The Birth of Venus (Pip Starr Version)

There are a number of themes that many classical painters tackled such that they nearly became traditional in art, and they largely fell into two central categories: religious themes such as the Virgin and Child, the Annunciation, the Crucifixion and the Temptation of St. Anthony, and mythological themes such as the Judgment of Paris, the Rape of Europa and of course, the Birth of Venus. I have decided to do my own take on several of these traditional  themes, starting with this one. Naturally, my pieces will be rather loose interpretations and will include primarily children in the roles of classical or biblical figures à la the film Angyali üdvözlet

In my somewhat surrealistic version of The Birth of Venus, our goddess is about ten or eleven years old, and she emerges not from the sea but from a bathtub full of wine which she herself is pouring. The idea here is that Venus is not literally being born, but rather this girl is becoming Venus by vinous baptism (get it?)  In fact, Venus was initially a goddess of fertility and was associated with vineyards, so the wine is appropriate here, though in our modern Western society children cannot legally drink it. Thus, there is a hint of illicitness here. Shells are also a common symbol of Venus, and our young goddess wears one around her neck, as well as there being a large one on the side of the bathtub. Venus is also surrounded by putti, as is often the case in paintings of her.

This entire scene takes place amidst ancient ruins, telling us that Venus is one of the old gods, though this is contradicted by the girl’s youth. Venus shall remain eternally young, and to my way of thinking, she should not be embodied by a single figure but rather is reborn whenever a young girl develops her first hints of womanhood. To be sure, I blatantly stole this idea from Moebius. This image differs slightly from my usual pen & ink pieces in that I deliberately gave it a foreground, middle ground and background whereas usually I’m quite content with just foreground and middle ground or foreground and background. This gives the composition more depth and richness, I think, and as a result this is one of the more successful drawings I’ve ever completed.

As is usually the case, this piece, which is 11″x14″, is for sale. If you’re interested, contact me at pipstarr72@yahoo.com

Edit: Sold! Thank you very much.

Pip Starr – The Birth of Venus (2017)

The Goddess of Youth on Her Father’s Back: Carolus-Duran’s ‘Hebe’

Carolus-Duran (born Charles Auguste Émile Durand in Lille, France in 1837) was an academic realist painter who focused primarily on portraits of French high society, but he occasionally painted nudes and mythological subjects. Here we have Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, a fitting subject for the (official) 1,000th post at Pigtails in Paint, I think. Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera—the chief god and his wife—and served as cupbearer in Mount Olympus, where the gods resided. Eventually she would marry Heracles (Hercules) and was then replaced by the beautiful boy Ganymede, who was abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle and became not only Olympus’s cupbearer but one of Zeus’s lovers. The story of Ganymede is a fascinating one but beyond the scope of this blog. Anyway, in this lovely work, Zeus—again in the form of an eagle—serves as a perch for his young daughter as she makes her rounds serving nectar and ambrosia to the gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon.

Carolus-Duran – Hebe (1895)

 

Ludwig Fahrenkrog

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.

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Ludwig Fahrenkrog – Erde und Sonne, Himmel und Erde, Baldur und Gerda (1921)

Wikipedia: Ludwig Fahrenkrog

Camille Roqueplan

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.

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Camille Roqueplan – Girl with Flowers (1843) (1)

Camille Roqueplan – Girl with Flowers (1843) (2)

Camille Roqueplan – Girl with Flowers (1843) (2)

There is a little girl in this work, though you must look closely to see her.

Camille Roqueplan – Les lavandières (The Laundresses)

Camille Roqueplan – Les lavandières (The Laundresses)

Wikipedia: Camille Roqueplan

The Powerhouses of Symbolism: Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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.

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Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Girl and the Rooster (1886)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – In the Sauna (1889)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – In the Sauna (1889)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The First Lesson (1889)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The First Lesson (1889)

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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (left panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (left panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (center panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (center panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (right panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Legend of Aino (right panel) (1891)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Windswept Girl (1893)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Windswept Girl (1893)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Ad Astra (1894) (1)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Ad Astra (1894) (1)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Ad Astra (1894) (2)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Ad Astra (1894) (2)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Flower of Death (1895)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Flower of Death (1895)

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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – By the River of Tuonela (1903)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – By the River of Tuonela (1903)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – By the River of Tuonela (1903) (detail)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – By the River of Tuonela (1903) (detail)

Another one of the frescoes from the Jusélius Mausoleum:

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Spring (1903)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Spring (1903)

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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Väinämöinen’s Boat Trip (1909)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Väinämöinen’s Boat Trip (1909)

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Little Anne

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Little Anne

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Rukoileva Impi

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Rukoileva Impi

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Portrait of Sissi Serlachius

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Portrait of Sissi Serlachius

The Gallen-Kallela Museum (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Otto Greiner

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 – Kriegskinder (War Children) (1915)

Otto Greiner – Kriegskinder (War Children) (1915)

Otto Greiner – Gaia

Otto Greiner – Gaia

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.)

Luis Ricardo Falero

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.

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Luis Ricardo Falero – The Planet Venus (1882)

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Luis Ricardo Falero – The Planet Venus (1882) (detail) (1)

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Luis Ricardo Falero – The Planet Venus (1882) (detail) (2)

Wikipedia: Luis Ricardo Falero