Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Indigestion” (And A Victorine Meurent Update!)

I have an upset stomach right now, so I am going to cheat a little bit and just recommend another blog today. But I am going to do a little blogging.

First of all, I’ve mentioned in a post last week that I’m an idiot and that’s pretty much why I have a stomach ache. This summer, I’ve had terrible allergy attacks. I’ve always noticed that my allergies almost never act up if I manage my blood sugar carefully and prepare my meals carefully.

Sounds simple.

So, today was going really well. I was feeling good. Then, at some point I thought, “Well, if I’m feeling good, maybe I could have just a bit of candy.”

So I had a piece of chocolate. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon I polished off something like eight ounces of Hershey miniatures.

And now I’ve got an upset stomach. Surprise, surprise.

Why would I even buy candy? Why would I have candy in the house? I’m an idiot.

Serves me right.

Okay. Anyway.

Recently reading around on the internet I saw the word “indigestion” applied in an interesting context and since I’ve got an upset stomach, I’m going to share where I read about “indigestion.”

Look at this painting:

This was painted by a British artist right around the time Impressionism was happening in France. The Pre-Raphaelites in Britain attempted to embrace some of the elements of Impressionism, but they did it after their own fashion.

So, although this painting may have been started in the open air and may have depicted an actual location in England—and featured more or less “common” looking people as subjects—it is in no way an attempt to capture an actual “moment” of real life or an impression of a moment.

This artist—Holman Hunt—crafted this painting as an allegory. It’s called “The Hireling Shepherd.” His intention was for the shepherd to represent the “establishment” of British clergy turning their attention to “lofty ideals” while their flocks strayed and suffered from inattention.


Bright colors. A “natural” scene and “common” people pretty much summed up this British approach to Impressionism. Nobody, today, would see much Impressionism here, I don’t think, but British art critics responded to the Pre-Raphaelites with a similar derision to what the “real” Impressionists were dealing with in France.

British art critics looked at paintings like this and said the colors gave them indigestion.

Winsor and Newton has an article on the Pre-Raphaelites at their website. The company was around back then [!] and worked with influential avant-garde artists to develop bright colors and permanent colors.

So something good came of such paintings.

Here’s the link:

William Holman Hunt & The Pre-Raphaelites Colour Palettes

Now I’m going to bed early. Tomorrow I’m going to try and be better about not eating stupid things.

Oh man. And I once built a whole tongue-in-cheek blog post around the punchline that just because you can eat something, that doesn't mean you should!

The real moral of the Little Red Riding Hood mythos is: Just because something looks good that doesn’t mean you should eat it.

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Wednesday Update

It’s worth noting that the painting style of the Pre-Raphaelites was a painterly approach to what modern photographers call a “high dynamic range” image. I mentioned this topic in Motion Beyond The Fox Point.

In a high dynamic range image, all areas of the image are treated as mid-values, and “lights” and “darks” are treated as variations within that mid-value range rather than abstract extremes, so there is no washing out of color saturation in the brights, and no obscuring loss of saturation in the darks.

This is quite in contrast to the various approaches of chiaroscuro in art history, which used—either rationally or intuitively—theory of light on form to craft images which seemed to exist in deep space and with dramatic, three-dimensional form.

I’m not going to dwell on it here, but this a very interesting area. Manet, of course, was criticized in France for doing the opposite of this, focusing on brights and darks and hardly rendering mid-tones.

European old masters typically worked with an abstract range—the light, the half-tones, shadows and reflected light. This has continued even into the modern world where a lot of graphic arts, for instance a lot of classic-style comics work, simplifies that traditional range to only two values, the lights and the darks, and then uses white for anything in the light and black for anything in the dark.

That abstract approach to image making seems to be consistent with the mechanics of human perception. And if the edges of the light and dark areas are considered very carefully, we can sometimes “see” much more detail than the image actually contains.

And that’s why modern high-dynamic range photographs (and Pre-Raphaelites paintings) have a kind of unworldly glow to them. They are consistent with how we think about a scene, but quite at odds with how we perceive a scene.

Now high-dynamic range images are a fun novelty. In nineteenth century England and elsewhere they were something like literally unreal, and they generated the extreme reactions from, I believe, what we would now call the cognitive dissonance between critics’ understanding of images-as-perceived and images which played something like perceptual games with our reactions to light and dark and color.

Wide Dynamic Range at Wikipedia

High Dynamic Range Imaging at Wikipedia

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Yet Still More Wednesday Update

Oh boy. In the course of looking around at examples of Manet’s focusing on highlights, I just found a photography blog that does a post with a photograph of Victorine Meurent [!!!] and includes some great modern updating of Meurent’s life and reputation, apparently quoting a British newspaper. For instance, this tidbit:

It was more than a century after Edouard Manet's death that the art historian Eunice Lipton discovered that his model, Victorine Meurent, had actually lived to be 83. And it seems unlikely that she was his grisette - a young woman in a casual relationship with an artist - let alone a prostitute. Manet died at 51 from complications related to treatment for syphilis, then an incurable disease. If there had been a sexual relationship, Meurent would probably have died far earlier than she did.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009: Victorine Meurent

Quote apparently taken from here:

Manet's favourite model, Victorine Meurent, has often been dismissed as a drunk and a prostitute. But as V R Main discovers, she was actually an ambitious artist

The Guardian, Thursday 2 October 2008

Amazon link to V. R. Main's book:

A Woman With No Clothes On

4/18/13 Apology: That photograph is NOT Victorine Meurent. It is the wife of photographer Nadar, Ernestine Nadar. For an explanation, see my post Notes From France! (Victorine Meurent Update!). I should read what I write. What did I quote myself saying, above? Just because something looks good that doesn’t mean you should eat it. Indeed.

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