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[Warning—painted Victorian bosom below]
September 3, 2010 4:56 PM   Subscribe

On Tor.com, Mefi'sown Patrick Garcon (smoke) is writing lively essays on Victorian fantasy illustration, from the Pre-Raphaelites to Orientalism. [via mefi projects]
posted by The Whelk (12 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Pre-Raphaelites, wherever they are and whoever they depict, instantly remind me of being in any given girl's dorm room at Bryn Mawr. A reproduction Arthurian poster was standard-issue there; I kept expecting to get a free one with class registration.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:05 PM on September 3, 2010


The Pre-Raphaelites referred to themselves as such. How did they know?
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:12 PM on September 3, 2010


They where trying to establish themselves as working in the traditions before Raphael, in Gothic Tradition, particularly in use of color and focus.
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on September 3, 2010



The Pre-Raphaelites, wherever they are and whoever they depict, instantly remind me of being in any given girl's dorm room at Bryn Mawr. A reproduction Arthurian poster was standard-issue there; I kept expecting to get a free one with class registration.


When Buffy goes to College, the local Vampire Frat has a running tally on the Monet and Klimt posters they collect from the students they slaughter.
posted by The Whelk at 5:21 PM on September 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Exoticism is all fun and games until someone does it to you...

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that their era was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences as keen on cultural appropriation as their own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, often with a lack of scholarship and a lack of understanding of context, and the results passed from hand to hand becoming more and more distorted at each turn. Across the gulf of time intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded that era  with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew up plans for goggles and brass MP3 players. And early in the twenty first century came the great disillusionment - the coming of the STEAMPUNKS. 
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on September 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thanks, The Whelk, but can you explain why the chicken crossed the road?
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:27 PM on September 3, 2010


The side it was on was like, so over.
posted by The Whelk at 5:31 PM on September 3, 2010


Oh, wow. These are awesome.
posted by egypturnash at 5:53 PM on September 3, 2010


I had seen and enjoyed the Orientalism essay, but I'd missed the Pre-Raphaelite essay. I'm very much looking forward to more in the series.
posted by immlass at 8:26 PM on September 3, 2010


> Exoticism is all fun and games until someone does it to you...

If you mean steampunk as an example of exoticizing our culture, or a major progenitor of it, then huh? It's still fun and games.


From one of the linked essays:

There’s another motif in this image that we will regularly see. Look at Scheherazade, begging for a pardon after so many stories. She’s different to the sultan. She’s… very white. Not merely her clothing (white in both colour and nature), but her skin. And the sultan is so very dark. He’s black like midnight.


I'm guessing art critics and jocks are largely non-overlapping groups but a white guy who has not otherwise had much experience seeing dark-skinned people naked or near-naked will, while dressing out and showering in a football summer camp locker room, notice that dark-skinned folks tan too! An outdoorsy athlete who is café with plenty of au lait where his shorts normally are will be many shades darker on his face, neck, arms and other places that get lots of sun.

Now then, very many of these orientalist paintings depict cultures in which men go out in the blazing sun and women either do not get out much, or go out in voluminous hijab. No doubt some--an undetermined and undeterminable 'some'-- of the male/female coloration difference that struck our critic is due to the painter inposing his cultural baggage on his palette. And some (remembering those guys in the locker room, a lot) of it is the painter painting exactly and colorimetrically what he saw, which modern viewers then view through their different but equally heavy cultural baggage.
posted by jfuller at 8:43 AM on September 4, 2010


That could be an influence from Turkish minaturists who would frequently depict harem girls as very pale Chinese.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on September 4, 2010


Not disagreeing with you, per se, jfuller, but that presupposes that the painter is reproducing "exactly and colorimetrically what he saw".

Whilst in some cases that certainly could be true, the artist I was talking about in that particular example (Houghton) never actually went to the middle east, nor anywhere near it. I'd also highlight that that image in particular is one of the most ahistorical in the entire piece - certainly not contemporaneous with "Arabia" at either the time Houghton was drawing, nor at an earlier era the Arabian Nights could have conceiveably have taken place. It really is a fantasy illustration.

As I say, this doesn't negate your broader point by any means, but that particular example is not a great for supporting. The images by Jerome, for example, typically present far more accurate depictions of "the orient".
posted by smoke at 5:46 PM on September 4, 2010


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