Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Awkward American Portraits

The artwork here has been quite Euro-centric, so I decided it was time to look at some good old-fashioned American art.  Recently Amy over at Kid-Free Living (who is hilarious and you should go read her blog!) found some gems at the National Gallery in DC, which pointed me in the direction of their website.  A vast trove of materials awaited!  The 19th century seems to have been a golden age for awkward portraiture.

Mrs. Harlow A. Pease – Erastus Salisbury Field, 1837 (Source)
The 19th century was a period before closets were invented, so women were forced to wear all of their clothes stuffed into their sleeves and tied under their skirts.  Unused lace curtains were turned into attractive head and shoulder coverings.

Interior Scene - 1840

At this time, people had hands and feet a fraction of the size that they do today.  Books were made in miniature to accommodate tiny fingers.  Also, perspective did not exist yet.
Girl with Reticule and Rose – Joseph Whiting Stock, 1840
Terribly awkward haircuts for children did exist, however, along with the child’s resultant seething being immortalized in paint.
Mary and Francis Wilcox – Joseph Whiting Stock, 1845

 “Please can we go now, Mummy?  Little Francis Green-Dress wants to take her dollhouse sledding and teach me how to hover an inch off the ground like she does.”
Eliza Welch Stone – Thomas Skynner, 1845

I assume Eliza divided her free time between flower arranging to maintain a veneer of femininity, and being a linebacker.  She needed to be careful about getting her portrait done when her five o'clock shadow was showing, though.
Charles H. Sisson – Joseph Goodhue Chandler, 1850
Little Charles already excelled in the art of beating the livestock and servants by the age of five.  
Plains Indian – J.W. Bradshaw, 19th century
So I imagine Mr. Bradshaw was trying to show respect in painting the portrait of this individual.  Unfortunately his face seems to be melting a bit.  On the plus side, his portrait later served as inspiration for the Muppet Workshop.

I think the winner for Most Awkward American Portrait this round, however, goes to Edward Hicks, for his “Portrait of a Child.” 

Yes, that face will haunt you for the rest of the day.  You’re welcome!

The old saying goes, those who can’t do, write snarky blog posts about those who at least attempt to do.  I confess I once tried my hand at doing a self-portrait, with a Technicolor result that would have made Picasso scratch his head.  The difference is that my work didn’t wind up in the National Gallery. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Gull(ible) Feast

Dear readers, I have just returned from a journey to Salt Lake City in Utah.  In case you are unaware, Salt Lake City is the Home of the Mormon Church and Not Much Else.  As a result, while my fiancĂ© was off doing important work-related things, I spent a lot of time staring into the mountains and pondering the meaninglessness of existence.  But when I wasn’t doing that, I wandered over to look at the LDS temple, the grounds of which were massive, well-groomed, and full of cringe-worthy statues.  The statue that caught my eye the most, however, was the Seagull Monument. 

This is the monument.


If you do an image search for “Mormon seagulls” (and who wouldn’t?), you’ll find pictures like this:

Golden seagulls!  So majestic!  They’re practically eagles, but with a greater penchant for eating out of a dumpster!

The problem is that when you first approach this monument from the main walkway in the middle of the temple square as I did, this is the view you get:

Basically it looks like one of the seagulls is taking a massive dump on its majestic sphere perch.

The images on the bottom of the monument show the Mormon pioneers looking forlornly at fields with their oxen.  So as an uninformed outsider, my actual thought on looking at this monument was that the pioneers must have arrived at this horrible place with like 90% salt content in the soil and had been unable to grow anything until these seagulls arrived and fertilized everything with their guano.

It turns out the story is actually even better than this

Indeed, the pioneers were having trouble with their crops.  Then these crickets came along and were eating what little they had managed to farm.  But all of a sudden, a flock of seagulls miraculously appeared, and everyone started rocking really weird new-wave hairstyles. 

Wait, sorry.  This flock of seagulls appeared and started eating the crickets.  Then, the gulls went to the stream, vomited, and went back to eat more crickets, and continued this cycle until all the crickets were gone.  So basically the Mormon pioneers were saved by bulimic seagulls.  And the water supply was never the same again.  Inspirational!

