Archive | June, 2015

My Inspiration for June II

30 Jun

Past two weeks have been very inspirational for me, I’ve discovered lots of new films, books, albums, painters…. I’m on cloud nine!

I’ve written a new reading list because I’ve read everything from the previous one, and I’ve already read four books: Three Sisters by Chekhov, The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac, Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel. The last three books were really captivating. ‘Rules of Attraction’ was really interesting to read, it is not a romantic novel as the title suggests, but rather a critic of consumerism, materialism, shallowness and promiscuity. The characters are very self-obsessed, shallow, careless, promiscuous and bored with life. If that’s what student life looks like, I’d rather skip uni.

Films I’ve watched are The Double, Naked (1993), Godard’s Made in USA, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Rope (1948), Dragonwyck (1946) starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney, Tonight or Never (1960), And God Created Woman (1956) with Brigitte Bardot, and finally Suddenly Last Summer (1959) with Elizabeth Taylor. I was really impressed with And God Created Woman. Naked is also a really good film; bleak, depressive and sadistic at parts, but striking nevertheless.

I’ve listened to four ‘new’ albums: Journal for Plague Lovers – Manic Street Preachers (2009), Muddy Waters – After the Rain (1969), Marianne Faithfull – Strange Weather (1987), Nico – Camera Obscura (1985). Don’t you just love it when characters in books make references to other cultural things. I adore that! In the book ‘The Rules of Attraction’ you can know precisely what the characters are listening to almost every moment, and the playlist includes cool stuff such as The Smiths, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, Talking Heads…

Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?‘ – Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

vivien leigh as blanche 11916. Modigliani 'Female Nude' 1950s brigitte bardot 1Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Merlin Morgana Dress 1 Yorkshire Dales made in USA 4 made in USA 3

anna karina style book 1

utagawa-toyokuni-i-1769-1825-woman-bathing-under-flowers-uki 1957. Brigitte Bardot by Jack Garofalo 1937. Woman In A Purple Coat or The Purple Coat by Henri Matisse,  It depicts Matisse's assistant Lydia Delectorskaya Mark Rothko 1 1943-44. Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider and the Clown 1957. And God Created Woman 4 1957. And God Created Woman 8 1957. And God Created Woman 11richey interview green on bed 1901. The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva richey 204

heather moors yorkshire 1 utagawa-toyokuni-i-1769-1825-komachi-at-sekidera-ca-1810-fro 1948. Rope prozac nation 1910. Girl with black hair - Egon Schiele 1959. Elizabeth Taylor in 'Suddenly Last Summer'Burne_Jones_Dornroeschen_Pr

Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints

26 Jun

Ukiyo-e is a genre of woodblock prints that flourished in the Edo period (1603-1867). Term ‘Ukiyo-e’ literally means ‘pictures of the floating world‘ as it was meant to describe the hedonistic lifestyle of the merchant class that benefited from the rapid economical growth in Edo (modern Tokyo). Merchant class, previously at the bottom of the social order, now had enough wealth to indulge in all sorts of pleasures; from kabuki theatre to services of courtesans and geishas. Courtesan culture also flourished in Edo period, and male wanderers could find a refined female company in the ‘pleasure quarter’. On the other hand, geishas are female entertainers and hostesses, skilled in different areas such as calligraphy or dance. Courtesans were describes as ‘colourful flowers’ while geisha women were called ‘willows’ because of their subtlety, strength, and grace. In addition to all this, merchant class had enough money to afford a new art or design items, depends on how you look at it. I suppose some people really appreciated the beauty of Ukiyo-e prints while others merely enjoyed having them on the wall.

Ukiyo-e prints have a wide range of subjects and styles, depending on the artist and on the time period. The pictures below are my personal favourites, though I’ve also wanted to present you the variety of these artworks and Japanese culture. Woman Bathing Under Flowers is perhaps my top-favourite. However, as a true European my mind instantly compares these works with European artworks of the time. I mean, some of these works were created in the early nineteenth century – the same years that Jane Austen’s novels were written. It’s so exciting to encounter a different era, a different culture, if not in person, than through these lavishing woodblock prints – overwhelmingly simplistic, but dynamic, colourful, scenes from the world gone by.

