Tag Archives: art

The Harlot’s House

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (face enlarged)


by: Oscar Wilde

E caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The “Treues Liebes Herz” of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

The took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
“The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.”

But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
‘The Harlot’s House’ was originally published in The Dramatic Review (April, 1885).

Lady Lilith, 1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Oil on canvas, 38 x 33 1/2 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935

Lilith, the subject of this painting, is described in Judaic literature as the first wife of Adam. She is associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. The depiction of women as powerful and evil temptresses was prevalent in 19th-century painting, particularly among the Pre-Raphaelites. The artist depicts Lilith as an iconic, Amazon-like female with long, flowing hair. Her languid nature is reiterated in the inclusion of the poppy in the lower right corner—the flower of opium-induced slumber.

http://www.delart.org/collections/preraph/lady_lilith.html  The Link is for the Delaware Art Museum

This is the first of my attempts to put together art, poetry, and music of the same period, in this case the late Nineteenth Century. The music is by Richard Strauss, Dance of the Seven Veils.


Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood


Rossetti: Proserpine

 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters, poets, and critics formed in 1848. They wished to restore art and literature to a more spiritual form of expression, instead of the rather formal constraints of academic art. Certain simple conventions prevailed in art beginning with Raphael. There was a tendency to avoid ostentation or excessive realism in any form. The Pre-Raphaelite wanted to return to a style that sought to depict nature as accurately as possible with extreme detail, realism, and spectacular color. All of this was in the service of a more spiritual result. They were in the vanguard of the Romantic movement in the arts. The Brotherhood didn’t last that long, by the end of the 1860’s they had more or less gone their separate ways, but their work inspired the later Symbolists and eventually the Decadence movement. The primary artists within the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Daniel Gabriel Rossetti. What I really like about these artists are how they depict the female form. They conveyed the magical quality of a woman’s face. There is a rich sensuality to their works due to the hyperrealism (my term. they were HD before the term existed). and vivid use of beautiful sexy colors. Beauty and sex are so closely related it is hard to separate the two. Sex is the desire to become one with the beautiful beloved, to merge together forming a new, uniquely beautiful and sexy being, and on it goes. From my perspective, art can serve a magical purpose, allowing the viewer to access parts of his or her self in ways not possible in any other way. Besides, it is awkward and rude to stare at a beautiful woman, however a painting of a beautiful woman can be stared at with delight, with no ill consequences. Alas, in some respects, all realistic art is pornographic. This is why realistic art was banned in the middle ages. I used to think they just didn’t have the skills, but no, the simple unrealistic forms are deliberate. Notice Rossetti’s use of the pomegranite (at least, I think that is what she’s holding). An unconscious association is made with the vagina. In the world of the pre-Raphaelite and even more so, the Symbolists and Decadents, objects and settings are symbols of other things or ideas. The paintings are a way of pointing to experiences that cannot be shown or heard, the spiritual realm if you will. It appeals to both my spiritual and perverse imaginations. There are many artists which have been considered Pre-Raphaelite who actually painted much later, such as John William Waterhouse, Gustave Moreau, These painters often used ancient myths and medieval tales as source material. Carl Jung would have said they were giving form to the universal archetypes of the collective unconscious. Freud would have said these paintings were a way of giving expression to their overflowing libido. They could both be right. All I know is that I can stare at these paintings for hours, lost in a reverie. For me, the experience is akin to the transformation of the senses which takes place when you fall in love. Everything becomes transformed, there is a special quality to the light, and the colors are magnificent when you are in love. I think that experience lies at the heart of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Then add a little Lord Byron, Shelley, or Yeats, and it is a veritable orgy of Romanticism. Perfect for young lovers!

Millais “Autumn Leaves” 1856

 Check out Proserpine by Rossetti above, do you see the hair? Rossetti could depict such rich, lush, hair better than anyone! You feel as though you could reach out and stroke her thick lovely hair. And the look within those dark eyes cannot be fully expressed. It depicts someone in deep thought, tinged with melancholy, and yet it is relatively subtle compared to the melodramatic style of the Symbolists. That is a useful distinction between the pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist. The Symbolist creates pure icons, divorced from that super realistic style of the pre-Raphaelite. The pre-Raphaelite uses nature itself to create that spiritual tipping point into blissful or perhaps mournful reverie. We have all had those pre-Raphaelite moments if you will, within our daily lives. Moments which are indelibly pressed into our consciousness. John Everett Millais, on the left, depicts what is for me an incredibly poignant scene, but not maudlin such as you might find in a Norman Rockwell print of the same kind of scene. Once again the effect is subtle but powerful. The light in this painting evokes autumn perfectly, and the expressions on the girl’s faces evoke a slight melancholy, but also pleasure. There is a hint of sadness even in the landscape. This is how autumn feels. Millais is a bit more conventional, not resorting to the hyper realism of Rossetti. You might say Millais preferred using more of a soft focus in his work. But I still can’t get over the exquisite use of color! One good thing about the internet age is the fact that you have entire art galleries at your fingertips. Of course it isn’t the same as having the paintings right in front of you, but at least you can access vast archives of paintings. I would encourage you to google these artists and see what you can find. Your computer monitor can serve as an imaginary light table bringing those paintings to life!

