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Dirk Puehl
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"I deny nothing, but doubt everything.” Lord Byron
"I deny nothing, but doubt everything.” Lord Byron

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23 April 1775, #onthisday, the English Romanticist landscape artist J.M.W. Turner was born in Covent Garden, London, allegedly on St George’s Day.

The finer points of distinction between mere beauty and the sheer, awe-inspiring sublime à la Burke and Kant were interpreted in rational discourse while the rest of the Romantics just felt it. In contemplating old ruins, alpine peaks, sea storms and the fate of exceptional human beings. While Turner wept, allegedly, when he saw a landscape by Claude Lorrain for the first time. He would never paint like this. Nor would he. But he learned a thing or two. To reduce individual humanity to background staffage, for example. And to use the sun as direct, immediate source of light in his land- and seascapes for the first time since Lorraine did more than a hundred years before. Maybe the light produced by the polluted atmosphere after the eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies in the Year without a Summer of 1816 played a role as well, maybe even more than Lorraine and the physical findings of the Royal Society. The latter usually entered Turner’s concepts rather as soon as they were published. But, more and more, strange suns and fantastically coloured clouds set the stage for Turner’s imagination of the Promethean struggle of England’s steps into the Industrial Age, dark Satanic mills, rain, steam and speed and all that. And sublimely Romantic.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2017/04/the-painter-of-light-jmw-turner.html

Depicted below is J.M.W. Turner's : "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838" (1839)

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14 April 1925, #onthisday the “leading portrait painter of his generation”, Florence-born American John Singer Sargent, died in London at the age of 69.

Like Hogarth, Sargent had an eye for details that could tell whole novels to the savants who are able to recognise them. And like some of the 20th century’s best movie directors, he had the ability to arrange props and visual side notes into a narrative that gave the seemingly snapshot-like arrangements of his famous portraits the depth of a third dimension. They presented a highly polished surface, as voluble, verbose even, as the narratives of his friend, the other American ex-pat Henry James, while the possible drama, that of an ending age actually, is hinted at in blanks. Such as his flirt with Impressionism in some of his backgrounds. Modern art’s struggle to find new expressions for yet unseen perceptions is duly noted, observed and ignored. John Singer Sargent was obviously content with being the Van Dyck of his age, one of the last of the Old Masters.

But read more on: http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2017/04/the-van-dyck-of-his-age-john-singer.html

Depicted below is John Singer Sargent's portrait of the "Pailleron Children" (1880), looking like something out of Henry James' "Turn of the Screw"

#ART #ARTHISTORY #EUROPEANART
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8 April 1820, #onthisday the young farmer Georgios Kentrotas, looking for construction material in the ruins of the old capital of the island of Melos, found the Aphrodite of Milos, better known as Venus de Milo.

After Napoleon’s defeat and the end of the First Empire, the Louvre had to return a couple of artworks to their previous owners. Among them was the Venus de’ Medici, shipped back to the Uffizi in Florence already in December 1815. This particular Venus is not quite a work by famed Praxiteles, the inscription on her plinth clearly states that she was created by one Cleomenes of Athens who lived around the 1st century BCE, but she was modelled along the lines of the groundbreaking Aphrodite of Knidos. In March 1821, when the Venus the Milo arrived, the Louvre was not quite Venus-less, but lacked a few highlights, especially after the rival British Museum had just acquired the infamous Elgin Marbles and the curators were all too happy to pronounce their new arrival to be a work of Praxiteles himself. Even though the inscription on her plinth read (Alex)andros, son of (M)enides, citizen of (Ant)ioch at Meander made (it).

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2017/04/it-was-of-course-venus-de-milo.html

Depicted below is Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse's ceiling panel of the Louvre's Salle des Bijoux, where the Venus is exhibited (1822), showing Father Chronos (Time) with his scythe, giving back the lost masterpiece.

#ANCIENTHISTORY #ART #ARTHISTORY #EUROPEANART #HISTORY
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27 February 1855, #onthisday the Bohemian painter Jakub Schikaneder was born in Prague.

