Paradise Lost | The Art of the Sublime

I was browsing through some gorgeous prints yesterday evening, courtesy of The New York Satellite Print Fair, where seventeen dealers present their fine prints and drawings during print week. From Old Masters to contemporary artists, there are some remarkable works of art to be found here and that’s only an annex to the main event – the Fine Art Print Fair – at the Javits Center in Manhattan West. Photography is completely out of place in this environment but the prints reminded me of these sublime works by William Blake, on view at the Huntington in Los Angeles.

Satan watching the endearments of Adam and Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour

Raphael Warns Adam and Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour

Rout of the Rebel Angels, 1807
Pen and watercolour

The Creation of Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour

The Temptation and Fall of Eve, 1807
Pen and watercolour

The Judgement of Adam and Eve; So Judged He Man, 1807
Pen and watercolour

For William Blake, the Bible was the greatest work of poetry ever written. Only Milton’s 17th century epic poem, Paradise Lost, rivaled its importance to his art. Blake produced three separate sets of illustrations for Paradise Lost, the first a series of twelve drawings commissioned by Joseph Thomas in 1807. Henry E. Huntington purchased all of the watercolours in this original series between 1911 and 1914. 


The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

An Acromantula glamouring his lunch


“An Acromantula is a species of giant spider, native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, particularly Borneo where it inhabits dense jungles. Acromantulas are believed to be a wizard-bred species, designed to guard dwellings or treasure hoards, and were first created before the Ban on Experimental Breeding in 1965. These giant spiders with a taste for human flesh were first spotted in 1794.” {source}

Film: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Although this spider bears a striking resemblance to Aragog, it is, in fact, much smaller. Spiders like this one were created to fill the background of the Forbidden Forest scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or were attached to Ron’s car as he sped away out of the forest.

Warner Bros Studio Tour

July 14th, 2017

Bat-winged dragons and ugly tiny faces


Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. {source}

Getting into the spirit, starting today with this ordinary-looking, almost boring column. But look closer…  Coade-Stone Torchère, 1809
Manufactured by Coade and Sealy, Lambeth, England, probably after a design by Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) 

This candelabrum relates to a set of ten originally made for the Gothic conservatory that Thomas Hopper designed for Carlton House, the London residence of the Prince Regent, later George IV. They are examples of the Regency taste for the fantastic, with bat-winged dragons, medieval figures peeping out between their wings, owls in flight and tiny faces with differing features and expressions encircling the column. The torchères are made from ”Coade-stone”, an artificial stone developed by Eleanor Coade in the 1760s and very popular for use in architectural ornament. 

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

The Huntington | Art Collections | Red buttons

Reginald Marsh
Girls (Red Buttons), 1936
Egg tempera on board

Marsh first pursued a career as an illustrator, working for the New York Daily News and The New Yorker, and only later began taking painting classes at the Art Students League. Many of his best images are about seeing and being seen in New York City’s public spaces. In Girls (Red Buttons), one of the women looks at the viewer while the other glances to the right, outside the painting, her dominant red buttons supplying the painting’s title. 

George Luks
The Breaker Boys, ca. 1925
Oil on canvas

Breaker Boys is a bleak picture of unremitting toil. ”Breaker boys” were children who removed debris and sorted chunks of coal according to size and grade. They were poorly paid for their dangerous labour and suffered injuries or even death from falling down coal chutes. The painting’s large size (50 by 60 in. – 127 by 152.4 cm) speaks to the gravity of Luks’ message, which he reinforced with slashing diagonals and thickly applied paint that allude to the noise, chaos and mess of the boys’ working conditions. (In 1938, Federal regulation of child labour was achieved in the ”Fair Labor Standards Act”, which imposed minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children.)

Reginald Marsh
The Locomotive, 1935
Tempera on concrete plaster

Marsh made ”The Locomotive” as a study for a commission he received from the Treasury Department to design and execute two murals for the Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. Although the building’s architect suggested that Marsh complete his paintings on canvases that would later be affixed to the walls, Marsh sought permission to execute the murals in fresco, a technique of applying pigment on freshly laid plaster largely associated with Renaissance masters.

