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Old 11-05-2006, 01:25 PM   #4
Brynn
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: in the labyrinth of shared happiness
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What a great picture!
I love how art always comes from other art - one movement gives birth to another.

Here's another take on that painting by Linda James, who likes to paint images of chaos

On the left is her take on 9/11 "Out of the Chaos: Disaster I" (from a Reuters photo of the Pentagon)

I started reading a little more about Waterhouse since you posted that, Snake. He painted around the turn of the last century and was loosely associated with the pre-Raphaelites, who were rebelling against the formalist structures imposed by an art world locked into the aesthetics of Raphael. I didn't realize that they were one of the first modern avant-garde movements in painting.

I remember being absolutely entranced with Waterhouse paintings as a young girl. At the time, I think I mostly just responded to them because they were "really pretty" and they appealed to me as a window onto another time. It was very escapist for me. They are so lush and detailed even viewing them here on a computer, and I always imagined that I would be blown away by them if I ever saw any in person.

Upon revisiting them, I really appreciate how strong and powerful these women are in his paintings. In this study for a later painting, you can see how he starts with the face as the most powerful focal point in his compositions. It's also a great example of how he dramatically separates out the figure by isolating it from the background with stark contrasts in the underpainting:



At a time when women were barred from voting or owning property, these women don't take any guff.
Here's what looks like a completion of the study above. "Medea and Jason"



You can see how he was influenced by the lush drama of extremes by earlier Pre-Raphealites, like
Frederic Leighton.
"Invocation."


but Waterhouse often kicked it up a notch and made it even darker in this painting of Circe handing the cup to Odyssyus:


I'm struck by the intelligence and sensuality that Waterhouse captures in the faces of his women, along with an intense connection with the natural world. It's no wonder that the paintings are embraced almost iconically by alternative religions and practices like Wicca, astrology, tarot. This whole art movement takes place during the Victorian period when typically I think of women as being repressed and prudish - and yet, in the art world, the Pre-Raphaelites were celebrating the wildest opposite, and getting away with it by couching everything in terms of myth in order to present women as powerful, influential and almost innocently elemental. Here's an amazing detail from Waterhouse's "Hylas and the Nymphs."


I think some people might initially dismiss his paintings as being "too romantic" or "sentimental" and the title of this painting ("Gather Ye rosebuds While ye May") certainly begs that - and yet, just look at the intelligence in the eyes and depth of feeling in the face - he paints with such a sympathy and respect for the dignity his subject, and it reminds me of one of my favorite American portraitists, John Singer Sargent.
Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May


I hadn't realized the extent to which Sargent had been influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites in the U.S., but now that I look at some of his paintings, it's unmistakeable. Here's a portrait Singer did of the actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth:

Or how about Lady Agnew...

I wonder if he and Waterhouse ever met? They must have influenced each other.
The overall impression I get of Sargent's women, however, (especially in Lady Agnew) is of a world in which women have been driven underground - buried in the tangles of society, or pushed to the fringes of society like the theatre. There's an anger smouldering here, that, (unlike Waterhouse - who actually empowers his subjects) seems to be tinged with a kind of quiet, cold acceptance.

One notable time in which he gave his subject free reign resulted in scandal -
(see next post - I can only do ten images at a time)
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