Archive | Nov, 2021

My Inspiration for November 2021

30 Nov

Never has a month so utterly miserable and gloomy given me the gift of discovering such beautiful poetry. I have shared some of it on the blog throughout the month, as you may have seen. Words of poetry, full of beauty and meaning, and music that spoke to my heart made me rise again like a phoenix from the ashes of despair. It’s wonderful how Beauty (and Love…) can wash away the sadness of life… This month I really enjoyed gazing at paintings by the Polish painter Teodor Axentowicz and Stanislaw Wyspianski, and also I have a freshly awoken love for James Tissot, a genre painter whose elegant paintings I use to love a lot. I also enjoyed a lot of autumnal themed paintings as you will see bellow. Bye bye November and hello December!

“Have you ever thought, right… I mean, you don’t know…but you might already have had the happiest moment in your whole fucking life…and all you’ve got to look forward to is sickness and purgatory?” (Johnny’s quote from the film “Naked”, 1993)

“But let your statement ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Anything more than these comes from evil.”
(Matthew 5:37)

“The embrace of poetry,
Like love’s impossible, perfect fit,
Defends while it lasts
Against all the misery of the world.”
(Andre Breton, The Road to San Romano )

The grounds of Gwydir Castle near to Llanrwst, County Conwy, in North Wales. Artist: Ben Abel.

Picture: よりそう by Kaz Kaz

Picture: Untitled by Théo Gosselin

Picture found here.

Picture by elise.buch (instagram)

Burg Hanstein, instagram.

Two pictures above by: darya darcy (instagram).

Instagram: elise.buch.

Marz Doerflinger (American, b. CA, USA, based Olympia, WA, USA) – Waiting for the Chinook, Paintings: Pastel

Picture found here.

By Xing Jianjian.

Picture found here.

Picture found here.

Picture By takikropka.

Two pictures above by: Ellen Tyn (@liskin_dol).

Instagram: sofie.in.wonderland.

Crescent Moon Crimson Sky

Life and death or the creeping shadow. 1873. Illustrated title page.

Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934) – Chrysanthemum

Picture found here.

Autochrome photo of flowers made by unknown French photographer, 1910s.

Antigone in Art: Being charged as foolish by a fool

27 Nov

“…does not someone who, like me,
Lives on among so many evils, profit
By dying?

(Sophocles, Antigone)

Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927), Antigone, no date

When, back in high school, I first read a few passages from the Greek tragedy “Antigone”, written by Sophocles in 441 BC, I wasn’t particularly interested in it, but now I decided to read the play again because the play’s central theme – the civil disobedience – is something that resonates strongly with today’s events. The strong and brave Antigone is a true heroine and reading the play filled me with a sense of direction and gave me encouragment.

Antigone, the play’s heroine and the main character, is the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, and the sister of Ismene, Polynices and Eteocles. An event that happens before the start of the play is the civil war of Thebes in which Antigone’s brothers Polynices and Eteocles fight on different sides. Antigone’s uncle Creon gives an order that Eteocles must have an honorable burial but Polynices must be left unburried in the battlefield and his dead body will be food for vultures, as a punishment for his rebellion. The play begins with a conversations between Antigone and Ismene; the brave Antigone who is led by justice wishes to give her brother a proper burial because she feels that is the right thing to do, but Ismene, who is a lawful and obedient daughter, dares not to do this, even though she knows in her heart it is the right thing. Ismene begs Antigone not to proceed with her plan because she knows how harsh the punishment will be when the King Creon finds out, but Antigone doesn’t listen to her sister and instead says:

ANTIGONE:
For me it’s noble to do
This thing, then die. With loving ties to him,
I’ll lie with him who is tied by love to me,
I will commit a holy crime, for I
Must please those down below for a longer time
Than those up here, since there I’ll lie forever.

Antigone and Ismene by Emil Teschendorff, Antigone and Ismene, n.d.

ISMENE: You have a heart that’s hot for what is chilling.
ANTIGONE: But I know I’m pleasing those I must please most.

In the painting by Emil Teschendorff above you can see the beautiful, blue-eyed and blonde Ismene trying to convince Antigone not to go out and bury her brother. What a visual contrast they make; Ismene is dressed in light clothes, she is bright and fair, and Antigone is dressed in a dark blue, with dark hair. Ismene is the good and proper daughter, and Antigone is the stubborn rebel and troublemaker. Their personalities are indeed as different as day is to night, but this ‘light’ and positive representation of Ismene is very misleading because ‘obedience’ doesn’t equal ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’. Being obedient doesn’t mean doing the right thing, it means doing what you were told to do without questioning it.

