Archive for March, 2010

Behind the paint – ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by echostains

Gustav Klimt

‘The Kiss’ by Gustave Klimt (b.1862 -1918 Vienna) was painted 1907  – 1908, it is probably the Viennese artist’s most famous work.  Klimt trained at the school of Applied Arts in Vienna, but eventually broke away from the State’s patronage to form the Secession group with friends.  The group believed the promotion of the  art of unconventional Austrian painters. 

The Kiss


Klimt explorations of  human relationships  in his work was considered very ‘modern’ at the time.  He believed that no institution or person had the right of censorship over his work  His work is a synthesis of both the decorative and sumptuous Art Nouveau and Symbolism

“Enough of censorship……I want to break free”

This work was part of Klimt’s ‘Golden period’. The Kiss shows the man and woman sharing joy –  symbolically dissolving in an embrace. They stand against a background of  beautiful decoration, which is flecked with gold leaf.  The gold background is not incidental, Klimt’s father was a gold engraver by trade.  He had also learned mosaic techniques, fresco and oil painting.  This influence is seen in the carpet of flowers.  The gold is very like the mosaic found in Byzantine churches: Klimt was very much influenced by Italian mosaics he saw in Ravenna.

close up

 The couple each wear individual highly decorated gowns.   The difference in the gowns is important.  The man’s is of a more geometric patters consisting of black and white ‘masculine’ shapes.  By contrast, the woman’s is flowery – tieing her visually to the carpet of flowers she kneels on and linking her to ‘mother naure’.  Her gown does contain a little of the geometric pattern which unites her and symbolises her unity to the male.  A golden envelope envelops them, symbolically uniting the sexes.   Klimt’s work explores the themes of birth, life death.  The woman is especially depicted by turn as emotional joy bringer, temptress and child bearer.  The bodies fused together as one emphasis their unity.

Klimt loves hands and uses them expressively in his paintings. Also his use of gold, entwined couples and the sumptuousness of his highly decorated work have a hint of opulent decadence about them proclaiming the end of the century (fin de siecle)  a mixture of degeneration and but also hope for the future.

2003 Austria 100 Euro coin front

The Kiss was commemorated on a special collectors Austrian coin 2003.   The front of this euro painting coin shows Klimt in his studio. The Kiss was popular in its own time and was purchased by the Austrian State.  The Secession group was a warded international recognition because of Klimt’s status as an artist unlike Van Gogh who did not know fame whilst he lived. He is featured in ‘Beneath the paint’ here.


2003 Austria 100 Euro coin back

an interesting article about Klimt here

Weird and Wacky designs – Total Airheads!

Posted in ART, ARTISTS BIRTHDAYS, BEHIND THE PAINT, DESIGN, WEIRD AND WACKY DESIGN with tags , , , , on March 30, 2010 by echostains

skychariot balloon

It’s Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday today (1853 -1890).  But I’ve already wished Van Gogh happy birthday – see last years post I could have told you Vincent it’s your birthday.  However, no birthday is ever complete without balloons and I couldn’t believe it when I saw these!  I think the one below looks quite like him, though I’m not sure about the idealogy behind choosing an artist’s head for an air balloon.

van gogh surreal

It must be surreal to see  a disembodied gigantic head floating in the sky.  Here’s the Dutch artist floating over Sydney Australia.

Vincent flies high

The balloons are made by Cameron Balloons.  Just have a look at some of the other designs here.  This one reminds me of the nursery rhyme ‘The Cat and the Fiddle’…the bit where the cow jumps over the moon.  This one’s certainly big enough!  And they talk about pigs flying…..

Where's the dish and spoon?

Castles in the air – what a lovely expression.  We all build these at some time or other.  Here’s one that has been built literally  – a fairytale castle to go with a fairytale celebration.  Balloons are a magical leisurely form of transport.  They belong to a more romantic age.  These novelty designs shall ensure that their popularity soars!

castles in the air

Cameron Balloons website

My post about Van Goghs’s bedroom Arles painting here 

My 483rd post is here


where my heads at

Looking back through my past posts, I realised that I haven’t done any summing up since my 427 post.  I like to do this so often as it gives me new ideas and alerts me to areas of the blog which I have either abandoned or neglected.  Some of the categories are outdated now, but I’m still going to keep them, maybe put them under a big generic umbrella – like all the holiday ones in ‘Places’.

gormenghast trilogy

Since my last summing up, there have been a few changes.  For example my other blog ‘Bookstains’ where I am putting my book  reviews (though I’ve not done much of that for quite a bit).  Reading challenges also go on Bookstains.  I have finished both ‘Titus Groan’ and Gormenghast now and am miles behind writing about Titus and my impressions.  I started that blog because of that, but I am enjoying myself writing poetry too much….

