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Old Woman Plague and the Black Death

I have done a post about some of these images before, but the whole Death-theme over at told_tales gave it new relevance. So I've added lots more images, and some text which ended up expanding the post quite a bit.

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In Norway there are many legends and stories about the Black Death. They all usually start with: "The Black Death came to Norway in 1348, and when it left there was hardly a person alive"

My favourite story was the one later illustrated by Theodore Kittelsen, and it goes something like this; During the Black Death the plague took the shape of an old woman, who hobbled from village to village, farm to farm. She’d be in old, raggedy clothes and carried a rake and a broom. If you saw her use the rake that meant that some of the people in the area would die. If she used the broom then everyone, yourself included, would be swept away.





The old woman was called Plague or Old Woman Plague. She smelled of death, dust and nothingness.



The title of this painting is "Mother, there is an old woman coming" - and for me at least that title makes the images even worse.



Old Woman Plague would sweep each nook and corner. She was practical and patience.



You could not hide....



Where she was finished there was nothing left except desolation...



..despair...



...death...



..and deserted farms. This shows the tree that would be planted before the main house on all Norwegian farms. The tree was usually taken as a sign of how the farm was doing. A large and green tree meant a prosperous farm. Here the tree is dark and the nest amongst its branches is abandoned.



In some placed the death toll was so high that whole communities were wiped out. This image is called "The Old Church". Its based on a story of a hunter, a hundred years after the plague, and how he was deep in forest hunting. He fired a shot and a strange clang was heard - as if he had hit metal. He went to investigate and it turned out he had shot the church bell of an old church whose community had all been wiped out by the plague. So many people had died that everyone had simply forgotten the place.
He went into the church and there before the altar was a sleeping bear - and that is what is shown in this painting. The bear attacked but the hunter managed to kill it.

Later the hunter got the nearest priest to re-open the church. And the bear? Its skin was hung on the wall near the alter - it's still there today.



Such was the trail left by Old Woman Plague.



She came to a country filled with people, and left a desolate place where nature had retaken the land. This shows a Capercallie, which is known in Norwegian as a Tiur or a 'trollbird'. It was said to be represent the trolls and hags, and those that dwelt below.

Kittelsen used the bird to symbolise the darkness and uncertainty of the land after the plague.



There was nothing you could do against Old Woman Plague. You could not barter, you could not beg - you could just hope that someday she would leave....


cross-posted to told_tales

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
mr_kit
Jun. 14th, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC)
Wow, these are chilling. There's something creeping and insidious about them, something nasty peeping out the background.

Especially like the skull in the bed, with mice (cockroaches?) swarming over it. In horror movies I always love the grisly aftermath, and the thoughts of what might have happened.
mr_kit
Jun. 15th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
I'm really quite taken with these. What is it that makes them so atmospheric?

The viewer has to peer into the pictures to make sense of them. That makes them actively involving.

In all the pictures the subject is far away, and often partially obscured. Sometimes they have their back to the viewer and are moving away, begging to be followed.

And the lovely sketchy drawing style is vague and diffuse, so you have to squint and, again, peer into the picture to try to make it clear. But it never becomes clear.

baleanoptera
Jun. 15th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
What is it that makes them so atmospheric?

I've pondered this myself. I think your point about them being actively involving is a good one. As is the one with the sketchy drawing style. The details are only hinted at, but never truly revealed. That's slightly unnerving.

Also I think the lack of people to identify with is important. In most of the pictures there is no depicted character to work as an internal viewer of the scene the image presents. I mean there is no character in the foreground to work as a focal point in the image.

Instead the image is presented as we, the external viewer, would see it if we were present at the scene. That makes us participate more in the scene shown - it becomes our view, our eyes that see - than if there had been a character in the foreground. Then we would have viewed him viewing, and he would have worked as a buffer so to speak, shielding us and distancing us from the creepy landscape of the image.

( I would not count Old Woman Plague as such a character - simply because when she is in the foreground of the image she is looking out of it, and her direct glare does more to draw the viewer in than to work as said buffer. A point could also be made that when Plague is looking directly at us she is breaking the fourth wall, and that makes the images even creepier.)