Nikiforos Lytras, Antigone in front of the dead Polynices, 1865

As you can see, there are many interesting representations of Antigone in art, especially the scene where Antigone finds the body of her dead brother and gives him a proper burial. Greek painter, appropriately, Nikiforos Lytra places the scene at a rocky beach. Behind Antigone the dark sea and the moody sky meet. She gazes in disbelief at her brother’s corpse. In Benjamin-Constant’s version of the scene the Antigone is dressed in a white gown and while she is performing the ritual two guards behind here have just caught her in the act.

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, Antigone au chevet de Polynice, 1868

In the watercolour by Lenepveu the naked body of Polynices is stretches under Antigone’s feet while she is sprinkling dust all over him and perfroming the ritual. Their poses and the way the red cloth is carefully placed to cover Polynices’s private part makes the scene seem staged and not as mysterious or as spontaneous as the previous paintings. My favourite is the version by the Pre-Raphaelite painter of Greek origin Marie Spartali Stillman; the landscape behind Antigone is a moody one and the crows add to the ominous appeal, both sisters are next to their brother’s body and Ismene is holding Antigone’s hand imploringly, desperately trying to prevent her from doing what she is about to do.

Jules Eugene Lenepveu (1819-1898), Antigone Gives Token Burial to the Body of Her Brother Polynices, c. 1835-1898, watercolor, pen and black ink over black chalk, on gray-green paper

Ismene with her moral lenience, her cowardice and lack of passion and integrity reminds me of a quote by Robert Anton Wilson which is very appropriate for our times: “The obedient always think about themselves as virtuous, rather than cowardly.” And this leads us to another moral dilemma which is at the centre of the play: obedience to what or whom? Obedience to civil laws made by men, or obedience to something higher; obedience to God or your own conscience? Which is more important? Ismene doesn’t want to create an inconvenience or disobey the civil law but Antigone doesn’t care about laws on earth because she knows that she must please the Gods first; her life on earth is brief but the life of her soul is eternal.

Isn’t it fascinating how when we are presented with something in retrospective, or in art, everything is perfectly clear to us; it is obvious that Antigone is a brave and principled heroine, that Ismene is weak and obedient, that Creon is a tyrannt. Everyone would agree that Antigone did the right thing, and yet, in real life, everything is twisted and upside-down; blind obedience, conformity and cowardice are celebrated as bravery, real bravery is portrayed as dangerous ignorance and even lunacy, not to mention that Truth and Logic have been the first victims of our tragedy; they died in Act One. If our situation was a Greek play it would be obvious who was on the right side, as history will inevitably show too. To end, here is a brilliant dialogue between the King Creon and Antigone where he questions her about what she has done and Antigone gives him a brilliant, intelligent, even a bit cheeky reply. Go, Antigone!:

KREON: You — answer briefly, not at length — did you know
It was proclaimed that no one should do this?

ANTIGONE I did. How could I not? It was very clear.
KREON And yet you dared to overstep the law?
ANTIGONE:
It was not Zeus who made that proclamation
To me; nor was it Justice, who resides
In the same house with the gods below the earth,
Who put in place for men such laws as yours.
Nor did I think your proclamation so strong
That you, a mortal, could overrule the laws
Of the gods, that are unwritten and unfailing.
For these laws live not now or yesterday
But always, and no one knows how long ago
They appeared. And therefore I did not intend
To pay the penalty among the gods
For being frightened of the will of a man.
I knew that I will die —how can I not? —
Even without your proclamation. But if
I die before my time, I count that as
My profit. For does not someone who, like me,
Lives on among so many evils, profit
By dying? So for me to happen on
This fate is in no way painful. But if
I let the son of my own mother lie
Dead and unburied, that would give me pain.
This gives me none. And now if you think my actions
Happen to be foolish, that’s close enough
To being charged as foolish by a fool.

Oh and the guards in the play who told the King that they saw Antigone are the perfect examples of people who are “just doing their job”, which is something I am sick to my stomach of hearing. The picture above is something I found on The Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown’s Twitter, but I have seen it in other places and I don’t know who the original creator is.

