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Currently reading: The Art of Travel (2002) - Alain de Botton

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2006, Dec ::: Status: archived

2006, July 19; 20:05 ::: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006) - Peter Dr Boxall

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006) - Peter Dr Boxall [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

To read 1001 books of an average of 250 pages per book at an average reading speed of 50 pages per hour would take 625 days of 8 hours to read. The book 1001 books would take 2.4 days to read. The list of 1001 books, the same in a Wikipedia list here. Seeing the same amount of films of 90 minutes would take a third of the time. [Jul 2006]

See also: literature - books - reading

2006, July 20; 19:05 ::: Book covers, paratexts and blurbs as secondary sources

Paratexts : Thresholds of Interpretation (1987) - Gérard Genette [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In a recent post by The Reading Experience against the importance of information on book covers Dan Green says: "Does a serious reader really make a decision to read or not to read based on blurbs and "review excerpts"?" My answer is a resounding "yes" and thus my position is diametrically opposed to Dan's.

To my defense the notion of paratext by Gérard Genette and my earlier post in praise of secondary sources.

See also: recommendation - review - cover (packaging) - paratext - blurb - secondary sources - The Anxiety of Influence (1973)

2006, July 19; 19:05 ::: Journey Around My Room (1794) - Xavier de Maistre

Journey Around My Room (1794) - Xavier de Maistre [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Xavier de Maistre (1763 – June 12, 1852) was a Savoyard military man. The younger brother of Joseph de Maistre, Xavier was born at Chambéry in October 1763. He served when young in the Piedmontese army, and wrote his delightful fantasy, Voyage autour de ma chambre (Journey Around My Room, published 1794) when he was under arrest at Turin in consequence of a duel.

His work is mentioned in British author Alain de Botton's book The Art of Travel (2002). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xavier_de_Maistre [Jul 2006]

"How glorious it is to open a new career, and to appear suddenly in the world of science with a book of discoveries in one's hand like an unexpected comet sparkling in space! Here is the book, gentleman. I have undertaken and carried out a journey of forty-two days in my room. The interesting observations I have made, and the continual pleasure I have felt during this long expedition, excited in me the wish to publish it; the certitude of the usefulness of my work decided me. My heart is filled with an inexpressible satisfaction when I think of the infinite number of unhappy persons to whom I am now able to offer an assured resource against the tediousness and vexations of life. The delight one finds in travelling in one's own room is a pure joy, exempt from the unquiet jealousies of men and independent of ill-fortune.

In the immense family of men that swarm on the surface of the earth, there is not one--no, not one (I am speaking, of course, of those who have a room to live in)--who can, after having read this book, refuse his approbation to the new way of travelling which I have invented. It costs nothing, that is the great thing! Thus it is certain of being adopted by very rich people! Thousands of persons who have never thought of travelling will now resolve to follow my example."

See also: French literature - 1790s - tourism - room

2006, July 19; 19:05 ::: La Foule (1957) - Édith Piaf

La Foule (1957) - Édith Piaf

Listen to the "break" (or rather, when the horns come in) of this song, nothing like it to make you appreciate the whirlwind of life. La Foule is French for The Crowd.

The lyrics are by Michel Rivgauche and the music by Angel Cabral.

The song is featured on the excellent British 2004 film My Summer of Love and the lyrics say: "Carried by the crowd, which trails us, involves us, moves us from the other".

See also: Édith Piaf - crowd - 1957

2006, July 19; 19:05 ::: The Nose (1836) - Nikolai Gogol

The Nose is a satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol, subsequently made into an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich. A short film based on the story was made by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in 1963 which used pinscreen animation.

Written between 1835-1836, [and first published in 1836] the story tells of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nose [Jul 2006]

   On 25 March an unusually strange event occurred in St. Petersburg. For that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch, a dweller on the Voznesensky Prospekt (his family name is lost now — it no longer figures on a signboard bearing a portrait of a gentleman with a soaped cheek, and the words: “Also, Blood Let Here”) — for that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch awoke early, and caught the smell of newly baked bread. Raising himself a little, he perceived his wife (a most respectable lady, and one especially fond of coffee) to be just in the act of drawing newly baked rolls from the oven.