I will leave you with this painting I found in looking for info on this story, attributed to the “International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers.”  It appears to depict an alternate history in which the pioneers are about to be devoured in an invasion of giant man-eating gulls.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Trouble in Paradise

The story of Adam and Eve appears in art a lot.  There’s just something about this particular story of the first humans’ fall from grace that strikes a chord with artists.  I tend to think it’s a combination of human nature wanting to have a scapegoat or two for all of its problems, plus artists loving any excuse to paint people naked.  But whatever. 

This particular rendition is by 15th century Italian artist Giovanni di Paolo.  It’s actually called “The Creation and the Expulsion from the Paradise,” but I like to imagine it all as a more creative take on the expulsion bit.

We’ll start with God.

He swoops in, surrounded by winged angel heads.  Were all those angels strangulated before they were beheaded, giving them that attractive purplish tint?  Also, why is God always old in paintings?  Here he just created the universe, but he’s already literally trying to chase the kids off his lawn.  WITH THE UNIVERSE.  To me, it looks like he’s rolling the universe right back up, Katamari Damacy style.  “You kids don’t like my rules?  FINE.  NO UNIVERSE FOR YOU.”

Before the whole fruit issue, it kind of looks like there were problems in the garden already.

Are these demonic groundhog holes, burrowing up through the Orchard of the Lord?  See if you can tell when spring arrives in a vacuous abyss, Punxsutawney Satan.

Evidently Adam and Eve weren’t the only ones on restrictive diets in the universe.  It is possible that the reason we can’t see angels is because they are always turned sideways to our line of sight.  I have to say that the angel doesn’t look very fearsome as he chases the humans out.  Really he looks more like he’s telling them, “Please…go now…find some food, before it’s too laaaaate…”

I think the best part, though, is Adam.  Here he is, being kicked out of Paradise, the universe being sucked up behind him, and he takes the time to cop a feel as he strolls out. 

And thus, priorities for mankind were set forever.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Sexy Ladies, Hallucinatory Babies, and Megalomaniacs with Feelers

Here at SARFT, we have seen many times that nothing inspires artists like naked ladies.  We have also seen that Belgians are weird.  This week we combine these two themes as we look at the work of the 19th century Belgian painter FĂ©licien Rops.  I’ve looked at one of his works before, but it seems that was only the tip of the kinky iceberg.  WikiPaintings claims that his style is “symbolism.”  I think that “women wearing nothing but stockings” only goes so far as a symbol, but then what do I know?

It started when the title of this painting caught my eye: “Pornocrates.”  Uhh…porn for people who get off to Greek philosophers?

A blindfolded lady takes her pet pig for a walk.  She has accessorized well, but seems to have forgotten her dress.  In the background, baby angels make disturbingly ecstatic poses in the air.  I guess they like pigs?

Continuing the stockinged-lady-with-baby-angels theme, here is “Cythera’s Toilet.” 

I suppose they are supposed to be bearing her grooming tools and makeup, but frankly I have to assume that anything in tiny angel-borne vials are drugs.  Also one baby is bringing a breast on a plate?  Maybe it’s Jell-o made with a novelty mold.

This is the technically accurately named “Woman on a Rocking Horse.”

A Dominatrix rides with impunity, spurred onward by a band of grooving demons.  Beside her, a monkey dressed like Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is forced to perch on a pole.  I think that Rops’ childhood nanny may have had some serious issues. 

But not as serious as those that Rops himself developed.  I debated for a while whether to include “The Satanic Removal,” part of a Satanic threesome of paintings.  If you’re curious but (rightfully) terrified of clicking links around here, it involves a naked lady, a frisky broomstick, and a demon so well hung he could actually hang himself.

Instead, I’ll conclude with the significantly tamer “Behind the Scenes.”

Compared to come of the others, this one is fairly unremarkable...except for the dude who is a cross between a smarmy Emperor Ming and the Monarch.  


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Hungry Hungry Demigods

Buddhism has a rich body of mythology, which is often expressed through intricate art.  This makes it a prime target for ignoramuses such as myself to use as fodder for a humor blog.  Thus I present to you a 19th century work, “Rahula and his Assembly.”

I should note that if you do a Google search for “Rahula,” you will find that this is the name of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha)’s biological son.  Although I thought at first that there must have been something freaky in the water his mother was drinking while pregnant, a little further searching revealed that it is also the name of “the horrific Nyingma protector deity, wrathful, with nine heads and a giant face on the belly.”  So plus side, the Buddha’s son didn’t have faces all over his body.  Probably, anyway.  On the other hand, his parents probably should have used a better Baby Name book.