I'm no Byron

Having resurrected my interest in poetry, I have now written a few  in different styles and also a bit of Haiku – which I’ve never done before.  The poetry is also on Bookstains’. 

the ones which went before

Another category which I have started is about the preservation of the dead.  Strange, you may think but I am fascinated by all the different ways the body can be preserved and usually by nature.  I am very interested in geneology and have found out so much about myself from looking at my past.  I am the sum total of those who have gone before.  Art quote is another new category and does what it says on the tin.   I’m trying to pick artists who have made a lot of quotes and who I haven’t featured in ‘birthdays’ or ‘Art I LOVE’.

Behind the paint

A very recent category is called ‘Behind the paint’ and takes a famous painting and looks at the ‘clues’ to understanding it.  Teapots still interest me, but unusual ones are getting harder and harder to find.  The weird and Wacky design’ section is quite a popular one.  I like to put the objects into groups so there is at least a cohesive theme running through them.  This takes a bit of time…..

Branwell Brontes Barbers Tale by Chris Firth

Bronte Bites is a section that hasn’t seen much action recently.  I do have new photos which I took earlier this month and which I will get round to putting up on here soon.  I’m still having trouble with the formatting, but I can’t see me changing the theme as I think it suits my subject matter.  Oh well, onwards and upwards, as they say.

She does indeed walk in Beauty

Posted in HISTORY, POETRY with tags , , , on March 28, 2010 by echostains

This post has been transferred to Bookstains

Fingers in the sand

Posted in ART, DESIGN, exhibitions with tags , , on March 27, 2010 by echostains

I came across this sand drawing artist and just had to include it.  How the drawings start off have l no bearing on  the end drawing.  Amazing!

Discovered and Uncovered – Underwater artist Zena Holloway

Posted in ART, ART DISCOVERED AND UNCOVERED, ART VIDEOS, PHOTOGRAPHY, WATCHED with tags , , , on March 26, 2010 by echostains

Beautiful underwater photography by Zena Holloway

I’m coming across some very unusual and amazing artists  in the course of research for my blog.  Yes. you’ve guessed it – it’s time for yet another category!  Some of these may not be new artists to you – but they are to me, hense the title ‘Discovered and Uncovered’.  It is not my intention to go into the artist’s life story – just to give a glimpse into their work and hopefully inspire someone.

a water baby by Zena Holloway

Zena Holloway b. 1973 Bahrain now lives and works in London.  She started off as a scuba diving instructor and eveloped an interest in underwater photography.  Her work has appeared on adverts, in films and magazines.  She recently completed a two year project based on Charles Kingsley’s ‘Water Babies’ which featured real babies swimming underwater.

the queen of the fairies by Warwick Goble

Who doesn’t love the tale of young Tom the chimney sweep who falls into a river and becomes a Water baby.  The illustrations of this 1863 by several illustrators are beautiful – no wonder Holloway was inspired by them!

Swan Songs

Watch some of her work here in this short video – so beautiful, graceful and poetical.  There are a few of her videos on Youtube which feature lots of her work – including the Water babies.

Zena Holloway’s website here

Beautiful illustrations of the WaterBabies by several illustrators here

PS  My latest poem  is called ‘Acrostic Alphabet-ish’ here

Preserved in time – Peruvian mummies

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , on March 25, 2010 by echostains

cherchen man with tattoos

There are lots of ways the dead can be preserved.  The elements help. So far I have explored preservation by earth (well peat really) with the Bog bodies.  Then there was water (Otzi the ice man) frozen in ice and found in the Austrain/Italian alps.  But earth and water aren’t the only elements which can make time stand still.  Air also has its part to play.  Dry humid air has contributed in preserving the most famous mummies of all – the Egyptian mummies.  But these bodies have been treated with nitrates and bandaging.