   “Prascovia Osipovna,” he said, “I would rather not have any coffee for breakfast, but, instead, a hot roll and an onion,” — the truth being that he wanted both but knew it to be useless to ask for two things at once, as Prascovia Osipovna did not fancy such tricks.

   “Oh, the fool shall have his bread,” the wife thought, “So much the better for me then, as I shall have that much more coffee.”

   And she threw one roll on to the table.

   Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness' sake, and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance, and cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll's middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife — then poked at it with a finger.

   “Quite solid it is!” he said to himself. “What in the world is it likely to be?”

   He stuck in his fingers, and pulled out — a nose! .. His hands dropped to his sides for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes hard. Then again he probed the thing. A nose! Sure enough a nose! Yes, and one familiar to him, somehow! Oh, horror spread upon his feature! Yet that horror was a trifle compared with his spouse's overmastering wrath.

   “You brute!” she shouted frantically. “Where have you cut off that nose? You villain, you! You drunkard! Why, I'll go and report you to the police myself. You brigand, you! I have already heard from three men that, while shaving them, your pulled their noses to the point that they could hardly stand it.”

   But Ivan Yakovlevitch was neither alive nor dead. He realized that the nose was none other than that Collegiate Assessor Kovalev, whom he was shaved every Wednesday and Sunday.


Collegiate Assessor KOVALEV also awoke early that morning. And when he had done so he made the “B-r-rh!” with his lips which he always did when he had been asleep — he himself could not have said why. Then he stretched, reached for a small mirror on the table near by, and set himself to inspect a pimple which had broken out on his nose the night before. But, to his unbounded astonishment, there was only a flat patch on his face where the nose should have been! Greatly alarmed, he got some water, washed, and rubbed his eyes hard with the towel. Yes, the nose indeed was gone! He prodded the spot with a hand — pinched himself to make sure that he was not still asleep. But no; he was not still sleeping. Then he leapt from the bed, and shook himself. No nose! Finally, he got his clothes on, and hurried to the office of the Police Commissioner. --http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0602381.txt [Jul 2006]

See also: Nikolai Gogol - 1830s - fantastic literature

2006, July 18; 19:05 ::: The Music of Erich Zann (1925) - H. P. Lovecraft

"The Music Of Erich Zann" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in December 1921 and published in the May 1925 issue of Weird Tales. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_of_Erich_Zann [Jul 2006]

I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place, and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann. --http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Music_of_Erich_Zann [Jul 2006]

See also: Weird Tales - 1925 - H. P. Lovecraft - fantastic literature

2006, July 18; 19:05 ::: The Machinist (2004) - Brad Anderson

In search of antipathetic, unpleasant and repulsive protagonists

I recently got round to viewing the 2004 American film The Machinist. It was a thoroughly unpleasant but at the same time very rewarding viewing experience. The protagonist reminded me of Henry of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer and of the unnamed protagonist of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground (1864). The film in itself reminded me of Amores Perros although I have as of yet no idea why, really. Keywords to tag the film with would be unpleasant, eerie and creepy. If you hold that the primary quality of horror films is that they induce fear, this is definitely a horror film. I hadn't seen my perennial favourite Jennifer Jason Leigh since Jane Campion's 2003 In the Cut and she didn't let me down, but then, she never has since seeing her for the first time twenty years ago in The Hitcher. [Jul 2006]

If you compare The Machinist to other 2004 films, it comes in third place, after The Libertine and Ma Mère, but before Anatomy of Hell My Summer of Love and 9 songs.

See also: horror cinema - anti-hero - psychological thriller - unreliable narrator - The Machinist (2004)

2006, July 18; 19:05 ::: Bing, Brussels and Brueghel

The Temptation of Saint Anthonony (detail) (c. 1480-1490) - Anonymous Master of Kaufbeuren
Images sourced here., please not that the above scans do not do the original justice.

I visited Dominique in Brussels and we went to an expo on the life and work of Samuel Bing, the man who coined the term art nouveau with his Parisian shop of the same name. The show was at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, which is in the center of Brussels, on a five minute walk from the central station. The Bing show as ok. Highlights included a small painting by Thomas Theodor Heine, whose wonderful, macabre, blood-spurting depiction of Jealousy was in the second Salon de L'Art Nouveau, a work by Félix Vallotton and lots of Japonaiserie.

