I do confess that after studying this image, I pick up a bit of gender ambiguity—not so much in the subject’s physical appearance but in her attitude.  The Russian title for this piece was “France” so I am assuming at the moment that this piece was done during the artist’s short time in France.

Otto Lohmüller – Gaelle

Otto Lohmüller was born in Gengenbach, Germany in 1943. (I’ve noted many times how 1943 seemed an auspicious year for artists—most notably Graham Ovenden and Robert Crumb.) He was a figurative painter, sculptor and book illustrator featuring mainly images of early adolescent males. Apart from the examples presented here, his portraits and sculptures included people of all ages from his town, from his travels to India and Southeast Asia and a few public figures. Lohmüller joined the the Boy Scouts in 1952 and his artistic interests at the time included Michelangelo, classical Greek works and the Boy Scouts illustrations of Pierre Joubert. After living in Paris for a short time, he began an apprenticeship in Offenburg in 1961 as a printer, and took an interest in Caravaggio. He began working on sculpture in the 1970s and eventually returned to his hometown with his wife and two sons. Since then, he has illustrated songbooks, publications of poems, and books for the local Boy Scouts—an organization with which he became devoted. In 1984 he joined the Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (FKK, German Association for Free Body Culture). Lohmüller like so many before him has received grief for his portrayal of nude adolescents. This illustrates not only the ignorance and intolerance of law enforcement—this time German—but that having strong personal relationships with the models and their families means that they become vehement defenders of the artist in court.  He founded the publishing company Zeus Press to produce art volumes of his work and his published works are listed in the Catalog of the German National Library.

Otto Lohmüller - (title unknown)

Otto Lohmüller – (title unknown)

As always, if anyone can provide proper titles and/or dates to these works of art, the effort would be much appreciated.

Otto Lohmüller (Wikipedia)

Friends of Otolo (official Lohmüller fansite and museum)

Soviet Postcards, Part 6: L.F. Mileeva

This item comes from a series featuring artists from Ryazan. This oil painting is entitled “Natasha”.

L.F. Mileev - Наташа (Natasha) (1929)

L.F. Mileeva – Наташа (Natasha) (1929)

Lubov Fedorova Mileeva (1894-1930) was born in Ryazan, but worked in Leningrad. the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia. She graduated from the Art School Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in 1914 and collaborated on two prominent Soviet magazines. She participated in ethnographic expeditions and in 1926, created a series of works devoted to the peasants of Ryazan. In addition to being a painter, she was also a skilled draftsman and noted illustrator of children’s books. She won numerous awards during her short career including a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1925 and a posthumous solo exhibition of her work was held in Ryazan in 1936. Collections of her work can be found in the State Russian Museum and the Ryazan State Regional Art Museum.

Soviet Postcards, Part 4: V.P. Efanov

Today’s postcard is from a series entitled: “Soviet Russia” Art Exhibition. The sensitivity of the composition strongly suggests this is a more personal work, perhaps the artist’s own daughter.

V.P. Efanov - Marinka (1959)

V.P. Efanov – Маринка [Marinka] (1959)

Vasily Prokofevich Efanov (1900-1978) studied at the studio of D. N. Kardovsky in Moscow from 1921 to 1926 before teaching at the Moscow Surikov Institute of Art (1948-1957) and then the Lenin Moscow Pedagogical Institute from 1960. He is known for his work in portraits—including formal ones of prominent Soviet figures—but his narrative pieces tended to be group compositions. During his distinguished career, he received a number of awards and medals for services to the state including the Order of the Red Banner of Labor and was formally given the title of People’s Artist of the USSR in 1965. Like many of the Soviet artists being covered, there is little about him in English and I could find nothing about his personal life. I would certainly like to know who Marinka was, so once again, anyone having more extensive information about this artist is encouraged to come forward and share.

Soviet Postcards, Part 3: Thomas Couture

As you may have guessed from his name, Thomas Couture (1815-1879) was not a Soviet artist. In fact, he had come and gone well before the Bolshevik Revolution. The reason one of his works appears on a Soviet postcard is that it is one of a massive collection of art works housed at the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Pip already did a post here featuring this image, but I wanted to add this supplementary information.

The State Hermitage (Госуда́рственный Эрмита́ж) is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. Its collections currently comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum also boasts several exhibition centers abroad. There is quite a bit online about this institution including video, but you can find the most general information here.

This piece translates as “The Little Bather”.

Thomas Couture - The Little Bather (1849)

Thomas Couture – La petite baigneuse (1849)

It is apropos that Thomas Couture’s work should be so highly regarded by a foreign institution as he always felt he was not adequately recognized for his innovative technique in his native France. Once he became a success, he opened an independent atelier, accepting his own students, in an attempt to challenge the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1867, he published a book on his own ideas and working methods. You can read more details here.

The State Hermitage official website (English)

Mark Lancelot Symons: A Symbolist Painter Reborn

British artist Mark Lancelot Symons was something of an anamoly.  His work is highly accomplished but resoundingly original, though certainly not without precedent (one can see the influence of earlier Symbolist painters such as Leon Frederic).  Yet Symons never felt that art was his true calling, only beginning to paint heavily and present his work publicly late in life, and then mostly at the behest of his wife.

