Death and Halloween

A few days away till the best holiday of all… Halloween!

Spirits, witches, pumpkins, and candy (LOTS of candy)… what is there not to love?

For some, Oct 31st is a secular holiday dedicated to trick or treating, parties, and telling ghostly tales whilst sitting round the parlor.

For others, it is a spiritual time. A night to contact one’s departed, as well as marking the end of the harvest as the dark half of the year begins. A time of endings, and beginnings.

For all who celebrate All Hallows, it is the symbol of Death which is most prominent. Not the scary Death of Hollywood, but the mysterious comforter. For all are equal in Her embrace.

“-I’m not blessed, or merciful. I’m just me. I’ve got a job to do, and I do it. Listen: even as we’re talking, I’m there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone. I’m in cars and boats and planes; in hospitals and forests and abbatoirs. For some folks death is a release, and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I’m there for all of them.”- Death from Gaiman’s, Sandman

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm  Comments (23)  
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The Colorful Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema
1836-1912

– Dutch painter of classical subjects. Renowned for his dazzling blue skies and seas. Nicknamed the “marbelous painter” for his realistic depiction of the stone. Highly regarded during his lifetime, his work fell out of favor until it was rediscovered in the 1960s.

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Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm  Comments (26)  
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On this Full Moon

“>“When I shall have departed from this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, then my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown
. And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also.”

-from “Aradia, or Gospel of the Witches” by Charles Leland. 1899

Autumn Night
“The moon is as complacent as a frog.
She sits in the sky like a blind white stone,
And does not even see Love
As she caresses his face with her contemptuous light.
She reaches her long white shivering fingers
Into the bowels of men.
Her tender superfluous probing into all that pollutes
Is like the immodesty of the mad.
She is a mad woman holding up her dress
So that her white belly shines.
Haughty,
Impregnable,
Ridiculous,
Silent and white as a debauched queen,
Her ecstasy is that of a cold and sensual child.

She is Death enjoying Life,
Innocently,
Lasciviously.”

-Evelyn Scott. published 1919

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The Night – Wind by Emily Bronte

In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
'How dark the woods would be!

'The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem.'

I said, 'Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

'Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supply bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow.'

The wanderer would not heed me:
Its kiss grew warmer still:
'Oh Come!' it sighed so sweetly;
'I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

'Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

'And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And thou for being alone.'

Witches, artists, and writers have always held an affinity for the moon. On this esbat, as you struggle along with first drafts, revisions, and edits- allow yourself to go free. And if you start to worry, remember this from Shakespeare:

“Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,

And loathsome canker lies in sweetest bud.

All men make faults.”

Muses and Writing

(Thalia by Jean-marc Nattier)

(Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“I pray to Mnamosyna (Memory), the fair-robed child of Ouranos (Heaven), and to her daughters [the Mousai].

Sappho, Fragment 103 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C6th B.C.) :
“Hither, holy Kharites (Graces) and Pierides Moisai [come inspire a song].”

The nine Muses of Greek mythology: Calliope of epic poetry, Clio of history, Erato of lyric poetry, Euterpe of music, Melpomene of tragedy, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Terpsichore of dance and song, Thalia of comedy, and Urania of Astronomy. They granted boons to the poets and artists of the ancient world.

Dante, cried out in The Inferno:
O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!

Long after wide- belief in them had died out, some artists still sang their glories.

From Wiki: “Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a “Cult of the Muses” in the 18th century. A famous Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Les Neuf Soeurs (“nine sisters”, that is, the nine Muses), and it was attended by Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Danton, and other influential Enlightenment figures. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word “museum” (originally, “cult place of the Muses”) to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge.”

Flash forward to the 19th century when Emily Bronte depicted her muse like a lover:

“What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
Who loves me, no word of mine shall e’er betray
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear-
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air;
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.”

In today’s world, many scoff at the idea of muses. Perhaps this stems from the many would-be writers who bemoan not being able to write due to not feeling “inspired”. And they wait and they wait and they wait.

