Saturday, July 24, 2010
Google Doodle Masthead And A Love For Paintings
Google had one of their special scripts on their masthead today, and as I usually do, I tried to guess the subject. Something to do with a painter no doubt. The scantily clad female lower case g in the masthead caught my eye. While the style seemed familiar, I could not place it to a distinct artist. No surprise there, while I love paintings, I know very little about them. So I rolled up on the masthead, 150th birthday of Alphonse Mucha. Hmmm, I have never heard of him. I went to Wikipedia article and quickly perused his life…Czech painter, got his break painting a Sarah Bernhardt theater poster in Paris, started a movement first known as the Mucha Style which then evolved into Art Nouveau, designed postage stamps and money for the new government of Czechoslovakia, and did his masterpieces the Slav Epic. He caught pneumonia while incarcerated by the Gestapo in 1939 and died pulmonary failure at the age of 79. Rack another one up for the Nazis.
That lovely second g on the masthead was still on my mind so I went to Google images and searched Alphonse Mucha. Displayed was a huge collection of lovely women adorned in loose fitting robes with fussy backgrounds as hinted by the first o in the masthead. They looked like magazine covers from the turn of the century (19th to the 20th). Not exactly my tastes. The women are beautiful but very similar from one to the next, and all that natty background stuff does not appeal to me. But I persisted in my search. Surely this guy did some paintings without all that brouhaha. My patience was generously rewarded.
I fell in love with the Portrait of Jaroslava, Mucha’s daughter. (If you click on her image above, you will get a larger rendition.) I appreciated the lack of fussy scrolls, archways, flowery banners, and all that smutch (perhaps better called Smucha) that Mucha employed in his usual Art Nouveau. This painting is superb in its simplicity. The young woman is quite beautiful. Her face is unadorned with make-up, her hair is long and simple—no fancy curls, her dress is very plain yet suggests an elegance. There are certain aspects of this painting that caught my eye. The look on her face. What is the emotion? I am not sure I can read it, but it is very striking. She exudes intelligence and wisdom. Her facial expression reminds me of Sargent’s Lady Agnew and Bouguereau’s Shepherdess—two of my favorite paintings. These women possess a fierce feminine spirit which is somewhat beyond our normal understanding. Jaroslava seems to have experienced much in her life. I feel she has suffered some misfortune and knows the pain of life. Her expression is knowing with a slight weariness of the world. She is much more than the pampered daughter of a successful painter.
There are a couple of faults in this painting that gives it charm. Her right eye, seems much darker and full of expression than her left eye. Her left hand holding the pendant seems too large and almost manly.
I love how her hair lies on the back of her neck and peeks out from the side of both arms. The simplicity of the top of her dress falling across the base of her throat, the long pendant, and the bracelets on her left wrist give this painting a charm that I would rate as a masterpiece.
Google Masthead...well Google of course.
Jaroslava, Olgas Gallery
The next painting I must confess with being totally besotted. I must give a parental warning on the following discussion. Shall we say PG-13. I consider the painting wonderfully sensual depicting young love. Some might say that it is erotic, although erotic conveys something harder than what I feel for this painting. If you are uncomfortable with such things, please read no further.
flicker.com, mica1244art, Spring Night
What strikes me about this painting is the innocence and tenderness of young lovers on the path to the discovery of the other, and through the other discovery of the self. The young man has partially removed the top wrap of the young woman's toga exposing her. She is leaning back against him very relaxed but also with a shyness. There is a dichotomy of body language in this painting that speaks much of the attraction of men and women to each other. She is shy and modest, but relaxed. The tension created in this painting between the relaxed albeit shy body language of the young woman and intense musculature of the young man is incredible. He is inflamed with passion for her and every muscle in his upper body is taunt with excitement. Physically he is powerful, yet in spite of her professed modesty she is in control of this situation. He is a bundle of nerves, you can almost see him tremble with desire for her. However, regardless of his powerful arms and upper body, his every move will only occur with her blessing
Compare the soft curved features of the woman to the taunt tension in the young man. Note the power in his left hand as it clenches her garment, and the fingers on his right clasped to her shoulder. Her eyes, just barely visible, are shy and perhaps convey the slightest hint of reluctance. From the angle of the young man’s head, he is staring into her eyes desperately trying to cipher their meaning. Has his passion gone too far? I think not. She is relaxed leaning back against him. Her delicate hands and arms are drawn up across her chest in a gesture of modesty, yet she does nothing to conceal her breast. Modesty must be preserved of course, but she is allowing each step to unfold with a certainty that contradicts the look in her eyes.
What I love about this painting is that, to me, it depicts love not lust. Perhaps I am cutting hairs, and such distinctions do not exist, but I hope that is not true. It has not been my experience, but I will admit—I may be a romantic fool. Paintings like this are relatively rare. This was not a common theme from the Victorian past, and it is not the emotion purveyed in works of the prurient present. Most modern paintings seem to approach this with the grace of a one night stand. Impossibly buxom women with waist diameters that could not support the viscera required of life stare into your eyes while being titillated in some fashion by some equally impossibly muscular male. Suitable for adult comic books. The problem with a painting where one or both partners look you in the eye is that they are not engaged in some loving act with their partner. Quite actually they are performing for the viewer, and that is pornography.
EDIT October 30, 2010. I included the image of Spring Night in the text. Originally I left it out for two reasons, a desire not to offend anyone and uncertainty to use of the licensing of the image. Regarding the desire not to offend anyone, well I still have that desire. But if one is offended by the innocent sensuality of this image, then please do not access this blog. Regarding the licensing, I believe that I have provided the proper attribution and that I am not violating the license by posting this photo. Thanks to mica12244art for providing this beautiful scan.
flicker.com, mica12244art, Spring Night, Alphonse Mucho
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