The great diversity that excites me, and I hope you too, can be traced through the work of the various artists – from the famous Hokusai’s waves or Hiroshige’s nocturnal landscapes to Keisai Eisen’s ‘beautiful women’, Sharaku’s kabuki actors, Torii Kiyonaga’s mystical night scenes, to my personal favourite – Utagawa Toyokuni who, as you can see, focused on everyday scenes, especially women’s activities – bathing, applying makeup, calming hair, strolling in the rain (probably worried for the hairstyle), playing with dogs or cats, dancing or showing off in front of your friends – typical activities of the modern women. It seems like time changes, but people, their worries, fears and passions usually stay the same. Imagine, Utagawa Kunisada’s beauties in the print ‘Autumn moon over Miho’ admired the very same moon we see today.

I must add that Ukiyo-e prints were hugely influential on European art, especially on the Impressionists and Postimpressionist such as Vincent van Gogh who admired some of Hokusai’s prints and also the Japanese way of living.

 

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Woman Bathing Under Flowers. Ukiyo-e woodblock print, 18001800. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Woman Bathing Under Flowers, Ukiyo-e woodblock print

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Woman in Rain with Umbrella.  Ukiyo-e woodblock print, 18001800. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Woman in Rain with Umbrella

 

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Komachi at Sekidera ca.1810, from the series Modern Girls as Seven Komachica. 1810. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Komachi at Sekidera, from the series ‘Modern Girls as Seven Komachi’

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Woman Holding a Cat, Ukiyo-e woodblock print, 18001800. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Woman Holding a Cat

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Kaoru of the Sugata-Ebiya, kamuro Nioi and Tomeki. Ukiyo-e, 18001800. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Kaoru of the Sugata-Ebiya, Kamuro Nioi and Tomeki

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) - Beauty under Maple and Ginkgo Leaves, 18111811. Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) – Beauty under Maple and Ginkgo Leaves

Youshuu Chikanobu (1838-1912), Picture of the Hell CourtesanYoushuu Chikanobu (1838-1912), Picture of the Hell Courtesan

Woman Applying Cosmetics, early 19th century, Korii KoyinagaKorii Koyinaga – Woman Applying Cosmetics, early 19th century

Woman washing her hair with an attendant, Mid 18th century, Katsukawa ShunsuiWoman washing her hair with an attendant, Mid 18th century, Katsukawa Shunsui

Two women gazing at the reflection of the moon, Early 19th century , Kubo ShunmanTwo women gazing at the reflection of the moon, Early 19th century , Kubo Shunman

Seven classes of women. Color and gold on silk.  Early 19th century, Japan, Artist - Utagawa ToyohiroSeven classes of women. Color and gold on silk. Early 19th century, Utagawa Toyohiro

A Leopard Drawn from Life- Kunimaro, 1860, Japan1860. A Leopard Drawn from Life – Kunimaro

Beauties in the Snow By Utamaro Kitagawa, JapanBeauties in the Snow By Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806)

1796-99. The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment - Utamaro1796-99 The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment – Utamaro

1797. Hairdresser from the series Twelve types of women's handicraft - Utamaro1797 Hairdresser from the series Twelve types of women’s handicraft – Utamaro

1800s Katsushika Hokusai - Courtesan asleepLate 18th/early 19th century, Katsushika Hokusai – Courtesan asleep

1767. Two Lovers Beneath an Umbrella in the Snow - Suzuki Harunobu1767 Two Lovers Beneath an Umbrella in the Snow – Suzuki Harunobu

1794. The actor Otani Oniji II as Yakko Edobei - Sharaku1794 The actor Otani Oniji II as Yakko Edobei – Sharaku

1820. Hokusai - Still Life1820 Hokusai – Still Life

1826-33. The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai's most famous print, the first in the series 36 Views of Mount Fuji1826-33 The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai’s most famous print

1857 Sudden shower over Shin-Ohashi bridge and Atake – Hiroshige

1857 The Plum Garden in Kameido – Hiroshige

1830s Utagawa Kunisada - Autumn moon over Miho1830s Utagawa Kunisada – Autumn moon over Miho

1858. Hiroshige - The Sea at Satta, Suruga Province, from the series 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji'1858 Hiroshige – The Sea at Satta, Suruga Province, from the series ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’

1834. Hiroshige - Full Moon over a Mountain Landscape1834 Hiroshige – Full Moon over a Mountain Landscape

1834. Hiroshige - Heavy Rain on a Pine Tree1834 Hiroshige – Heavy Rain on a Pine Tree

Grande Odalisque – Ingres

21 Jun

Shards, oh shards
The androgyny fails
Odalisque by Ingres…” (Manic Street Preachers – Pretension/Repulsion)

1814. Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres1814 Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Odalisque was a tremendously popular subject in the history of art, from Francois Boucher to Henri Matisse, but the most memorable and the most fascinating rendition of the odalisque is certainly the one J.A.D. Ingres painted in 1814.

