This is just an assortment of Victorian-era paintings (and one sculpture). I have nothing much to say here, so I’m just going to post the images . . .
Despite having a pretty rough start (his parents were impoverished, his father reportedly hated him, and he had difficulty establishing himself in his early years as more modern styles were blossoming), Swedish artist Carl Larsson led something of a charmed life. As his family grew, so too did his popularity, and he became a regular contributor to many well-known magazines of the era, including Jugend. His style is organic but clean; he even dabbled in sequential art, making him one of the the first Scandinavian comics creators. Larsson and his stunningly attractive wife Karin, also an artist and designer, had eight children, whom Larsson adored profoundly (breaking the pattern of his cold and abusive father), making them the subject of much of his art. Holidays were a big deal at the Larsson household and there are several pieces by Larsson to attest to this.
Iduna (alternately Idun or Idunn in anglicized form) is the Norse goddess of youth and the guardian of the golden apples which the gods consume to maintain their immortality. Here Larsson’s daughter Brita portrays her for an image that was used for the 1901 Christmas issue of a magazine named for the goddess.
Now this is a Christmas feast!
St. Lucy is one of the few saints celebrated in Scandinavia, and her day, December 13th, is associated with Christmas. Traditionally, the eldest daughter in a family or an older girl in a village is selected to portray the saint, in which she is crowned with a headpiece bearing lights or candles, and then she leads a procession of younger sisters or other girls as they go about passing out candies or other treats to smaller children. At least, that’s how I understand it. 🙂
Another of my favorite illustrators, Arthur Rackham is one of the major names—or perhaps the major name—associated with the American Golden Age of illustration. One of the things I most like about Rackham’s work is the fact that his children are not terribly exaggerated, even if the adults sometimes are. This demonstrates a respect for kids that, say, Norman Rockwell lacked. Rockwell’s work tends to sacrifice children’s dignity on the altar of humor, but I will get into that when I deal with Rockwell proper. Back to Rackham: whilst Rockwell’s art displays the quintessentially American disdain for children while strongly reinforcing American values, stylistically Rackham tended to follow the European tradition of romanticizing children, which in my book is the lesser of the two evils.
What balances this romanticism out is the grittiness and detail with which he invests his art. Rackham’s illustrations often have a density and gravitas that many of his contemporaries were unable to achieve whilst still maintaining the decorative aspects and sinuous lines that were indicative of the illustration work of the era. Thus, Rackham could shift from a darker mode to a lighter one with ease.
His Christmas illustrations fit into the lighter mode. He made two major contributions to Christmas: one was his illustrations for an edition Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol first published in 1915; the other was work accompanying a 1931 printing of Clement C. Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” (shortened to just “The Night Before Christmas” for the printing.) I particularly like the latter—the illustrations are richly colored, and I enjoy Rackham’s take on Santa as an actual elf-sized being rather than the full-sized human he is normally depicted as. This makes perfect sense for a creature who is able to climb up and down the interiors of chimneys.
Art Passions: Arthur Rackham (There’s a ton of great Rackham art here)
When I first introduced myself on Pigtails 1.0, I argued for the importance of following one’s bliss. This was the most important wisdom Joseph Campbell–the noted comparative mythologist–could impart to his students and his audiences. There is something about the human condition that says that just staying alive is not enough; there is a need to express oneself, and a natural susceptibility to the allure of beauty. The opportunity to write for Pigtails in Paint has been a double blessing for me: I can continue to appreciate the beauty of young girls and enhance my contacts while having an outlet to express myself and teach others what I have learned from my experience.
If you are a visitor of this site and are reading this, chances are your interests are at least similar to mine. The funny thing is that even those who understand this particular aesthetic do not all agree on everything except that we should be allowed to continue our pursuits. It is easy for others to look at us and scratch their heads in confusion or scorn. Conversely, I know I cannot fathom the minds of those who seem obsessed with sports, cars, soap operas, spelunking, hard rock or antiques. The difference is that the current political climate would have it that there is something wrong with us; this simply is not the case. I do not know what it will take to educate people, but my tactic is to be sincere and thoughtful about the matter and show people that we deserve tolerance and should be allowed to conduct our lives with dignity.
In the meantime we must persevere and appreciate the moments as they come. So much of what Campbell has said is worthy to note. This transcription is from an interview he had with Bill Moyers in the last months of his life in 1987 and goes into some detail of what it means to follow one’s bliss. A series of six such interviews were released on video as The Power of Myth:
“…this is a term I like to use as an absolute necessity for anyone today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day…where you do not know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe to anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you, but a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are–what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation and at first you may find that nothing’s happening there, but if you have a sacred place and use it and take advantage of it, something will happen…but most of our action is economically or socially determined and does not come out of our life… As you get older, the claims of the environment are so great that you hardly know where the hell you are. What is it you intended? You’re always doing something that is required of you… Where is your bliss station? Try to find it. Get a phonograph and put on the record, the music that you really love, even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects, I mean the one that you like or the book you want to read. Get it done and have a place in which to do it…”
I would hope at the very least that people who do not respect our hobby would simply consider it corny and leave it at that. For those more open-minded, it is a great opportunity to examine the human psyche and our society, and to experience the joy of being in the world with all its wondrous mysteries.
There were two people—both Americans—who were largely responsible for our modern conception of Santa Claus. On of them was Clement C. Moore, whose poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (better known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”), was first published in 1823 and is the most recognized American poem of all time. The other was political cartoonist extraordinaire Thomas Nast. He was born in Germany but had migrated to America with his family as a small child. Despite a poor showing education-wise, Nast became a major figure in American politics via his cutting wit and powerful imagery, which often had a sticking power that modern political cartoonists can only envy. It was Nast who created the donkey and elephant as symbols of the Democratic and Republican Parties respectively, for example, and his cartoons were of such persuasive power that Boss Tweed actually attempted to bribe the Harper’s Weekly artist with a half million dollars to leave him alone!
