Art as Background

J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) was growing up, and remains to this day, one of my favourite artists. He painted, printed and drew prodigiously, leaving to posterity a collection of more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours and 30,000 works on paper. Part of my fascination with Turner stems from my god-father, who wrote the book Angel in the Sun, about Turner’s vision of history. He sent me a copy in the late 1990s when I was in my first flush of university study, an impressionable age, and my interest in Turner’s work has blossomed ever since....

August 2, 2020 · 2 min read · 341 words

Emotional Contagion

Emotional Contagion is the phenomenon of feeling what it appears someone else is experiencing. Art abounds with examples of this, where a painting, sculpture or film elicits a sensation in us of what we imagine the character we are viewing is feeling. An example of this is at work in ‘Marsyas’ by the Salzburg artist Balthasar Permoser (1651–1732). The story of Marsyas is one of the great parables of hubris in Greek literature....

July 21, 2020 · 2 min read · 253 words

Gothic Reprieve

Today I passed a building. In a suburban environment this shouldn’t even rank as noticeable, let alone the start of an article. But what struck me was how dull and quotidian it was. As though it had been stuck onto the landscape by a draftsman in need of a decent ruler. Walking on, I recalled the words of Coleridge: The principle of the Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

July 12, 2020 · 3 min read · 487 words

Letterheady

The other week I marvelled in the joy of the website Letters of Note. Today, I celebrate the stationary on which letters are written. Wonderfully brought to your screen by the site Letterheady. The site is an absolute treasure trove of stationary from some of the world’s most famous, and infamous, people. One superb example of the genre is the business letterhead of Nikola Tesla (c. 1900) — after whom the car company is named....

June 14, 2020 · 2 min read · 222 words

Into the Jaws of Death

Though born more than thirty after the end of the Second World War, the global conflagration suffused my childhood. My father served in the War and carried the scars throughout his life. He was one of the lucky ones. As a consequence, every year I take a moment to remember those who put their lives on the line to secure the freedoms I have enjoyed all my life. #onthisday (6 June) 1944, Operation Neptune began....

June 6, 2020 · 2 min read · 244 words

Gakyō Rōjin

Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. - Katsushika Hokusai On this Day in 1849, aged 88, the artist Katsushika Hokusai died. He was not only one of the most important artists of the Edo period in Japan, but one of the first Japanese artists to achieve fame abroad. It is hard to talk about Hokusai without mentioning his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, of which perhaps the most famous are his Great Wave and Fine Wind, Clear Morning pieces. ...

May 10, 2020 · 3 min read · 548 words

Endurance Through Renewal

Today, while out walking, I came across a stone bench that appeared to be very old. Carved into an ancient looking wall, it was dappled in moss and thick creepers wound their way across its surface. As I walked on, I turned over in my mind the enduring legacy that is stone. From the construction at Göbekli Tepe in Asia Minor, the oldest religious structure in the world built c. 9500 BC, to the Nile and Indus valleys, the Orkney Isles and the jungles of Yucatán, humanities efforts to outlast time itself are evident....

May 9, 2020 · 2 min read · 410 words