Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Ode To Egg

Google is offering a '$25-for-$60' coupon for Art.com -- a nice buy, if you enjoy artwork. (Google's special is good for 6 days -- you don't have to use the coupon until July, though. Go here for specifics.)
I was musing on getting 'Companions' by Augustus Egg:

Recognize it? Egg was a Victorian era painter, and one of Charles Dickens' traveling buddies. But more than that, he was a keen observer of humans -- how they looked, how one small gesture (like the girl's glance out the window) defined a personality.
    In grad school at Ann Arbor, I lived and worked in a house of one of the professors. Cleaning their house and taking care of their young daughter got me a room in the attic, plus breakfast. (Lunch too, if I came home and walked the dog.) They had two paintings by Egg on the dining room wall: one showing 'past travel' (rowdies and drunks in a coach) and one showing 'present travel' (well-bred men and women daintily seated on clean benches). I had never lived with paintings before, and used to study Egg's work up close, admiring his use of paint dots and blobs to accomplish what he needed. Take a look, for example, at the girls' silk dresses. Wow, what a use of light!
    Egg was popular in his time -- 19th century England -- but not very well known today. A shame, because his work was astonishing. (See more here.) His most recognizable work is probably an 1858 triptych called Past and Present, now hanging in Tate Britain in London. The paintings were accompanied by this fictional diary note:

August the 4th - Have just heard that B— has been dead more than a fortnight, so his poor children have now lost both parents.
I hear she was seen on Friday last near the Strand, evidently without a place to lay her head. What a fall hers has been!


Painting 1 -- Misfortune (Husband finds a lover's note to his wife; she begs for forgiveness)
Painting 2 -- Prayer (Orphaned daughters praying for their mother -- note the moon, because it also appears in...)

  Painting 3 -- Despair (The woman, now scorned and abandoned, finds shelter --note the little baby toes peeking out of her shawl.)
(paintings courtesy of Wikipedia and Art.com)

See what I mean? Subtle...but what power.

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