Nast’s version of Santa Claus very much complimented Moore’s. In fact, he clearly drew inspiration from the Moore poem. The cartoonist’s St. Nick was first published in Harper’s Weekly in 1862 and was associated initially with the American Civil War, employed by Nast to bring hope and good cheer to Americans during those dark years. Although his political cartoons could be ruthless, Nast’s Christmas illustrations bore a completely different tone, every bit as elaborately rendered as his political stuff, yet generally warm, joyful and alluring rather than harsh and critical. Nast did other Christmas cartoons as well, but it was his iconic Santa Claus that most resonated with the public.
Jan Štursa was an academic (and later Cubist) Czech sculptor who helped usher his homeland into the modern artistic era, producing most of his work around the turn of the twentieth century. Having served in WWI, Štursa was very much affected by his experiences with warfare, inspiring him to later create the Burial in the Carpathians monument, but the majority of his work focused on the female nude, including the adolescent female nude.
Merry Christmas! From now until the end of the year I am going to do a series of Christmas-related art, since I have a bunch of it pulled. Our first artist is Sulamith Wülfing, a German illustrator I have been fascinated with ever since I first encountered her work in a Bud Plant catalog several years ago. Her work is romantic and spiritual in nature and highly decorative, drawing from traditions of art nouveau and the fairy tale illustrators of both the Victorian era and her own early twentieth century era.
Wülfing, the daughter of Theosophist parents, led an interesting life right from the get-go. She, like William Blake (another artist she draws inspiration from), claimed that as a child she could see all sorts of creatures and beings invisible to others, such as angels, fairies and sprites. These experiences would inform her art for the rest of her life. Although much of her work was destroyed during WWII when a bomb struck her Wuppertal home, she managed to stay artistically productive and created and published hundreds of pieces before she died, no small feat considering the amount of detail she put into each work.
The artist clearly adored holidays, Christmas in particular, as she generated several Christmas-themed pieces. Here are a few . . .
Jan Toorop, a painter of Dutch and Javanese descent, epitomized the style of Art Nouveau in his paintings, though he is generally classified as a Symbolist. His most recognized work is The Three Brides, painted in 1893. Toorop’s work is informed by his Javanese heritage and the childhood years spent there as well as his European heritage and the European artists of his day who influenced him. His daughter Charley, who would later become a painter herself, was a semi-frequent subject in his art.
This painting of Toorop’s infant daughter in a setting which appears to be half verdant garden and half decorative home interior is rife with allegorical meaning, addressing concepts of antiquity vs. modernity and nature vs. artifice.
Hmm, where to begin . . .
I suppose, on some deep layer of my consciousness, I never really doubted that Pigtails #1 would eventually fall victim to censorship. While at the outset battling censorship was only one small part of what this blog was about, towards the end it became increasingly clear to me that I and my sweet little blog were at the very van of the front line of one of the weightiest and hard-fought battles of the Culture War: the right of artists to depict children in the nude or in erotic contexts, and in that respect we held a unique status on the internet. Thus, it became one of our central missions.
With the addition of Ron as an editor to the blog, I had a kindred spirit who was at least as passionate as I was in giving those artists who had chosen to tread that difficult, controversial path not only further recognition and exposure (not that all of them needed it; artists like Jock Sturges and Sally Mann are practically household names, but they have both been through the fire and so deserve all of the fame and accolades that have come of it) but also a serious examination of what this art represents to a culture that is hell-bent on suppressing the rich and—until recently anyway—esteemed history of the nude child and adolescent in art. Of course, as I point out on the About This Site page, we only tackle one half of that history: the feminine half.
And, once again, that aspect is merely one facet of what this site is about, but given that it is an important one to us and was, alas, the reason we were zapped from the internet universe by the WordPress Death Star, it bears delving into at the outset of Pigtails #2. The most important point here is that our readers may rest assured that we will not simply throw in the towel on that tradition just because we were burned once for doing so. If anything, we must redouble our efforts, by which I do not mean we must increase our percentages of nudes, search out and post the most contentious of said images, or anything of that nature; I speak simply of focusing more intently on our goals and maintaining vigilance in the face of a large and willful opposition. Yet . . . ex adversis bonus crescit, for the downfall of the old Pigtails has brought us to the higher ascent of the new.
Moreover, Pigtails the Elder did not perish in anonymity and abject poverty after all, for her youthful sirens drew Ron to her shores just in time, and he brought with him a veritable treasure of artist contacts (believe me when I tell you, among these are some of the biggest names in the art photography game—friendships which he has cultivated not for any gain for himself but simply for love of their work) which has enriched, and will continue to enrich, Pigtails and her readers.
As I reflect on the last two years, from the birth and infancy of the original Pigtails and all of the time, sweat and effort spent on her over the year and a half she was up, only to see all of that work deleted at the stroke of a key, I have to say that, even if I had known the Apocalypse was coming, and even if she was never to be seen or heard from again, I would not do a damn thing differently, and I am content that for her relatively short lifespan, Pigtails #1 made a massive difference. I must wonder at the number of artists that, out of dread of making waves in these already chancy and tumultuous waters, and who have perhaps suppressed the urge to produce work in this vein, arrived at Pigtails in Paint and were inspired enough by its presence to follow their muse after all. Maybe none. Then again, maybe there were many. I do know that, just prior to her abrupt end, Pigtails had come very close to her one millionth hit, not bad for a funky little art blog that focused on a very narrow subject: the young girl.
And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce the reincarnated, renovated and reinvigorated Pigtails in Paint . . .