In part the composition of some of the images make me think of old photos. When Kittelsen cuts trees and rocks with his composition he is in a way mimicking the snap shot effect that a camera has. His compositions only show you a little glimpse of the scene, and that makes you wonder what is outside the frame. What else is going on that we are not seeing? And considering the creepy motif of the paintings, then not having the full view and scope of the scene is slightly disconcerting.

There is also something with the images that make me think of eerie silence - but alas I cannot quite put my finger on what it is.
baleanoptera
Jun. 15th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
There's something creeping and insidious about them, something nasty peeping out the background.

yes, I think that's very well put. Some of these images give me the feeling like I am being watch instead of me watching. Its very uncomfortable.

And I think their mice actually. Our cockroaches are rather small, and these look more mice-sized.
mr_kit
Aug. 25th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
B, I'm planning a mixed icon post. I've made a handful of these into icons, so you mind if I post them for others to snag, with a link to this page?
baleanoptera
Aug. 25th, 2007 03:23 pm (UTC)
Oh please do! I'd be delighted to see this art made into icons. :)
(and I might just snag a few for myself.)
mr_kit
Aug. 25th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Great. Just 5, but here they are.

Another resonant thing about these pictures is how hunched over and decrepit Old Woman Plague is. She's obviously moving really slowly. But you can't escape! Slow, creeping doom is the scariest kind of doom. Gives it that horror movie element.
baleanoptera
Sep. 1st, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)
She's obviously moving really slowly

I had not thought about that - but you are right. The slowness does make it worse.

Also I love the icons. You've really managed to capture the feel of the images even while reducing them in size. Great work!
mr_kit
Sep. 1st, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
:-) (+ 3 more)

And those alexandral icons are great.
baleanoptera
Sep. 8th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Yay! And alexandral makes beautiful icons.

(It's odd about icons - but I do prefer mine without text and with as little use of filters as possible. And both you and alexandral make that - so yay again. ;) )
losyark
Jun. 15th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
*shiver*
baleanoptera
Jun. 15th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
I know! I actually had several of these images as illustrations in my history book. Creeped me right out!
applegnat
Jun. 15th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
My goodness, this is as horifying as it is brilliant. Props to you, my love. Your posts are always fascinating and this one is no different.

[and that comm looks lovely.]
baleanoptera
Jun. 15th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. As mentioned above I actually had these some of these images as illustrations in my history books when I was a kid. In all honesty they made me a little afraid of turning the pages in that specific chapter.

And the comm is great. Right now the discussion is about Death, but before that it was Tricksters - and there have been discussions about single fairytales as well.
talkingpotato
Jun. 15th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)
I loved the illustrations and the explanations behind them, how fascinating!
baleanoptera
Jun. 15th, 2007 07:35 pm (UTC)
So glad you liked them! I love these images in myself - for all their creepy, unnerving qualities.
schionatulander
Sep. 6th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC)
Hello! Sorry for commenting on such an old post, but I just found your posts on illustrations and read them with interest. These illustrations by Kittelsen are really stunning, and very very atmospheric. It's particularly interesting that the plague is personified by a woman who is then depicted very similar to the traditional personifications of death. I think in Edgar Allen Poe's novel it was a male Plague (King Plague), was it not?
Thanks for sharing these!

(As I am very interested in illustrations I added you to my f-list, I hope you don't mind...)
baleanoptera
Sep. 7th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
Hello! Always nice to meet new people. I've added you back.

I love the Kittelsen illustrations - even if they are very, very creepy.
(and if you are interested the talented mr_kit made icons</i> out of the illustrations.)

I agree that having a female Plague is very interesting, and somehow even more disturbing that had it been male. Perhaps its the creepy grandmother aspect?
schionatulander
Sep. 8th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
Either this, or it is the fact, that women - except for the old witch or the femme fatale - are normally life-bringers, giving birth etc. ... Fascinating in either way!

And thanks for the link to the icons!
baleanoptera
Sep. 8th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
are normally life-bringers, giving birth etc. .

