Before arriving to London, I was warned that British food is horrible, and that eating would be a challenge. This statement was honestly somewhat correct, but not in the way I had though. Yes, British food itself is usually bland and a tad gross, the foreign food however is amazing. British Imperialism is a sore subject for many people and I am no exception, so to have finally found one benefit of the melding of so many cultures (an unwilling meld for most). This trip has forced me to see the positive in even in seemingly black-and-white situations, and placed London on the top of my list for quality of food!

Salisbury Cathedral

Sculpture in its Intended Context

Beauty of the Body in Stone

Composed with Lines

The Enigma 

Doré, Gustave
Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin (67) (France) 1832 - Paris (France) 1883

Painted

1871

Material

Oil on canvas

Historical Description by the Musee d’Orsay

“For Gustave Doré, born in Strasbourg, France’s defeat by Prussia in 1870, and the consequential loss of Alsace-Lorraine, was a great source of distress. Just after the end of the war he produced three monumental works: The EnigmaThe Black Eagle of Prussia and The Defence of Paris, all in shades of grey and presented under the general title ofSouvenirs of 1870, when the contents of the artist’s studio were sold posthumously in 1884.


Of these three paintings, The Enigma is undeniably the most tragic. At the top of a hill, strewn with bodies, there stands a sphinx, a mythical monster with the body of a lion and the head of a human. In the distance, plumes of smoke rise up from a Paris set ablaze by enemy cannon. Under the dark sky, a winged woman, perhaps the embodiment of France seems to be asking the sphinx for answers. The sphinx appears to be compassionate, closer to the sphinx of Egyptian religion, guardian of the underworld, rather than the monster Oedipus came across in Greek mythology.

Through this image of the war of 1870, Doré returns to the apocalyptic visions of his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno (1861). More than just the defeat, he clearly wished to represent the end of the world. According to the catalogue for the sale of the artist’s studio in 1885, Doré had taken inspiration for his painting from two verses of a poem by Victor Hugo:
"Ode to the Arc de Triomphe" (Inner Voices, 1837):
"What a spectacle! Thus dies everything that man creates!
A past such as this is a deep abyss for the soul!”“

Assessment

I encountered this painting for the first time in an exhibit at the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville TN, so to find it in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris France was exciting. What drew me into this painting at first is the stark contrast. Even viewed from a distance one can make out the apocalyptic scene of what appears to be a decimated battle field and a burning city. Beyond that is the contrast in attention to detail. The wasted remains of people on the battlefield are portrayed in dramatic flourish. Although details are present the artist fills his strokes with emotion and high value in the figures for a dramatic light. Oddly the darker portion of the mid-ground, there appears to be an angel and a sphinx. These two characters are rendered in high detail (which I unfortunately cannot find a sharper image for)with the light of the smoldering city alight on the angel’s face, and a dark shadow of remorse on the sphinx. They hold each other in a private moment on the canvas highlighted by their different strokes, attention to detail, lighting, and placement upon one third line of the painting for an obvious focus. Behind them in the background is possibly an even harsher image of a French city ablaze. The only details present are the smoke and white highlights depicting the buildings.

(Photo 1: http://bp3.blogger.com/_xWskeyX5I0c/Ry2Qbw7pCcI/AAAAAAAAAPg/4SFLNpTTIQc/s1600-h/dore_enigma.jpg)

(Photo 2: http://www.alef.net/ALEFArtists/GustaveDore/Other/GustaveDore-Enigma-DETAIL.Gif)


Authors
Lévy-Dhurmer LucienAlgiers (Algeria) 1865 - The Vésinet, Yvelines (78) (France) 1953