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

The Huntington | Art Collections

Legacy of railroad and real estate businessman Henry Edwards Huntington, his wife Arabella and their common love for the arts and literature, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is another Los Angeles institution, alongside the Getty.

We skipped the Library in favour of the Art Collections and Gardens and in the coming days, you will see some of the reasons why.

Beginning with Mrs. Arabella Huntington, herself.
Portrait of Arabella Huntington, 1924 by Sir Oswald Birley (1880-1952)
Oil on canvas

Most famous for his portraits of the British royal family, here Birley unflinchingly renders the stern expression, direct gaze and strong, unidealized features of Arabella Huntington, founder, with her husband Henry, of the Huntington Art Collections. The portrait dates to the year of Arabella’s death, at a time when she was not only one of the richest women in the world, but also among America’s foremost art collectors. Shrouded entirely in black and seated before a nebulous backdrop, she reveals little of herself, presenting an impressive and enigmatic figure.

While the Huntingtons did not use all the furniture in their collection (some pieces were considered too precious), they did use these chairs. Look for Arabella Huntington sitting on one of them in her portrait. These chairs are upholstered in luxurious tapestries, a tupe of textile woven on a loom using thousands of short threads to create multicoloured scenes. Tapestries are heavy and robust, making them ideal for insulating walls and upholstering furniture. In the 18th century it would have been considered rude to sit on chair seats depicting human figures. Instead, these seats feature animal fables, fights and hunts. Allegories of the Arts and Sciences fill the chair backs with cupids and little boys while each chair crest displays motifs that match the corresponding allegory.  There are two of 93 carpets originally created to adorn Louis XIV’s palace in Paris. Designed to form one continuous decorative scheme, all 93 carpets would measure about 480 yards in lenght, or 4 football fields. In the 25 years it took to complete these carpets, the king had moved his court to Versailles. With no need for them in his new home, some were given away as diplomatic gifts. 

Sabine Houdon at four years old
Maker: Unidentified; after Jean-Antoine Houdon
Date: 1800-1900

Adam and Eve
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Engraving, 1504

Like the tiny mountain goat perched on the cliff in the background, Adam and Eve, along with the animals surrounding them, narrate a story of the precariously balanced equilibrium in Paradise just before the Fall. Each animal represents one of the four temperaments, or humours, of mankind: cat (choleric), hare (sanguine), ox (phlegmatic) and elk (melancholic). According to medieval theory, the Fall upset the natural balance and man’s soul suffered the contamination of bodily humours. 

La Tricoteuse endormi (Young Knitter Asleep)
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805)
Oil on canvas, ca. 1759

Head of a Cherub
Louis-Claude Vassé (1716-72)

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

A work of art

There are many wonderful museums and art galleries in this world.

Then, there is The Getty.

Multilayered, modern design; open spaces; galleries drenched in natural light; gardens and streams; breathtaking views of the city and surrounding hills. If you can, go on a Saturday when the Getty remains open until 9 p.m. Because nothing beats watching the sunset from one of the balconies. Or the city lights as they begin to flicker.

June 15th, 2017

Westwood Village

Fox Village Theatre and the Gayley Terrace apartments. They were declared historic-cultural monuments in 1988 and not everyone was happy about that.

The Los Angeles Times wrote: ”Jean Taylor Lawrence, the owner of Gayley Terrace at the time, appeared near tears as she appealed to the council to leave her property alone. Lawrence said she was being punished for keeping her Spanish Colonial-style building in good repair.”

“Our corner looks beautiful, and it was because of my hard work,” Lawrence said after the council vote. “They have torn my heart out.” – [source]

Yet, in 2017, the complex looked more beautiful than ever.  

Westwood Village

July 15th, 2017