Strange city, its cold and wet you have a spare afternoon, looking to surround yourself with Inspiration, imagination and passion? Deciding to liven a dreary sunday afternoon, took to the city, I just happen to be in that day and find full harmony, with idealistic men, such as William Etty, John William Waterhouse, William Bromley, William Powell Firth, Alexander von Wagner, Adolphe Yvon and William Holman Hunt to name but a few, as I wandered the large rooms of the Manchester Art Gallery, loaded with visionary works, Pre-raphaelites, Victorians, to ceramic vases and more contemporary art, but it was the marvellous stories behind these pieces which are enough to rock anyones Imagination for a sunday afternoon.
The best way to show any inspiration for me is with photos and written findings share those stories of inspiration. I’ve picked a series of paintings that I photographed today, then will add a gallery of my full visit at the end.
Starting with a piece by the sensuous William Etty “The Sirens and Ulysses” 1837 oil on canvas. Setting the scene, using the ancient Greek poem
The Odyssey. Ulysses leads his men past the monstrous Sirens in mythology, the creatures lure sailors to their island with song so enchanting they die when they listen. Ulysses escapes by being lashed to his ship and tells his remaining men to stuff their ears with wax.
What I love about this, so much, Etty shows no fear as an artist here, he approaches two topics head on. This artist is renown for his sensuous figure painting, emphasising on the sexual as well as the musical temptation on the part of the Sirens. The artist also modelled the dead bodies in the foreground on real corpses he sketched in the morgue. Critics disliked, even scorned the nudity and death in this particular piece of work, at that time, but I sat for some time in front of this work and admired its beauty and story telling.
This next piece I have chosen is loaded with religious symbolism, by the artist William Holman Hunt “The Shadow of Death” oil on canvas 1870-3. Setting the scene, the shadow of Christ’s outstretched arms foretells his crucifixion. The kneeling Virgin Mary opens a casket containing gifts from the Magi recalling Christ’s birth. The arched window behind doubles as a halo.
This artist plays in shadow and light, he has my vote, and its rich with the power of suggestion and meaning, he also travelled in Jerusalem to get the Biblical scenes just right. An imagery moment showing life and suffering.
“Marshal Ney Supporting the Rear Guard during the retreat from Moscow” 1856 by artist Aldolphe Yvon. Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of
Russia 1812. The central Figure is the French hero Marshal Micheal Ney who was given command of the army’s rear guard. Having lead 450,000 men across the River Neiman he was forced to turn back to Moscow which had been torched by retreating Russian forces. The temperature is minus 20 which has killed just as many as the enemy. By December only 13,000 of the Grand Army remained.
This is so dramatic and striking, a must see with your own eyes so detailed.
This is so beautiful “Hylas and the Nymphs” 1896 by artist John William Waterhouse. Hylas was one of the Argonauts who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece. When the adventures harboured at an Island, Hylas task was to search for fresh water for the crew. He found a glazed spring and was filling his pitcher when he was circuled by water nymphs. Hypnotically, they drew him into the watery depths and although his friends searched for him Hylas was never seen again.
Waterhouse, shows in myth the drowning of a youth a topic becomes lightened in his hands. The deadly allure of the beautiful female flesh, softened again in lily leaves and stems. intriguing.
William Etty wins his place again with this piece, “The Storm” 1830, I’m going to explain what I saw in this painting, nature’s power. Its dark, the man clings to the naked women, they are in a small boat the sea shows its cruelty, the high wind forms the flag into a devil skull, there is no escape for them, no escape from their sins, death will be the only option.
The last piece I had chosen from today, filled with excitement “The Chariot” 1882 by artist Alexander von Wagner. Roman Chariot racing, exhilarating but highly dangerous at any moment the charioteer could meet his death.
Was the artist inspired by the book Ben Hur published in 1880, the costumes the backdrop of the drama unfolding everyone is in this race. It is certainly a piece where at any minuet we are all on a collision course.
Please enjoy some more photos taken at the gallery today.