Apr 5, 2008

Return of the New Romantics

I am a hopeless Romantic. And please take note of the upper case "R" there. The Romantic Movement covered most of the 19th century and its children included the Pre-Raphaelites and the Neoclassicists. Of the latter, I'm afraid I have an almost erotic fixation on the paintings of John William Waterhouse. For those who have never come across his works, you could do no better than taking a trip to the premier Waterhouse site at http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com

While browsing the site, take a peek at Circe Invidiosa, a positive riot of turquoise centered on the image of the witch, Circe. In the Odyssey, it was Circe who held Ulysses captive (or is it captivated) for many years before he escaped to travel home to Ithaca. In this painting, Circe is in the process of transforming the beautiful nymph Scylla into a hideous sea monster. Wicked, eh?
The only problem is that Waterhouse's Circe is stunningly gorgeous. If she IS evil, then it's an evil most men would die to be the victim of. With her slightly retrousse nose and large, dark eyes, it's impossible for me to find any fault with her. She is captivating and intriguing - a dangerous and fatal duo of qualities for a woman to have, in art or in life.

In life, Waterhouse was besotted by one of his models, Muriel Foster. Some critics have argues that JW only ever had one women in his paintings - I'd suggest two. But it doesn't take a degree in Fine Art to flick through the website to see that the same woman appears over and over in Waterhouse's paintings, and if that doesn't suggest an enchantment, I don't know what does. Ooh, "enchanting," a third dangerous adjective for a member of the fairer sex.

If you want to see the actual painting, you have to travel to the Adelaide Art Museum and venture into room 15. There you can stand for 15 minutes and simply stare at it. Which I did. I also took a photo, which is (a) forbidden, and (b) got me a stern lecture from some jumped up attendant who seemed to think it was OK to allow a bunch of school kids to wander around taking pictures with their cell phones but NOT some 40-year-old adult male to take ONE with a camera. Well fuck him; I did it anyway.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a second painting at the diagonally opposite location of the room that I am similarly enchanted by. In fact, it is on the walls of my Second Life house along with the Waterhouse. This is John Collier's Priestess of Delphi, yet another image of a femme fatale who, not surprisingly, bears a resemblance to Circe. Draped in red, the priestess has her eyes closed while she dreams up her prophecy high up in the mountains in Delphi, Greece.

Two women in one day. A priestess and a witch. A dangerous day indeed.

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