Cultured Wednesday: Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s most famous extant buildings are found in and around Berlin.

If you have ever visited or seen pictures of Berlin, Germany, you most likely have seen a building drafted, re-designed or approved by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussian city planner, architect and painter. Born on 13 March 1781 in Neuruppin, Schinkel was one of the most prominent neoclassical and neogothic architects of 19th century Germany and despite his influence and achievements, people still think he had even more potential that he could not live up to due to the political circumstances of his time.

Medieval City on a River, 1815

Schinkels most famous extant buildings in and around the German capital include the Neue Wache (1816–1818), the National Monument for the Liberation Wars (1818–1821), the Schauspielhaus (1819–1821) at the Gendarmenmarkt and the Altes Museum on Museum Island (1823–1830). He also carried out improvements to the Crown Prince’s Palace and to Schloss Charlottenburg.

The header to this post shows Schinkel’s stage set for the 1st Act of Mozart’s Magic Flute, dated 1815 just like the above painting, a design that is still quoted by modern-day stage designers when planning the set for this opera. We find his style quite wholesome, a good example of a time when people still had a clear idea of what was good and beautiful, and pleasing in an aesthetic sense, as well as where such ideas originated in the first place.

Castle by the River 1820

Schinkel, like so many artists of the 19th century, traveled a lot in Europe and particularly to Italy, the landscape and cities of which were and still are especially inspiring, it seems – just look at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his love for Italy, for instance. Of course, Goethe and Schinkel met and respected each other, in fact, the list of names the family Schinkel were acquainted with reads almost like a who-is-who of Germany’s 19th century artistic and royal circles. But returning to the Italian influences, Schinkel’s style, generally speaking, was defined rather by a turn to Greek than Roman architecture. “He believed”, they claim in his Wikipedia entry, “that in order to avoid sterility and have a soul, a building must contain elements of the poetic and the past, and have a discourse with them.” I guess the same kind of discourse between tradition and poetry can be found in his paintings if you are able to discern Nature’s voice in the lay of the land, or the trees that surround Schinkel’s painted buildings.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel died on 9 October 1841 in Berlin, leaving behind his wife Susanne and four children, three girls and a boy, the youngest daughter being 19 years old at the time. He was buried in the Dorotheenstädtischen Friedhof in Berlin-Center, where twenty years later his wife was laid to rest along with their two older daughters.

The Schinkel grave in Berlin

Eventually, several generations of architects from Berlin who were influenced by Schinkel’s style were classified as the “Schinkelschule“. So, if you ever visit Germany’s capital, keep a look out for building designed or re-designed by Schinkel, or later on built true to Schinkel’s style.

R.I.P J.R.R.T.

There is The Bard, and then there is The Professor.

Today 47 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien sailed into the West.  We hope that on the Blessed Shore, he is raising a glass today with his son Christopher, looking back at their handiwork, hopefully satisfied with the gift they have given to us who remain behind on the Hither Shore.

JRR and Christopher

Requiescat in Pace, Professor.

beren and luthien donato

Featured Image by Alan Lee, above painting by Donato Giancola.

Classical Sunday: Savall’s Caravaggio Lachrimae

From the Maguelone Festival 2012

The video might not play on the site but only on YouTube.  Just follow the link that will be provided if they block it from playing on here.

Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI: Lachrimae Caravaggio

Lachrimae Caravaggio – Musical Europe in the Time of Caravaggio

From the Maguelone Festival 2012

Jordi Savall – viola da gamba
Ferran Savall – voice
Philippe Pierlot – viola da gamba
Sergi Casademunt – viola da gamba
Lorenz Dufschmidt – viola da gamba
Xavier Puertas – violone
Xavier Diaz-Latorre – lute, theorbo & guitar
Perdo Estevan – percussions