Manet and Emile Durkheim- The Suicide

23 Nov

the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want to
get away
from
them.”

(Charles Bukowski, Cause and effect)

Edouard Manet, The Suicide, 1877-81

Painting “The Suicide” is an unusual one in Manet’s oeuvre. Scenes of murder and violence do appear here and there in his paintings, for example in the paintings “The Dead Toreador” (1864), “Bullfight – The Death of the Bull” (1865-66), and “The Execution of Emperor Maximilian” (1868). What makes the painting “The Suicide”, just like Degas’ painting “Interior” (1868-69), stand out is its lack of context which makes it intriguing. We don’t know who the man in the painting is, and we don’t know why he decided to kill himself, nor what led up to that moment. We are brought to this tragic scene without knowing what had happened before. We are confused, bewildered, shocked, and saddened. The closely-cropped scene shows an interior with a bed, a painting (or half the painting) hanging over the bed and some furniture. The man’s lifeless body is lying on the bed; a gun in his hand, a bloody stain on his white shirt, and the puddle of blood on the floor are visual hints at what has happened. “Different colours, different shades/ Over each mistakes were made/ I took the blame/ Directionless so plain to see/ A loaded gun won’t set you free… so you say”, the lyrics (and the music) from Joy Division’s song “New Dawn Fades” instantly comes to mind.

Some art critics thought the painting represents Manet’s assistent who had killed himself some years before the painting was painted, and others, not knowing how to interpret the painting, simply concluded that it has no meaning, that it is merely an exercise in colour and light. I am of an opinion that even if we can’t decipher the painting, interpret it and pinpoint its symbolism or meaning, it doesn’t mean the painting has no meaning. I definitely don’t think this is just a painterly exercise. When Impressionists wanted to play with colours, and with the effect of light and shadow, or simply use the left-over paint from their palettes, they painted gardens and flowers, just like Klimt did, not suicide scenes. There are many reasons why someone might commit a suicide, but this painting made me think of the sociologist Emile Durkheim’s book “Suicide: A Study in Sociology”, published in 1897, just twenty years after this painting was painted.

In the book Durkheim explains his theory that all suicides fall under four categories: egoistic, altruistic, anomic, and fatalistic. Looking at the time when the painting was painted, the French society at the time, and thinking of the books which I’ve read from that time period, I would say that the motif of the man’s sucide was either egoistic or anomic. The reason for egoistic suicides is that the person is overly individualised and is not connected to any social group, not tied to it by well-established social values, traditions and norms. The lack of integration leads to a state of apathy, pointlesness and melancholy, and this type of suicide, according to Durkheim, is most common in umarried men. Anomic suicide comes in times when society is in disorder and hence a lack of social direction, a lack of moral regulation is present. This leaves the person feeling unsure of where they belong or how they should act, they are carried by the wind of life in all directions, scattered, confused and lost. This type of suicide also occurs when a great change happens, whether in society or in the person’s personal life, and the person just cannot adapt to the new situation.

Now, just to mention the other two types of suicides: altruistic suicides happen in societies which are too integrated and the collective openly demands from the individual to sacrifice its individualism, its rights and freedoms, even to die for the collective (something we are sort of experiencing nowadays, this raging collectivism). And fatalistic suicide, according to Durkheim, exists only in theory, only as a concept. It is a type of suicide that happens when the society is so oppresive and has such control over the individual that the person feels as if his passions and his future are destroyed and he would rather die than live on. Durkheim may have thought this type of suicide exists only in theory, but later on dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s “1984”, or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, have shown that the types of societies that oppressive actually exist and our own times are revealing to us the same thing. Our world is indeed becoming more and more a place from which the only escape is death because all joys and freedoms are being crushed to dust. Now, I don’t know what the man in the painting was feeling or what was going on in his life, but I thought it was interesting to connect the painting’s theme with the sociological perspective on it.