Ingres was a Neoclassical painter, and his style changed very little throughout his career. His favourite subject was quite unsurprisingly the female nude, and his fascination with the Orient was not a secret. Ingres was fascinated by the exotic world of the Near East (‘Proche-Orient’) and in 1814, aged thirty-four, he chose to convey his two fascinations on the canvas. A work that he created, ‘Grande Odalisque’, remains his most memorable and most controversial painting.

Painting ‘Grande Odalisque’ shows an Odalisque, a concubine in a Turkish harem, or more precisely – a concubine in the household of the Ottoman sultan. Odalisque was suppose to be a very beautiful woman, specially trained to dance and sing, and, unlike the Russian Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna who ‘wasn’t born to amuse the Tsarz‘ as Pushkin wrote it, an Odalisque was indeed born to amuse the Sultan. ‘In the Ottoman Empire, concubines encountered the sultan only once, unless she was especially skilled in dance, singing, or the sexual arts, thus gaining his attention.

1814. Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, detail 3

Ingres painted his Odalisque lying on a divan, offering herself, echoing the pose of David’s portrait of Madame Recamier painted in 1800. Unlike later Odalisque paintings by Matisse, or even Eugene Delacroix, Ingres’ Odalisque seems quite modest, turning her back, and rewarding the viewer only with a glance. Her face appears cold and aloof, radiating disinterest. Reserved and refined, she is a stark contrast to subsequent Odalisque paintings. Compared to Matisse’s Odalisques, painted in vibrant colours, plump and sensual, spreading their legs, dressed in colourful and inaccurate garments, or Delacroix’s vivid Odalisque lacking formality, coldness and restraint that were of vital importance to Neoclassical style, and therefor valued by Ingres.

1814. Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, detail 4

Her body was a source of fascination throughout the centuries as it is too elongated and idealised. For Ingres, long lines symbolised sensuality and with a few corrections her wanted to portray a pure beauty on canvas. This infamous elongation and the small head evoke the spirit of Mannerism. It is also interesting to note how perfect her skin tone is – Ingres adored thin, almost invisible and perfect brushstrokes and he was disgusted by heavy or visible brushstrokes; he never gave up his Neoclassical ideals.

Grande Odalisque‘ gives us a very good insight into Ingres’ style and its main characteristics such as precise and refined lines, masterly handling of lines, light and shadow, and a limited use of colours. Ingres was very proficient in drawing, and he considered colour to be just a useless accessory. Even in this painting, a limited use of colour is evident; there’s an interesting contrast between blue and yellow, but that’s all there is. He said: ‘Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that.

1814. Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, detail 2

Ingres painted in Davidian style and considered himself a ‘…conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator‘. He disliked all the dramatic and flamboyant qualities of Romanticism, but nevertheless chose an exotic subject for his painting, thus making a shift towards Romanticism in art. ‘Nature and exotic landscapes’ was one of the four main areas of interest in Romanticism, and it’s not surprising that Ingres wanted to capture that sensual, colourful and exotic world of Orient on canvas.

In painting, Ingres was somewhat influenced by what he had read. Although his reading list was slightly limited (Homer, Virgil, Dante), a female writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu prompted his fascination with Odalisques. Lady Montagu is today remembered for her letters from Turkey which are described as ‘the very first example of a secular work by a woman about the Muslim Orient‘.

So, this painting is a love child of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Baudelaire described Ingres as a painter of “profound sensual delights.”

