The most enjoyable aspect of studying eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art last semester was reveling in how downright nerdy many experimental European artists were–in one fascinating example, the German Romantic painters who called themselves the Brotherhood of St. Luke basically cosplayed as medieval monks, and would paint each other dressed up as romantic figures from a seemingly distant past. In Johann Friedrich Overbach’s Portrait of the Painter Franz Pforr, Overbach depicts his buddy in an anachronistic paradise–he even gives him a pious medieval babe for a wife in the background, though Pforr was unmarried!
Perhaps my own romanticized fixation with various aspects of the past — including as the nineteenth-century William Morris designs I transformed into my outgoing Christmas mail — becomes less strange when contextualized within each generation’s endless cycle of “golden age” nostalgia.
The year: 2007. The setting: an introductory French class at a private high school in Honolulu. My teacher was showing us a Powerpoint of significant cultural sites to assess how much a group of teenagers from Hawai’i knew about Parisian life. As soon as the Palais Garnier appeared on the screen, the room went completely silent–so I raised my hand and before my teacher could be impressed by my apparent level of high taste, I whispered in reverent, broken French “est-ce que le fantôme de l’Opéra habite là?”
Which is all to say that I have loved both the Gaston Leroux novel and the ridiculous Andrew Lloyd Webber musical since I was twelve years old, and I was completely delighted to see some Phantom-esque souvenirs in my most recent letter from France. Opera ghosts may not be spooky to some, but I think this letter fits quite well with the rest of the Halloween/autumnal mail I received this week from domestic pen pals in Nevada and my home Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
What do you call a redhead without a Halloween costume? Instant Pre-Raphaelite. I didn’t have the chance to come up with a fancy ensemble this year (as much as I wanted to be, like, pin-up BB-8 or something), so I decided to emulate my favorite school of painting instead. Luckily for me, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was semi-obsessed with mystical gingers and I have a magical forest right at my fingertips!
I’m sure you’ve noticed that the title of this post essentially sums up my blog in a nutshell!
After last week’s letter-writing marathon, I’m proud to say that my “reply to this now!” pile has decreased from nine to zero envelopes. To be honest, I feel a bit disoriented without any letters to write: it’s become such a part of my evening routine. And it’s a shame, really, because I have so many gorgeous historic paintings and cute Hawaiian flora/fauna to send off to parts unknown! Here’s hoping I receive some new letters over the next few days so I can share this bounty of ephemera.
It’s no secret that I love intense installations and quirky conceptual art–my favorite type of contemporary art is anything that makes me feel like the child protagonist of a fantasy novel, exploring a brave new world that has such colors and forms in it.
This marks my third year that I’ve blogged about my annual trip to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA!) and I am so delighted to share some new wonders. I get the sense, sometimes, that many think art appreciation is a realm of extremes–you either love historic art and think modernism is meretricious and meaningless, or enjoy contemporary art and find old gold frames dull and outdated.
I promise, it’s possible to appreciate both the Renaissance and rooms filled with giant plastic towers (which I saw at Mass MOCA a few years ago)! Actually, taking on the persona of your inner kid-in-a-fantasy novel, forgetting all the biases and preconceptions you might carry into any museum, is a good way to start!
I’ve been joking about my “feud” with Pierre-Auguste Renoir ever since I overdosed on his art at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia–a place where literally every wall is covered with his works. An afternoon there will certainly give you enough bucolic portraits of shimmeringly blurry young girls to last a lifetime!
Truth is, though, that I’m totally kidding myself: I love what the guy can do with color and flowers. At a place like the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, where I was surrounded by both nature and Impressionism, I’m even more apt to admire his boldly-brushed blooms.
2016 marks the third year in which I’ve kicked off September with a field trip to museums in the Berkshires. This time, I was inspired by my love of macro photography to capture wondrous, delicate details in Renoi–um, Impressionist paintings–and some other enchanting genres!
(Pictured above: a photograph of a flower I took on one of the Clark’s nature trails, followed by some blooms painted by–you guessed it…)
The Lake District is the place where many (non-British) forest girls’ dreams were born–exploring the land of Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth felt like returning to a childhood home that I’d never visited before. I imagined all the romanticized visions of idyllic woods-and-country life from children’s stories playing out before me as we drove by the lakes and trees and mountains and stone cottages…
The first stop, though, was a place entirely unlike a simple “cottage”: Blackwell, a great Arts & Crafts manor decorated in the most beautiful Art Nouveau-esque style. Every grand, sweeping room included tiny windowside reading nooks, tucked-away places for contemplation and creation.
(So who wants to contribute to the “let me live in an Arts & Crafts house in the Lake District” fund? I promise it will be a good investment [for me, at least]!)