Thursday, February 2, 2012

Okay, So What Do You Think Is Going On Here?

Painting by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale - "Gather Ye Rosebuds"

By Franz Dvorak - Painting the Birds

These two paintings, while oddly compelling and beautiful in their execution (especially the feather-work on the large flying figure carrying off the child) are still, to my mind, rather strange. The top one certainly is a bit unsettling.

I sat and tried to figure out what was what and even though there is some sort of explanation in their titles and available on line. I'm still not quite sure I get them.

Allegories, I suppose.

But still, they do tend to stop you in your tracks. They did, me.

Take a look. What do you think?


The top painting - by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale - is based on a poem by Robert Herrick.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

I'm having trouble reconciling this with the Brickdale's interpretation. But I suppose the baby represents youth fleeting with the help of this winged creature - Father Time. I've just noticed he's carrying a sickle over his left shoulder.


  1. Apparently the artist was a staunch Christian, which makes the subject even more unsettling in my mind... a parent (presumably) watching helplessly as the angel of death gathers the Lord's rosebuds? No thanks.

    Not to detract from the artist's skill though.

  2. One small detail that I like in the first painting is the rosebuds falling to the ground.

    As one who's made a living as an illustrator, I would guess that the artist was not a staunch Christian, but rather someone skillfully following another's art direction. Perhaps that person was a staunch Christian.

  3. I think they're a bit disturbing. Gathering up the children....

    And by the way--I got smacked in a game of Tag today. Now you're It! See post:

  4. I agree they are disturbing, Yvette.

    There is definitely a Victorian era quality to painting #1. Infant and childhood mortality was so high in that age that it was common to see this type of illustration to explain death.

    Painting #2 is disturbing because the cherubs look like real babies to me and it's a rather odd fantasy subject. Was it used to illustrate a story?

  5. Marcus, I don't think that's what's going on here. I've looked and looked and think it's fate taking youth away.

    The poem is the clue. I didn't include it in the original post because I wanted to see what everyone would make of it.

  6. Mark: I'm not seeing all the Christian symbolism that you guys are seeing.

    But I think this is one of the fun things about viewing paintings. Our own individual interpretations.

  7. Bev: It is a disturbing painting, but at the same time there's something about it that draws the eye. It is just so well done.

    The second painting is an example of Symbolism. So make of that what you will.

    Okay, I'm tagged. Now what do I do?

  8. The top one is definitely a Victorian painting. The artist is one of the few women Pre-Raphaelities. I've featured her work before on Saturday Salon.

    The second painting is done in the Symbolist style. I suppose it could mean any number of things. I haven't found much info on it.

    The artist, Franz Dvorak also did a painting called Angel of the Birds. So maybe this is his interpretation of how birds get their various colors?

    I was attracted to the painting by the exuberance of that very color.

  9. I knew immediately the first painting referred to Robert Herrick's poem. We studied his work extensively in a British lit class I took. I was actually just thinking about him a few minutes ago! Although, I think that Brickdale is only showing the fleeting nature of youth and isn't really representing the heart of Herrick's message in this painting. Herrick is saying, "So what about protecting your virginity? Have fun while you're young enough to enjoy it!" He was all about those lusty country pleasures. Definitely one of my favorite poets!

  10. I agree with Pat - death and especially dead children were obsessions with the Victorians. Believe it or not, there was a morbid black sense of humor about dead children in the Victorian age. People collected post cards depicting even bleaker subjects as jokes! I think the winged figure is the Angel of Death not Father Time.

    Art is so subjective and it ingiving opinoins of paintings art reveals more about the viewer than the artist, doesn't it? All this Christian imagery! Wow. I don't see that at all. But then I'm a hopelessly lapsed Catholic. Some might call me a heathen. :^D

    What's so disturbing about the second one? It's whimsical to me. Don't the "babies" have wings? They're little cherubim or something, aren't they? Pictures and paintings of naked children set people off these days, I think. You can't even look at images of Greek gods without some idiot blacking out the genitalia now. Moronic.

  11. Lauren, thanks for your input. It's official confirmation then, since you know about Herrick.

    But it is still an odd interpretation.

    Though quite beautifully painted.

    Ah, these Pre-Raphaelites.

  12. John, I am not offended by naked cherubs or naked statues, m'dear.

    My reason for including the second painting in the post is based on the confusion and explosion of color which I find most attractive. But it's a painting that takes getting used to because everything is in motion. Know what I mean?

    It adles a bit. But in a different way than the first painting.

    No one is arguing that Victorians were not a strange lot. Ha!

  13. Yvette, I'm all for cute cherubim with a yen for painting! (Wasn't that in either Disney's FANTASIA or ALICE IN WONDERLAND? :-)). I found the first painting disturbing, but my optimistic side was hoping the sinister-looking winged person/critter had turned over a new leaf and was rescuing cute babies from even worse critters to return them to their anxious parents! Or maybe Death is broke and needs babysitting money ("Stop beating me up, lady, I swear I've only got the kid for the day, and I'm bring the little squirt right back!" :-))

  14. Yes, there is definitely a disturbing element in the Brickdale painting. Maybe she got carried away a little. :)

    But it's still a mighty fine painting.

    Oh the second one is much more joyful. But still...I think it's the technique that caught my eye and I began to wonder what on earth?


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