Friday, December 16, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Darkness at the Fin de Siècle

 The Dangerous Cooks by James Ensor 1896
This article from the BBC's website is an interesting read.

The Dark Side of the Belle Époque

Art at the turn of the last century was not all sun-kissed Monet gardens. It was a time of angst and decadence, expressed through some truly disturbing paintings, writes Fisun Güner:

When we think about art at the end of the 19th Century, who and what comes to mind? Monet and Impressionism, certainly. Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge, perhaps. Post-Impressionism, of course: Cézanne and his heavy-set card players or Mont Sainte-Victoire shimmering on the horizon, magnificent and majestic; Gauguin in his Tahitian paradise; or the last ravishing landscapes of Van Gogh, who died just as the last decade of the century ­was getting into its stride.

Art at the end of the 19th Century is as far removed from Monet’s sun-dappled garden as you can get

But when we think of the art that’s actually characterised as the art of the fin de siècle, particularly the last decade of that century, the mood changes, and it darkens. We think of the art of anxiety and angst, of drama and febrile tension, of an acute sense of alienation.

So why did artists revel in such outward expressions of unease and dislocation? In an era of relative peace and stability and, for the few, economic prosperity (an era named, after the destruction of the Great War, as the Belle Époque or Golden Age and which stretched from the 1870s to the war’s outbreak) the art of fin-de-siècle Europe expressed something contrary to those outward signs of confidence. These were anxieties connected with a sense of society’s spiritual emptiness and its growing materialism. This was a rejection of the idea that progress and reason, ideas which intellectuals had embraced and promoted since the 18th Century as Enlightenment ideals, could sustain the spirit.

It signalled a deeper anxiety: our inability to control our own destinies.

But perhaps, in a way, these were also anxieties exacerbated by the end of any century. It might sound a trivial connection, but in our own age we might think back to the alarm over the Millennium Bug, where people actually imagined planes falling out of the sky due to programs having accommodated only two digits instead of four (computers would think, when the hour struck, they were back in 1900).

It signalled a deeper anxiety that is perennial: our inability to know and control our own destinies. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? the title from an 1897 painting by Gauguin, seemed to capture this quest for that deeper knowledge – and he and many other artists of the time looked for answers not in science but in esoteric spirituality, in mysticism and often the occult.

Click on image for better view
 Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?   by  Paul Gauguin.

Several artists mentioned in the piece have been featured in Arty Farty Friday posts in the past - among others:

James Ensor
Aubrey Beardsley
Munch and Lautrec
Paul Gauguin

Astrologically, around the turn of 19/20th century, Neptune and Pluto were often conjuct and in communicative Gemini, while Saturn and Uranus were both traversing Scorpio. The four outermost planets, then, carried tinges of paranoia, via Pluto and Scorpio, and "fed" them into the communal atmosphere.


mike said...

The last decade of the nineteenth century was astrologically loaded. 1890 and 1891 brought the Neptune-Pluto synode in early Gemini, which occurs about every 500 years, so a major cycle concluded and began again. 1899's stellium in Sagittarius opposed Neptune and Pluto in Gemini:

1898 had Saturn in Sagittarius opposed Pluto, then opposed Neptune in 1899. Likewise, Uranus in Sagittarius opposed Pluto in 1901, then opposed Neptune in 1908, but with Uranus in Capricorn and Neptune in Cancer.

This link provides an overview of changes that occurred coincidental to this Neptune-Pluto synode:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for the extra astrology, and for the link (good website - have bookmarked it).

How's the water situation in your city today?

mike (again) said...

Water crisis is ongoing. Three suburbs have the all-clear, but they are on separate lines form the yuge water-main supplying most of the urban and other suburban zones. Interesting problem arose, because the chemical is proprietary, so city, county, and state officials had to consult with the patent holder and sign nondisclosure agreements, which has considerably slowed the analytical testing. Seems the patent holder is a bit of a tart, but the chemical injection wasn't their fault; it was the fault of the company using their chemical. So, everyone waits.

Rather surprising how fast bottled water was transported here from surrounding areas. Some is distributed free-of-charge, the bulk has been re-shelved at our local stores and can be purchased. Yesterday, it was everyone for themselves when it came to finding water for their personal use...many consumers purchasing yuge quantities. Don't count on your fellow man to share meager supplies should a disaster strike...LOL.

People are calmer today, but should this continue, nerves will fray. We had three water contamination (boil water) alerts last year and this year. This is the fourth alert within a short span, so citizens are pissed-off, though the same can be said of the first, second, or third alert.

We were a segment on ABC World News last night about the possible toxic injection into the tap water supply. David Muir stated that our recent bouts with these problems is attributable to our antiquated infrastructure from the 1950s. True, but there's a long story and I'll keep it short. Money for our infrastructure improvements were diverted from a property-tax-funded account about thirty years ago to temporarily pay for other city improvements. The temporary became permanent and about 40% of the money was never accounted or found. Apparently cities are cash cows for the criminally inclined, public-servant embezzler.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I'm not a bit surprised that people are feeling pissed off and abused - so they should! Infrastructure that old is bound to be prone to all kinds of problems. Hope you have sufficient aqua for your needs, and that supplies continue arriving. It's worrying enough to think that terrorists could effect such disasters, but when your own people do it....!!! GRRRR!