The Art of Progress
Everything in the world is forever changing – our planet, our government, our values, ourselves – everything is shifting. Art serves as a testament leaving its legacy and mark on change. Art provides a reference to our world – a porthole, a window to the past, present and the now. It has always been like this. J M W Turner‘s (b. 1775 – 1851 London) moving watercolour of The Fighting Temeraire shows Nelson’s 98 gun flagship, triumphant in the Battle of Trafalgar 1805 being towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up and used as scrap in 1838 As the new age ushers in new forms of transport, men are no longer slaves to the seas whims: it is the beginning of the age of steam – the ‘floating kettles’ as some called them. The beautiful setting of the sunset shows a sense of loss as the old warship contrasts with the smaller steam-powered tug.
William Powell Frith‘s (b.1819 – 1909 Yorkshire England) gigantic canvas ‘The Railway Station’ had everyone talking about it when it went on show at a gallery in the Haymarket London in 1862. Not only was it interesting because the artist had collaborated with a photographer (Samuel Fry), using his photographs as aides to his work – there were nearly 100 figures in the painting and lots of little details which people flocked to see. Scenarios break out all over the painting: one example being two famous Scotland Yard detectives of the time Haydon and Brett arresting a criminal. A wedding party and some army recruits join the throng. This painting was reported by the Times newspaper as breaking all previous sales records for any painting by a living artist:-
“the artist had been paid the astonishing sum of £8,750 for it, while the Athenaeum put the total at 8,000 guineas, or £9,187 10s. Whatever the correct amount, Frith’s earnings from The Railway Station broke all previous records…
‘As a rule, it is only dead men whose works have risen to such figures,’ declared The Times, ‘and even these honoured dead may be counted on the two hands.
However, only £4,500 of this was paid for the painting itself; the rest secured the far more lucrative copyright and sole exhibition rights.” What price artistic ‘progression’ eh. Frith was very well paid for him labours it seems.
The third painting is by illustrator Norman Rockwell (b 1894 – 1978 New York USA) ‘Coinoisseur’ 1962 – a tribute to Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock (b. 1912 – 1966 USA). Whilst the painting is sometimes interpreted as a compliment to Pollock – it is also interesting to note the comparison between Rockwell’s illustrative art and the new Modern art of Pollock who was big news in the art scene of 1962.
This is the painting which has inspired yet another Poetry Challenge! This time it’s about – you guessed by now – PROGRESS:-) For details of how to enter please click The connoisseur to go over to Bookstains where you will find this and other poetry challenges that are art related.
connoisseur image from here