Friday, June 19, 2009

Isabella, John Everett Millais

I wanted a 1849 painting for today, and this came up. My reading certainly doesn't jive with the Wikipedia description; I must be wrong because who can argue with Wikipedia? We do agree on the dramatic tension and the hostility masked behind the theoretical conviviality of the dinner table.

I can, however, get some rules to live by out of this painting:

1) Never accept food from a guy who's that intense. Apparently, it's even worse if the food symbolizes decapitation. (Frankly, I thought oranges were supposed to symbolize jealousy, but maybe it had shifted.)

2. Don't wear white footie pajamas. Seriously. I don't care if they're satin or whatever that guy in the front is wearing; if you could see the bottoms of his feet, they'd be ugly gray. (I'm not sure I buy that he's kicking the dog either, though he certainly gets nice extension on his toe pointing--how much force could it have from that far away? I honestly thought he was just kind of tickling it in the ribs, which would probably be annoying, but not too vicious.)

3. Don't wear a hat that's almost as tall as your head. I have to admit, though, that one guy on the left looks almost dorky enough to be cute in that hat. When did guys start taking their hats off at the table, anyhow? Is that how we're supposed to know he's a bad guy?

4. If you're the 13th person in the painting, nobody can see your face. Everybody else, sure, their faces are spectacularly on display in a way that never happens in actual shots of people eating at dinner, but whoever's in the back left must've drawn the short straw.

5. If you're a servant, you may have to wear yellow tights, but even then, you might be able to do something a little better with your hair than leave it hanging down lankly. Just a suggestion.

6. If your breasts are as close to your chin as the woman in green's, everybody will know you're wearing a push-up.

7. If you're a dog, lying under the chair can be dangerous--it doesn't hurt so much when somebody tips it forward, but when it comes back down, naptime is over.

8. If you use a nutcracker at the table, try not to look psychotic.

9. If the wallpaper is gold and silver, it's rather daring of you to wear a similar pattern to dinner.
10. Spilled salt is bad luck--for somebody, anyhow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Fantastic View of Tivoli

One of the things I really enjoyed while browsing through Robert's images was that, despite the fact that many of his paintings are of what appear to be definite tourist attractions, he shows people not only being touristy but also working; here, there's that worker hauling that part of the tree trunk by the water--I'm not sure whether it's meant to be driftwood he's pulling from the waves (my first instinct) or what, but it matches beautifully with the missing slats of the wooden bridge above that the tourists (I think) are using to cross over to that ruined temple. Plus, you have to love all of Robert's ruined temples--you can really tell that it's part of the same culture in which the gothic novel is developing. Walpole and Radcliffe, here we come!

Oddly, perhaps, I could care less about the nature aspects of the scene; I just realized that my eyes were kind of inadvertently sliding off it those elements. Worker, bridge, temple: that's what I look at.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Autumn in the River Valley

Autumn in the River Valley, Kuo Hsi

Ha! I'm not limited to medieval Europe, you know! When I was a kid, I had mixed feelings about paintings just from black ink. Part of me liked the way it looked, but part of me resented the total lack of color. I resented black and white photography even more. Now, I'm willing to sacrifice color for the beautiful detail--at least in painting.