Tin Ujević – Love unrequited gave no rest, so now you yearn for earth’s breast

22 Nov

Today I wanted to share a beautiful and sad poem by the Croatian poet Tin Ujević (1891-1955) called “Frailty” from his poetry collection “The Cry of a Slave” (1920), translated by Richard Berengarten. Ujević is considered by some to have been one of the last masters of European Symbolism and even the translator calls him “one of the finest South-Slavic poets”. In addition to being a poet, he was also an accomplished translator and translated the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Marcel Proust, Rimbaud, Arthur Gidé and many others. He spent his childhood living in different towns on the Croatian seaside and this love of the sea left a life-long trace on him, and it can be seen in this poem as well. In 1912 Ujević was a part of the Nationalist youth movement and was often imprisoned. From 1913 to 1919 he was in Montparnasse in Paris, where he was a notorius “anarchic bohemian” and he was a known frequenter of bars and cafes where he was often hanging out with fellow poets and artists from the Balkans, but he also moved in the art circles with artists such as Modigliani, Picasso, Cocteau and d’Annuzio. The poetry collection “The Cry of a Slave” represents the first phase in Ujević’s poetry and these poems are of intimate preocupations, woven with pessimism, a tragic sense of loneliness is intermingled with motives of metaphysical, spiritual love towards an imaginary woman.

Wilhelm Kotarbiński, Suicide’s grave, c 1900

Frailty

In this mist, in this rain –
oh drunken heart, don’t drown in pain.

Love unrequited gave no rest,
so now you yearn for earth’s breast,

And all your longing, cry of a slave,
is to find some quiet grave:

here my soul will soon expire
and here will wither my desire

on the waves of our blue, blue sea
and white, white pebbles cover me,

and my needs will all come home
under Blessed Heaven’s dome,

with sun, calm blue, and clarity,
beneath the ground that once bore me.

Eugene Delacroix – Liberty Leading the People!

20 Nov

“When injustice becomes law, resistence becomes duty.”

(Thomas Jefferson)

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, September – December 1830

When the French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix started working on his famous masterpiece “Liberty Leading the People” in autumn of 1830 he was already a well-established painter in France and a leader of the French Romanticism. Even though this painting seems historical and monumental, it actually depicts what was in Delacroix’s time a resent, fresh and new event. On 21st October 1830, Delacroix wrote to his brother: “My bad mood is vanishing thanks to hard work. I’ve embarked on a modern subject – a barricade. And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.” The event shown in the painting was the July Revolution of 1830 when the King Charles X (1824-1830) abdicated and the King Louis Philippe came in his place. The peace didn’t last long and in June 1832 the angry Parisian republicans, resenting the replacement of one king with another, had an uprising and, sadly, lost. This event – the June Uprising – is the main event described in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables”, published decades later, in 1862.

The most memorable figure in the painting is surely the bare-bosomed lady in a yellow dress; the figure of Liberty, also seen as Marianna, the symbol of France and the French Republic. She is holding a tricolour flag in one hand and a bayonetted musket in another. Of course, Delacroix didn’t mean to imply that an actual half-naked woman was leading the Parisian rebels, this is an allegorical representation of Liberty, or the spirit of Liberty that is inspiring people, giving them the fire to keep on fighting for what they believe to be right. White the Liberty is allegorical, the rest of the people in the painting, some dead and most alive, are real. At first sight this painting may seem chaotic, and it surely is vibrant and bursting with energy, but it is also carefully crafted and that is what gives it its ultimate power. Delacroix was an amazing painter and he knew how to translate even a scene as this one into a painting that will be astonishing even centuries later. In the foreground we see the dead rebels, the people whose lives were sacrificed at the altar of freedom, the centre is occupied by the figure of Liberty who is looking over her shoulder to make sure that the people are following her. Beside her is a young boy who is believed to have been an inspiration for the character of Gavroche in Victor Hugo’s aforementioned novel. Behind the figure of Liberty we see the angry mob arising from the big cloud of smoke, they have swords and bayonettes and they aren’t afraid to use them. Anarchy is in their blood, everyone on barricades! The rebels came from all different classes but most of them were urban workers, such as construction workers. In the right corner of the painting is a symbol of Paris – the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Delacroix presented the painting at the Salon in 1831 and it was quickly bought by the government, but quickly the political tides changed and after the June Rebellion of 1832 the painting was returned to Delacroix. It was originally meant to be displayed in the Palais du Luxembourg but the idea was discarded in fear that it might inspire people to rebel. We see the same thing happening today; the mass media is reluctant to show the protests, or it downplaying their size and importance, in fear of encouraging people to keep fighting because the battle of freedom is not lost. This is also the reason why I chose to write about this painting at this particular moment in time, as a way of expressing reverence for all those people out there, all over Europe and the world, who are defying the tyrannical measures and protesting against them. Long Live Freedom!

