Flaming June

This is my favourite “lady in gold”. Flaming June by Frederick Leighton, c.1895.    Leighton was a Pre-Raphaelite painter, associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.

This afternoon at embroidery guild we listened to a lecture on Rozika Parker’s history of women and needlecrafts, The Subversive Stitch.  Reference was made to the Arts and Crafts movement led by William Morris, and the return to medieval texts and motifs for art and architecture as well as domestic crafts.  I was reminded of Morris’ influence on the pre-Raphaelites, in particular Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and this recent article about his work.  I wonder whether the women who were using the Morris designs in their creative embroidery were aware of the sensuality implicit in his partner’s work. This article contains a beautiful painting by Burne-Jones, and refers to many others.  Isn’t the internet wonderful… I can Google Images and see them all!

This is all the more intriguing because a friend just sent me a link to a slide show of works by Lucian Freud.  It appears that the link will open the slides but not the article.   Here is a different review instead.

Freud is a grandson of Sigmund Freud. His paintings, including I assume this infamous portrait of Queen Elizabeth, are said to have the ability to ‘astonish, disturb, seduce and convince’.  The Duchess of Cornwall (aka Kate Middleton) apparently had her first solo royal visit at this show at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Now I wonder whether she was astonished, disturbed, seduced, and convinced. Poor Kate, alone in the spotlight, there!

Even online I found them very disturbing, and can’t imagine the impact of really seeing them lined up around the room… rather like being kicked in the head over and over again.

Here is another link: The Skin We Live In.

Sometimes I feel so out of touch with the modern art scene.  I know that it is unrealistic to expect the arts to be “beautiful”.  But there is already so much ugliness in the news, in the “real” world… do our greatest talents need to record it with such graphic honesty?

I am not offended by the nakedness, but they all look so tragic, so sad. Is it cruel  and misanthrophic to say, in effect, this is the way life is, folks! Really!  This is what we look like, this is the human condition. Accept it… real life is not pretty!

The Pre-Raphaelites lived in a fantasy world more distorted than anything Disney has done.  At least Disney… and other media sources… are recognized for what they are… fantasy… and not an unattainable ideal.

Maybe we need artists like Freud to force us to face reality.  Food for thought!?

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