Title
Witch


Dates
1897
Pastel unfinished

Description
pastel on paper
DesignationdrawingMaterials and techniquespaper, pastel
Despite this being an unfinished work I believe this piece shows a lot about the style and process of Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer’s art. Much like many effective artists, the most detail at this point in the process is in the face (example would be cartoons by da Vinci). The face and semblances of magic have been blocked out in color. Where the magical creatures, a snake and lizard, are at this point loosely colored, the subject’s face has been set with value adding a tone to the pastel and a suggestion of light from the upper left corner. Since it is unfinished it is somewhat hard to make out what the black smudges around the outside of the figure are, however upon a broader look they are bats in the upper left and right, and an owl in the bottom right corner. A black cat perches upon her shoulder as the most finished animal. He has blocked out some highlights on the figure’s face, the tip of her nose, dimples brow and left cheek, as well as the cat’s eyes, claws, and the belly of the serpent. Elsewhere the next vibrant shade is the light periwinkle used to create an aura about the figure that disrupts the figures of the bats in the background with the exception of one which appears to be flying into the figure.

Authors
Lévy-Dhurmer Lucien
Algiers (Algeria) 1865 - The Vésinet, Yvelines (78) (France) 1953
Title
Witch
Dates
1897
Pastel unfinished
Description
pastel on paper
DesignationdrawingMaterials and techniquespaper, pastel

Despite this being an unfinished work I believe this piece shows a lot about the style and process of Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer’s art. Much like many effective artists, the most detail at this point in the process is in the face (example would be cartoons by da Vinci). The face and semblances of magic have been blocked out in color. Where the magical creatures, a snake and lizard, are at this point loosely colored, the subject’s face has been set with value adding a tone to the pastel and a suggestion of light from the upper left corner. Since it is unfinished it is somewhat hard to make out what the black smudges around the outside of the figure are, however upon a broader look they are bats in the upper left and right, and an owl in the bottom right corner. A black cat perches upon her shoulder as the most finished animal. He has blocked out some highlights on the figure’s face, the tip of her nose, dimples brow and left cheek, as well as the cat’s eyes, claws, and the belly of the serpent. Elsewhere the next vibrant shade is the light periwinkle used to create an aura about the figure that disrupts the figures of the bats in the background with the exception of one which appears to be flying into the figure.

Architectural Perspective 

The Culture of Public Transportation

The cultures that I was exposed to during our time in Europe have made me much more aware of the people around me. We as Americans talk loudly. We rarely pay attention to the fast-lane protocol. We can be unintentionally bumbling people who don’t notice when courtesy needs to be employed.

Public transportation in London has taught me to be very considerate of others. To talk more quietly in an enclosed space. To stand to the right so that those in a rush can pass quickly and easily on the left. That you should give up your seat if it’s apparent that another needs it more than you, even if doing so is of an inconvenience to you. The people of London get it. They understand that everyone is just trying to get from point A to point B, or point B to point J. They do not act entitled, they do not get impatient. They make friendly eye contact with you if there’s cause for it and then continue on with their reading or texting. They use their travel time during rush hour to read the paper. I learned that close proximity with total strangers doesnt have to be uncomfortable. I, at least, know that I frequently feel entitled to things, especially in regard to service. Using The Tube and the Buses has been a humbling experience, because it’s forced me to rely on others and ask questions when I feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. It has taught me how to ask for help before. I’ve gone too far.

Alexa Evans, Eckerd College

Selfies with Mona

Everybody’s seen a picture of her, Everybody knows a little bit about who she is. Most people fortunate to get a glimpse of the real thing walk away wondering what all the hype is about.

My experience in front of the Mona Lisa was really, really cool. First of all, the energy of excitement of the people around me was invigorating—it made me even more amped up to see it. I was really expecting to be rather unmoved; my mother had told me that the Mona Lisa was smaller than one would expect, and somebody else had said that it was just another painting of a woman.

But when I looked at it, I felt quite compelled. I noticed more details in the painting that I never had before in the background. What I thought was most awe-inspiring was how much of her spirit, her essence, Da Vinvci captured in the piece. I jotted down my stream of consciousness as I took in the painting, and I very strongly wrote, “She’s got a lot of secrets in her hair.”

You can just look into the face of the Mona Lisa and tell that she knows all sorts of things that you don’t. Her grin, the way she peers out of her eyes at you.

