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On My To Do List

Antoine Joseph Wiertz (1806 – 1865). Don’t know why he popped into my head tonight. He was a Belgian painter in the Romantic tradition (though “Romantic” is a brain-hurty way to describe most of his work). After art school, he won the Prix de Rome, a fellowship that allowed him to live and study in Rome for a few years.

He entered a few bits in at the Paris Salon of 1839. That didn’t go so well.

Up to that point, he’d specialized in big, bombastic historical paintings. After the French snub, he went back to Brussels and got weird. The Belgian government was anxious to promote local painters, so they built him a studio in 1850. He holed up in it, writing and painting all on his ownsome, until he died in it fifteen years later.

He had a prodigious output. He did the usual historical and Biblical subjects, but also lots of paintings that were macabre or erotic. Or both. When he died, he left his studio and its entire contents to the Belgian government on condition that they make it a museum in perpetuity.

I bet they’re real sorry about that now. His paintings have gone way, WAY out of style; their museum is a bit of a laughing stock. It’s been on my “things to do across the Channel” list forever.

Some typical examples: Human Insatiability. Suicide. Two Young Girls (one of ’em dead). Two Witches. The Burned Child. Oh, and he was also involved in a distasteful experiment with a freshly severed head. So I learned that today.

Not a very good painter, but the situation is self-correcting. He experimented with the composition of his paints. This is always a bad idea; his stuff is gently falling to bits.


Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: September 20, 2011, 10:38 pm

His stuff’s okay, I’ve seen a whole lot worse in prestigious museums from the time period. Very interesting subject matter though, much more curious and thoughtful than the bowl of fruit or the cute couple. Too bad about his pigments though, that’s always a problem with older artists. The master of course was Rembrandt. That man was a genius, he studied how light and colors work before even trying to use them.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 20, 2011, 10:42 pm

It wasn’t the pigments he messed with; it was the medium. He didn’t like the way oil paint was slick and shiny, so he did things to make them dull and matte.

He does have work in other museums. And, yeah, Rembrandt was one of his heroes.

The classic “Oh god stop messing with materials” was Leonardo. He half-read an old Roman fresco recipe and got it wrong. That’s why the Last Supper is going to bits.

Comment from beasn
Time: September 20, 2011, 11:26 pm

Uncle B?


ht – hotspur

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 20, 2011, 11:43 pm

Best headline ever.

By the way, beasn, I like the way you typo’d your handle and then decided to OWN it.

Comment from BrendaK
Time: September 20, 2011, 11:57 pm

beasn – Words fail. Plenty of sniggering,
sure, but then we’re just bad people here at our
little abode.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 21, 2011, 12:13 am

That is one sick puppy.

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: September 21, 2011, 12:30 am

@ scott, Is that another way of saying the guy was a nut? If so, I agree.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 21, 2011, 12:39 am

Now look. I did ever so generously offer a knuckle bone, in an earlier posting.

Don’t come whining to me now if you missed your chance!


Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 21, 2011, 12:46 am

‘Romantic’ ain’t so chocolate-boxy. Romance is a good thing in general, but it can make you want to open a vein. I’m bad at in-your-face art. I get Stendhal Syndrome too easily. This sounds (and is) deeply pathetic, but I nearly fainted in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam looking at a Corot landscape. I sat and cried in front of a Giotto triptych in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I’m not fit to be let out. It’s awful.

P.S. I’m not funning here. It’s really not very nice to endure.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 21, 2011, 1:19 am

Agreed with David Gillies, about romantics, at least (I can look unmoved at almost anything, although certain subjects require presets.) The thing I have observed about romantics is that they have a strongly-held belief about how the world should be, by which they mean how the world is, and they do not brook any opinions–or even facts–which conflict with that belief. Like fools, they give their hearts much too soon; but once they have given their hearts, nothing on god’s green earth will induce them to take the heart back except unmistakable rejection by the recipient. . .at which point, ‘ware walking! They do not forgive or forget.

As creators? Definitely anything but chocolate-box! What it is, is, romantics do not see shades of gray. Noway, nohow.

Um, though, about David G’s reaction to art. I’m not there–but no sane person wants to sit next to me while a speech is being made by ANYONE. I start humming and buzzing and jiggling, and the whole thing is downright embarrassing. Guess we all have resonances to which we vibrate, eh?