Rahula is the centerpiece of all this, so we’ll start with him.  But where to begin? 

We’ll go with the head(s).  Really this is a very impressive tower of heads, tastefully adorned with little bonus skulls.  He must pay his eyebrow groomer very well to maintain that highly manicured look over all of those eyes – even the tapered look over the third eyes!  Very stylish.  Almost as stylish as his mustache and beard, carefully shaved and waxed into individual curls.  It must take him hours to get ready in the morning.  And when he finally gets ready, he’s got a lot of hungry mouths waiting for breakfast! 

The one directly in his stomach being perhaps the most voracious of these.  I mean, his stomach-mouth is at least twice the size of his main face-mouth.  Imagine how many Pop-Tarts it would take to keep it satisfied!  Especially as the food would just keep falling out, since the stomach is a face.  Brings new meaning to the idea of being stuffed to the eyeballs. 

In addition to his impressive ginger stomach-beard, he also has eyes on his hands and arms, presumably to allow him to aim his bow, arrow, and sword better.  I don’t want to know what the nipple-eyes’ main purpose is.

Moving down to his legs, we find that he doesn’t have legs so much as terrifying tentacles protruding from his torso, tipped with even more faces.  We find he is sitting on a couple of uncomfortable-looking people, in a setup for one of the stranger examples of hentai to grace the 19th century. 

Rahula’s entourage has some interesting entries, as well.  First, above his heads we find this trio.

Just a couple of normal enlightened deities, chillin’ on their standard-issue lotus-blossom clouds.  And this guy.


Then there are a couple of invisible naked androgynous-types, pretending to be birds as they chase after a giggling flaming skull.

I think this guy is my favorite, though.

His many faces twist in rage, hair standing on end, shaking his rage-snake at the heavens.  I assume his anger is related to the bowl of what appears to be noodles in his other hand.  I pale to think of how the divine noodle-shop messed up his order.  “I said no spring onions!  PREPARE FOR VENGEANCE!!!”

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Triumph of the Citrus Prince

I thought I would try to steer away from “Bare Boobs and Breastfeeding” as a primary theme this week, and instead return to another much-loved theme in art, “Hubris.”

This is Frederick Henry, 17th century Prince of Orange, seen here after a tragic accident involving a pencil sharpener, his face, and severe neck trauma requiring use of a Lace Brace.

And this is the “Triumph of Frederik Henrik,” by Jacob Jordaens.

It was a modest triumph, really.

I should note that this was commissioned by Frederick Henry’s consort after his death, to show how awesome he was.  But really it goes to show that he couldn’t triumph over death.  I assume that that is why Skeletor here is about to stab that pansy angel in the face before moving on to Freddy. 

Elsewhere in the heights the Baby Vine crop is literally dripping with fruit, ripe and ready for plucking.  Mmm, plump, juicy babies.

Back down on the ground, a naked Father-Son duo practice for their entry to the Hawkeye Initiative.  Curve those spines and pop out those tushies, boys!

The son looks like he’s getting up to some mischief, inciting a stampede in the middle of a crowded plaza.  This guy has already been trampled to death by overexcited horses. 

This is why you should always adhere to the maximum capacity warnings for public spaces.  Here it was 100 people OR 50 horses OR 2 hungry lions.

At least the dead trampled guy’s body won’t go to waste.

A few men apparently have a brilliant scheme to steal this life-sized golden statue while no one is paying attention.  HEEEEAVE!

Finally, we have the center of attention himself, His Godliness Frederick Henry.  He lounges casually on his golden chariot, serene in the middle of all the chaos.  Beside him is his trusty staff.  He has apparently taken the Anime approach to weaponry, with the assumption that the bigger the sword the better.  Or maybe it’s just his consort’s wishful thinking.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

No Thanks, I Quit Drinking (Breastmilk)

Dear readers, I apologize for being remiss here.  These are hectic times, and at the end of the day I've been tired and uninspired.  But for the sake of keeping on the sporadic blogging bandwagon, I present you with this, which is vaguely in line with the theme from last time.