It was the Habsburg’s spearheading of Germanisation since the Thirty Years’ War that reduced Czech language almost to being the means of lower class communication and hindered the further development of genuine Czech fine arts for almost two hundred years. The nationalist revivals of those downtrodden by the major empires of the age at the beginning of the 19th century, from Dublin to Warsaw, Athens and Kiev, saw a rise of Czech identity as well, first in language and writing, then with fixed bayonets on the barricades of the revolution of 1848 and finally in music and the visual arts a generation later. And while the first notable Czech painters took up the style taught at the Imperial Academies and celebrated under these auspices their own Slavic and Bohemian identity-establishing heroes and heroines, only a few years later modernity caught up with their successors who began to work with the various –isms of the second half of the 19th century’s art trends. They studied in Paris, naturally, in Vienna, Düsseldorf and Munich and one aspiring artist from Prague was quite taken with the Munich School’s subtle blend of Academic Art, elapsing Romanticism, Baroque Chiaroscuro and a note of Impressionism. Jakub Schikaneder who would develop the style into imagery with a morbid and mysterious All Saints Day mood, sometimes gloomy enough to let even the sulkiest of his Russian contemporaries appear like they were merrily morbid Viennese.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2017/02/very-picturesque-melancholy-prague.html

Depicted below is Jakub Schikaneder’s "Early Evening on the Hradčany" (around 1900)

#art #europeanart #arthistory
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14 January - between the 9th and the 15th century, the Feast of the Ass was celebrated by Medieval Christianity north of the Alps.

No one in his right mind would mention Protestantism for its inherent sense of humour and the Reformation and the dawn of the early modern age saw the end of quite a lot of rather peculiar medieval customs, among them the Feast of Fools and the Feast of the Ass. The latter was a celebration of the anniversary of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt and since an ass played a pivotal role, basically, maybe the same beast that was present at the nativity, it was thought befitting that asses would receive their own feast day. Thus, a girl carrying a child rode a donkey through the church, the animal would then be placed beside the altar and the congregation would answer the priest with a hearty “hee-haw”.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/the-feast-of-ass.html


Depicted below is Albrecht Dürer’s "Flight from Egypt" (c 1495)

#europeanhistory #folklore #history #medievalhistory #mythology

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5 January – #onthisday on the eve of Epiphany, La Befana the Christmas Witch flies through the night and brings gifts to children in Italy.

Once upon a time there lived an old woman east of Suez who was known as the best housekeeper near and far. Her reputation preceded here and thus it was no wonder that three wise men stopped by at her house on a cold January evening and asked her for accommodation. They came from the East they said and were led by a star towards Bethlehem to praise the infant. The crone did not complain about tales from oriental fortune tellers at all, did not even accuse them of being led by a bottle rather than a star and even considered to join them to pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews and do a lot of praising and all that. Alas, top notch maintaining of a household famously is not work done by itself and the lady told the three Magi to go on ahead, she would just tidy up, arrange a few things and join them later on the road. And finally, when everything was shipshape and Bristol-fashion, she packed her things, heaved a sigh and set out on the road to Bethlehem. Alas, a sense of direction apparently was not her strong side and soon she was lost and wandered the roads and asked every girl and boy she met on her way if he or she was the infant and gave them sweetmeats when they shook their heads and on she marched to this very day. On every night before Three King’s Day, Epiphany, she appears to ask her way and give sweets to children in return and became known as Befana after La Festa dell'Epifania. And since old habits tend to stick, she sometimes even cleans the house and is glad to find a glass of wine and something to eat left for her.

But read more on

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/viene-viene-la-befana-on-befana-italys.html

Depicted below is Rembrandt van Rijn's (attr.) "Girl with a Broom" (around 1650)

#folklore #mythology #befana
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4 January 1866, #onthisday the Catalan artist Ramon Casas i Carbó was born in Barcelona.


The end of the 19th century saw a cultural Renaissance in Catalonia, recovering the half forgotten Catalan language and culture, while the region grew into a centre of Spanish industrialism and became the largest textile producer in the Mediterranean – and Barcelona had quite a wake-up from its deep slumber while a rather large portion of the Catalan populace became industrial proletariat and the place closed up with other European cities on the threshold of the 20th century and modernity. On the credit side of the account, Catalonia saw a literally explosion of the arts as well. Fed up with the Romanesque and Gothic revival architecture of the period, Modernisme Català, Catalan Modernism, became a movement in the visual arts, music and literature and, with Antoni Gaudi, a paragon in modern architecture. And while Barcelona grew into the city with the most art nouveau buildings in the whole wide world, artists met at the Els 4 Gats (or Els Quatre Gats, the “four tomcats”) café, discussed, drank and took care that Modernisme became probably the most progressive variant of art nouveau. One of the founders and regulars of the artistic hotspot was the painter Ramon Casas i Carbó.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/down-at-els-4-gats-cafe-catalan-artist.html