After the show I spotted a big hall with a young woman who had a tattoo of a poem by Rupert Brooke entitled The Hill on her back and from there I wandered to an other area of the building and ended in the 15th and 16th century art sections of the museum.

Luckily I did that because I never would have known such an excellent collection of the old masters was so close to me. I saw my first real Bosch (Temptation of Saint Anthony triptych), quite a few Brueghels and two Cranachs and a host of other work whose names I wasn't even familiar with. This collection is more interesting than the one at the KMSKA in Antwerpen.

Perhaps the strangest work was a painting by Jan Provoost of saints which was entirely done in shades of grey, a black and white painting of the 15th or 16th century, centuries before the invention of "black and white." Equally powerful were the work of the anonymous "Master of Kaufbeuren" of the Swabian school (a depiction of the temptations of St Anthony, pictured above) and a work by a certain Swanenburg. It would appear that the term Swabian School considerably overlaps with the term Northern Renaissance.


See also: Art Nouveau - Saint Anthony - Flemish Primitives - Brussels

2006, July 17; 19:05 ::: "I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man."

"I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man."

That is the opening line of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground (1864), to which Dostoyevsky adds this disclaimer as it were:

"The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation still living. In this fragment, entitled “Underground,” this person introduces himself and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owing to which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of this person concerning certain events in his life." —Author’s Note.

From part I

"I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well—let it get worse!"

From part IX

"And who knows (there is no saying with certainty), perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, in other words, in life itself, and not in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as a formula, as positive as twice two makes four, and such positiveness is not life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death. Anyway, man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty, and I am afraid of it now. Granted that man does nothing but seek that mathematical certainty, he traverses oceans, sacrifices his life in the quest, but to succeed, really to find it, dreads, I assure you. He feels that when he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for. When workmen have finished their work they do at least receive their pay, they go to the tavern, then they are taken to the police-station—and there is occupation for a week. But where can man go? Anyway, one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he has attained such objects. He loves the process of attaining, but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, is very absurd. In fact, man is a comical creature; there seems to be a kind of jest in it all. But yet mathematical certainty is after all, something insufferable. Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.

And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that only the normal and the positive—in other words, only what is conducive to welfare—is for the advantage of man? Is not reason in error as regards advantage? Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it’s good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things. I hold no brief for suffering nor for well-being either. I am standing for ... my caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when necessary. Suffering would be out of place in vaudevilles, for instance; I know that. In the “Palace of Crystal” it is unthinkable; suffering means doubt, negation, and what would be the good of a “palace of crystal” if there could be any doubt about it? And yet I think man will never renounce real suffering, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness. Though I did lay it down at the beginning that consciousness is the greatest misfortune for man, yet I know man prizes it and would not give it up for any satisfaction. Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to twice two makes four. Once you have mathematical certainty there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation. While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same result is attained, you can at least flog yourself at times, and that will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal punishment is better than nothing."

The “Palace of Crystal” that Dostoyevsky refers to is Paxton's Crystal Palace of the 1851 UK Great Exhibition; it stood as a symbol of progress and reason and Dostoyevsky had visited it in 1862. This is the same building German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk uses as a metaphor for the European project. [Jul 2006]

See also: Notes from Underground (1864) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: Three Ages of Man and Three Graces (1539) - Hans Baldung Grien

Three Ages of Man and Three Graces (1539) - Hans Baldung Grien
Image sourced here.

Rendering of the Three Graces by one of my favourite artists, Hans Baldung Grien.

On the three graces:

"Who it was who first represented the Graces naked, whether in sculpture or in painting, I could not discover. During the earlier period, certainly, sculptors and painters alike represented them draped. [...] But later artists, I do not know the reason, have changed the way of portraying them. Certainly to-day sculptors and painters represent Graces naked." --Pausanias via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charites [Jul 2006]

Despite my liking of Grien and the other artists of the Northern Renaissance, these artists have not always been received favourably. Take for example this quote from the 1911 EB.

