Cultured Wednesday: Diefenbach’s Fairy Dance

Diefenbach was an early ‘Lebensreformer’ and an amazing painter.

The fairy dance, 1895

Karl Wilhelm von Diefenbach is probably primarily known for his involvement and role in the back-to-nature movement of the end of the 19th century, but today, we are primarily interested in his paintings.  Incidentally, he was by no means the only painter in the Lebensreform movement.

The paintings of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach carry a special mood.  He painted beautiful landscapes, often the coastlines of Capri, Italy, where he spent the last 14 years of his life, but he also did a lot of mythical paintings, sometimes combined with self portraits.

Diefenbach was born in Hessen, Germany, on 21 February 1851 – incidentally, that’s the day after tomorrow 169 years ago, so Happy Birthday! – and was, according to the Wiki, “a pioneer of the naturist and the peace movements. His country commune, Himmelhof, in Ober Sankt Veit near Vienna (1897–1899) was one of the models for the reform settlement Monte Verità in Ascona. His ideas included life in harmony with nature and rejection of monogamy, turning away from any religion (although he was a follower of theosophy), and a vegetarian diet.”  After his commune had to close, he moved to Capri where he died on 15 December 1913.

The Fairy Dance (presumably ‘Feentanz’) does not contain a self portrait, I would assume, but it definitely has a mythical quality in the very choice of colors and the amazing dynamic of the dance, not to mention the motive.  Just notice the tree branches bending, and how the color of the fairies and their magic dance repeats on the rocky slopes of the mountains.

Click the picture above for a closer look.  If you go to Diefenbach’s Wikimedia Commons page, you will find a good many more paintings of his.

Cultural Wednesday: Brownscombe’s First Thanksgiving

Is your pumpkin pie ready yet?

This is a classic by Jennie A. Brownscombe, painted in 1914.  She repainted in eleven years later and changed some things that had been criticized as “unhistorical”, but we prefer the first one, historically accurate or not.

Pilgrims and First Thanksgiving
“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914)


Cultured Wednesday: Leighton’s Farewell


There is another one of Edmund Blair Leighton’s paintings that I particularly like.  It, too, is from the times of Noble Knights and Fair Ladies as E.B.L. loved medieval scenes, but this one is different from, say, The Accolade or The Shadow:  It features a family rather than a knight and lady.

Edmund Blair Leighton - Farewell 1922
Farewell (1922)

Can you spot the husband and father waving?  And can you even imagine what it must have been like back in the day, when communication and transportation were so much slower?

Cultured Wednesday: Leighton’s The Shadow

Very moving.

“Remembering His Face” is another possibly title for this well-known painting by Edmund Blair Leighton, 19th and 20th century British painter.  His “The Accolade” we already featured, and here we have another painting from the times of Noble Knights and Fair Ladies.  And it is a rather moving one, not surprisingly.  Have a look at what the good lady is doing.

The Shadow (1909)




Cultured Wednesday: Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

The title for this painting comes from the refrain of a popular song “Ye Shepherds Tell Me” by Joseph Mazzinghi, a pastoral glee for a trio of male voices, which mentions Flora wearing “A wreath around her head, around her head she wore, / Carnation, lily, lily, rose”.

Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885f.jpg
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885)

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925), American expatriate artist and the “leading portrait painter of his generation”, painted the above portrait of two little girls lighting paper lanterns in the evening light in 1885.  From the beginning of his career as a painter, Sargent’s work was characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush.  His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism, they say.

The two subjects of the painting are the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, Dolly on the left, 11 years old at the time, and Polly on the right, seven years old.  They were chosen for their light hair, it seems.

We like this painting for its wonderful atmosphere.  Wouldn’t you want to be there with the two little ladies, lighting lanterns and enjoying the summer evening?  We surely would.  You can practically smell the roses and lilies!


Cultured Wednesday: Mønsted’s Sunset Over a Forest Lake

Most of Peder Mørk Mønsted’s landscapes were devoted to Scandinavia.

Peder Mørk Mønsted (10 December 1859 – 20 June 1941) was a Danish realist painter who is best known for his landscape paintings, and a 1995 exhibition of his work bore the very fitting title “Light of the North”.  His Sunset Over a Forest Lake beautifully illustrates how someone can come up with such a title.

Mønsted Forest Lake

For us, his art shows how, and why, painting is superior to photography.  There is a depth in these realistic scenes that might have something to do with the time spent painting, something photography is lacking.  And while there surely is artistic photography even in this digital age where very little skill is required to create a “stunning” picture, it does not compare to the artistic expression in paint on canvas.

Let us invite you to sit quietly by the above forest lake for a spell, or, if you don’t feel like sitting, accompany the young lady and her cow below to the river.   Take your time.

Peder Mørk Mønsted
Peder Mørk Mønsted: By the Rriver 1908

Cultural Wednesday: Draper’s Gates of Dawn

Beautiful Aurora, goddess of the dawn.

Herbert James Draper was an English Classicist painter.  His career began in the Victorian era and extended into the 20th century.

