“Theo” from Artsy (www.artsy.net), who may or may not have a last name but has so far concealed it if he does, contacted me one time and got ignored–I figured he was just some advertiser who slipped by my awesome new spam filter–and then again and got his email read. What’s the possible angle in merely wanting me to link to a site, with the connection to me being the work of Francisco [Jose de] Goya [y Lucientes], an image of whose I included in an earlier post?
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, “Two Old Men Eating,” 1819-1823, exemplifies Goya’s use of the grotesque to interrogate broad human concerns within specific historical and social conditions, even in the “black” period that suggests suppression of all context.
I visited the site and read Artsy’s mission: “Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. We are a resource for art collecting and education.” Considering that the vast collection of resources made this simple and rather noble mission seem, in fact, to be what is on Artsy’s mind, I told Theo, sure, I’ll even write a little post about Goya, the fact that I’ve got a poster of the famous “Saturn” about a few feet from my shoulder where I do most of my writing these days, but when I went to get these Goya images as free downloads, I got carried away.
Goya, “Saturn Devouring One of His Sons,” 1819 – 1823
The image quality is excellent, and just about everything I could think to look for was available, curated with information about the artists. Furthermore, the site isn’t just a museum of the “masters”–that’s one small section. A great deal of the site is dedicated to contemporary artists, both well-known and emerging, whom one can “follow” through the site. Thus, the site offers classical and contemporary education–and a chance to shape the the art world by participating in spreading word about images you think matter.
Yeah, okay, I’m endorsing, but they’re not paying me. I just like the idea of combining well-informed curation with exposure both to the experience of and for the judgment of anyone who cares enough to look. Artsy has the potential to combine the inherently liberating power of art with the inherently democratizing power of the web, in both of which I will believe until I die, as do or did many of the artists on the site, and some of them–believing in the former ideal at least–died horribly as a result.
So I decided to see whether, with the list of names in my head, I could put together a quick historical overview of Classics to get a would-be serious Goth/Horror Nerd started, and sure enough, Artsy had everything my mental list spat out.
Nightmares as the subject of visual art likely begin with cave paintings, but the first master is arguably Hieronymous Bosch. Here’s “Death and the Miser,” 1485 – 1490ish
A Hieronymous Bosch triptych, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” circa 1505 – 1515. The closer you look, the weirder it gets, but the third panel, of course, anticipates Surrealism by four centuries. My favorite Artsy Bosch isn’t available for download.
Important for anyone with horrors of body snatchers, Rembrandt [Harmensz van Rijn]’s “The Anatomy Lesson [of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp],” 1632, is required viewing. Even painting this controversy was daring.
Salvator Rosa’s often demonic imagery isn’t widely represented on Artsy, but that it makes an appearance at all is impressive. Here’s “Jason and the Dragon,” 1663 – 1664.
[Giovanni Battista] Piranesi, long before M.C. Escher picked up a pencil, joined his contemporaries Horace Walpole and William Beckford (who tried to build such things!) in contemplating Gothic ruins, and haunted geometries began to emerge, as in “The Sawhorse,” 1761. The roots of cosmic horror?
Used and imitated on more gothic/horror-genre book covers than perhaps any other image, Henry Fuseli’s 1781 “The Nightmare” may be the definitive painting on the subject, at least from a Romantic point of view.
Thanks to Jacques Louis David’s just-in-time 1793 depiction “Death of Marat,” Jean-Paul Marat‘s may be the most famous suicide ever.
William Blake’s “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun,” 1805. If you claim to care about fantasy art and don’t know Blake images, you fail. Thomas Harris used the Biblical passage and the painting in RED DRAGON; I am merely using the passage in MANUFACTURING MIRACLES. And yes, he’s the same guy who looks like Johnny Depp and says, “My name is William Blake. Do you know my poetry?” And something about tygers.
Eugene Victor Ferdinand Delacroix, “Death of Sardanapalus, ” 1827, presages how the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and almost unending violence of the early nineteenth century in France help explain its literary beginning with De Sade and ending with Grand Guignol. The conditions of experience change the conditions of thought. This art shows us one trail through history, a Gothic trajectory that I will let Goya’s work “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” 1796 – 1798, the next image, summarize.
Finally, although Artsy doesn’t offer as many (or any) free downloads from contemporary artists or recent artists whose work has not entered the public domain (reasons obvious–artists and their families depend on this stuff for their livings!), their collection of more recent work is astounding. I did a quick check on established favorites, which I shall represent by plugging good books (both available on Amazon!), but clicking their images will take you to the Artsy artist profiles.
If you don’t know the photography of Cindy Sherman (1954 – ), you have missed one of the great phenomena of the last century.
Cover art (lower image) by the Chapman Brothers, Jake and Dinos, click the cover for staggering images