Τετάρτη, 31 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Death and the Miser by Hieronymus Bosch (1485)

Death and the Miser is a Hieronymus Bosch painting. It is the inside of the right panel of a divided triptych. The other existing portions of the triptych are The Ship of Fools and Allegory of Gluttony and Lust.

 Death and the Miser belongs to the tradition of the memento mori, works that remind the viewer of the inevitability of death. The painting shows the influence of popular 15th-century handbooks on the art of dying (Ars moriendi), intended to help Christians choose Christ over sinful pleasures. As Death looms, the miser, unable to resist worldly temptations, reaches for the bag of gold offered by a demon, even while an angel points to a crucifix from which a slender beam of light descends.

 There are references in the painting to dichotomous modes of life. A crucifix is set on the only (small) window of the room. A thin ray of light is directed down to the bottom of the large room, which is darkened. A demon holding an ember lurks over the dying man, waiting for his hour. Death is dressed in flowing robes that may be a subtle allusion to a prostitute's garb. He holds an arrow aimed at the miser's groin, which indicates that the dying man suffers from a venereal disease, which itself may be associated with a love of earthly pleasures.

 In the foreground, Bosch possibly depicts the miser as he was previously, in full health, storing gold in his money chest while clutching his rosary. Symbols of worldly power such as a helmet, sword and shield allude to earthly follies — and hint at the station held by this man during his life, though his final struggle is one he must undergo naked, without arms or armor.

The depiction of such still-life objects to symbolize earthly vanity, transience or decay would become a genre in itself among 17th-century Flemish artists. Whether or not the miser, in his last moments, will embrace the salvation offered by Christ or cling to his worldly riches, is left uncertain.

Πέμπτη, 25 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Otto Wirsching, Danse Macabre

 Otto Wirsching (1889-1919)was a German illustrator and printmaker, speciallized in woodcarvings. His life was sort, suffered probably from brain cancer. He died suddenly from stroke as he was preparing a new print. More in 500 Watts

Σάββατο, 20 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Alexander Ver Huell (1822-1897)

Alexander Ver Huell (1822-1897) was a Dutch illustrator. When he grew older he experienced a change in his personality in which he became more paranoid and socially alienated and his sketches veered away from the whimsical to concentrate on depicting evil and devils.

Κυριακή, 14 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840)

Owl Flying against a Moonlit Sky (1836-37)
Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension".

Landscape with Grave, Coffin and Owl (1836-37)
We are interested in his gothic period of loneliness and death. We read in wikipedia:

Vulture on a Spade (1835)
Both Friedrich's life and art are marked with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. This becomes more apparent in his later works, from a time when friends, members of his family and fellow pioneers of early romanticism began to either become distant from him or die.

Owl upon the Grave Marker (1836-37)
Art historians and some of his contemporaries attribute the melancholy in his art to the losses suffered during his youth to the bleak outlook of his adulthood, while Friedrich's pale and withdrawn appearance helped reinforce the popular notion of the "taciturn man from the North".

Hiker at the Milestone (1802)
Coffin and Grave (1836)
Friedrich suffered depressive episodes in 1799, 1803–1805, c.1813, in 1816 and between 1824 and 1826. There are noticeable thematic shifts in the works he produced during these episodes, which see the emergence of such motifs and death symbols as vultures, owls, graveyards and ruins. From 1826 these motifs became a permanent feature of his output, while his use of color became more dark and muted.

Owl in a Gothic Window (1836)
Carus wrote in 1929 that Friedrich "is surrounded by a thick, gloomy cloud of spiritual uncertainty", while in 2004 the psychiatrist Carsten Spitzer wrote that he believed during his life, Friedrich suffered prolonged inertia, a suicide attempt and what the artist himself described as a "dreadful weariness".

 Boy sleeping on a grave (1801-03)
Funeral scene at the beach (1799)
Old Heroes Graves (1812)
A dilapidated monument inscribed "Arminius" invokes the Germanic chieftain, a symbol of nationalism, while the four tombs of fallen heroes are slightly ajar, freeing their spirits for eternity. Two French soldiers appear as small figures before a cave, lower and deep in a grotto surrounded by rock, as if farther from heaven.

Graveyard under snow (1826)
Friedrich sketched memorial monuments and sculptures for mausoleums, reflecting his obsession with death and the afterlife. He also created some of the funerary art in Dresden's cemeteries.