William Holman Hunt: Isabella and the pot of basil 1868

 Finally, for this post, I include one of the many wonderful paintings by William Holman Hunt. Look at the richness of detail and the sensual colors. It convinces me that ancient light was filled with delight. The face is a real face. This could easily be a HD digital photograph, the attention to strict realism is that good. Hunt’s women are voluptuous and invite lust as well as intellectual appreciation, Pre-Raphaelites delighted in the senses. They wanted us to see what they saw, touch what they touched, and feel what they felt. You feel as though you could reach out and hold that tablecloth in your hands! The pre-Raphaelites were not appreciated in their own time. They became very popular in the nineteen sixties drug culture because this kind of vivid realism and rich sensuality matches well the kind of languid eroticism produced by the ingestion of the best cannabis. I think the hippie subculture could also relate to the spirituality of these paintings. Spiritual eroticism! I suppose that could describe many of the pre-Raphaelite paintings. I will try to post more about the later Symbolist and Decadent schools of painting that owe a substantial debt to the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Elvis’ Elusive Face


Who is this guy?

He almost looks like Elvis Presley. or perhaps a cross between Kirk Russell and Elvis Presley. Could it be Lisa Marie Presley’s son?

All of the above are wrong. This is a very expensive action figure of ….somebody. It is supposed to be Elvis Presley during his 1968 comeback special, but it doesn’t quite make it. Would you shell out over $300 for an action figure of someone who almost looks like Elvis Presley?

But I am being too hard on the manufacturer of this figure. It is very difficult to capture Elvis Presley’s face. I am sure his imitator’s struggle with this a great deal, but nobody struggles with it like the makers of action figures. Below are some attempts which I think come closer than the one above. But they show Elvis with eyes closed. That is cheating.

One of the better efforts is below, the Rockabilly Cat action figure, still the eyes are essentially closed. But this is pretty close, as you can see by looking at the picture of the real thing from 1957 shows. But check out the other two action figures. They aren’t even trying!! I don’t know, maybe I am being really picky, but I like my action figures to be as realistic as possible.

Even though Elvis had many different looks over his career, his face still had some basic characteristics. Why don’t you try it? See if you can draw a picture, or sculpt a bust of Elvis Presley. Then you will quickly discover how hard it is to capture that famous face. Here are a few more photos of Elvis for you to work from. You will get the hair right very easily, and possibly the mouth, the nose isn’t extremely hard, but the eyes are the hardest. Don’t place them too close together or you end up with Kurt Russell. Or is it something else? I don’t really know.

My Virtual Living Room


My Virtual Living Room

Welcome to my virtual living room. This was a project for my Beginning Photoshop class in 2010. It captures my fascination with popular culture quite well, and it is certainly a lot more interesting than my real living room. This is the face of popular culture in the twentyfirst century. Everyone creates their own versions of the culture which surrounds them. Popular culture today is interactive, which leads to a lot of thorny issues I won’t go into here. Popular culture has always involved an interaction between the viewer, listener, or reader’s imagination and the work. This is where the magic occurs. When I was a kid I used carbon paper to trace images from my Batman comic books. I created my own stories for my own amusement. Much the same sort of thing happens today with the varied multimedia tools available to us all. We use the sounds, images, and words of popular culture to produce our own product. So long as we aren’t selling our product, we reason that we are not violating any laws. If we are creating projects for school we are generally protected under fair use laws. This is a difficult area for consumers and artists, because today  the consumer also becomes an artist.

This virtual living room also reveals a few of my obsessions within pop culture. I am fascinated by the weird and mysterious fringe areas of popular culture exemplified by Donnie Darko. The rabbit stands guard here, about ten times larger than the original figure. Batman of course, I have mentioned before, and he continues to resonate with me. Batman wasn’t always so cool, I was teased relentlessly for the Batman sticker on my bicycle. There weren’t any action figures when I was a kid, only models of Superman or Batman that you had to assemble. If I could afford it, I’d have a ton of action figures. So that is another obsession. They are especially fun because they are tangible, you can actually hold an action figure in your hand. In our virtual entertainment paradise we lose the tactile quality of toys. I think it is important to have an actual object to play with. I am not an advocate of keeping things in their boxes. I am not a collector. I want to play with my toys. Of course Andy Warhol’s Marilyn stares down from the wall. She is the queen of pop culture. Elvis is the king. Considering he is one more of my obsessions it is odd that he isn’t present. The devil girl bathed in red light is also a cute touch. I like kitsch, especially the underground comic sort of kitsch, which this sort of is. I liked how the San Francisco street outside appears like a watercolor. Nice unintended artifact.

I am fascinated by the interface between imagination and art, which is the essence of popular culture. To a child everything gets mixed together, they aren’t bothered by differences in scale, playing with a plastic dinosaur and a huge teddy bear at the same time. Things don’t have to make sense, the child gives it his or her own sense. That is the spirit of today’s popular cultural explosion. So this blog isn’t entirely about the passive consumer aspect of pop culture, it is also about the deconstruction of pop culture and the new art that emerges from that. So…anyway would you like an oreo?, they are right there on the coffee table. Help yourself.

Welcome to RussellPop


I hope to cover Mickey Mouse to Deadmau5 in this blog

Welcome to my new blog, RussellPop. I felt I should have a family friendly, non-expletive, blog that concerns the fun filled world of popular culture. I have a light, humorous side that doesn’t get enough play on my other blog. Here I have no plans to pull my heart out of my chest and display it on screen squirming and screaming and ….ok, that is for the other blog. Here I comment on music, television, movies, books, other blogs, personalities, cultural history, and very little if anything about me, myself, and I. Again, that is the other blog, russell5087. wordpress.com This is for those people who to use the overused phrase, “don’t want to go there”.

For me this is a welcome diversion from myself. While I plan to avoid the deeper waters, I will make observations that I hope are unique and interesting, unlike what you would find on most pop culture blogs. That is pretty ambitious, I know.