2:03 Anonymous – Pavana del re
3:56 Anonymous – Galliarda la traditora
5:37 Jordi Savall – Saltarello
7:22 Giovanni M.Trabaci – Durezze E Ligature
13:15 John Dowland – Lachrimae Pavan
17:06 Orlando Gibbons – In Nomine a 4
19:16 William Brade – Ein Schottisch Tanz
22:15 Jordi Savall – Passacaglia Libertas
25:00 Jordi Savall – Deploratio II
27:43 Luys del Milà – Pavana and Gallarda
30:47 Joan Cabanilles – Corrente Italiana
34:17 Jordi Savall & Dominique Fernandez – Concentus Aria
35:36 Jordi Savall & Dominique Fernandez – Concentus Recitativo
37:52 Jordi Savall – Folias
41:51 Anonymous – Pavane de la Petite Guerre
44:06 Anonymous – Bourrée d’avignonez
46:27 Consonanze Stravaganti (d’après trabaci)
47:57 Jordi Savall – Deploratio III
51:14 Samuel Scheidt – Paduan & Courant dolorosa
57:56 Jordi Savall – Spiritus Morientis
1:00:53 Jordi Savall – Deploratio IV
1:05:29 Luigi Rossi – Fantasie “Les Pieurs d`Orphée”
1:08:40 Anonymous – Sarabande Italienne
1:10:16 Cantus Caravaggio III “In Memoriam”

A co-production of Calicot – Mezzo – TV Sud – Maguelone Festival
Video director: Olivier Simonnet

Jordi_savall_06188_agapé
Jordi Savall in 2016

Featured: Caravaggio’s ‘Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy’ (c. 1595), Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT

Cultured Wednesday: Giancola’s Tolkien

“Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have viewed his sub-creation as a world that others can and probably should add to.

Surely plenty of artists have tried their hand on themes from The Professor’s stories: Names such as Alan Lee, John Howe and Ted Nasmith come to mind.  Today, we were introduced to another contemporary painter who appears to love Middle-Earth: Donato Giancola.  Here is an example of his art:

The Hobbit Donato Giancola

One of the things I like particularly about Giancola’s work is that the characters from Tolkien’s books do not look like the actors that portray them in Peter Jackson’s movies.  Precisely because they have all done a terrific job portraying all those wonderful Tolkien’ian characters, they have made it quite hard to sever one’s imagination from their faces and voices.  Mr. Giancola does not seem to have this problem and I am very thankful for it.  Look at this example of Gandalf and Frodo:

Frodo and Gandalf

Now, I am no expert, so don’t take my word for anything concerning art, ask John Howe!  Here’s what he says, quoted from Mr. Giancola’s website:

“There’s more to Donato Giancola’s art than just a pretty face. Underneath the incredibly meticulous surface of his paintings is concealed a love of perspective and form, an intimate understanding of the human body, a historian’s knowledge of costume and armour, an infallible sense of implicit narrative, visual storytelling and mythical history. It’s just that you’re so rapt gazing at all the mind-blowingly pretty bits that you tend to miss it. Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

-John Howe, concept designer, artist, historian

One last example, this time not from Tolkien’s world but from the Magic: The Gathering game cards.  It is titled ‘Amber Prison”:

amberprison

 

Cultured Wednesday: Cropsey’s Greenwood Lake

Frank Cropsey believed that nature was a direct manifestation of God, or so they say.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (18 February 1823 to 22 June 1900), apparently called ‘Frank’, was an American landscape artist and first-generation member of the Hudson River School, so you can expect amazing paintings of great detail.  But first and foremost, he was an architect, and if you take the time to study his paintings you will find that his landscapes speak of his love for well ordered, clear forms.

We chose his 1870 painting ‘Greenwood Lake‘ as our focus of attention for this post, an interstate lake straddling the border of New York and New Jersey and the place where Cropsey met his wife Maria Cooley some time after 1843.  Today, the painting as seen below is displayed at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in the Spanish capital of Madrid.  Incidentally, this one is by no means his only painting of Greenwood Lake, and not all are exhibited overseas: One of them can be admired at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., for example.  For a larger rendering, please click on the picture.

Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_-_Greenwood_Lake 1870
Greenwood Lake, 1870

In a way, it would have been nice to see the landscape around Greenwood Lake in the spring, but for someone famous for his lavish use of colors, fall surely is most attractive.  So enjoy this somewhat untimely scenery (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere – for you it should be quite timely!), the beautiful view across Greenwood Lake, and the moment of quiet contentment the contemplation of a painting can afford.  Or imagine living in the fisherman’s hut along the lake shore as depicted below, and sitting on a bench next to your front door of an evening, enjoying a quiet sunset.

JasperCropseyFishermansHouseGreenwoodLake
Fisherman’s House, Greenwood Lake (New Jersey), 1877

Here’s one little detail about Frank Cropsey’s life that caught our girls’ eye: He lies buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  I guess the fall landscape fits after all.

800px-Jasper_Francis_Cropsey_Monument_2010 sleepy hollow cemetery

The featured image shows a self-portrait Cropsey included in his ‘The Narrows from Staten Island‘ painting from 1868.

 

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Niggle’s Parish

The Tree, the Mountains, and beyond.

Niggle and Parish, who shows up in this beautiful landscape just after Niggle realizes that he needs him, set about developing the country around Niggle’s Tree together.

One day Niggle was busy planting a quickset hedge, and Parish was lying on the grass near by, looking attentively at a beautiful and shapely little yellow flower growing in the green turf.  Niggle had put a lot of them among the roots of his Tree long ago.  Suddenly Parish looked up: his face was glistening in the sun, and he was smiling.
‘This is grand!’ he said.  ‘I oughtn’t to be here, really.  Thank you for putting in a word for me,’
‘Nonsense,’ said Niggle.  ‘I don’t remember what I said, but anyway it was not nearly enough.’
‘Oh yes, it was,’ said Parish.  ‘It got me out a lot sooner.  That Second Voice, you know: he had me sent here; he said you had asked to see me.  I owe it to you.’
‘No.  You owe it to the Second Voice,’ said Niggle.  We both do.’

(…)

The time came when the house in the hollow, the garden, the grass, the forest, the lake, and all the country was nearly complete, in its own proper fashion.  The Great Tree was in full blossom.
‘We shall finish this evening,’ said Parish one day.  ‘After that we will go for a really long walk.’
They set out the next day, and they walked until they came right through the distances to the Edge.  (…)  They saw a man, he looked like a shepherd; he was walking towards them, down the grass slopes that led up the Mountains.
(…)  ‘Are you a guide,’ Parish asked.  ‘Could you tell me the name of this country?’
‘Don’t you know?’ said the man.  ‘It is Niggle Country.  It is Niggle’s picture, or most of it: a little of it is now Parish’s Garden.’
‘Niggle’s Picture!’ said Parish in astonishment.  Did YOU think of all this, Niggle?  I never knew you were so clever.’

(…)

‘It is proving very useful indeed,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘As a holiday, and a refreshment.  It is splendid for convalescence; and not only for that, for many it is the best introduction to the Mountains.  It works wonders in some cases.  I am sending more and more there.  They seldom have to come back.’
‘No, that is so,’ said the First Voice.  ‘I think we shall have to give the region a name.  What do you propose?’
‘The Porter settled that some time ago,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘TRAIN FOR NIGGLE’S PARISH IN THE BAY: He has shouted that for a long while now.  Niggle’s Parish.  I sent a message to both of them to tell them.’
‘What did they say?’
‘They both laughed.  Laughed – the Mountains rang with it!’

Happy Easter, one and all.  All’s well that ends well.

leaf tree

 

Illustrations by Alan Lee

 

Our Own Dear John Ronald: It’s a Gift

On to the next stage…

Niggle pushed open the gate, jumped on the bicycle, and went bowling downhill in the spring sunshine.  Before long he found that the path on which he had started had disappeared, and the bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf.  It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly.  He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other.  The curves of the land were familiar somehow.  Yes: the ground was becoming level. as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again.  A great green shadow came between him and the sun.  Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle.
Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.  If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch.  He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.
‘It’s a gift!’ he said.  He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally. (…)
Niggle walked about, but he was not merely pottering.  He was looking round carefully.  The Tree was finished, though not finished with – ‘Just the other way about to what it used to be,’ he thought.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Voices

How will you measure up?