"Without absolute correctness as a draughtsman, his conception of human form is often very unpleasant, whilst a questionable taste is shown in ornament equally profuse and baroque. Nothing is more remarkable in his pictures than the pug-like shape of the faces, unless we except the coarseness of the extremities. No trace is apparent of any feeling for atmosphere or light and shade. Though Grien has been commonly called the Correggio of the north, his compositions are a curious medley of glaring and heterogeneous colours, in which pure black is contrasted with pale yellow, dirty grey, impure red and glowing green. Flesh is a mere glaze under which the features are indicated by lines."

This ends in a slightly gentler tone:

"His works are mainly interesting because of the wild and fantastic strength which some of them display."

So what is the history of the critical reception of the Northern Renaissance? Dennis Crockett's German Post-Expressionism (1999) mentions that: "In 1921, [Otto] Dix began to turn his attention to the German masters of the sixteenth century" and that "Baldung-Grien was among the old German masters just being rediscovered by German art historians in the early twentieth century."

Who were these art historians that praised the German master for the first time? What do the monographs of Otto Fischer and Hans Curjel say? [Jul 2006]

See also: Hans Baldung Grien - beauty - 1500s

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: The Gothic Flame (1957) - Devendra P. Varma

The Gothic Flame: Being a History of the Gothic Novel in England: Its Origins, Efflorescence, Disintegration, and Residuary Influences (1957) - Devendra P. Varma [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This book was published at a time when the only sources for the gothic sensibility in literature were Mario Praz's Italian Romantic Agony (1930) and for cinema the French film magazine Midi-Minuit Fantastique (1962 - 1971).

An excerpt of the Gothic Flame on Anne Radcliffe and the difference between terror and horror via here.

Mrs. Radcliffe, a mistress of hints, associations, silence, and emptiness, only half-revealing her picture leaves the rest to the imagination. She knows, as Burke has asserted, that obscurity is a strong ingredient in the sublime; but she knew the sharp distinction between Terror and Horror, which was unknown to Burke. "Terror and horror...are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them...; and where lies the great difference between terror and horror, but in the uncertainty and obscurity, that accompany the first, respecting the dreaded evil?" Sounds unexplained, sights indistinctly caught, dim shadows endowed with motion by the flicker of the firelight or the shimmer of the moonbeam invoke superstitious fear. "To the warm imagination," she writes in The Mysteries of Udolpho, "the forms which float half-veiled in darkness afford a higher delight than the most distinct scenery the Sun can show."

The chords of terror which had tremulously shuddered beneath Mrs. Radcliffe's gentle fingers were now smitten with a new vehemence. The intense school of the Schauer- Romantiks improvised furious and violent themes in the orchestra of horror.... The contrast between the work and personalities of Mrs. Radcliffe and ' Monk' Lewis serves to illustrate the two distinct streams of the Gothic novel: the former representing the Craft of Terror, the latter and his followers comprising the chambers of Horror....

The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse. Professor McKillop, quoting from Mrs. Radcliffe, said that " obscurity [in Terror] . . . leaves the imagination to act on a few hints that truth reveals to it, . . . obscurity leaves something for the imagination to exaggerate". Burke held that "To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary", and added that, ". . . darkness, being originally an idea of terror, was chosen as a fit scene for such terrible representations ". Burke did not distinguish between the subtle gradations of Terror and Horror; he related only Terror to Beauty, and probably did not conceive of the beauty of the Horrid, the grotesque power of something ghastly, too vividly imprinted on the mind and sense.

Terror thus creates an intangible atmosphere of spiritual psychic dread, a certain superstitious shudder at the other world. Horror resorts to a cruder presentation of the macabre: by an exact portrayal of the physically horrible and revolting, against a far more terrible background of spiritual gloom and despair. Horror appeals to sheer dread and repulsion, by brooding upon the gloomy and the sinister, and lacerates the nerves by establishing actual cutaneous contact with the supernatural...

Each writer of the intense school contributed a grotesque and gruesome theme of horror to the Schauer-Romantik phase of the Gothic novel. They wrote stories of black-magic and lust, of persons in pursuit of the elixir virtue, of insatiable curiosity and unpardonable sins, of contracts with the Devil, of those who manufacture monsters in their laboratories, tales of skull-headed ladies, of the dead arising from their graves to feed upon the blood of the innocent and beautiful, or who walk about in the Hall of Eblis, carrying their burning hearts in their hands.... The baleful hall of Eblis, "the abode of ve ngeance and despair", is pictured in the full effulgence of infernal majesty. It conveys to us the horror of the most ghastly convulsions and screams that may not be smothered. Here everyone carries within him a heart tormented in flames, to wander in an eternity of unabating anguish...