Oh yes, I think that also factors into it. All in all she is a powerful symbol with plenty of meanings.
There is also the added fact that in Norwegian Plague is a feminine noun - which is rather unusual. No idea what came first though - the noun or the legend.

And the icons are gorgeous,aren't they? I'm so impressed with how the feel of the images have been transferred to icon-size.
schionatulander
Sep. 12th, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
I briefly thought about the gender of the noun as well. In German it's feminine, too. Would be interesting to do a bit of iconography research...

And the icons are adorable. They really capture the atmosphere of them.

By the way, I just did a bit of research about Kittelsen, to know where to place him in art history, and was astonished to find out that he had worked in Germany. But even though, I am specializing on the art of this period I never had heard of him. That just shows, how much there still is to be discovered...
baleanoptera
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm all for an iconographic comparison. Any idea where to start?

And yes, Kittelsen worked in Germany. There was a tradition among Norwegian painters to train in Germany - and so a lot of them studied at the schools of Dresden and Düsseldorf. (I think a few were in Münich as well, but I might be wrong there) This tradition ended around 1910, when the Norwegian painters started to travel to Paris instead.

But even though, I am specializing on the art of this period

Oooh! Fascinating! Any particular artists or schools? I've mostly studied Romanticism.
baleanoptera
Sep. 12th, 2007 12:09 pm (UTC)
Also, if you are interested I have a few older posts (even older than this one. ;D) that shows more of Kittelsen's fairytale art.
The Norwegian fairytales were collected and published, inspired by the works of the Brothers Grimm, and Kittelsen was one of the artists who illustrated them.

(another famous illustrator was Erik Werenskiold - but personally he has never touched me the way Kittelsen has.)
schionatulander
Sep. 12th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link!! But I have to admit that I prefer the black and white ones. They are more poignant in a way. (Running out of words here, to describe what I mean...) Even though the Winter night is beautiful.

(Erik Werenskiold I don't know as well. Google showed only a few naturalistic paintings and some illustrations which I have to agree are less gripping then Kittelsens. It's a shame that there is no literature on Norwegian illustration of this time. Or is there?)

To the iconographic context: I have to admit, I thought about it the whole day. I don't know. Everything I try seems to lead no-where. My first idea was the association: plague - Middle Ages. But (of course) what comes to my mind first is the topic of the "Totentanz", the dance of Death. The iconographic tradition of this is the "male" skeleton, and even though Kittelsen seems to cite a few motives of this tradition: such as the long black coat and her scythe like instrument, it's a female Death/Plague personification and this is the crucial point. Then I thought of "Herr der Welt" (Lord of the World): the medieval cathedral sculptures of young monarchs: one side in perfect health and beauty, the back rotted and deformed as if infected by the plague or similar catastrophic illnesses of the time. But I don't think there is a female version of this. The only other motive in which women were portrayed as old and sometimes with rotten flesh is in the case of the three ages of man (Baldung Grien and others). But this doesn't lead to anything helpful... I simply don't know. Perhaps it's specifically Norwegian??? Perhaps it is a combination of different traditions: Old witch (as by Dürer or Baldung Grien and then highly stereotyped in fairy tale illustrations to Grimm, Bechstein and others in the Nineteenth Century), then the goddesses of the fate, the Norns, which are often depicted as old women with a spindle and so influenced the depictions of the evil fairies and consequently the whitches... Well, you see, I am poking around in the dark. Sorry. I seem to have been carried away a bit here.

