As Meryl Streep has noted, seniority ebbs with the passage of time, but old age demands a closer regard for the timing. In the middle of the last century, some schools were still defining "Art" as the human endeavours attached to painting, sculpture, music and theatre. The original Latin word "ars" was more broadly interpreted as a business or trade governed by traditional rules of craftsmanship. Today, the word embraces much more than drawing a line, and may be the product of limited talent as well as immoral or amoral thinking. For these reasons, some old-timers, such as Rod, have come to feel redundant if not anachronistic.
Even Digital Art can be anachronistic when it combines people, places or things blatantly out of phase in terms of time. Such scenes are asynchronous as opposed to synchronous, which means sharing the same phase or period of creation. There is a current tendency towards overvalue that which is "contemporary" a word synonymous with "synchronous."
This pen and ink drawing by British caricaturist Ronald Searle, shows that juxtaposition of time periods can have humouous as well as unsettling effect. This cartoon does require context from two periods in time to be truly funny. "Nothing becomes obsolete like a period vision of an older period", writes Anthony Grafton. If one knows nothing of American author James Thurber's efforts as a cartoonist... Attempts to engage a present-day audience using anachronism can fall as flat as yesterday's news. Similarly, styles of visual art, like dogs, have their day!
This Searle coloured cartoon requires an understanding of Greek mythology and French culinary habits. The creator god Chronos or Khronos was Grecian but known in Roman myth as Saturn. Fearful of being overthrown by his own children he ate them not long after birth. "Cronus represented the destructive ravages of time which consumed all things, a concept that was definitely illustrated when the Titan king devoured the Olympian gods — the past consuming the future, the older generation suppressing the next generation. During the Renaissance, the identification of Cronus and Chronos gave rise to 'Father Time' wielding the harvesting scythe."
Rod became aware of all this nonsense when he took a Grade 9 non-mandatory class entitled "Myths & Legends of Greece and Rome" organized by Miss Alma Douglas. This is the Goya painting, which seems to have some current relevance if one happens to have noticed that some folk are trying hard to recreate themselves as men or women like gods and goddesses. May they all soon rest in peace.
What's wrong with harbouring great expectations? Probably everything since it can lead to sociopathic behaviour, which may eventually be rebranded Trumpism. Interestingly, the painter Charles Hermans was an elitist and not a humanist.
Dewey was a liberal Democrat, a humanist and an atheist. Lev Grossman born in 1969 is an American novelist and journalist, notably the author of the novels Warp, Codex, The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician's Land. He is a senior writer and book critic for TIME. - Wikipedia. What he says about books applies equally to non-elitist paintings.
The psychologist Carl Jung believed that synchronism was an extreme example of coincidence and a force for coherence and organization in a chaotic world. Sociopaths need synchronitic support: "These are hardworking Americans, and they're here to see me and root me on and encourage me and kind of revive my momentum." These god-driven people can never have too much unity of purpose. Again, this cartoon juxtaposition demands some knowledge of times past and literature.
Rod's anachronistic cartoon from days long past, based upon Searle's work has no currency since the radio broadcast called " Texaco's Sunday Afternoon At The Opera" is long gone. Also departed at the age of 93: Anna Russell, an English–Canadian singer and comedian. She gave many singular concerts in which she sang and played comic musical sketches on the piano often making fun of opera. An accomplished wind player, composer, lyricist and singer, she derided her own abilities. She had abroad voice and presence, Challenged by Wagnerites who felt she was ridiculing sacred art, she replied: "I merely tell the story as accurately as possible and play the bits of music exactly as written. I can't help it if the story is absurd." Rod saw her in three performances, the best at Mount Allison in 1954.
This was penned in the 1960s, but even Rod finds it enigmatic and not humourous. Posted on his web site it was googled through "Ronald Searle."
In the last century Searle did a large number of cartoon ads for featuring Lemon Hart as a proponent of Lamb's Navy Rum. This one makes it clear that anachronism is only a nano-second away from contemporary. Henry Who?