See also: gothic novel - 1957

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: The Horrors of War (1638) - Rubens

In search of representation of violence in the visual arts.

The Horrors of War (1638) - Rubens

Picasso's Guernica is in part modelled on Rubens's The Horrors of War. Guernica's most heart-churning image, that of a woman cradling her baby, whose face is a brief cartoon of death, deliberately invokes the woman with her baby in Rubens's allegory. This kind of quotation mattered to Picasso, who saw fascism as the enemy of art. --Jonathan Jones via http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,903646,00.html [Aug 2004]

Rubens' The Horrors of War was painted for Ferdinand II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany to whom it was delivered in 1638, along with an explanation written by the artist and outlining the allegorical content. That Rubens felt compelled to write such a guide reveals not only the complexity of the content, but also the intensity of Rubens' determination that his message be understood. The image is a scathing indictment of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and its devastation of European life and culture. --http://edtech.tennessee.edu/itc/grants/twt2000/modules/dhabel/rubens-s.htm [Jul 2006]

See also: war - horror - art horror - aestheticization of violence

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: Beauty in nature

In search of beauty.

The writer Steven Fry has commented that if we look around us, anything ugly that we see will have been created by human hands; this exemplifies a widely held view that nature is intrinsically beautiful. That the beauty of nature has been celebrated by so large a proportion of our art is further proof of the strength of this association between nature and beauty. Many scientists also share the conviction that nature is beautiful; the French mathematician, Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) said:

"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.
If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living. Of course I do not here speak of that beauty that strikes the senses, the beauty of quality and appearances; not that I undervalue such beauty, far from it, but it has nothing to do with science; I mean that profounder beauty which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp."

A common classical idea of beautiful art involves the word mimesis, which can be defined as the perfection and imitation of nature. It is in nature that the perfect is implied through symmetry, equal division, and other perfect mathematical forms and notions. Plato wrote about Socrates and his ideas about how the perfect forms of things exist, and in nature we see the copy of this eternally existing form. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_%28philosophy%29#Beauty_in_nature [Jul 2006]

See also: realism in the visual arts - beauty - mimesis

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: Depressive realism

In search of realism.

The (contested) proposition that people with depression have a more accurate view of reality.

Some studies have shown (Dobson and Franche, 1989) that depressed people appear to have a more realistic perception of their importance, reputation, locus of control, and abilities. People without depression are more likely to have inflated self-images and look at the world through rose-colored glasses, thanks to cognitive dissonance and a variety of other defense mechanisms. This does not necessarily imply that a happy person is delusional. Also, depressed individuals can be unrealistically negative (e.g. Pacini, Muir and Epstein, 1998).

Since there is evidence that positive illusions are more common in normally mentally healthy individuals than in depressed individuals, Taylor and Brown (1988) argue that they are adaptive.

However, Pacini, Muir and Epstein (1998) have shown that the depressive realism effect may be because depressed people overcompensate for a tendency toward maladaptive intuitive processing by exercising excessive rational control in trivial situations, and note that the difference with non-depressed people disappears in more consequential circumstances. Knee and Zuckerman (1998) have challenged the definition of mental health used by Taylor and Brown and argue that lack of illusions is associated with a non-defensive personality oriented towards growth and learning and with low ego involvement in outcomes. They present evidence that self-determined individuals are less prone to these illusions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depressive_realism [Jul 2006]

See also: realism - depression

2006, July 16; 19:05 ::: Shortly After the Marriage (c. 1743) - William Hogarth

In search of realism in the visual arts.