The Abbey in the Oakwood (1809-10)
In "The Abbey in the Oakwood" a procession of monks, some of whom bear a coffin, head toward the gate of a ruined Gothic church in the center of the painting. Only two candles light their way. A newly dug grave yawns out of the snow in the foreground, near which several crosses can be faintly discerned. This lower third of the picture lies in darkness—only the highest part of the ruins and the tips of the leafless oaks are lit by the setting sun. The waxing crescent moon appears in the sky.The Abbey in the Oakwood is based upon studies of the ruins of Eldena Abbey, which reappear in several other paintings. Eldena Abbey may well have had personal meaning for Friedrich, as it was destroyed during the Thirty Years War by invading Swedish troops, who later used bricks from the abbey to construct fortifications. In the painting Friedrich draws a parallel between those actions and the use of Greifswald churches as barracks by occupying French soldiers. Thus, the funeral becomes a symbol of "the burial of Germany's hopes for resurrection".

Τρίτη, 9 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Ivo Saliger (1894-1987) "Der Arzt" and his memento mori works

Ivo Saliger (1894-1987) was an Austrian artist, known both for his original etchings and paintings. Der Arzt are two emotionally powerful, allegoric depictions of the physician's epic struggle to save human life. Der Arzt features a surgeon fending off death, which has in it's grasp a patient. A real life drama involving the artist's sister, provided the inspiration for this work. The tale told in a letter from Saliger to a student at Case Western Reserve University. The student, Mrs.Killpack, had written to Saliger asking him about the motivation that lay behind Der Arzt:

Now to the spirit and the meaning of this picture. It developed out of my mourning. I had a sister. At the close at 1918, as World War I was ending, she got sick. That is to say, the illness, which was perhaps already there, broke out - Lymphogranalomatosis. Several physicians of great stature made an effort to stem her suffering, but we knew it was hopeless. She was 22 years old at this time. I brought my sister to Switzerland, because of the quality of care there. A famous surgeon, the leader of the Zuricher Cantonshospital, endeavored to help my sister. I had known him in Vienna and I was living in his home in Zurich at this time, as a houseguest. Apart from the case of my sister, as a guest, I often listened to my host and his wife discuss other cases at the hospital. There they endeavored to help patients with a succession of diagnostic tests, to delay the inevitable end. Now an inspiration came to me. I went to my comfortable guestroom and made the first full-size preliminary sketch for the picture. A female figure, barely alive, clinging to the physician, who is attempting to fend off Death, who in turn threatening the patient's life. Perhaps intuitively, I portrayed the face of the physician with a skepticism, an uncertainty, whether the fight will end well or not. Well, to conclude - the physician's eternal fight with Death, is to save human lives. My sister died in April 1920. Cause: Leukemia. At the end of June 1920, after 2 months work, my etching stood complete. This is the real story behind this etching. (SOURCE)

Probably the next image is also related to his sister fatal illness and his strong faith to modern Medicine:

Print showing a physician using x-rays to repel Death, personified as a skeleton wearing a shroud, as it approaches a young woman on an operating table.
Next imeges are of memento mori subject:

Πέμπτη, 4 Οκτωβρίου 2012

August Brömse - The Girl and Death (1901-1902)

An Old Song
August Brömse (1873 – 1925) was one of many Czech artists influenced by contemporary German art and culture, especially by the graphic work of Max Klinger. His artistic work is generally influenced by Symbolism, Expressionism and Art Nouveau. His work "The Girl and Death" According to Otto M. Urban, "The Girl and Death" is a modern variant of the Dance of Death. Death (a skeleton) plays a fantastic song on the violin; the girl listens in fascination and dances a wild dance — death accompanies her life's pilgrimage. Life becomes endless suffering for the girl, cursed by the deity; her love is fatefully led from the start by tragic steps. As a symbol of the first fruits of sin the girl, in some sort of hypnotic trance, flies through space on a great snake which — in some prints of the series — holds an apple in its mouth. The concept of the landscape evokes a sense of unreality and timelessness. One of the last prints brings the whole story up to date. The girl lies prostrate on a window-sill; the anonymous roof tops of the modern city appear in the background.

The Lost Paradise
I'm Coming
By the Window
In the Park
Life Escaping