Depicted below is Ramon Casas i Carbó's impression of himself and the cultural promoter Pere Romeu in an automobile, first displayed in the Els 4 Gats café (1900)

#art #arthistory #europeanart
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3 January 1892, #onthisday 125 years ago, the scholar and author J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.


When the “Lord of the Rings” was finally published during the mid-1950s, it was received in war-weary Western Europe with what might be described in hindsight as a well-mannered “Harry Potter” craze – on a sophisticated, literary critical level as well as by a large reading audience that was simply enchanted by a world created around the languages Tolkien had initially invented in an act that took the philologist more than twenty-five years. With its condensation of Norse, Finnish and various legends into an artificial mythology shaped by Tolkien’s Catholicism, an idyllic environment with clearly defined borders between Good and Evil, the tales from Middle Earth proved to be an ideal remedy against the fast growing disenchantment of the world, a process that begun more than a hundred years before with the rise of Industrialism and artists’ and their audience’s counterdrafts to ward off the gospel of rationality and utility of a world shaped by steam and speed and steel and various degrees of political radicalisation.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/he-had-been-inside-language-jrr-tolkien.html


Depicted below is a wonderful image of J.R.R. Tolkien by the American artist Audrey Benjaminsen.

#europeanliterature #literature #literaturehistory #mythology

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31 December 1853, #onthisday a New Year's Eve dinner, hosted by the future first director of London’s Natural History Museum Sir Richard Owen and the artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, was held inside the mould of a life-sized Iguanodon sculpture in Crystal Palace Park.

The “Age of Reptiles”, as the first half of the 19th century was named under the auspices of the emerging science of paleontology, was rang in when Georges Cuvier dubbed the owner of a giant skull found near Maastricht a Mosasaurus, lizard of the river Meuse. Meanwhile, Mary Anning discovered the marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset and Mary Ann Mantell stumbled over the teeth of an Iguanodon during a stroll in Sussex. But it was Sir Richard Owen who coined the name Dinosauria from Greek δεινός (deinos) "terrible, powerful, wondrous" and σαῦρος (sauros) "lizard". Owen, a well-connected and -funded conservator and career scientist with a bit of a reputation of hogging the finds and achievements of others, certainly had a well developed sense of gaining publicity and placing his scientific theories on the market of public interest. When the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill in Kent after the Great Exhibition of 1851 ended, Owen and his publications were popular enough for the operating company of the new pleasure park to ask him to cooperate with the natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins to create 33 life-sized concrete dinosaurs that would populate the place.


But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/a-dino-lovers-dream-1853s-new-years-eve.html


#culturalhistory #sciencehistory #victoriana

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30 December 1865, #onthisday the short-story writer, poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling was born in Mumbai (Bombay).

“There will always be plenty in Kipling that I will find difficult to forgive; but there is also enough truth in these stories to make them impossible to ignore.”—Salman Rushdie


When the Widow of Windsor died in 1901 an era ended and things would never be the same again. A sentiment not only developed by historians in hindsight, but already felt by the contemporaries. Accordingly, art historians and literary scholars mark the year as the beginning of Classic Modernism, even though authors expressed themselves at least since the Romantic era under the auspices of the apparently new epoch, with a fragmented world view, changes of narrative perspective and especially the heavy focus on things psychological, insights and perceptions, up to re-telling a stream of consciousness, the transient, the fleeting, the contingent, as Baudelaire put it already in 1862. Nevertheless, a traditional approach on telling a story, eloquent and captivating but without experimental embellishment, was still cherished and writers like Wells, Conrad and Kipling continued the success they had during the last years of the 19th century, but few achieved a literary depth as Kipling without neglecting the story itself.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-polyphonous-prophet-of-british.html

Depicted below is John Collier’s (1850 – 1934) portrait of Rudyard Kipling (1891)

#europeanliterature #literature #victoriana
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