Confession time: I have a muse. But here’s the things. She isn’t a sweet, angelic thing who waves a magic wand over my head. No, she watches over me as I regularly type away. Sometimes the words and ideas come easily. More often, the words are crappy, and silent cursing is going on in my head as I try to figure out another plot snafu.

But then, sometimes when I’m still struggling at the netbook, but more often, when I am drifting to sleep, she comes to me and whispers the answer.

The Muse award those who work diligently.

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Comments (19)  
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Hair as Strength and Sensuality in Pre-Raphaelite Art

.”Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair. ” – by Rossetti

  Rossetti’s Lady Lilith   model:  Alexa Wilding

 Rossetti’s, “Aurelia”   model:  Alexa Wilding

  Cowper’s Rapunzel

  Cowper’s, “La Belle Dam sans Merci”

  Waterhouse’s, “Mariana in the South”.   Model:  Lizzie Siddal

    Millais’s, “The Bridesmaid”

and a rather strange version of Helen of Troy by Frederick Sandys 

Pre-Raphaelite Artist: Marie Spartali Stillman

Marie Sparteli (later Stillman) was born on March 4,  1844 to Greek immigrants living in London.   While females are mostly known as the famous muses/models of the Pre-Raphaelite movement (and Marie, herself, did pose for Ford Madox Brown and Rossetti),  Marie became a renowned artist in her own right.

  Kelmscott Manor

Her father enjoyed throwing garden parties in which he was noted for inviting up and coming artists.  It was during one of these gatherings that Marie met the famous writer and critic, Swinburne.  It may have been through this meeting that she was later introduced to the wider Pre-Raphelite circle.

  Love’s Messenger

She began studying art under the tutelage of Madox Brown in 1864.   Like the other Pre-Raphaelites, Marie  was enamored with Shakespeare, Dante, and Boccaccio, amongst others.

  Dante and Beatrice

At the age of twenty- seven, she wed the American painter and journalist, William Stillman.  Together, they split their time between London, Rome, and Florence.   

Marie and William had three children.  Unfortunately, the youngest son died as an infant.  However, her eldest, Michael, moved to the United States as and adult where he became a successful architecht.  Her daughter, Sonia Zuckerman, is still alive, and is known for her philanthropical works.

Marie died on March 6, 1927.  After being cremated, her ashes were interred in her father’s tomb.

  A Rose from Armida’s Garden

  Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni

Regency Artist: Amelia Curran

While I was reading the great biography, “Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein” by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, I noticed these words beside a picture of Claire Clairmont:  ” The only known portrait of Mary Shelley’s stepsister.  It was painted in 1819 by Amelia Curran.”

Naturally, I had to learn more about Ms. Curran.

Amelia was born in Ireland in the year 1775.  Not much is known about her life, but when she was in her twenties she traveled to Italy to study painting.  There she befriended the radical  Percy and Mary Shelley.

In 1812, Amelia accompanied Percy back to Ireland where he campaigned against the British government’s injustices.

Three of her paintings of Percy now hang in London’s National Portrait Gallery and are noted for capturing his strangely beautiful androgynous features.

Amelia completed this portrait of Mary and Percy’s son, William, not long before he succumbed to illness in Rome.  He was only three years-old.  It is the only known portrait of him to exist.

In 1821, whilst living in Naples, Amelia converted to Catholicism and excelled in copying portraits of Renaissance Madonnas.   Presumably, she never married, and died quietly in 1847.  She is buried in the Church of St. Isadore in Rome.

Isle of the Dead

Artists in all fields are inspired by each other.

One of the most famous examples of creativity enriching creativity involves, The Isle of the Dead.

Arnold Böcklin (Swiss Symbolist painter, 1827-1901)  painted five versions between 1880 and 1886.   All renderings depict  a rowboat arriving at a seawall.  In the bow, stands a figure clad in white.  