And to answer your question about which period, school I specialised on in my art historian studies. I wrote my Master thesis on the iconographic tradition and the visual interpretation of Tristan and Isolde in British paintings/murals/glass windows/tapestries of the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century: this was mostly Pre-Raphaelite with William Morris and his fellow artists such as Waterhouse, Marianne Stokes, Frederick Sandys and others. In the beginning I included book-illustrations (Beardsley, Russel Flint, Rackham, etc.) but had to leave them out in the end, it was too much material. At the moment I am working (or better: completing, for which I am eternally grateful:-))my doctor thesis on illustrations and paintings etc. to the Brother Grimm's fairy tales, 1812-1945 in German-speaking countries. And I saw your post about the Goslarer Kaiserpfalz with great joy, because it's completely true, and not the only example for the use of fairy tales in a highly political context. The "Dornröschenschlaf" was a popular figure of speech such as the sleep of Barbarossa, by the way. And, similarly like Sleeping Beauty, Tristan and Isolde was used in a state mural program to pitch a certain politic idea to the beholders. In the case of Tristan and Isolde it is William Dyce and Westminster Palace. Did you write about the Goslarer Kaiserpfalz in your Master thesis? You said it was about Visual Rhetoric in Wilhelmine Germany? Sounds fascinating...
And before this comment grows any longer, I better post it and ramble on somewhere else...
baleanoptera
Sep. 12th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
Just a very quick note here, but I just had to say that this is one of the best replies I've ever had in my journal. Your work sounds absolutely fascinating (and so much like my own area of interest its almost scary. ;)), and I'd love to read more about it!

I'll answer better tomorrow - but for now just thank you for the great comment.

Did you write about the Goslarer Kaiserpfalz in your Master thesis? You said it was about Visual Rhetoric in Wilhelmine Germany?

Yes I did! A rhetorical reading of the murals in fact. I'm currently working on a Ph-D proposal focused on the Barbarossa Imagery, specifically to Barbarossa in Kyffhäuser.
schionatulander
Sep. 13th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you. That's really kind of you. *blushes*

and so much like my own area of interest its almost scary.
But that's brilliant! More to talk about, right? :-)

Yes I did! A rhetorical reading of the murals in fact.
That's sounds really interesting! Is it about the narrative aspects of the murals then? Do you elaborate this in one of your other posts? I would like to know more about this... And the Barabarossa Imagery is a great choice, very popular in the late 19th century, if I remember right. Do you know that there has been a publication about this topic recently? I take it that you speak German working on this topic? Because the monograph I am thinking of is in German: Kaul, Camilla G.: Friedrich Barbarossa im Kyffhäuser. Bilder eines nationalen Mythos im 19. Jahrhundert. Böhlau, 2007. I only know this because my Prof showed it to me a few months back, he was asked to review it, but did not really want to because he was not overly convinced by its scientific value. He said it is a good collection of material, but it would leave a lot to be desired in the analysis of the material. I hope I did not frighten you with this information, that is surely not my intent. When I started with my doctor thesis, I always got a shock when I found anything new on "my" topic... I only wish you the best with your proposal!
Which reminds me I should head back to my work, otherwise I will not get ready, ever. :-)
baleanoptera
Sep. 13th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
More to talk about, right? :-)

Oh absolutely! :D To quote Casablanca - I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ;D

Is it about the narrative aspects of the murals then?

Yes, parts of it is about the narrative aspect, and how different readings of them widens the possible interpretations. But I've also seen the murals in connection to the palace, and how the reconstruction of the palace with subsequent interior decoration can be seen as a rhetorical device. That the palace and the imagery work together and in many ways support each other in their presentation of a revised and desired history. After all both the palace and the murals can be said to present a rather glorified version of Medieval History.

Do you elaborate this in one of your other posts?

Sadly no. But maybe I will in the future? So far I've used this journal parts as a playground for non-academic things like books and movies, and also as a testing ground for academic ideas that I might try out in the future. I'm for instance very interested in how we choose to picture our history, and how predominately fictional pictures of historical events may or may not influence our view on said history. I have for instance been interested in American World War II films (like Saving Private Ryan) - and how these films create a fictional narrative of historical events. So I've used the journal a bit to explore that in a very informal fashion.
(if it sounds interesting just click on the "picturing history" tag)

Because the monograph I am thinking of is in German: Kaul, Camilla G.: Friedrich Barbarossa im Kyffhäuser.

