Perhaps it is merely a symptom of my summer holiday nearing to its close.
The Spouse and I spent several halcyon days in San Francisco , our daily anxieties pushed aside. But we have now returned to our regular concerns.
Upon this return, I have been re-experiencing a bit of depression ; it might be a symptom of my own aging ( I recently turned one year shy of five decades). When I see myself in the mirror, it causes me pause. This reflection causes me to look more deeply at my situation. I attempt to avoid morbidity ( as natural an inclination as that may be for me) but one cannot escape the sand slipping through hourglass. This is a fact that I am becoming increasingly more aware of. The fortunate effect of this awareness is that I am now struggling with my own authenticity more aggressively. The notion of Vanitas, not merely personal admiration, but the silly distractions that seems to rear up time and again, is of pressing interest .
I am actively trying to recognize the temptation of such follies when they cross my daily path, with that in mind, my attention turns to Hans Baldung -Grien. I can think of few artists who explored the notion of Vanitas more thoroughly. I have taken impish delight in his menacing skeletal Deaths cavorting with oblivious Maidens for years; but I am now looking more closely. I have actually never seen a Baldung in the flesh (so to speak), only from illustrations; but even from such inferior sources I am aware of the richness of his understanding. This former apprentice of the great Dürer seems to have captured the universal struggles of Man: the conflict between fragile beauty and pleasure and the inflexible wall of eternity, our own brief moment, and what we must do with it.
Baldung captured the gravitas and left room for a smile.
Death and the Maiden
oil on limewood
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
I particularly admire the theThree Ages being depicted in one panel, her infant self toying innocently with the veil (of Life?), her lovely Maiden self deeply absorbed in her own beauty, how can one blame her?, her middle- aged, sobered Crone rushing froward to fend away Death.
I find myself more and more identifying with the sobered Crone.
oil on panel
Öffentliche Kunstsammluna, Basel
Our fair Maiden seems to have lost the battle.
oil on panel
Museo del Prado
I find the landscape of particular interest, the owl such a curious figure.
One of my own paintings has been accepted in a juried show; in order to avoid further Vanitas it is worth noting that the show is in Glendale California at the Brand Library and Art Gallery.
Glendale is perhaps best remembered as the provincial backwater that drove dear Veda to distraction (and murder?) in the marvelous Mildred Pierce.
That said I am of course pleased.
The painting is my own modest exploration of Vanitas, it is about two years old; at the time I was a bit intrigued with LA’s Low-Brow movement, that interest has passed, but the painting lingers, a testament to Vanitas on multiple levels.
Nod to Aubrey
acrylic and canvas, gold leaf
As the title suggests, the painting it is my own play on the great Aubrey Beardsley and his fascinating depictions of fetus. They have captured my imagination for years and I wished to explore the theme myself. It of course was natural/predictable to include a Death figure.
I will close with a few more images of Baldung, he not only depicted the Three Ages with much understanding, he tackled the Fall of Man time and again. What I found so interesting with the following image is that instead of poor beleaguered Eve being depicted as the Eternal Temptress once again, Adam seems to be the culprit to our Downfall. He is at the very least a lascivious accomplice.
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
I will close with one last image, a detail from another Adam and Eve (1524), because he is quite a fetching Adam.
I refuse to resist Vanitas completely!
oil on panel
Szépmûvészeti Museum, Budapest
I appreciate your indulgence i f I tended towards the maudlin.
Until next time, I wish you well,