Böcklin would not elaborate on its meaning, only saying,  ” It is a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”

Many have interpretated the white-clad figure as Charon, leading human souls into the Greek underworld.

File:Isola dei Morti IV (Bocklin).jpg

In 1907,  upon viewing the painting, Sergei Rachmaninoff began composing a tone poem in its name.  The work, now considered a classic of late Russian Romanticism, was finished the following year.

In 1945,  Val Lewton produced a classic horror film with the same title.  The script, written by Ardel Wray, was inspired by the painting, and involves a group of quarrantined islanders who begin to die, one by one.

Mina Loy: Bohemian Artist and Poet

One of the delights of writing stories set in the past is discovering, or re-discovering people who’ve left behind intriguing pieces of work.   We all know the big names of the Jazz Age, but whilst researching books my character, Jackie, may have read, I came across a name which I’d never heard before:  Mina Loy. 

The avant-garde poet, artist, and playwright was born  on December 27, 1882 in London.

At the age of seventeen she moved to the Munich, Germany to study painting.    After marrying Stephen Haweis, she moved with him to Paris where she joined the circle of leading avant-garde artists including Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Djuna Barnes, and Henri Rosseau. 

loy2.jpg (61528 bytes)

Consider Your Grandmother’s Stays: drawing by Mina Loy, 1916

In 1907, Mina and Stephen moved to Florence, Italy.  Soon thereafter, they separated and she began a relationship with Filippo Marinetti, leader of the Futurist Movement.  

Eight years later, Mina wrote “Love Songs” which shocked readers with its frank portrayal of human sexuality.  Imagist poet, Amy Lowel, was so incensed by its publication in Others  that she stopped submitting her own work to the magazine.

By 1916,  Loy had grown wary of the Futurist Movement’s growing attachment to fascism, and she moved to New York City where  she befriended the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Marianne Moore.   She continued to write poetry, and perform in local plays, while her spiritual beliefs led her to Christian Scientism. 

After falling in love with the Dadaist poet, Arthur Craven, she moved with him to Mexico City where they lived in desolute conditions.   In 1919, after Mina discovered she was pregnant, Craven insisted he must find a better place for them to live.   Using a small yacht, he set sail for Buenos Aires whilst Mina watched from the shore.

Craven was never seen alive again.  His daughter was born in April.

Unable to accept Craven’s death, Mina flitted around from Florence to New York to Paris back to New York, and finally settled in Colorado in her final years.   To the time of her death at the age of eighty-three, she never stopped creating art. 

Lunar Baedeker

by Mina Loy:

A silver Lucifer
serves
cocaine in cornucopia
 
To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
draped
in satirical draperies
 
Peris is livery
prepare
Lethe
for posthumous parvenues
 
Delirious Avenues
lit
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah’s tombstones
 
lead
to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous
 
the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts
 
Stellectric signs
 

Art Inspired Writing

  Some of my fellow writers have mentioned being struck by a shiny new idea while listening to music.  As much as I enjoy listening to music, thus far, no tune has sent me dashing for a pen.  Rather, when it comes to The Arts, it is is paintings that will often  make me stop and go,  “hmm….”

A few paintings that inspired me while writing my last novel, PORTRAITS OF THE LIVING: A GHOST TALE,  were the following:

1.  Goya’s Don Manuel

This painting with the  child holding a bird captive, and two cats waiting to pounce upon it  hangs in The Hoffmans’ dining room.

Titania Sleeping by Richard Dadd hangs in their parlor:

The renowned English artist went mad during his travels through Europe and the Middle East.  After claiming possession by the Egyptian god, Osiris, he began exhibiting increasingly violent behavior.   Upon Richard’s return home, his father refused to instituionalize him.    Not long afterwards, on August 28, 1843, Richard Dadd stabbed his father to death.

Richard Dadd spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

While my novel has nothing to do with Dadd or fairies,  the  painting and Dadd’s lifestory made me think of the ill character in my story, and the one who needs to wake up and see the truth…

Do paintings inspire ideas in you?