Shortly After the Marriage (c. 1743) - William Hogarth

This is the second canvas in the series of six satirical paintings known as Marriage à-la-mode painted by William Hogarth. The actors in this Classical interior are the son of an impoverished earl, a rich merchant’s daughter and their butler. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_%C3%A0-la-mode_II [Jul 2006]

William Hogarth (November 10, 1697 – October 26, 1764) was a major English painter, engraver, pictorial satirist, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited as a pioneer in western sequential art. His work ranged from excellent realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects.” Much of his work, though at times vicious, poked fun at contemporary politics and customs. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William Hogarth [Jul 2006]

In 1743–1745 Hogarth painted the six pictures of Marriage à-la-mode (National Gallery, London), a pointed skewering of upper class 18th century society. This moralistic warning shows the miserable tragedy of an ill-considered marriage for money. This is regarded by many as his finest project, certainly the best example of his serially-planned story cycles. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth#Marriage_.C3.A0-la-mode [Jul 2006]

Hogarth's style has been described as anti-rococo

Hogarth has been described as an artist of the grotesque.

See also: satire - marriage - realism in the visual arts - 1740s - British art

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: Red Nude (1917) - Amedeo Modigliani

Nude Sdraiato or Red Nude (1917) - Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (July 12, 1884 – January 24, 1920) was a Jewish Italian painter and sculptor. Modigliani was born in Livorno, Tuscany and began his artistic studies in Italy before moving to Paris in 1906 where he began to create his unique style, influenced by the artists in his circle of friends, primitive art, but standing apart from them stylistically. Sick most of his life, he partook of alcohol and drugs, and was a philanderer; he died at the age of 35. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amedeo_Modigliani [Jul 2006]

Two days after Modigliani's death, his widow Hébuterne threw herself out of a fifth-floor window , killing herself and her unborn child. Friends believed they had made a suicide pact and, although her family initially refused permission, Jeanne's remains were released to be buried alongside Modigliani's. [Jul 2006]

See also: erotic art - modern art - 1917

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: The Peasant Wedding (1568) - Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The Peasant Wedding (1568) - Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The Peasant Wedding is a 1568 painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. In Brueghel's time, the church was the patron of the arts. Why would the church commission a painting of a peasant wedding, instead of some allegorical religious scene? Did Brueghel pay for this work by himself? Was it commissioned by someone other than the church?

Brueghel was not a realistic artist per se. He painted myhological and fantastic paintings of dreamworlds as well.

Inspired by Eva's documentary film.

See also: Brueghel - realism in the visual arts - peasant - marriage - 1560s

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: Tortured Artists 101

Tortured Artists 101

Clever montage of biopics of tortured artists. From the introduction: "I know it's a little redundant because most artists are tortured artists.". There is a part two which is just a montage of film clips without the commentary. This is by Evadeadbeat and Margot. Eva also has a documentary film on Brueghel which stresses Brueghel as one of the first artists bringing realism in the visual arts, presenting us with "snapshots" of peasant life in the 16th century. Margot has this persiflage of Jacques Lacan. Eva runs http://deadbeatdirt.blogspot.com/.

Coming back to the tortured artist, here is the Wikipedia entry:

The tortured artist is a stock character and stereotype, who is in constant ferment due to frustrations with art and other people. The tortured artist feels alienated and misunderstood due to what he/she perceives as the ignorance or neglect of others who do not understand them, and the things they feel are important.

They sometimes [often] smoke, are sexually frustrated [hyperactive], and appear overwhelmed by their own emotions and inner conflicts. The tortured artist is often mocked in popular culture for being attention seeking, narcissistic, or just adverse to happiness. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortured_artist [Jul 2006]

See also: tortured artist - stock character - Egon Schiele

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: Egon Schiele

Sitting woman with legs drawn up (1917) - Egon Schiele (detail)

Egon Schiele (June 12, 1890 – October 31, 1918) was an Austrian painter. Due to his premature death Schiele along with figures such as Vincent van Gogh has come to epitomise the popular image of the tortured artist. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egon_Schiele [Jul 2006]

See also: Austria - Egon Schiele - 1917

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: Poe, Baudelaire and modernism

In a June 2006 essay entitled Thoroughly modern Manet in the Guardian, Jonathan Jones celebrates Poe and Baudelaire and their relation to modern art. Jonathan Jones is becoming my favourite contemporary art critic, perhaps due to his focus on the 19th century, which I share.