Searle is among those Fine Cartoonists rejected by Fine Art
critics when he attempted a turn-coat career. With hindsight, Rod says he wish he had gone low-brow. Fine art had been relentlessly parodied and not without justification.
Lemon Hat was never completely elitist. "Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler . Snicket is the pen name for several children's books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Is this synchronism in operation?
The cost of upkeep for elite art is enormous. The good news? The elite collectors and their advisers can't allow degradation of this investment.
Here's the rub! Emotional reaction! How can you spot anachronistic art? It has to be guarded in museums. Anachronistic artists, like Rod, have also had retrospective exhibitions.
Rod remembers that art students actually "improved" paintings on view in public exhibitions. Anarchistic, but no one ever noticed or complained or got expelled. Imagined sexual immorality: yes; Fine art defacement: no. A few of these students went on to social and financial glory! In Rod's day, few artist wannabes bothered copying stuff in the permanent collection or in touring exhibitions and had free rein to paint in public! Hope this is "Only in England."
Rod has a huge collection of virtual and real visual anachronisms, and is willing to share, since he would have to be immortal to edit all these files. Contact him at email@example.com
Thankfully nobody does know what's going to happen tomorrow. The past is a clouded memory for most of us mere mortals and "contemporary" time is an illusion. Rod does not agree that seeking compensation turns a hobby into an industry and not many hobbyists are true radical3. The rationale for handwork is self-serving; sometimes it is simply an attempt to determine where one has come from and what might be the best route to follow if the befinde allow.
Born in the 1930s Rod was exposed to Art Deco products and the Modernist Art Movement, which had commenced a few decades earlier. The reference to "Mac" in the above Searle cartoon has nothing to do with the Apple computer. The Mackintosh or raincoat was first sold in 1824, and was made of rubberized fabric. The Scottish inventor was Charles Macintosh. The variant spelling of "Mackintosh" is now standard. The Macintosh (branded as Mac since 1998) is a series of personal computers originally identified at the McIntosh Apple. The name was misspelled so often, the company bent with the wind. Now that is synchronosity. All of the above cartons are "in jokes" which are probably mostly anachronistic? Like Anna Russell, Searle caricatured and reported rather than as opposed to the leftist and rightest distortions seen in sculptural art of that time. By 1970, Modern Art had been critically declared "a dead dog."
Post Modernism did no make millionaires of every aspiring visual artist and that hula hoop had a shorter run in time than Modern Art. The aspiring are now anachronistic and dining at the Dead Dog Cafe on a flat surreal plain along with proponents of earlier "isms." Redundancy is marked by acceptance by the elite, malffluence and the storage of work in museums.
Some ideas about the visual arts are illusionary. The United States never did have a period of unmitigated greatness. Similarly, as James M. Whistler has said, "Listen! There never was an artistic period. There never was an art loving nation." Richard Attenborough insisted that "Art is not an elitist gift for a few select people. Art is for everyone." Do you buy into that idea? Most visual artist/gnomes (like Shepard Fairey) agree that "...there has always been a disconnect with the elitist structure of the high art world." The unshrived public does not relate in any way to this minority pursuit and the study of art history is anachronistic unless artworks are a part of one's portfolio. For the record, spelling, drawing, engraving and painting once had magico/socio intentions and was used by aspiring mortal god kings to rise through the ranks. Exhibiting special skills was seen as proving a close relationship with a deity or deities.
Following a brief run down of major art movements in literate times. Charts are by Andrew Bardsley. Illustrations are stolen from the web. Even in the earliest times it appears that almost every "ism" was tried. The record is far from complete!
The Renaissance is sometimes cited as the period in which high art flourished. While there was state patronage, artists were often as destitute as at present, unless they had other work or wealthy, well-connected relatives. Like the creation of the universe, the development of "isms" was probably unnoticed by a majority and regarded as a bad move by others. One person's god can be another's demon. The "ism" can describe political and social, as well as art movements, e.g. "fascism."
