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Arabian Nights was one of my favorite stories as a child.  It’s also one of the most fantastically illustrated stories of all time.  I love the variety of interpretations of each story by so many different illustrators, so I’ve collected a few to share.  Here, you’ll see three stories as portrayed by several artists from the 19th and 20th centuries in near chronological order.  Enjoy the eye candy!

Scheherazade

Franz Helbing, 1870

Franz Helbing, 1870

Eric Pape, late 19th century

Eric Pape, late 19th century

Edmund Dulac, 1907

Edmund Dulac, 1907

Kay Nielsen, early 20th century

Kay Nielsen, early 20th century

Virginia Frances Sterrett, early 20th century

Virginia Frances Sterrett, early 20th century

Rene Bull, 1930

Rene Bull, 1930

 

Tale of the Fisherman and the Genie

Will and Frances Brundage, 1893

Will and Frances Brundage, 1893

H. J. Ford, 1898

H. J. Ford, 1898

 

Edmund DuLac, 1907

Edmund DuLac, 1907

Rene Bull, 1912

Rene Bull, 1912

Kay Nielsen, early 20th century

Kay Nielsen, early 20th century

Frank Earle Schoonover, mid 20th century

Frank Earle Schoonover, mid 20th century

 

Aladdin

John D. Batten, late 19th century

John D. Batten, late 19th century

Walter Crane late 19th century

Walter Crane late 19th century

Max Liebert, early 20th century

Max Liebert, early 20th century

Rene Bull, 1912

Rene Bull, 1912

Charles Folkard, 1913

Charles Folkard, 1913

Thomas Mackenzie, 1919

Thomas Mackenzie, 1919

Virginia Frances Sterrett, 1928

Virginia Frances Sterrett, 1928

Errol le Cain, 1981

Errol le Cain, 1981

and for good measure…

Disney Illustration, 2011

Disney Illustration, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a year ago I bought a lovely little reproduction painting at the Alameda antique faire in northern California. It had a romantic softness to it, a fresh, greet the day sort of romance. It looked old, too, and reminded me somehow of a fantasy novel. Mists of Avalon, maybe. Something girly and epic.

Fast forward to today: I’m reading an interview with an author, Patrick Rothfuss, with whom I am currently a bit enamored. He’s been entertaining me for weeks with the first two books of his Kingkiller trilogy (fantasy, a bit Harry Potter-esque but more adult and a bit more fresh) and he mentions this painter, JW Waterhouse. Naturally, I google him, and what do I find but that very same painting I found at the antique faire… !! (I also find that Waterhouse is incredibly famous and I should have been aware of his existence ages ago, but alas, better late than never.)

This is the painting: Destiny (1900)

Destiny

John William Waterhouse painted in the late 19th/early 20th century. His works draw mostly on Greek myth and women of the Arthurian legends (no wonder I was reminded of Mists of Avalon.) 

Here are a few more that I adore:

Boreas

Apollo and Daphne

Psyche Opening the Golden Box

The Awakening of Adonis

The Lady Clare

The Orange Gatherers

Voices of Light is a pretty recent musical composition (1994) that was inspired by the French silent film “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc” (1928) recommended to me by a friend. Written by Richard Einhorn and performed by Anonymous 4 (an all female a capella group as the voice of Jeanne) and the Netherlands Radio Choir and philharmonic, it provides an incredible accompaniment to the original film.

The acting in the film is otherworldly. The music tells its own story. It’s a tall order, about an hour and a half, but totally worth the watch.

Let’s bring this aesthetic back.

Biggest

 

Boy and Snail

Firefly

Fish

 

Lady

 

Monkey

 

Rotorman

 

Remedios Varo was a surrealist painter working at around the same time as Frida Kahlo (mid 20th century).  She was born in Spain but eventually moved to Mexico (via Paris) as a result of the Spanish Civil War and Nazi occupation of France.  Her paintings are a beautiful blend of new and old schools of art.  She mixes classical elements with her dreamy and surreal style which makes her work feel timeless to me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Exploration of the Source

 

Fenomeno

 

La Despedida

 

Les Feuilles Mortes

 

Presencia Inquietante

 

The Flutist

 

Towards the Tower

Roberto Ferri is a young Italian artist whose work seems to be inspired by Romanticism and Baroque art a la Caravaggio. This tickles my fancy. I love to see this style come out of someone who was born in 1978.
His paintings remind me a bit of Auguste Rodin… the way he paints the male back, specifically. Some of his paintings are painfully evocative, others are just beautiful.

These are my favorites from the gallery on his website.  Each one fascinates me for different reasons.  It’s so rare to find an artist whose work prods at so many parts of your artistic taste.

Apollo e Dafne

 I love the vertical tension in Apollo e Dafne.  The woman hangs like a carcass as the man pulls her down towards him while craning his neck upwards and arching his body back… all soft lines that look like human desperation to me.  Also, the realism with which the woman’s back is painted is in such stark contrast to her head, neck and leg…

Donato

Donato is all body and no head, no man, just human. I like the use of light in this one. The way it dehumanizes and humanizes all at the same time.

Eros Anteros

Eros Anteros is actually the painting which I was the least excited about visually, but I had to include because of my initial response.  I immediately fell into the painting… meaning, I sympathize. She looks not only horribly uncomfortable but also really vulnerable (yes, the vulnerability is a bit BDSM, but it’s there and it’s powerful.)

Euterpe

Euterpe is the essence of a classical Baroque nude and the addition of the violin makes me happy.

La Sorgente

 La Sorgente I like simply for its delicacy.

Prigione di lacrime

 This one’s is all about the hand grab and the contrast of skin color. It’s real to me.

 

Uniforms for the Dedicated is a men’s clothing line/art/music/film project that seems to dabble in just about everything.  I don’t know anything about them at all aside from the fact that they made this damn neat video that I think you should watch.

Arthur Rackham was a turn of the 20th century book illustrator.  Some of his more popular works include the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Wagner’s “The Ring”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, and “Alice in Wonderland”. 

Book illustration is a lost art.  I’m always blown away when each illustration looks like a painting that could be hanging on a museum wall.  These are so expressive and the colors somehow remind me of my childhood in Odessa (Ukraine) where memories, like photographs, take on a vintage hue.

Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) was a German symbolist painter and sculptor that lived and taught in Munich. He was known for his erotic representation of Greek myth. 

Sisyphus

 

 Below (Sin) is his most well-known work: 

Sin

 

Circe

 

Kiss of the Sphinx

 

Music

 

Symbolism flourished out of a darker side of the romantic movement and generally represented dream or idealistic worlds.  Rather than using common human symbols/icons, artists used more personal symbolism as a means to self-expression.  According to Jean Moréas (author of the Symbolist Manifesto), the goal of symbolism was “to express the Ideal” through indirect metaphor: “In this art, scenes from nature, human activities, and all other real world phenomena will not be described for their own sake; here, they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideals.”

Musings

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