Forget what you know - everything great about contemporary art was invented in the 19th century, says Jonathan Jones

In the imaginations of French bohemians from the 1860s to 1890s it was this dead American writer, rather than any contemporary artist, who perfectly embodied the image of the creative personality as "rebel and martyr". Baudelaire translated Poe into French and wrote an essay that sees in him a martyr to capitalist philistine society: there are some creative personalities, he says, who bear the mark of fatality -"The blind angel of expiation has seized hold of them, and lashes them hard for the edification of others. In vain do their lives show them to have had talents, virtues, grace; society has a special kind of curse in reserve for them."

Poe died of alcoholism at the age of 40. Baudelaire made it to 46 before dying, already mute from a series of strokes. I like the fact that in addition to being a poet maudit, Baudelaire was an art critic maudit. In his famous essay The Painter of Modern Life, he summons the ghost of Poe to argue that an artist who wants to portray contemporary existence should imitate the character in Poe's story The Man of the Crowd and infiltrate the multitude.

The middle of the 19th century; nearly 150 years ago. Forget what you know. Forget the stale and unjustifiable notion that 19th-century art was tame and gentle, that the impressionists were "chocolate-box artists", that modernism began in 1900. The truth is that everything great about modern art - and, perhaps more significantly, everything about it that still lives - was invented in the undervalued 19th century. This exhibition is not a perfect record of that revolutionary age. But in its very crudity - it attempts to encompass changing ideas of art from the age of Joshua Reynolds to that of Picasso, an exercise that's bound to be a bit perfunctory - it smashes through the lazy, dead-eyed stupidities that either make us not look at 19th-century art or - more likely - make us feel a bit apologetic for the pleasure we find in it. --http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1806849,00.html,

See also: 1800s - modernism - modern art - Charles Baudelaire - Edgar Allan Poe

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: 1847

In 1847 Baudelaire had discovered the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Overwhelmed by what he saw as the almost preternatural similarities between the American writer's thought and temperament and his own, he embarked upon the task of translation that was to provide him with his most regular occupation and income for the rest of his life. His translation of Poe's Mesmeric Revelation appeared as early as July 1848, and thereafter translations appeared regularly in reviews before being collected in book form in Histoires extraordinaires (1856; "Extraordinary Tales") and Nouvelles Histoires extraordinaires (1857; "New Extraordinary Tales"), each preceded by an important critical introduction by Baudelaire. These were followed by Les Aventures d'Arthur Gordon Pym (1857), Euréka (1864), and Histoires grotesques et sèrieuses (1865; "Grotesque and Serious Tales"). As translations these works are, at their best, classics of French prose, and Poe's example gave Baudelaire greater confidence in his own aesthetic theories and ideals of poetry. Baudelaire also began studying the work of the conservative theorist Joseph de Maistre, who, together with Poe, impelled his thought in an increasingly antinaturalist and antihumanist direction. From the mid-1850s Baudelaire would regard himself as a Roman Catholic, though his obsession with original sin and the Devil remained unaccompanied by faith in God's forgiveness and love, and his Christology was impoverished to the point of nonexistence. --http://www.veinotte.com/baudelaire/baudelaire2.htm [Jul 2006]

See also: 1847 - Charles Baudelaire - Edgar Allan Poe

2006, July 15; 19:05 ::: The Quincunx (1989) - Charles Palliser

In search of my time in Indonesia.

The Quincunx (1989) - Charles Palliser [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Charles Palliser (born 1947) is an American-born, British-based novelist.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he lectured in modern literature and creative writing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Rutgers University in New Jersey. During this time, he wrote two plays and, over a period of twelve years, his epic first novel The Quincunx.

Published in 1989, The Quincunx was a surprise hit. Set in 19th century England, it charts the fortunes over a number of years of a single mother and her young son, through the eyes of the latter. Through a complex web of scheming and conspiracies by relatives and others, they fall from relative wealth to poverty and eventual destitution. The book is notable for its accurate and evocative portrayal of English life at the time, covering the breadth of society from the gentry to the poor and from provincial villages to metropolitan London and dealing with the eccentricities of Victorian English land law. Towards the end of the book it is revealed that the narrator may not be as objective as the reader probably assumes.

Palliser has subsequently published two more novels and one collection of short stories. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Palliser [Jul 2006]

See also: literature - 1989

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