Alexander Pushkin: All that is left is apathy and grief…

17 Nov

Julia Margaret Cameron, Sadness, 1864

Don’t Ask Me Why

Don’t ask me why, alone in dismal thought,
In times of mirth, I’m often filled with strife,
And why my weary stare is so distraught,
And why I don’t enjoy the dream of life;

Don’t ask me why my happiness has perished,
Why I don’t love the love that pleased me then,
No longer can I call someone my cherished–
Who once felt love will never love again;

Who once felt bliss, no more will feel its essence,
A moment’s happiness is all that we receive:
From youth, prosperity and joyful pleasantry,
All that is left is apathy and grief…

Léon Cogniet – Tintoretto Painting His Dead Daughter

16 Nov

Léon Cogniet, Tintoretto Painting His Dead Daughter, 1843

William Michael Rossetti, the brother of the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, wrote an essay about Tintoretto in 1911 in which he mentions a well-known tale about the great painter and his beloved daughter. The Italian Renaissance painter Tintoretto absolutely adored his daughter Marietta who was also known as Tintoretta and when she passed away at the age of thirty in 1590 the great painter was so grief-stricken, tormented to the point of delirious, that he decided to paint her portrait as she was lying dead in bed. He couldn’t part with her so he captured her delicate features for the last time. This dramatic, eerie scene, which may or may not be true, fired the imagination of many Romantic painters and the version that I love the most is this one by the French painter Léon Cogniet. He was also an art teacher and he even married one of his students, furthermore both his father and his sister were also painters and it is a shame that this painter from such an artistic family stopped painting in 1855 at the age of sixty-one and died practically forgotten in 1880.

As a romantic painter it is easy to see why this sublime scene captivated him so much. Tintoretto is presented as a stern and grief-stricken father who gazes at his beloved daughter’s pale face, oh how lovely she is in death. I can imagine what beautiful verses Edgar Allan Poe would have written had he seen the sight of a famous painter painting the last portrait of his daughter. Surely, the pale face of Marietta is the same face that we see in many portraits of dead women of which I have written about here and here, it’s almost a face of a martyr, pure and tender. Marietta was her father’s pupil and she painted in his workshop, she was also a great singer and played lute, harpsichord and clavichord. Tintoretto simply couldn’t part with such a treasure and so he didn’t allow her to marry far away. Instead, he arranged a marriage for her with a local jeweler and silversmith so she would always stay close to him in Venice. You can only imagine then how sad he was when death took her away, knowing how desperately he tried to keep her by his side when she lived.

I won’t comment much about the colours in the painting because both versions I have been able to find are not that great. Also, bellow you can see another version of the same scene by a British Victorian painter Henry Nelson O’Neil. In that version the dead Marietta, with flowers in her red hair, looks like a Pre-Raphaelite maiden and brings to mind the frail and ill Pre-Raphaelite muse Elizabeth Siddal; Dante Gabriel Rossetti didn’t paint her as she lay on her deathbed but he did bury a book of sonnets with her.

Henry Nelson O’Neil, Tintoretto Painting His Dead Daughter, 1873

Rubén Darío: The Princess is sad… (Sonatina)

10 Nov

Today I wanted to share this wonderful poem by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío called “Sonatina” published in 1896 in his poetry collection “Prosas Profanas”. I love all the vibrant visual imagery, all the details that the poet so vividly describes instantly transport me to a summer garden where the pale and sad princess resides, surrounded by fragrant dahlias and lilies, and peacocks and swans. How can anyone be sad in such a heavenly place!? I love the way her features are described; she has “mouth of roses”, and “strawberry lips”. And I especially love the stanza where the princess imagines how beautiful it would be to fly like a butterfly or a swallow.

James Abbott Mcneill Whistler, Le Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine, 1863-65

Sonatina

The princess is sad . . . from the princess slips
such sighs in her words from the strawberry lips.
Gone from them laughter and the warm light of day.
Pallid she is sat in her golden chair;
unsounded the keys of the harpsichord there,
and a flower, from a vase, has swooned away.

The peacocks in the garden parade their tails.
The duenna’s chatter is incessant and stales.
The pirouetting jester is tricked out in red,
yet nothing she cares for and she does not smile
but follows a dragonfly that flits the while
as vague in the east as is her dream-lost head.