Odalisque - Henri GervexOdalisque – Henri Gervex

1857. Eugène Delacroix - Odalisque1857 Eugène Delacroix – Odalisque

1839. Odalisque with a Slave, is an orientalist painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres1842 Odalisque with a Slave – Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

1845. Odalisque by Natale Schiavoni1845 Odalisque by Natale Schiavoni

1870s Odalisque - Lord Frederick LeightonOdalisque – Lord Frederick Leighton

Henri Adrien Tanoux (French painter,1865-1923)  –  L’ OdalisqueHenri Adrien tTanoux – L’Odalisque

1920s Odalisque with Red Pants by Henri Matisse1920s Odalisque with Red Pants by Henri Matisse

1923. Henri Matisse - Odalisque with Raised Arms1923. Henri Matisse – Odalisque with Raised Arms

1925. Odalisque in Red Trousers - Henri Matisse1925. Odalisque in Red Trousers – Henri Matisse

1928. Henri Matisse drawing the model Zita as odalisque in his third-floor apartment and studio in Nice1928. Henri Matisse drawing the model Zita as odalisque in his third-floor apartment and studio in Nice

Lament for the Moths – Tennessee Williams

19 Jun

A plague has stricken the moths, the moths are dying,
their bodies are flakes of bronze on the carpet lying.
Enemies of the delicate everywhere
have breathed a pestilent mist into the air.

Lament for the velvety moths, for the moths were lovely.
Often their tender thoughts, for they thought of me,
eased the neurotic ills that haunt the day.
Now an invisible evil takes them away.

I move through the shadowy rooms, I cannot be still,
I must find where the treacherous killer is concealed.
Feverishly I search and still they fall
as fragile as ashes broken against a wall.

Now that the plague has taken the moths away,
who will be cooler than curtains against the day,
who will come early and softly to ease my lot
as I move through the shadowy rooms with a troubled heart?

Give them, O mother of moths and mother of men,
strength to enter the heavy world again,
for delicate were the moths and badly wanted
here in a world by mammoth figures haunted!

************

”There’s a poem by Tennessee Williams called ‘Lament For Moths’, one of the first poems we ever read, which is about how the moths, the sensitive people, will always be stamped on and crushed by the mammoths – that really hit us, the sudden realisation that we were the moths of the world…” (Nicky Wire)

Albrecht Dürer’s Watercolours

17 Jun

Extremely versatile and prolific artist, Albrecht Dürer was born in Nürnberg – one of the artistic centres of Europe in the Renaissance. Durer was a true Homo Universalis, one of the first artists that showed interest in Italy and its art developments, and also one of the first painters to use watercolours and popularise the use of that medium. I wanted to share these beautiful watercolour painting of flowers, trees, some birds, and his famous painting ‘Young Hare‘ because I think it’s fascinating how someone would even be interested in painting simple things from nature. Durer’s wide range of interests, and his enjoyment and study of everything around him could be compared only to Leonardo da Vinci. Themes of his paintings expressed his wide range of interests; fragments of nature, watercolour landscapes, portraits and self-portraits and paintings of religious content.

Since I am trapped in the nineteenth and early twentieth century art, Munch’s Scream, Van Gogh’s starry skies, and Modigliani’s melancholic nudes have become my reality, and it utterly fascinates me that something as simple as grass could capture the artist’s attention. Durer must have possessed a calmness of mind. No despair or anger in these serene watercolours.

1510-20. Albrecht Dürer, ‘Eight Studies of Wild Flowers’, Watercolour1510-20 Albrecht Dürer, ‘Eight Studies of Wild Flowers’, Watercolour

1526. Albrecht Dürer - Study of Lilies, watercolour on paper, Musee Bonnat, France1526 Albrecht Dürer – Study of Lilies, watercolour on paper, Musee Bonnat, France

1503. Albrecht Dürer - The Large Piece of Turf1503 Albrecht Dürer – The Large Piece of Turf

1545. Albrecht Dürer, Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium Martagon)Albrecht Dürer, Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium Martagon)

1526. Albrecht Dürer - Primula1526 Albrecht Dürer – Primula

The Tuft of Grass Minor, watercolour by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1521)The Tuft of Grass Minor, watercolour by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1521)

1494. Linden Tree on a Bastion - Albrecht Durer1494 Linden Tree on a Bastion – Albrecht Durer

1495. View of the Arco Valley in the Tyrol - Albrecht Durer1495 View of the Arco Valley in the Tyrol – Albrecht Durer

1500. Peonies - Albrecht Durer1500 Peonies – Albrecht Durer

1543. Albrecht Dürer ‘Three Studies of a Tree Bullfinch‘  watercolorAlbrecht Dürer ‘Three Studies of a Tree Bullfinch‘ watercolor

1512. Wing of a Blue Roller - Albrecht Durer1512 Wing of a Blue Roller – Albrecht Durer

1508. Albrecht Durer - An Owl1508 Albrecht Durer – An Owl

1502 Albrecht Durer – Young Hare

Paul Cezanne – Boy in a Red Waistcoat

15 Jun

Amedeo Modigliani greatly admired Paul Cezanne’s work. The story goes that Modigliani carried a reproduction of Cezanne’s painting ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat‘ ever since he saw a retrospective of Cezanne’s work in Paris in 1907. And whenever Cezanne’s name came up in a conversation, Modigliani would take out that reproduction and ecstatically kiss it.