I did not know that! And that is both great, and as you say a bit frightening. ;) Mostly I think it is great, as I then have some newer research to check out and take a stand to. So thank you for telling me!
(and yes, I speak German - but my spoken German is very rusty. I read much better than I speak - sadly.)

schionatulander
Sep. 14th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Oh absolutely! :D To quote Casablanca - I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ;D

Absolutely! :-)))

What you write about your master thesis is really fascinating. I had to think about the reconstructed Rhine-Castles or the Wartburg, there the program of the murals and the architecture etc. also have to be seen in unison, as a "Gesamtkunstwerk". It's true for Westminster as well: new-gothic architecture and medieval saga, etc. That's the thrilling thing about 19th century: the interpretation of past epochs and their symbolic re-use in contemporary art. :-)

So far I've used this journal parts as a playground for non-academic things like books and movies, and also as a testing ground for academic ideas that I might try out in the future.
That's what I was planning to do as well. It's also a good thing to note down certain ideas etc. that otherwise might never get explored, or never published. That's what I had planned, but I have done very little so far.
I have to read through your posts when I do have a little more time for disposal... ;-)
baleanoptera
Sep. 13th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that I prefer the black and white ones.

Oh I agree. I think they are his best work. sadly in Norway he is best known for his more cheerful fairytale illustrations, but I think that is connected to the status of the "Asbjørnsen and Moe's Fairytale" collection. That collection was released prior to Norway's independence from Sweden, and so it became part of the national-romantic movement and obtained a ideological aspect that also influenced the way people viewed its illustrations. So Kittelsen's fairytale illustrations are seen as "more" than just illustrations in Norway, if that makes sense? They have in a way received another dimension of being "typical Norwegian" and part of the "Norwegian ideological make-up".

But its funny you should mention "Winter Night", because that is my favourite besides the Plague images.

It's a shame that there is no literature on Norwegian illustration of this time. Or is there?)

Not that much I'm afraid. Norwegian Art Historical writing have been very focused on the development of Expressionism and Modernism (mainly because of Edvard Munch I guess), and the fairytale illustrations have by and large only been dealt with in artists monographs, but never, as far as I know, been seen as a whole. I know of one book about Kittelsen in English and that is: "Leif Østby: Theodor Kittelsen - Tegninger og Akvareller. Grøndahl & Dreyers Forlag 1993". That book has both Norwegian and English text, though the best part of it is all the illustrations.

the visual interpretation of Tristan and Isolde in British paintings/murals/glass windows/tapestries

Fascinating! I must admit that I don't that much about the Pre-Raphaelites beyond the basics.
Any reason why you chose to focus on the Tristan and Isolde legend?

At the moment I am working (or better: completing, for which I am eternally grateful:-))my doctor thesis on illustrations and paintings etc. to the Brother Grimm's fairy tales, 1812-1945 in German-speaking countries

That is very interesting! I visited the Grimm museum in Kassell about a year ago, and was absolutely captivated by all the illustrations. And yes, its extremely interesting how fairytales and legends are used for political purposes - like you mention with Tristan and Isolde and Grimm. I guess the way art can fall back on the free fancy of its narratives makes it ideal for capturing ideological messages. What I saw in Goslar was how the artist could use some rather explicit imagery (with Wilhelm I as a saviour greeted by palm branches and so forth)that never would have worked had it been staged in real life. But since it is art things can be allowed to go over the top, and rhetorically that makes for a rather potent combination. If that makes sense? See, now I'm the one that gets carried away.

(an yay for completing the thesis btw! Must be great to soon be finished.)
schionatulander
Sep. 14th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
So Kittelsen's fairytale illustrations are seen as "more" than just illustrations in Norway, if that makes sense? They have in a way received another dimension of being "typical Norwegian" and part of the "Norwegian ideological make-up".
That makes perfect sense. In a way it might be compared with the xylographic illustrations Ludwig Richter designed for Ludwig Bechstein's fairy tale collection in 1853/57. They were the most popular fairy tale illustrations for decades and at the same time they were considered to be genuinely German ("volkstümlich"). The reception of certain artists is sometimes nearly as thrilling as art itself: tells a lot about the wishes and ideas of the reviewing society/culture.


