Monday, May 30, 2011

Lost Cause

A Lost Cause (1888) by the British painter Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920).

Gow was a well known history painter. Here he shows James II fleeing to France after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which ended the catholic claim to the throne and brought the protestant William of Orange to power. It’s therefore a tragic scene, hopes and dreams are buried and many, many Irish will follow their prince into exile.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Bard

Boyan (1910) by the Russian painter Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926).

Vasnetsov son of a priest and played a leading role in the evolution of Russian art from 19th-century realism towards Art Nouveau with a national historical slant. He was also very important in utilizing historical subjects to create a kind of national Slavic myth.
Here he shows Boyan a famous bard from the times of Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978–1054) one of the great rulers of the old Rus. Old noble Rus warriors are listening to their bard, who’s is probably telling them patriotic stories of their glorious past.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cain's Clan

Cain (1880) by the French painter Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon (1845-1924).

Cormon depicted Cain and his family fleeing through a desert. There are desperate people in a desperate situation. The strong long shadows have the effect that the whole clan is haunted by the light, meaning the wrath of God.
But despite the biblical subject the painting is above all an anthropologic study. It shows how the artist imagined prehistoric people. So Cain’s folk look more like a horde of Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon, which had been discovered not long before the painting was done.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sturdy Knights

An illustration of the book The Boy's King Arthur (1922) by N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth, one of America's greatest illustrators (1882–1945).

Unlike the 19th century artists historical accuracy was no objective for Wyeth. He was aware that history always would be a construction. So he painted two bullish, powerful knights wearing their armor like a skin.