1888-90. Boy in a Red Waistcoat - Paul Cezanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Waistcoat – Paul Cezanne

There is indeed a connection between works of these two masters. Both Cezanne and Modigliani were faithful to tradition, and sought inspiration in history, at the same time adorning their canvases with something brutally modern and infected with abstraction. There’s no doubt that Modigliani was influenced by Cezanne, for his early paintings are very unlike the nudes which later celebrated him. Sombre and grey, with solid brush strokes they evoke the spirit of Cezanne’s series of ‘boys in a red vest’. Even though Modigliani later found his own artistic direction, Cezanne’s spirit occasionally lurks even in the most unusual paintings.

I am not a big fan of Cezanne, but I must say that his painting ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat‘ (along with his numerous depictions of skulls), has striked me at first sight; what emotional depth, what drab mood, what a mystery? I instantly loved everything about it! Cezanne rarely bothered to date his paintings, or even name them, but it is assumed that these four paintings, ‘Boy in a Red Vest‘ series, were created between 1888 and 1890. Cezanne seemed to have a flair for painting the same scenes again and again, with a few changes, but each reflecting a different mood.

Just to be clear, I am going to be discussing my favourite out of these four paintings, which is the one above (they all bear the same name and I don’t want any misunderstanding.) The painting shows a boy dressed in a traditional Italian attire, standing in a classical pose; one hand on the hip, other hanging – a pose of resignation and passivity fitting for a drab yet powerful mood of the painting. Amidst all the bleak greys and boring browns, there’s a red vest that exudes aura of decadency and power. Blue tones occasionally peak like rays of sunshine. Sun can be blue if one sees it that way. The most exciting aspect of this painting are the brushstrokes; heavy and serious. Using only a few basic autumnal colours, Cezanne painted a magnificently intricate background, in some parts even blended with the boy’s trousers, in others cheekily standing out from the red waistcoat. Depth was achieved by adding visibly darker tones around the elbow and the shoulders. Despite the seeming roughness, a scene is perfectly balanced, sad and harmonious.

The boy was a professional model named Michelangelo di Rosa. His face reveals to us a troubled inner live, sadness, shyness, fear and doubt. His lips are shaped ‘like the wings of a distant bird‘. A figure at once melancholic and graceful, evokes the spirit of the 16th century Italian aristocratic portraits by mannerist masters. Clad in a romantic costume of Italian peasant, the boy seems so fragile and vulnerable, secretive and passive – retaining a position of eternal mystery. Cezanne’s portraits are, just like Modigliani’s, nothing but silent confirmations of life.

1888-90. The Boy in the Red Vest (also known as The Boy in the Red Waistcoat) by Paul Cézanne1888-90 The Boy in the Red Vest (also known as The Boy in the Red Waistcoat) by Paul Cézanne

1888-90. Boy in a Red Vest by Paul Cézanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Vest by Paul Cézanne

1888-90. Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cézanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cézanne

Claude Monet – Poppies

12 Jun

They now came upon more and more of the big scarlet poppies, and fewer and fewer of the other flowers; and soon they found themselves in the midst of a great meadow of poppies. Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odour is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever.‘ (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L.F. Baum)

1873. Claude Monet - Poppies 21873. Claude Monet – Poppies

Claude Monet, a painter whose name is inseparable from Impressionism, painted landscapes, water lilies, poplars, ladies in garden, women with parasols, Rouen Cathedral, London Parliament, boats, leisure activities, coast of Normandy, and – poppies. He captured these exciting red meadow treasures in single brush strokes of magnificent red colour, so rich and decadent against the endless greenness of the field.

Nature and its changeability was something that really fascinated the Impressionists; their aim was to capture the change of light, the rain, the sunset, the wind and the dew – capture the moment in all its beauty and splendor. Although born in Paris, Claude Monet, like many other Impressionists, made frequent trips to French countryside, in search for inspiration. Such trips brought him, among other places, to Argenteuil which was, back then, a rural escape for many Parisians. There he painted the gleaming surface of the river Seine and those famous fields dotted with exuberant poppies and other wildflowers.