Norwegian Art Historical writing have been very focused on the development of Expressionism and Modernism
It's strange (and sad) how little art history has been written on topics that does not relate to the "typical" European countries (Italy, France, Germany, etc.), even Ireland is a step child in art history. When I visited Krakow I saw a lot of really fascinating works of Polish artists of the late 19th century. And the museums shops did not even had a catalogue in English. I was so disappointed, because the language barrier makes these topics nearly unavailable for me. And that's only one example... It's really a shame, that Munch is the only artist that comes to my mind, when I think of Norwegian art. And I remember a conversation with fellow art historian students about Scandinavian art in general and they summarized it: well, there is not much to talk about. *head-desk* So much arrogance is really annoying. Do I have to mention that one of them specialised on Italian Baroque painting. Is there anything more traditional to do?

Any reason why you chose to focus on the Tristan and Isolde legend?
A rather nostalgic one. I love the Arthurian legends since I was a small child, reading the comic books of Prince Valiant and other related stuff etc. I simply liked the imagery, I think: the idea of noble warriors having glorious adventures. As the Arthurian legends (mostly around the love triangle Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot)is covered by a lot of literature, I was looking for something less popular and more German and ended by Gottfried von Straßburg's Tristan. I wanted to focus on German art first, but did not find enough material and most of the works were highly influenced by Richard Wagner. So I took Great Britain instead and was rather happy about this, because so I could work on English art as well which I am still very interested in. Beardsley's drawings to Malory's Morte D'Arthur (that's the text source for Tristan in the UK) are simply fantastic...

How did you come to be so interested in the German Wilhelmine epoch or in German art in general???

. But since it is art things can be allowed to go over the top,
I think that's exactly the point. Watching these works of art the viewer knows that he does not see reality but a "Inszenierung". He does not pseudo-witness a political event that is presented by means of realism as in the paintings of Anton von Werner or Ilija Repin, etc. And so he can indulge in this most theatrically production. In the "realistic" political paintings the "Inszenierung" (I don't know the English term for this)is more subtle. I think in these cases the visual mechanics are better compared to the propaganda messages in modern war films. Do you know, what I mean? I haven't had time to read your post on war films. I don't like this genre much, I cannot handle the patriotism and war-enthusiasm that is somehow always there. It scares me. 300, though not really a war film, was full of this pseudo-heroic rant.

((an yay for completing the thesis btw! Must be great to soon be finished.) Oh, it is. Believe me. But frightening as well, considering the future and the disputation... Better not going there :-))
baleanoptera
Sep. 27th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
In a way it might be compared with the xylographic illustrations Ludwig Richter designed for Ludwig Bechstein's fairy tale collection in 1853/57.

Oh yes, I think that is a good comparison. And in the case of Kittelsen all his other work is mostly forgotten (he also did quite a few caricatures and landscapes) while the fairytale illustrations are known to almost "all".
But the slightly ironic thing is that he is sadly unrepresented in I would say all of the large art museums in Norway. Very few know his pictures from seeing them live, while almost everyone knows them from book illustrations and postcards and such. (I think its safe to say that all touristshops in Norway sell Kittelsen cards). But really - what does that do to an image - to only have a "life" via reprint and as illustration?

The reception of certain artists is sometimes nearly as thrilling as art itself: tells a lot about the wishes and ideas of the reviewing society/culture.

Oh absolutely! I sometimes find the intertextuality (for lack of a better word) of an image to be just as interesting as the image itself.

I think a very good example in this case is the Mona Lisa. When looking at that painting a viewer will not see "just" the painting, or even "just a Leonardo Da Vinci" painting" - but also one of the key images in works like the Da Vinci code and even surrealist works of art like Mona Lisa with a moustache. The basics being that an image is always more than just the image, and these added layers affect the way we read the painting.


How did you come to be so interested in the German Wilhelmine epoch or in German art in general???

Slightly by coincidence really. In the case of Goslar Kaiserpfalz it was staying a day in Goslar on my way to North Italy. We chose a hotel right by the palace, and naturally I had to take a look (I've always loved castles. ;) ), and the pictures captivated me. Not because they were necessarily so good (though I think a few of them are actually quite good), but because of the story. I was especially fascinated by the Barbarossa imagery and started talking with the guide there. She told me about Kyffhäuser and so the ball started rolling. The more I read the more I found Wilhelmine Germany to be truly fascinating.
I've always been fond of Romanticism and artists like Friedrich though, and I LOVE medieval legends and history so I guess the foundation for the fascination was already there.