The "isms" really got out of hand in the century just past. This chart represents a mere handful of the movements which developed after 1870. None were completely extinguished but all did become anachronistic. Some critics say we are now in a Post-Post Modernist period, whose characteristic are fluid and uncertain.
The following series was penned in 1955. Whatever the timeline, the rise of god-kings of visual as well as political art is invariably the same. Ronald Searle was a British artist and satirical cartoonist, who was born into a working class family in 1920. An obsessive scribbler he trained at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) for two years when he was 15 years of age. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he joined the army and was assigned to Singapore where he was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese for most of the war. In late 1945 with the final defeat of the Japanese. After the war, he served as a courtroom artist at the Nuremberg trials. He did keep busy, but was frustrated by his lack of elitist connections and abandoned Britain for France in 1961. He died in 2011 at the age of 91.
After moving to Paris in 1961, he worked more on reportage for Life and Holiday and less on cartoons. He also continued to work in a broad range of media and created books , animated films and sculpture for commemorative medals, both for the French Mint and the British Art Medal Society. In France he made an abortive attempt to emulate Picasso. He was a bit bitter when it came to the elitist British art school system and that shows in these cartoons, based upon Hogarth's famous "Rake's Progress" paintings.
The Hogarth canvases were produced in 1732–33, then engraved and published in print form in 1734. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bethlem Hospital, or Bedlam. As Searle saw it, the fate of his young British artist was far worse.
"Searle wasn't happy. He felt trapped, both at home and at work. He came to realize that he didn't enjoy the limelight. Protective of his artistic freedom, he felt engulfed by the demands of work and stifled by the way British publications tended to pigeonhole cartoonists." Successful within his sphere he nevertheless reacted by abandoning his homeland and family for France. The more liberal French showed their gratitude for his years of residence there by granting him, in 1973, an exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale – the first non-French living artist to be so honoured. Obviously, British art and art critics were a turn off for Searle.
Of course it can get worse! . "In 1967 Searle secured a divorce from Webb, married Koenig and moved from Paris to the village of Tourtour in Provence. He turned his professional attention away from Britain, completing numerous assignments for Holiday Magazine in the US, and notching up more cover designs for the New Yorker than he had done for Punch. From 1995, he contributed regular visual commentaries to the French newspaper Le Monde."
"His cartoon characters are almost always English: huge dowager ladies picking at tiny blackened fowl, while spiky waiters giggle maliciously behind their trays; ripe women whose black lips perch on their faces like butterflies; baffled, lovelorn trombonists; threadbare bank clerks with splinter feet... They wore delicately realized pointy shoes and seemed unaccountably oblivious to the abundant richness of their settings."
This series of drawings was part of a number of picture stories revealling the downward path of an actor, a clergyman, a doctor, a don, a girlfriend and a military man, in the short list. It was self published by Searle and his first wife.
Nothing bites Fine Art as cuttingly as outsider humour. Rockwell trained in Paris and noted, "Everyone in those days expected that art students were wild, licentious characters. We didn't know how to be, but we sure were anxious to learn... My best efforts were some modern things that looked like very lousy Matisses. Thank God I had the sense to realize they were lousy, and leave Paris... I can take a lot of pats on the back. I love it when I get admiring letters from people. And, of course, I'd love it if the critics would notice me, too."
The speed of change is so great, that some of the general public will not recognize these cast members of the once popular "Muppets" television show. Those are art/theatre critics blowing in the wind at upper left. Of course there are still some artists attempting to paint like Botticelli or Jackson Pollock."Sad!" as one Postmodernist politician likes to say.
"We," of course included the wealthy, self-promoting womanizer quoted above this cartoon. Chas Addams was not quite as confident in his craftsmanship as Searle but he had the cartoonist's collective view of Fine Art. E-Bay may offer democratic art products but those that auction for pennies do not have critical interest, and will never mix with this crowd.