I also think the work is fascinating because of the hype around it. After inspiring centuries of curiosity, speculation, and fascination, the Mona Lisa has been turned into more than just a painting of an unknown woman. It’s got a life of its own; it’s turned into a legend.

—Alexa Evans, Eckerd College

Selfies with Mona

Everybody’s seen a picture of her, Everybody knows a little bit about who she is. Most people fortunate to get a glimpse of the real thing walk away wondering what all the hype is about.

My experience in front of the Mona Lisa was really, really cool. First of all, the energy of excitement of the people around me was invigorating—it made me even more amped up to see it. I was really expecting to be rather unmoved; my mother had told me that the Mona Lisa was smaller than one would expect, and somebody else had said that it was just another painting of a woman.

But when I looked at it, I felt quite compelled. I noticed more details in the painting that I never had before in the background. What I thought was most awe-inspiring was how much of her spirit, her essence, Da Vinvci captured in the piece. I jotted down my stream of consciousness as I took in the painting, and I very strongly wrote, “She’s got a lot of secrets in her hair.”

You can just look into the face of the Mona Lisa and tell that she knows all sorts of things that you don’t. Her grin, the way she peers out of her eyes at you.

I also think the work is fascinating because of the hype around it. After inspiring centuries of curiosity, speculation, and fascination, the Mona Lisa has been turned into more than just a painting of an unknown woman. It’s got a life of its own; it’s turned into a legend.

—Alexa Evans, Eckerd College

Stonehenge and Bath and the shire, oh my!

January 20, 2014

Today was absolutely and without a doubt the most epic day I’ve had since landing in Europe. And keep in mind, THIS is coming from the girl who was most excited to check Versailles off her bucket list.

We were up early this morning to catch a charter bus out to Stonehenge. It was still dark when we took off, and as we drove through the lush English countryside, I watched the sun rise and filter through the heavy fog as I dozed in and out of sleep. There’s a lot less sunlight—and consequently, green things—in the city, so it was a refreshing change of pace.

We arrived around 9-something. The fog was still heavy when we pulled in, and as we approached the monument on foot, we could scarcely make out the shapes of sheep grazing and other tourists who had come to oggle at this seventh wonder of the world. It was a surreal experience. There was frost on the tall grasses, and at MOST only ten other people there besides our group to see it. We were all so disperesed that I was able to soak it all in on my own time as I walked along its edges for over an hour.

As the sun shone higher, the fog began to evaporate. The sky was crystal clear and it was silent all around. A bustling country highway wasn’t too far out in the distance. It seemed odd to me that hundreds of people could drive past Stonehenge on a daily or weekly basis and think nothing of it, But then I guess it was a part of the daily lives of plenty when it was originally built.

They knew a lot more about it than I was expecting. We could actually see where the summer solstice lined up with it, and the burials discovered around it of wealthy or important people, like the soldier found buried in the trench around Stonehenge, have given them further clues about what the formation might have been used for.

I think the most fascinating thing, however, is that we still have no idea how the rocks were erected. Simple people thousands of years ago managed to elevate and shape these colossal rocks in a very precise formation. Late on in our excursion to Bath, it made me think of the loss of knowledge about lead-based make up: they discovered the dangers in Roman times, but the knowledge was lost later and the Elizabethans used the toxic paste to lighten their faces.


****

After Stonehenge, we drove through ESSENTIALLY the shire on our way to Salisbury Cathedral and then Bath. TOTALLY EPIC. TOTALLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND PICTURESQUE THING I’VE SEEN IN ALL OF BRITAIN. Rolling hills, flooded plains, fast moving rivers made of cold waters, PONIES, SWANS, farmlands. I’ve felt pretty removed from the real world since I got here, but today took the cake in terms of fantasy world. (Is that how the saying goes?)