In the "realistic" political paintings the "Inszenierung" (I don't know the English term for this)is more subtle. I think in these cases the visual mechanics are better compared to the propaganda messages in modern war films. Do you know, what I mean?

I have no idea what the English word for that term is either, but it is so close to a Norwegian term that I get your point very well, and I agree. The comparison between Von Werner's visual mechanics with later, more filmatic mechanics is very interesting. I hadn't thought about it in those terms - but I find the comparison fascinating. Hmm...I must ponder some more on this. ;)

I haven't had time to read your post on war films.

If its any consolation not all the posts are about war-films, it just that I find war films to be fascinating (in a horrid way) for many of the reasons you state above - and from fascination I guess come curiosity closely followed by a research.

As for 300 that film really creeped me. Too many disturbing undercurrents - all wrapped up in a very pretty package. For I will admit that visually the film was stunning - which in many ways makes it even more scary.
baleanoptera
Sep. 28th, 2007 12:10 pm (UTC)
Do I have to mention that one of them specialised on Italian Baroque painting. Is there anything more traditional to do?

Hee. Maybe the Italian Renaissance? That seemed to be the chosen field of most of my fellow students. I think at least three of them ended up doing a masters on Raphael. ;) But at any rate Italian Baroque is a definite classic.

But it is sad that the "classic" version of European Art History is so narrow. I visited Sweden this April, and was struck by how little I knew about Swedish art - even if it is a neighbouring country.
Thankfully I've also discovered some art through LJ. alexandral on my f-list occasionally posts about art, and her posts are a always a joy to read. There is one about Vrubel here and one about Hammarshøi here.

reading the comic books of Prince Valiant and other related stuff etc.

yay! I loved Prince Valiant as a child too, and I still find Hal Fosters drawings to be very good. (though somewhat historically incorrect - but that is part of the fun I guess.)

So I took Great Britain instead and was rather happy about this, because so I could work on English art as well which I am still very interested in. Beardsley's drawings to Malory's Morte D'Arthur (that's the text source for Tristan in the UK) are simply fantastic...

Beardsley is wonderful, and I can see how this would be a fascinating subject. Speaking of the Arthur saga. A few years ago I was in Normandy and Bretagne and was surprised to find that the French had their own version of the Arthur myth with Merlin in Broceliande and so forth. Do you know if the French have a tradition for illustrating the Arthur myths as well?
schionatulander
Sep. 30th, 2007 11:02 am (UTC)
Oh, I have to admit I do not really know if French artists worked on the Arthurian legends. Gustave Doré did not illustrate the French version of the legends, but Alfred Tennysons "Idylls of the King". But beautifully so. And the symbolist painter Jean Delville painted a "Tistan and Yseult" but he is Belgian and I think to remember he was rather influenced by Wagner
(URL: http://www.illusionsgallery.com/Tristan-Idolde-Delville.html).
I did not come across more French painters on Arthurian legends. I don't know if there are some works of Moreau on these legends, but I rather doubt it. And Joseph Bédiers books on Tristan ("Le roman de Tristan et Iseut" and "Le roman de Tristan par Thomas") were only published 1900/1902-05. So I really think the Arthurian legends were more a topic for British painters and Tristan more internationally after the success of Richard Wagner's opera... ;-)

yay! I loved Prince Valiant as a child too, and I still find Hal Fosters drawings to be very good. (though somewhat historically incorrect - but that is part of the fun I guess.)

Yes, the drawings of his successor were not nearly as good. And I once read an article on Prince Valiant's medievalism, and now I cannot remember clearly what it said. Have to dig it up again. Am getting old, it seems. Did you ever watch the two films they made of Prince Valiant? Awful crappy, painful to watch...

And thanks for the links to Alexandral's posts. I knew of the Hamershoi, but not of the Wrubel ones. They are stunning. I was captivated by him, when I saw him first in St. Petersburg.
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