Unreal Estates

The Fatal Temple-Giorgio De Chirico 1914
The Fatal Temple-Giorgio De Chirico 1914

The lassitude at the journey’s end
More tired now than before we left
Over there thoughts tend towards
The infinite, the eternal, the ineffable,
The sky and sleep, the deep and dreams,
Although we observe fleeting impressions
We cannot see things in their totality
We hear but we cannot comprehend
Once I was briefly mistaken for a native
But I am a true citizen of Nowhere

Resident only of wholly imaginary cities
Shimmered reflections in the mirror
Of the lake surrounded by mountains
An agent dealing in unreal estates,
The pregnant stillness before the flash,
The languid ease of definite uncertainty,
Hovering between three distinct stages
That could in the commotion and confusion
Of false memories and vanishing places
Merge and flow together inseparable.

Everybody loves the limpid sunlight
Causing the motes and angels to dance
But close the blinds, shut out beyond
And in the gloom come over to me,
Maybe we can step into that river again?

Behold the Man

1200px-Albrecht_Dürer_-_1500_self-portrait_(High_resolution_and_detail)[1]
Albrecht Dürer-Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar-1500
Although there are a few instances of self-portraits in Western Art before Albrecht Dürer, most notably Jan Van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?) from 1433, Dürer was the first artist to prolifically produce self-portraits throughout their career, ushering in a new conception of the artist who could also be the very subject matter of art.

Dürer’s first self-portrait is a silver-point drawing from 1484 produced when he was only thirteen. At the time he was learning the basics of goldsmithing and drawing from his father, however such was his precocious artistic talent that he became apprentice to  Nuremberg’s leading artist,  Michel Wolgemut, at the age of fifteen. Notice the flowing locks of hair and the long, slender, artistic fingers which would be repeatedly emphasised in a number of subsequent self-portraits.

Dürer’s first painted self-portrait is the Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle completed when he was 22 and probably intended as a betrothal present to his fiance Agnes Frey. The thistle was a sign of conjugal fidelity and also thought to have aphrodisiac properties.

The second painting is the Self-Portrait at 26, painted after his first journey to Italy. Here Dürer portrays himself as a man of the world and also a man of fashion. His presence dominates the setting and the landscape seen through the window and his knowing, ironic gaze stares out at the viewer with more than a hint of arrogance.

Dürer’s final and most famous painted self portrait is the powerful Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar from 1500. Here Dürer is unmistakably portraying himself as Christ. The muted tones and the fingers raised in a sign of blessing belong to the traditional depictions of Christ, as well as being half-length and frontal as opposed to the three-quarters length favoured for secular portraits.  It is undoubtedly the most complex and introspective of all his self-portraits with an unprecedented psychological depth.

The rest of Dürer’s self-portraits are mainly confided to cameo appearances in other works. However in 1509 he would draw a remarkable Self-Portrait in the Nude, submitted the whole of his body to a merciless self scrutiny that wouldn’t be matched in art again until the advent of Modernism in the early 20th Century.

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Durer-Self-Portrait-at-the-age-of-thirteen-1484
Durer-Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle
Durer-Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle 1493
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Albrecht_Dürer-Self-Portrait_at 26-1498
DURER
Durer-Self Portrait in the Nude 1509

Dreams of Desire 70 (Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier-Bresson)

Leonor Fini, Italy-Henri Cartier-Bresson 1933
Leonor Fini, Italy-Henri Cartier-Bresson 1933

A sumptuously shimmering erotic photograph by the one of the greats of 20th Century photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson (previously featured in this series, see Dreams of Desire 50 (The Decisive Moment) of the Argentinian Surrealist painter, illustrator, fashion designer and writer, Leonor Fini. A fiercely independent woman renowned for her unorthodox personal life, Fini is credited with being the first woman artist to paint a male nude.