Salisbury Cathedral was awe-inspiring. It snuck up on us! I couldnt even see the 400+ foot spire until we rounded a corner and it was right in front of us. The stained glass windows and intimate chapels within were, to me, the most beautiful parts of it. Raises Catholic, I don’t practice very much anymore, but the intimate setting of the beautiful smaller rooms made it hard not to say a prayer when you walked in.

****

Bath made me wish I was Roman. I know there was the whole plague and sanitary thing, but the work that was went through to make the temple a reality was incredible! THEY WERE SO INTELLIGENT. Last winter term I went to a natural hot spring in New Mexico, and the whole time I was walking around the Roman baths and seeing all the hot rooms, I couldnt help but want to dive right in. It’s funny how some things can stay very the same after thousands of years.

****

It was dusk when we got back to the bus. We had a two hour busride in front of us, but I didnt mind. The day had been rewarding, and the warm, orange, twinkling lights that cascaded down the country side were totes magical. I thought I was almost ready to come home, but today made me realize that might never be the case.

—Alexa Evans, Eckerd College

Reflection on the trip

1/22/2014

It is finally the time to go back home, I am taking so many things with me from this trip. There are no words to describe this winter term; somehow, I feel that I am leaving with the hope to come back one more time to this wonderful city.

This trip was way beyond my expectations; literally, from the gastronomy to the architecture and everything in between was amazing. I thought that I was going to like Paris over London before coming, yet today I am not quite sure, for I’ve seen in both places things that I will never forget, such as, Versailles or Stonehenge.

Material things are of no value if compared to experiences in life, someone can take away your stuff, but what ones has lived is invaluable and no one can ever take it away. London is neatly organized, yet to the point where it would not look like a program.

I am so thankful for this trip, no regrets.

Haroldo Mayaudon, Eckerd College 

Francis Picabia’s Otaïtï

            For me wandering through the Tate Modern or any contemporary art museum is like walking through the candy aisle in a grocery store. I instantly become a small child. My eyes grow wide and flit from work to work as I attempt to take in the vivid colors and unusual imagery. This of course is not the best trait when attempting to listen to Dr. Gliem’s lecture in the packed rooms of a gallery. However as ungrounded as I am in these situations it is thanks to it that I became interested in Francis Picabia’s “Otaïtï.” 

       This striking 217 x 151.5cm oil and resin painting struck my curiosity as I took in the room. Its complex layering and broad tonal range of brown kept my gaze. Upon approaching the Dada painting one is amazed at the number of layered outlined images, which the praising nude female form overpowers when viewed from across the room.  “In Otaïti (Picabia)” has achieved a sub-aquatic depth to the surface through the dual application of pigment with layers of varnish. The resulting antique-like patina has a watery, translucent appearance, which appears to shift between suggestions of the visible and invisible.” (Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picabia-otaiti-t11982/text-summary).  

       Picabia’s Otaïtï is part of the 1928 to 1931 Transparencies series, which contrasted sacred forms with profane iconography using reference imagery. When looking at this painting I can’t help but feel a connection to the biblical annunciation. The female figure in the front kneels as if praising or genuflecting a heavenly spirit. And between her hands a small winged animal appears perhaps representing the heavenly vessel bound for her nude form. Her naked form along with the large hand on the maker me think of the theft of her virtue and purity. Even though that image has a biblical feeling for me it also has a number of other images that do not fit with the theme. So one is left pondering what does it actually mean. Francis Picabia strongly opposed his involvement in the Surrealist movement focusing more on Dada. However gazing at the montage of organic and man -made figurative imagery I would argue that he actually was a Surrealist, as he defiantly portrays a dream state.

Victoria Richardson, Eckerd College

January 22, 2014

Sources:

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-picabia-francis.htm

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picabia-otaiti-t11982/text-summary

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picabia-otaiti-t11982/text-display-caption

Reflection (by Sarah Richardson)

Basically my thoughts and reflection on this trip.

Music: Dream Culture, Kevin Macleod.

Thank you to everyone who has made this trip so wonderful. 

Victoria Richardson and Marissa Meleedy’s reflection on their amazing Winter Term in London and Paris during January of 2014.