There is success and SUCCESS. "What's wrong with being elitist if you are trying to encourage people to join the elite rather than being exclusive?" - Richard Dawkins. Ronald Searle could cite practical reasons why this might be impossible for some of the lower classes: During the 50's Searle was the illustrator for the theatre review column of British satirical magazine Punch. The theatre critic for that magazine was Eric Keown, "Although he loved the theatre he hated the job." Keown was 6' 7" and "the moment he came into the theatre and sat down, people behind him groaned." Sitting next to him with a flashlight, sketchbook and telescopic monocle, Searle was very busy and no more popular. At home, he would stay up until three in the morning to finish a cartoon to meet a 9 am deadline.
Searle never quite forgave theatrical posturing and in America later satirized Hollywood. He visited the Disney Studios there and is said to have influenced the style of creatures appearing on their Thousand And One Dalmatians. Who is that redhead, and what about Desi The Dog? Everyman's Best Friend?
Searle credited Picasso with starting a lot of things and finishing nothing. But then he did say, "To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic." But then, he also admitted, “I often paint fakes.” (i.e. copies). Picasso was still alive when Rod was 39 years of age. He was a bit older than Searle and lived most of his life in France. To get a smile from these pictures one needs to know the works of six artists, some now more anachronistic than Picasso.
Ronald Searle could do a fair job approximating the various "styles" of Picasso, which are really not extreme departures since there are bridging works connecting one "ism" with another.
Picasso sometimes pictured himself as a raging beast and this cartoon suggests that Searle in some ways related to that self-depiction. Searle's publishing business, Perpetua Books, published his own work and that of friends and heroes, such as Toulouse-Lautrec and the French cartoonist André François. "The human condition, man's inhumanity, and the Earth's fragile ecology continued to be subjects that excited him... to the outside world he appeared increasingly cantankerous, never meeting agents or editors, dealing with queries by fax alone, repulsing foot visitors and only emerging from the Searle eyrie in Haute Provence to fetch fresh supplies of champagne, his favourite tipple."
Mondrain was obsessed with boxes and Searle parodied his work (inset at centre). Seeing his increasingly vitriolic work, some wags said "this man is dangerous," and advised comfort seekers to avoid the tip of his drawing pen
American art and artists of all stripes were stabbed by him.
That's not universally true of all art patrons, but Warhol and Searle do have a point.When it comes to subject matter many Nova Scotian painters simply cannot escape the boxes in which they find themselves encased.
As for conceptual art: It is expensive, self-serving and boring. Live long enough and one does see visual art caught in a Moebius strip of ennui. There never was a great period for the arts. This was Halifax cartoonist Chamberlain railing against the not so visual art of some unremembered soul working at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design. With the advent of various kinds of Digital Art, conceptual art is endangered as an elitist endeavour.
Like normal folk, cartoonists have to struggle to keep their demons internalized. Searle's first wife was journalist Kaye Webb who he married in 1947. They had two twin children. In 1958, on one of his trips abroad, to Paris, Searle met theatre designer Monica Stirling and a few years later left England to live with her. She had a close call with cancer, at which time Searle created a number of cards for her. A survivor, Kaye when on to become the publisher of Puffin Books.
Artists tend to be remember posthumously and never reap the full benefits of work which sometimes greatly accrued in value in spite of being anachronistic. The questions for any redundant dude are "Why bother?" And if so, "How do I best ration the remaining time?" Molesworth (see above) has said, "Reality is so unspeakably sordid it makes me shudder." Actually it is not the state of things as they actually exist that is inexplicably "sordid." People comprise the state and they are the problem.
While we are considering anachronisms, let's have a brief look at "current" (as opposed to "contemporary" art)in Nova Scotia. Google-in and you get something like this, a decidedly populist right-wing collection of images including an aged Rod Mackay and an Alex Colville painting from even earlier times. Only two paintings are non-marine in subject. Most are wiggly-jiggly with inorganic "vibrant" colours. That's virtual reality!
Down the page: Some are very, very old paintings and some surprisingly derivative. Technically there are a few terrific painters out there, some survivors of NSCAD, Halifax. Still, a lot of water?