The first body found was a Tocharian woman who was probably sacrificed

Lots of conditions can lead to natural mummification.  Sometimes the air is too dry, the ice is too cold, the ground is arid and these can preserve the bodies, sometimes for thousands of years.

this woman was approx 40 yrs old her stature and red hair indicate european descent

The Taklamakan mummies were found in 1980s on the edge of an old Silk Road in a remote desert in what is China.  The bodies are not embalmed but preserved naturally by the dry sands.  They are tall with red gold hair and it is believed that they are European descent.  Interestingly, the woman’s cloth garment is identical with Celtic cloth.

Here’s a small film which features her among other bodies:-

The Loulan Beauty as she may have looked

Another  Mummy, also found in China is obviously Caucasian.  She is known as the Loulan Beauty and she was found in the ruins of an ancient city on the edge of the Taklamakan desert.  She is thought to be over 4000 years old, stood 6ft 1 in. and is a European Caucasian ( before the Chinese got to China) she was over 40 years of age when she died.

The Loulan Beauty as she was found

It never ceases to amaze me what endurance the physical human body has and how nature can destroy or preserve our shell, leaving clues for  those who come after us.   The spirit shall go on, but we can learn a lot about ourselves by studying our past.

PS  My latest poem  is called ‘Acrostic Alphabet-ish’ here

More about the Taklamakan mummies here

Images from here

Behind the Paint: ‘The bedroom at Arles’ Van Gogh

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , on March 24, 2010 by echostains

van-gogh self-portrait

I am introducing this new category ‘Behind the paint’.  I hope it will prove popular.  it will be attempt to interpret popular paintings.  the clues are there – it’s just a case of looking.  When we go to a gallery, of course we look at the paintings and appreciate the composition, the colours the way that the artists has captured or depicted the subject.  We also are aware of how the painting affects us emotionally.  But we also have to bear in mind the era these paintings were painted in and the people they were painted for to set that painting in it’s context.

van gogh yellow house at arles 1888

We know such a lot about Van Gogh and his life that every time we look at one of his paintings we think of his suffering – indeed sometimes we cannot separate them.  ‘The bedroom at Arles’ was first painted in 1888 (he painted 3 versions).

van Gogh bedroom at Arles

This version is his third one.  He painted this one for his mother.  He was recovering from a nervous breakdown in an asylum in St Remy.  Ten months after he painted this, the artist was dead.  He committed suicide.

Van Gogh worked with thick impasto – brushstrokes are always visible.  He is another painter who liked to squeeze paint directly from the tube.  he got through a lot of paint – especially yellow.   He liked to complete a painting in one day.  Poor Theo, his brother was always being asked for money to buy more paint. 

clearly defined brushstrokes

If you look around the room you will notice that there are two of nearly everything.  Pillows, water jugs, bottles, chairs. It has been said that because the first version of this painting was painted whilst Van Gogh was awaiting the arrival of Gauguin, the painting can be seen as Van Gogh’s unfulfilled wish for partnership and friendship with his fellow painter.  Alas, Van Gogh was in for a rude awakening regarding Gauguin.  Both artists proved much to volotile to really get along.

Gauguin and Van Gogh a volatile parnership

The chair was painted yellow.  Originally it was made of white wood.   Van Gogh loved the colour yellow: it symbolised happiness, sunlight and warmth to him.  The pictures over the bed are different in all three versions of the picture.  But in this version it is easy to see Van Gogh’s self-portrait besides his sister Wil.

the first version

the third and last version

The original floor was a red brick colour.    The last version has a sombre feel to it.  He was always aware of the emotional impact of colour and expressed himself through it. The red bedspread really affects the mood of the painting – without it the picture has a completely different feel.  If you cover it up you will see.  Van Gogh depicts the white room in blue/violet hue creating harmonies with the greens.  this The blue/violet hue of the room (which is really painted white) creates harmonies with the greens.  This particularly contrasts with the bed and chairs.

Japanese influenced

The outlines are dark – a trademark of Van Gogh’s. The artist was very much influenced by Japanese wood block prints.  He loved these simplified designs and their areas of flat colour – you can see these influences in his work.

The bed is a simple peasant’s bed.  He loved it because it was rustic.   He took this bed with him when he moved to Auvers.  It was the bed he died in. 

VanGogh gallery here