1875. Claude Monet - Poppy Field, Argenteuil1875. Claude Monet – Poppy Field, Argenteuil

Claude even lived in Argenteuil for some time in the 1870s, and that’s when he painted the interesting painting you can see all the way up, titled simply ‘Poppies’. It is a very simple scene, a beautiful sunny moment captures on canvas. A scene of poppies is framed by a dash of trees and a few peaceful clouds on a bright blue sky. The painting is somewhat symmetrical; motif of a woman and a child is repeated, one time in the background, one time in the foreground, and we can see a diagonal line which separates two colour zones – a vivid red one and a more gentle one, mottled with blue-lilac flowers. As is typical for Impressionism, colours and lines are blurred, and the woman’s dress in the foreground almost seems to be blended in with the poppies and the grass. The figures are painted dimly, and the overall simplicity rules the scene, but the universal feeling that it projects is what attracts viewers the most; a vivid atmosphere of a summer’s day, a stroll in the meadow, sun shining bright, buzz in the air, the intoxicating redness of the poppies, no worries, no fears when one is surrounded by such beauties.

As you can see in the examples below, motif of poppies and meadows never failed to capture Claude Monet’s attention and he seemed to be enjoying his stays at the countryside. After spending time in Argenteuil, Monet moved to Vétheuil, a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. In Vétheuil, Monet found peace of mind after the death of his first wife Camille by painting his garden and the nearby meadows.

1879. Poppy Field near Vétheuil - Claude Monet1879. Poppy Field near Vétheuil – Claude Monet

1880. Claude Monet - View of Vétheuil1880. Claude Monet – View of Vétheuil

Poppy is a beautiful flower just for itself, but its symbolic meaning is something that’s fascinating to me even more. Poppies are often seen as symbol of sleep, peace, and death, and poppies on tombstones symbolise eternal sleep, how very romantic! Vision of death as an eternal sleep was typical for Romanticists, especially Percy Bysshe Shelley who became more and more obsessed with death as the years went on. Romanticists considered death to be a state in which all desires of a soul are fulfilled at last. Shelley’s verses from ‘Mont Blanc’:

'Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep, that death is slumber,
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake and live.'

Vision of poppy as a symbol of sleep was further emphasised in the novel Wonderful Wizard of Oz in which a magical poppy can make you sleep forever if you smell its odour for too long. Poppy is also used for the production of opium, and morphine and heroin. Opium was a well known wellspring of inspiration for the Romanticists such as Coleridge who wrote his ‘Kubla Khan’ one night after he experienced an opium-influenced dream. Shelley also used opium to free his mind, so did Edgar Allan Poe and Baudelaire. It’s not a coincidence that ‘morphine’ borrowed its name from the Greek god of sleep Morpheus who slept in a cave full of poppy seeds. Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse seemed to have had similar ideas in mind when he painted one of his early works Sleep and his Half-Brother Death in 1874, in which he portrayed the mysterious connection between sleep, dreams and death.

Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.‘ (Edgar Allan Poe)

1874. Sleep and his Half-brother Death - John William Waterhouse1874. Sleep and his Half-brother Death – J.W.Waterhouse

Poppies are also seen as symbol of beauty, magic, consolation, and fertility. In China, they represent the loyalty and faith between lovers. According to the Chinese legend, a beautiful and courageous woman named Lady Yee was married to a warrior Hsiang Yu and she followed him on many battles. During one long war when the defeat seemed imminent, Lady Yee tried to cheer him up and boost his spirits by dancing with his sword. She failed in her mission, and committed suicide. Beautiful red poppies grew on her grave in abundance. Petals of the poppy flower reflect her spirit as she danced in the wind.

Poppies in Sussex, photo found here.

poppy 2Photo found here.

1967. Scene from Far from the Maddening Crowd1967. Scene from Far from the Maddening Crowd

poppy 1Photo found here.

Poppy is one of my favourite flowers out of many reasons. Firstly, their vivid red colour makes them stand out amidst all the greenery. Secondly, dreams, opium and Morpheus are some things that fascinate me, especially their connection with Romanticism. Poppies always seem to remind me of solitude since they often grow on isolated place. My memory places them by the railway, lost and forgotten, beautiful and fragile, gently dancing on the wind, in an eternal state of waiting, full of secrets, whispers and mystery, like some sad and lost souls that came out of Kerouac’s novel.