Painting can be rewarding. Flogging paintings, booooring! Even when there are sales. That is why there used to be "commercial art galleries" that made no pretense at disguising their intentions. Sadly, most are gone! I know, that's a conservative position and painters are supposed to be fearless anarchists. Of course there are the persistent myths of the unspoiled native and the unspoiled amateur artist to consider?
And the further myth that breathing plain air is superior to breathing stale air. It is, as a generalization, but not in the buggy or cold seasons in Nova Scotia. And too much sun is dangerous! Hey kids, don't trust anyone over 12, and remember that you should travel light? Pro artists are defined by their disinterest in carrying equipment unless they have a staff of busy bodies.
Sadly, my Lunenburg-based mother-in-law has had to lay aside her brush. When winter boxes one in, one had to paint within a box. On site aummerside painters are usually permitted to submit several "dry" works, which will hopefully sell at prices which will finance an overnight "mini vacation" in a neighbouring community. Up to three "wet" works are usual but these necessarily fall short of being master works and end up being auctioned at riduculously low prices considering the effort involved and the fact that income is shared wit the sponsors. For Rod, these efforts broke even financially and the exposure was usually woorth very little. Possibly, three commissions followed over the years.
This cartoon of a plein air street artist illustrtes the fact that some genre painters are in a bind for subject matter, and some probably have never routinely painted nature. Rod has seen cases where pre-painted land or sea-scapes, differing markedly in subject or weather details from that on-site have materialized on easels. When a ship is painted in harbour and moves on... There is fakery out there, and it can offer a smile for the observant onlooker.
If you think that the above kind of handwork is a bit weird and overvalued, consider the fact that Mary was only compensated by about this amount of cash for an original painting requiring hours of work. She used to sell truly remarkable miniature landscapes and seascapes for $45 framed, and that was not in the remote past!
In some parallel universe, it may be possible that April Wine is tapped from trees. Another quite useful backwater in an alternate chaotic world? It was a philsopher rather than a scientist, Oxford University professor Nick Bostrum, who forwarded the idea that all the mayhem in the universe made in probable that we live in a computer simulation perhaps mainpulated by members of an advanced future civilization. That idea is now anachronistic dating back a full 14 years. Why they would be interested in looking in on repetitive permutations of the evolution of the unintended is a question worth asking. The Celtic twin gods are said to have created the universe as they were suffering from boredom and ennui. Watching the Trump team in action is a relief?
American artist Edward Gorey was less political, but very aware that chaos was next door and a constant danger. Corinne Purtill notes that the idea that life might not be base reality "gained new life amid the what-the-hell-just-happened tenor of recent current events." Billionaire businessman Elon Musk wants to escape the confines of our matrix. He has a undergraduate degree in physics but declared in 2016 that we are all definitely trapped in an unreality show. Later, Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker wrote that stunning upsets in the 2016 US election, the Super Bowl, and the Academy Awards all made sense through the prism of simulation theory.
Does this really resonate with you? Following a really bad dream, it does for Rod; however he is reassured by the input of career scientists who took part in the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate on the subject at Natural Museum of History last year. Theoretical physicist Lis Radall said that the probability was "effectively zero." She did not that peole do have te capicty to do "amazing things" and that sometimes these constitute "mess up in spectacular ways." We can all be non-thinking entities! She added that, "Whether the system in question is a movie awards show, or democracy itself, it’s a lot easier to believe that we’re helpless cogs in the machine than people with the power to fix that machine... it would be more fruitful to focus on what we can do to avoid errors and improve the world, rather than attribute undesired or surprising results to external uncontrollable forces.”
Here is Rod's final thought on anachronisms! They persist! He was born in the Disney era. Alexander Colville's art teacher, Stanley Royale, was an admrer of Walt's work. Chew on that for a bit and consider the lyrics of that popular Art Deco song. They are on line. Then click next to see what happened, from a narrow point of view, back in the foxy twentieth century.