This is "St. Nicholas Refusing His Mother’s Milk,” by an unknown artist.  Apparently St. Nicholas' mother has vases for breasts.  Either that, or she's pointing a flesh-colored water balloon at her son.

St. Nicholas himself appears to have been cross-bred with a caterpillar.

And this is the conversation they are having, apparently having been locked in a battle of wills for about 3 days straight.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

St. Bernard Milks It For All It's Worth

This week, not one, but two people sent me images for this blog.  It made me happy that some people think of me when they see art.  Then I realized this means that people see drawings of semi-nude women and butt jokes and think “Oh yeah, that’ll be up her alley.”  But I digress. 

This week we look at depictions of St. Bernard’s vision of Mary.  I was unaware of this story, but having now looked into it apparently it was quite a popular vignette in paintings.  The story goes that St. Bernard was praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary, and he asked her to “show herself to be a mother.”  The statue then came to life, gave the breasticle a bit of a squeeze, and shot virgin-milk directly into his mouth.  Apparently this was supposed to represent either the gift of life, or the “wisdom of God.” 

So without further ado, here is the painting that got the ball rolling here.  I can’t find the artist, but “La Vision de San Bernardo de Claraval” appears at the Museo Palacio Arzobispal de Lima.

Looks like your typical man holding a Roman torture implement to kneel before a woman surrounded by winged and un-winged babies.  But upon closer inspection…

Really she’s got pretty good range.  Baby Jesus is standing there going, “Well, I guess I can share.  It’s better direct from the source, though.”

Sometimes Mary’s aim is less good (or precise).

Although that’s probably what I would do if someone asked me to prove myself a mother by breastfeeding them.  In your EYE, disbeliever!

Of course, there are simpler ways of getting at those who question you.  Here Bernard looks like he might be in the middle of a stroke and about to drown in a stream of fresh milk. 

Sometimes the scene doesn’t show the milk-bestowal proper, instead showing him trying to persuade Mary to just let him have a bit of her sweet, sweet baby food.

Here there’s the bonus of baby angels everywhere, including Mary standing on baby angel heads.

Then there’s this one, where he’s not so much ready for a drink, as he looks like he might burn a hole in her breast with his Intense Stare. 

I’m not so sure it’s “proof of motherhood” he’s looking for there….

I leave you with perhaps the most famous image, by Alonzo Cano.

Clearly Mary has been practicing for that carnival game with the squirtgun and the little targets.  I think she’ll win the giant teddy bear.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

It's Tough to Be the Queen - Part 9

Dear readers, this week we turn again to the ongoing Medici Cycle saga.  And this one is a doozy.  Last time, after like nine other paintings, Marie was finally coronated as the Queen of France.  There were angels and it rained gold coins and everything.  Marie was crowned on 13 May, 1610. 

Then, her husband, Henry, was tragically assassinated.  This happened…on 14 May, 1610.

TOTALLY A COINCIDENCE.  And Marie was of course quite reluctant to take full control of the regency.  Sorry, did I say reluctant?  I meant that she took it up the same day her husband was murdered.  Out of a sense of duty to the country, I am sure.

This painting is called the “Death of Henry IV and the Proclamation of the Regency.”  And it is the best representation of an assassination, ever.

Henry is spirited away to the skies, looking understandably concerned at being dragged bodily by two men clothed only in sheets while being harassed by an eagle armed with lightning bolts. 

Back on earth, there is an effort to keep him in the mortal realm.  Not by his wife, of course, but rather by a fire-breathing snake grabbing his ankle.

His wife is already seated on the throne beneath a triumphal arch, “reluctantly” receiving the orb of power from France, whose bosom is dangling all over the place, because it is France.

Meanwhile, Marie has suddenly become a very eligible bachelorette, judging by the throngs of drooling men suddenly clawing at her throne.

Somehow it seems the menfolk weren’t coming a-knocking in quite such numbers BEFORE she was Queen of France, but I am sure this is entirely related to her womanly charms.  Although I would recommend that they all should take a close look at her dead hubby’s obituary in relation to her coronation before getting too amorous.

As a final note, what is going on with this guy??

This appears to be a disembodied zombie head protruding from a shiny shield.  Which I like think is really the message we should take away from this.  “If your husband is coincidentally assassinated one day after you come into a position to get a lot of power from his death, beware the zombie hordes that will come for you from another dimension out of all reflective surfaces.”