‘Now the Niggle case,’ said a Voice, a severe voice, more severe than the doctor’s.
‘What was the matter with him?’ said a Second Voice, a voice that you might have called gentle, though it was not soft – it was a voice of authority, and sounded at once hopeful and sad. ‘What was the matter with Niggle?  His heart was in the right place.’
‘Yes, but it did not function properly,’ said the First Voice.  ‘And his head was no screwed on tight enough: he hardly ever thought at all.  Look at the time he wasted, not even amusing himself!  He never got ready for his journey.  He was moderately well off, and yet he arrived here almost destitute, and had to be put in the paupers’ wing.  A bad case, I’m afraid.  I think he should stay some time yet.’
‘It would not do him any harm, perhaps,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘But, of course, he is only a little man.  He was never meant to be anything very much; and he was never very strong.  Let us look at the Records.  Yes.  There are some favorable points, you know.’
‘Perhaps,’ said the First Voice; ‘but very few that will really bear examination. (…)  It is your task, of course, to put the best interpretation on the facts.  Sometimes they will bear it.  What do you propose?’
‘I think it is a case for a little gentle treatment now,’ said the Second Voice.
Niggle thought that he had never heard anything so generous as that Voice.  It made Gentle Treatment sound like a load of rich gifts, and a summons to a King’s feast.  Then suddenly Niggle felt ashamed.  To hear that he was considered a case for Gentle Treatment overwhelmed him, and made him blush in the dark. (…)  Niggle hid his blushes in the rough blanket.
There was a silence.  (…)
‘Well, I agree,’ Niggle heard the First Voice say in the distance.  ‘Let him go on to the next stage.  Tomorrow, if you like.’

~ J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

 

leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Fluffballs: The Persian Longhair

Persian Longhairs are true lounge lizards!

This breed of cat is usually an indoor dweller.  Persian Longhairs are true lounge lizards!

  • Date of origin: 1800s
  • Place of Origin: Great Britain
  • Ancestry: Middle East Persians
  • Outcross breeds: None
  • Other name: Called Longhairs in Great Britain
  • Weight range: 8-15 lb (3.5-7 kg)
  • Temperment: Interested observer

Persian Longhairs have very soft fur that needs daily grooming, as can be expected.  Apart from that, they are self-contained cats, usually more quiet than vocal and more often than not rather sedate.

The flat face of the Persian can lead to health problems, but it gives them an attractive look.  In the Middle East, they are widely known as “Shirazi cats” or, in Iran, as the “Shiraz cat”.

The art world and its patrons have long embraced their love for the Persian cat by immortalizing them in art, says the Wikipedia.  The one below is possibly the most famous, certainly the world’s largest cat painting:  The late 19th-century painting by Carl Kahler titled ‘My Wife’s Lovers’ measures 6-by-8.5-feet and shows plenty of Turkish Angoras and Persian cats.

Carl_Kahler_-_My_Wife's_Lovers
Carl Kahler: My Wife’s Lovers. 1891

 

Cultured Wednesday: Eckersberg’s Fra Romsdalen

What a beautiful valley, what a beautiful painting.

Now here’s a place to live in these days: Across the lake from town.  Looks like a lovely little cottage to me.  Talk about social distancing! (Click the picture for a closer look.)

johan_fredrik_eckersberg_1822-1870_-fra_romsdalen
Fra Romsdalen. Romsdalen is the valley (or dale) of the Rauma river in western Norway.

Johan Fredrik Eckersberg (16 June 1822 – 13 July 1870) was a Norwegian landscape painter and teacher at his own art school in Oslo.  He looms large in 19th-century Norwegian art as an important figure in the transition from Romanticism to Realism.

Every summer since 1848, he visited the most grand and picturesque spots in his native country Norway, making sketches from which he afterwards elaborated his pictures.  Obviously, Romsdalen with its magnificent mountain backdrop and the picturesque lake was one of them.

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