Herbert James Draper, The Gates of Dawn, 1900

Today’s featured artist Herbert James Draper, born in 1863 or 1864, focused his artistic talent mainly on mythological themes from ancient Greece.  So the beautiful lady depicted in the featured painting is Aurora, goddess of the dawn, opening the gates of dawn with her rosy-colored fingers.  Isn’t it simply beautiful?  Here at the homeplace, we read a lot of mythology, Greek, Roman, Nordic, you name it.  It is such an interesting field of study and helps appreciate poetry, literature, even language so much more.

But back to our featured artist.  Draper was quite famous in his day, first for his mythology-themed paintings and especially his The Lament for Icarus, and later, when mythological themes were no longer popular, as a portrait painter, but his work somewhat faded in popularity, which began even before he died on 22 September 1920 in London, England, where he had lived all his life.  Simon Toll’s book on Draper, published by the Antique Collector’s Club, is the only modern study of his work and includes a full catalog of his drawings and paintings.  Toll, incidentally, is the Head of Victorian Pictures and Director at Sotheby’s in London.

Cultured Wednesday: Edmund Leighton’s Accolade

This is probably one of of Leighton’s most well known paintings, and for good reason, we think.

The Accolade, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1901)

Finishing “The Age of Fable” in Bulfinch’s Mythology, we came across today’s featured painting in the very beginning of “The Age of Chivalry”:  Edmund Blair Leighton’s “The Accolade”, painted in 1901.  The girls and I were very much impressed.  What a beautiful painting!

Although this painting, as many others of the same painter, appears to be rather well known, little seems to be known about the painter himself beyond some basic biographic details.  Edmund Leighton, who was born on 21 September 1852 and died on 1 September 1922, was an English painter who appears to have lived in London all his life.  He specialized in historical scenes, particularly of the medieval era.  “The Accolade” is one of many paintings on the subject of chivalry that he painted in the 1900s.

The Romances of medieval literature present to us this idea and ideal of chivalry.  In short, chivalry is an informal and varying code of conduct which developed in the late 12th and early 13th century in Europe.  It is associated with the medieval Christian institution of knighthood, and makes for a very interesting topic both in literature and in art.  Typically, our concept about chivalry is based on Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s Historia Regum Britanniae which introduced King Arthur and his knights as being the actual royal history of England.  Bulfinch draws a lot on Monmouth’s “fabulous chronicles”, which he considers to be a “formidable body of marvelous histories”.


Cultured Wednesday: McIntosh Patrick’s Road in a Spring Landscape

To celebrate the vernal equinox, we chose a spring painting by a 20th century Scottish painter.

Happy Spring Equinox, everyone!

Spring is upon us, finally.  Today, the sun will rise exactly in the east, and set exactly in the west.  Therefore, if you have a sun dial, you might want to adjust it today.

Not only will the sun pass the celestial equator from the south into the north today, but we also have the first full moon of spring!  It’s the Worm Moon, and another supermoon since it is only one day after the moon’s perigee, in other words, yesterday the moon was closest to the earth in its orbit around us, and tonight it will still appear bigger than usually, and just about completely round to boot.  In case you are wondering:  The vernal equinox and a full moon only fall on the same day about four times in a century.  The last time this happened was on 20 March 2000, so it seems we have 2 down, 2 to go in this century.

To celebrate the occasion, we chose a spring painting by a 20th century Scottish painter, James McIntosh Patrick:  Road in a Spring Landscape.

McIntosh Patrick spring
James McIntosh Patrick, Road in a Spring Landscape.

What I love about this painting is that it shows the beginning of spring like we have it here:  The birds are back already, the sun is shining and there is a tint of green to the grass, but otherwise, the trees are still bare.  You know by the promising light that spring is on its way, but you are still waiting for leaves, blossoms and spring flowers.  I find all this wonderfully captured in McIntosh Patrick’s painting.

James McIntosh Patrick (1907 – 1998) was a Scottish painter, celebrated for his finely observed paintings of the Angus landscape, Scotland.  Three features typical for this painter’s work can be observed in the painting we chose:  Firstly, he is known mainly for his paintings of cultivated landscapes in the Scottish countryside.  Secondly, his landscapes are often very wide in scope yet meticulously detailed.  Lastly, he frequently make use of lanes, roads, waterways or other features leading from foreground to middle distance or beyond to draw the viewer into the picture.

If you follow the link above, you will find a rather detailed bio and some more paintings for your perusal.




Cultured Wednesday: Rockwell Kent’s “Snowy Fields”

“I want the elemental, infinite thing; I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.”

Today, I invite you to have a look at only one painting of the remarkable painter, illustrator, writer, and rather interesting individual Rockwell Kent (1882 – 1971).  The painting is called “Snowy Fields (Winter in the Berkshires)”, and was painted in 1909.

rockwell kent featured
Snowy Fields (Winter in the Berkshires). 1909

“I don’t want petty self-expression”, Kent wrote, “I want the elemental, infinite thing; I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.”

Can you see “the Symbolist spirit evoking the mysteries and cosmic wonders of the natural world” in this painting?

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