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: September 21, 2011, 2:10 am

It’s easy to forget that modern society isn’t any more perverse or creepy than its antecedents. We have the intertubes to capture contemporary weirdness, whereas history seems to require position, title, wealth, or artistic intent to memorialize its wackitude for posterity.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 21, 2011, 2:28 am

CHMC – you’re starting to get it, but this isn’t a sort of “buck up kiddo, you’ll be fine” kind of thing. I know it sounds stupid, and it probably is, but if you dumped me in the middle of the Uffizi I’d probably go catatonic. I consciously do not go into serious art galleries because I do not want to make an embarrassment of myself. It’s an actual psychological thing. Hey, I can admit it.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 21, 2011, 3:11 am

WooHoo! for Feynmangroupie. Yup–the past is more incredibly weird and creepy than we can /possibly/ imagine!

David Gillies: Painful, that. Having spent a /lot/ of time thinking about special education services, I find my mind spinning off coping mechanisms. However, I have the feeling you’ve probably worked your way through most of the standard responses on that. So. Um. For what it’s worth, I honestly can’t imagine the circumstances in which I would say “buck up, you’ll be fine” to anyone. Certainly I wouldn’t make the mistake of saying it to you (probably wouldn’t have in any event. . .but, geez, I’m not /blind/!) You are who you are, and your reaction to art is what it is. Painful for you, possibly embarrassing for unprepared members of any group you are in, but geez. . .get over it folks! Not a major blip on the embarrassometer of the universe. (I should note that on reflection I don’t think I have ever managed to ding the embarrassometer. We think we are humiliated; it shrugs and says “what?”

Comment from beasn
Time: September 21, 2011, 4:37 am

I tried to get up a little closer to a painting in the Uffizi….wanted to see how some strokes were done.

Got shooed away. They are teh paranoid.

I’m not one for Stendhalness. Immense beauty brings on a deep happiness and relaxation. Kind of like when you are nursing your newborn in the deep quiet of an evening.

Actually weasel, some moron typo’d me over at thehostages, and it stuck. May as well switch it out elsewhere.

Comment from beasn
Time: September 21, 2011, 5:09 am

Though I must admit, certain shades of green make me nauseous. Combine floral patterns with that green and I get faint not in a good way. Not sure if that is psychosomatic or if that visual triggers the motion sickness button.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 21, 2011, 1:23 pm

I used to make an annual pilgrimage to the Smithsonian, including the National Gallery. After a few hours, I’d come away with eyeball burn.

Comment from beasn
Time: September 21, 2011, 3:30 pm

Eyeball burn is what happens in Florence and Rome. Every flippin’ street corner and I’m not talking about hookers.

(for our anniversary some years back, the husband gave me a choice of the UK or Italy, to burn his frequent flyer miles on)

Comment from ermine
Time: September 21, 2011, 4:51 pm

Wtf with that nose!?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 21, 2011, 5:28 pm

I have NO idea.

Given the era, it’s not likely to be as rude as it looks. But it looks…so rude.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: September 21, 2011, 8:03 pm

Because humans are insatiable when it comes to…smelling things. I mean obviously the old lady was obsessed with scents and thus was granted her wish of having a greater capacity to inhale odors. The bare-breasted lady with the wand and coronet is her fairy godmother. I am assuming that it is the husband who stares at the magnificent proboscis with a mixture of envy and horror.

Whatever else could it be depicting?

Comment from Oldcat
Time: September 21, 2011, 8:17 pm

The worst thing about art these days is the ‘anything goes’ attitude instead of giving pressure to either conform to normal expectations or do a good job in breaking conformity.

Looks like the Belgians did that with him, with the usual results.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 21, 2011, 8:56 pm

Actually, the Nose looks like an illustration of that folktale about the woodcutter given three wishes, whose wife wastes the first one by wishing for a sausage, exasperating him so that he wishes it were attached to her nose. . .and then they have to throw away the third and last wishing it away. I think the woman with the stick is the fairy who gave him the wishes in the first place (that’s a wand, then), although she was not actually present during the wishing scene as generally told. I’m not sure insatiability is the adjective I would have chosen to describe the humans in the story, though.

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