Thursday, 13 October 2011

Art Life Death

“The Alchemist” by William Fettes-Douglas (1822-1891)

 “The Naturalist” by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)

   I find these two paintings very reassuring, I suppose they're meant to reassure, portraying, as they do, stereotypes. I like the apparent disorder found in both the scholars' rooms, it's somehow easy on the eye, or at least it is on my eye – especially the lower one, I think the setting is superb.

   Spitzweg was immensely popular in Germany and, despite his sympathetic portrayals of Jewish subjects, he was a favourite of Adolph Hitler who collected his work.

   Above is a self-portrait by William Fettes-Douglas (c 1845). The long nose and incipient sneer look to me as if they belong to a younger version of the languorous fellow pictured below.

   In fact this brilliant portrait, “The Yellow Scale” by František Kupka (1871-1957), was painted in 1907, 16 years after Fettes-Douglas's death. It's most likely inspired by images of Baudelaire merged with aspects of Kupka's own physiognomy.

   František Kupka could not have survived as an artist without the art-collector and industrialist Jindřich Waldes, a friend who supported him for twenty years until, in 1938, the Hitlerian regime sent the Jewish Waldes to Dachau concentration camp.