Does a prince from China or Golconda approach,
does she think of one stepping from his silver coach,
bedazzled by her beauty in the sky’s soft blues,
to court her with islands of fragrant roses,
shower bright diamonds as a sovereign disposes,
or proud owners of pearls do, out of Ormuz?

Ah, the poor princess, with that mouth of roses,
thinks of butterfly and swallow, but supposes
how easily with wings she would soar up under
the bright ladders brought down from the sunlit day.
With lillies she would meet the fresh songs of May,
and be one with the wind in the ocean’s thunder.

Listless in the palace spins the spinning wheel;
in the magical falcon and jester no appeal.
The swans are as one in the lake’s azure swoon.
From west come the dahlias for the first in court,
from east the sad jasmines, south roses of thought,
from north the waterlillies, weeping from noon.

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, They toil not, neither do they spin, 1903

Her blue eyes see nothing but sad misrule:
into gold she is set and beset by tulle.
Days are poured out as from a heavy flagon,
haughtily they watch now over palace floors;
silent with the halberds are a hundred Moors,
sleepless the greyhound, and a colossal dragon.

Oh, to find freshness of the butterfly’s veil:
(The princess is sad. The princess is pale.)
Be silent as ivory, rose-coloured and gold!
Where will he fly to, the prince she had!
The princess is pale. The princess is sad,
more brilliant than the dawn is, a hundred fold.

Be patient, my princess: the horse has wings,
for you he is coming, the fairy godmother sings.
With a sword in the belt he has a hawk above,
and a kiss to ignite you, to vanquish death:
never has he seen you, but joyous the breath
from the prince who awakes you: you will be his love.

Teodor Axentowicz – The Old Man and the Ghost of a Young Woman

7 Nov

Polish-Armenian painter Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938) is somewhat forgotten and neglected in today’s art history but he has many amazing painting, for example his pastel “Redhead” of which I have written about before. Today I wanted to write about a pastel and watercolour painting whose mood and colours fit this time of the year so well, that is, the mood of the painting fits the mood of nature in this moment.

Teodor Axentowicz, Vision – Memory, Old age and youth, (The old man and the ghost of a young woman, An old man with a girl) (after 1900), pastel and watercolor on paper

This painting is known under various titles, but my favourite title is “The old man and the ghost of a young woman” because it directly implies that the wistful, gentle face of a woman that appears to be gazing at the old man is a ghost. We could assume that from the way she was painted as well; her face is clear but the rest of her seems unfinished, as if she is fading away or she is not really there. She is suppose to be a simple peasant, but her facial features look more like those of a model and the classical, idealised beauty of her face contrasts with the more realistic manner in which the old man’s face was painted. The old age has coloured his hair and beard in snow white, his attire is simple and brown. Why is he sitting under a tree with a furrowed brow? Does he sense that his end will come soon? Do the memories of his youth haunt him? Does he see the face of a girl he once loved but who had died? Maybe she came to tell him: shhh, it is time to go now… But he is still scared. The girl’s face oozes patience and tenderness, surely she has come to help him in some way. Wistful, lovely and lonely female figures appear often in Axentowicz’s art; whether it’s his gorgeous pastel “Girl with a Blue Vase (Tears)” from 1900, “Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Krakow” from 1909, or his “Girl with a Candlestick”, but they are always isolated figures against a landscape. In this painting the girl’s wistful face is tied to a bigger story and every detail is imbued with a symbolism.

Another title for the painting “Memory, Old Age and Death” brings yet another meaning to the scene; the old man seeing the girl’s face in the forest must be a sign of his impending death and the girl must be a face from his memory, someone he loved. Also, it implies a vanitas theme of transience and the shortness of life. The somber, earthy, autumnal colours match the mood of the painting perfectly. The colours aren’t the gay, vibrant shades typical for early autumn, no, this is the autumn nearing its end; winter’s frost kissing the bare trees. The painting looks like it was seen from a sepia-tinted glasses, like a distant memory, something melancholy that can never be returned. The forest setting, away from people, away from everyday life, brings additional spiritual dimension to the painting. There are no more leaves to fall of those trees; the leaves rustle no more, nothing but stilness and coldness is in the air – death is near. The combined technique that Axentowicz used is also interesting; pastel over watercolour; it brings the best of both worlds.