A lifelong Catholic, Symons considered being a minister (unordained–he was able to marry and have children) his raison d’êtreAs a result of his deep religious faith, his paintings are often thematically Christian, either overtly or more subtly; however, he invited massive controversy among his fellow believers in his native country by placing some of the Biblical scene paintings in “worldly” contemporary settings.  Of course, despite the apparently easily offended Edwardian Brit sensibility, no one seems to have raised any objections to Symons using nude children in his work (not unlike Frederic, in fact).  Ah, how different things are today.  Can you imagine a Catholic priest offering paintings of nude children to the public in 2014?

Mark Lancelot Symons – A Fairy Tale

Mark Lancelot Symons – Ave Maria

Jorinda and Jorindal (or Jorinde and Joringel) is an odd choice for a tableau painting.  Paintings based on Grimm’s fairy tales certainly aren’t unheard of, but this is pretty obscure as far as they go, and not really one of their better ones.  The story concerns a pair of youths who are in love.  When the girl is captured by a witch–transformed into a nightingale and imprisoned in a birdcage–the young man dreams of the means to break the witch’s spell and free his beloved.  Pretty much your standard damsel-in-distress tale, in other words.  The decision by Symons to present the characters as modern children is an interesting one.  Place this piece in context of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, of whom Symons was a follower.

Mark Lancelot Symons – Jorinda and Jorindal

Again, notice the Pre-Raphaelite influence here, particularly Millais and Burne-Jones.

Mark Lancelot Symons – Madonna and Child with Angels (1925)

Mark Lancelot Symons - Molly in the Garden

Mark Lancelot Symons – Molly in the Garden

Mark Lancelot Symons - Molly in the Pantry

Mark Lancelot Symons – Molly in the Pantry

Mark Lancelot Symons - My Lord I Meet in Every London Lane and Street

Mark Lancelot Symons – My Lord I Meet in Every London Lane and Street

Mark Lancelot Symons - The Day After Christmas

Mark Lancelot Symons – The Day After Christmas

Mark Lancelot Symons - (Title Unknown)

Mark Lancelot Symons – (Title Unknown)

 

Graffiti & Girls

I am pleased to present another submission from one of our guest writers, Ami. It is a challenge when editing someone else’s work to preserve the style and personality of the contributor while making sure the language is concise and clear. It is because of the dedication of fans like Ami that Pigtails can offer a broader perspective than Pip and I could by ourselves. Although we may not completely accept the world view of any particular writer, I think Ami’s contribution is worthy of exposure on this site. Enjoy, -Ron

Banksy is maybe the only graffiti artist ever to achieve household name recognition. His anonymous anti-establishment black & white stencil pieces have been spotted around the world. He boasts legal exhibitions, with his stuff going to people like Kate Moss and John Travolta for upwards of a quarter-million pounds, and there’s a movie about him: Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010).

Banksy - August, 2005

Banksy – August, 2005

Totally subaltern, it makes sense that one of Banksy’s landmark pieces is of… a little girl—the most hard-core rebellious tag that any subversive could identify with. So it was very apt, when on August 5th, 2005 the Global Community awoke to find a little girl had appeared, written by Banksy, on the 700 kilometer Security Barrier that is rapidly dividing the pariah Palestinians from the Israelis. Braided—maybe an allusion to Astrid Lindgren’s little anarchist heroine Pippi Longstocking—the small girl holds on to eight balloons that lift her off. She has an almost impossible lightness in a place noted for being very weighty, in a sometimes heavy world.

Another artist has also tweaked the graffiti art genre to achieve some legitimacy for the otherwise criminal art. Kevin Peterson, based in Houston, Texas, transferred wild-style scripts, tags and “bombed-out” urban spaces to canvas, and used it with corrugated metal as a background for the wickedest rebel icon: little girls… posing, strolling, gently smiling or just chillin’.

Kevin Peterson - Discompose (February, 2011)

Kevin Peterson – Discompose (February, 2011)

Kevin’s style is photo-realistic, causing one critic, Arseny Vesnin, to compare his work to Jacques-Louis David. The exquisitely rendered and vivacious little girls against a backdrop of rough street-art, urban decay and industrial metals offers a big contrast between the purest innocence and the trashiest breakdown. Kevin writes:

“It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world.”

Kevin describes himself in an interview with Michelle Markelz as having a soft spot for kids and it shows. We can easily tune in and empathize with the inner worlds of the girls in his figurative foregrounds. Each girl is solo, alone on the canvas, sometimes melancholy with perhaps a few hesitant smiles. Kevin says, “My work deals with isolation, loneliness and longing teamed with a level of optimistic hope.”

Kevin Peterson - Alone II

Kevin Peterson – Alone II

“Issues of race and the division of wealth have arisen in my recent work. This work deals with the idea of rigid boundaries, the hopeful breakdown of such restrictions, as well as questions about the forces that orchestrate our behavior.”

