Tuesday 17 September 2019

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My Love of Art

A photo looking down a room in an art gallery with paintings on the walls on either side, with a bench in the middle with people sitting and sketching, and two people looking at the paintings on the left - photo taken in Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland, New Zealand
Photo by Dev on Unsplash.

My Love of Art

Today, I want to talk to you about art I love. I'm in no way an expert, just a layman who loves what I see, so I can't wax poetic about it or anything. But I do love specific artists and subjects. All images can be clicked to be taken to the website page to learn more.

I'm quite creative, so I enjoyed art at school, despite not having much skill. One aspect of our class that I quite enjoyed was having to write an essay on a particular artist's work that related to what we were working on ourselves. It was through these essays that I discovered Georgia O'Keeffe. I remember at school people calling her the vagina artist, because her paintings of the openings of flowers look like vaginas. I can see it, but I love her work as flowers. I just think they're awesome.

Morning Glory with Black by Georgia O'Keeffe
Morning Glory with Black by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Two Calla Lilies on Pink by Georgia O'Keeffe
Two Calla Lilies on Pink by Georgia O'Keeffe.

These are two of my favourites - Morning Glory with Black and Two Calla Lilies on Pink. I just love how O'Keeffe has used colour and shade to show depth, and has captured that soft texture of the petals. It's like you could lean forward and look right inside them. I think they're beautiful.

I also really adore Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I discovered their art through the book The Roots of Desire by Marion Roach, a book about redheads and how they were seen throughout history. The Pre-Raphaelites were quite keen on redheads, and Roach spoke quite a bit about the story of Lilith, and specifically discussed Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting Lady Lilith - plus his poems Eden's Bower and Body's Beauty. I was really intrigued by Lilith and liked her, despite her having a bad rap, what with raping men, causing miscarriages and infertility, and eating children. I just love that she was Adam's first wife and refused to lie beneath him as they were equals, and ran off to the Red Sea. So, of course, when Roach mentioned Lady Lilith, I looked it up - and fell in love.

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

To me, she embodies self-confidence and sensuality, without needing anyone's - or any man's, specifically - approval or permission. She's happy and content with herself. And I just love it. I loved this painting so much, I looked up other Pre-Raphaelite art mentioned in The Roots of Desire, and in general. As a redhead who has, generally, had some issues in the past with self-esteem, seeing all these paintings of beautiful redheads where they were revered was kind of life changing for me.

But what I also found fascinating was the stories these paintings told. As I've said before, I'm no expert at art, so generally, I look at a painting and think, "That's a pretty painting," and that's it. I don't know about symbolism, etc., and unless it's about Christianity, I generally can't look at a painting and tell you what it's about. I can't "read" art. But learning about the stories that inspired the paintings made me love them even more, because I understood them. Characters from myth, poetry and Shakespeare crop up quite a lot, like Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse and, with the same title, The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt, Persephone in Proserpine by Rossetti, and Beatrice from La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri in Beata Beatrix by Rossetti.

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais
Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais.

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse.

The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt
The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt.

Prosperpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

I was actually extremely lucky to attend the Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition in either 2012 or 2013 when it was on at the Tate Britain, and got to see many of the paintings I love so much in person. It was absolutely incredible to stand in front of Lady Lilith, a painting that represents and means so much to me. I bought a print of her and Ophelia.

Because of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, I found a love of myths and stories in painting, and more specifically, a love of Greek and Roman myths. I knew about some of the myths already, but I found out more about them by researching the paintings and their subjects, and have kind of fallen in love with myths this way - probably why I love retellings so much! Who doesn't love The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli or The Doom Fulfilled from the Perseus series by Edward Burne-Jones?!

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.

The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones.

SO that's a general overview of the paintings, artists and subjects I love. I'll probably write some more specific posts on certain stories, characters or myths in art, too. I definitely need to talk about my love of Lady Lilith in more depth. I'll be visiting Tate Britain this week (along with The Natural History Museum and maybe The British Museum), so maybe I'll have a post with some photos to share over the next few weeks!

Over to you graphic

Are you interested in art? Are there any particular artists, subjects or art forms you like? What do you think of Pre-Raphaelite art, and Georgia O'Keeffe? Let me know in the comments!

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