Recognizing his precise vision of innocence juxtaposed against hardness, Kevin makes reference to Banksy’s iconic Security Barrier girl many times in his work.

Kevin Peterson - from Graffiti Girls series

Kevin Peterson – from Graffiti Girls series

“A person who decides to go out and paint illegal graffiti and ‘deface’ other people’s property was once an innocent child as well but something happened along the way and they developed into someone who was willing to break laws and social norms to express themselves in such a way.”

…And sometimes that person who is willing to “break […] social norms to express themselves” still really is a child! If the image of a small graffiti girl is rebellious, a lil’ girl who writes graffiti must be revolutionary…

Solveig Barlow - November 29, 2007

Solveig Barlow – November 29, 2007

Called the “New” or “Female Banksy” by British media, the ten-year-old schoolgirl Solveig Barlow writes legally on wastelands around her Brighton home. While supported by her (magazine) writer father Paul and mother Heidi, she isn’t coached by them. Speaking of her muse Solveig told The Sun, “I’m not sure where I get my inspiration. I must just have a good imagination.” Solveig, which means “sunbeam” in Norwegian, uses SOL as her tag.

Solveig Barlow - March 23, 2009

Solveig Barlow – March 23, 2009

In the spirit of Banksy a year-and-a-half earlier, SOL gets up to the Berlin wall.

Solveig Barlow - November 27, 2007

Solveig Barlow – November 27, 2007

Graffiti is a subversive art—frequently anonymous, the expression of the alienated and disaffected. Its messages tend toward anti-establishment in form and content. But the most dissident piece or artist of all, turns out to be… the little girl.

The ultimate dissident philosophy is cute, fun, colorful, playful and readily forgives; it’s vulnerable, fragile, sincere and cries easily. That is what is most threatening to the heaviness of the world. That is what is most defended against, poked fun at and even called a crime.

Kevin Peterson - Into the Light

Kevin Peterson – Into the Light

Out-of-doors artist and social activist Keith Haring’s “radiant babies” are referenced by Kevin in his “Into the Light”. Openly gay, Keith was outspoken on gender and sexuality issues. He died of AIDS-related complications quite young, just 31.

Kevin Peterson - Hope

Kevin Peterson – Hope

”Kevin Peterson has a way with color that is so magnetizing and utterly perfect that at your first glance you see a photograph, at second glance you begin to realize it’s truth, by the third you are right in the middle of his brilliantly executed contrasted world of struggle and hope. Peterson has a clear depiction of the struggles of life … but it is his undertone of optimism and vulnerability that has kept our attention.” -Erin Leigh

The little girl in “Hope” is Ruby Bridges, after Norman Rockwell’s integration painting: “The Problem We All Live With”; she is a symbol of overcoming, reminding us that the dreams of movement and acceptance from earlier periods of art history still have hope and are found living in the same media today. While at the time, six-year-old Ruby represented the breakdown of racist segregation, today such a little girl might point to the equally powerful and punitive ageist and sexist rhetoric that maintains the norms and taboos of a contemporary capitalist patriarchy. Norman’s painting was printed in Look in 1964, since he had ended his contract with The Saturday Evening Post the previous year due to their unwillingness to accommodate his political expression.  Kevin says today, instead of trying to help solve social problems, he prefers to portray them in paint. “I’ve always enjoyed painting the figure…”

Kevin Peterson - Teddy

Kevin Peterson – Teddy

Long ago hardened against the glyph of the adult face and figure, every form of psychological defense thrown up against its affective expressions, the little girl still evokes for us our ultimate humanity, sensitivity and impermanence in an infinitely tender Universe.

Banksy - (untitled) (1)

Banksy – (untitled) (1)

Egoistic consciousness, meshed with the machinations of the big world, hates and despises what is sweet and soft and warmhearted. Kindness and caring melt the ego and its defenses. That’s why a harmless little girl is the most threatening icon to the System: she is trans-political and dissolves the vast, hard defenses of the statist war-machine and its cogs. Unlike ordinary signs, little girls are not absurd and dead arbitrary signifiers; they disarm everyone universally and immediately, being natural symbols of gentleness and goodhearted irreverence.

Banksy - (untitled) (2)

Banksy – (untitled) (2)

“As far as I can tell the only thing worth looking at in most museums of art is all the schoolgirls on day trips with the art departments.” -Banksy

And Solveig Barlow is definitely one schoolgirl worth taking a looking at….

Solveig Barlow - April 14, 2009

Solveig Barlow – April 14, 2009

In and through Solveig Barlow there is a radical going-over of the traditional subject/object dichotomy in Western art history. The little girl who had appeared as an image in the outsider art of graffiti writers, standing for the total subversion of all egoistic and worldly defenses, comes to life off the concrete walls and corrugated metal and writes for herself those anti-establishment images and graffiti.

Solveig Barlow

Solveig Barlow

For more images from these artists you can read Ami’s unedited article here and here.

SOL official website

Banksy official website

Kevin Peterson official website