Friday, March 13, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Pietro Annigoni

Annigoni. I'd almost forgotten about this portrait painter. He was practically a household name in the UK, back in the day, after his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II were unveiled. He painted other members of the British Royal Family too. His two portraits of the Queen, some years apart, gathered a lot of publicity. Whereas the first (right) was greeted warmly the second (below) was heavily criticised at unveiling, but has, in later years, garnered praise.

Many of Annigoni's subjects were powerful, illustrious characters - popes, royalty, aristocrats. His portraits of American presidents have graced the covers of Time magazine. In later life, grown weary of portrait painting, he retired to Italy and resumed his earlier passion - painting church frescoes. He once said "I get a little bored with human vanity. I honestly prefer these old saints of mine."

Although he gained acclaim as a painter of royalty, Annigoni chose his subjects from a cross section of humanity, painting what interested him. He was not impressed by pomp and ceremony, and maintained relationships, never losing the common touch from his early days as a struggling artist.

Annigoni was something of a rebel - or perhaps reactionary would be a better description. He rebelled against most of his contemporaries - artists who were involved in modernism, abstract art, surrealism - all trying new ideas. Annigoni preferred to stay with tradition and realism. He challenged the modernists in essays, alienated critics - yet flourished.

"I am convinced that all the work of the avant-garde today is the poisoned fruit of one of the worst spiritual decays with all the consequences of a tragic loss of love for life". (Annigoni)

"Annigoni will remain in the history of art as the dissenter in a dark age for painting". (Bernard Berenson)

Given what I know about this artist, what would I expect to see in his natal chart?
I suspect that Saturn will be somehow important. Saturn rules tradition, and Annigoni's art is nothing if not traditional. I might expect Uranus to be doing something interesting. Although Uranus represents modernity, it also relates to rebellion - not going with the flow. Let's see:

Sun in Gemini, Moon too, but we can't know Moon's degree without a time of birth. The chart is set for 12 noon, so the rising sign is inaccurate, but planets in signs are correct. Sun and Moon in Gemini, along with Pluto - a powerful communicator - here's where his essays against his critics came from! Mercury, Venus and Saturn all in Taurus, the sign ruled by Venus, planet of the arts - how very appropriate here! And Saturn, planet of tradition and reality sitting there, so close to Venus signifies his strong attachment to traditional style.

Uranus in Capricorn (ruled by Saturn) is opposing Mars and Neptune in Cancer - this is almost as though the modernity of Uranus is overcome by Capricorn and challenges Neptune's imagination, (which isn't a necessary component in realistic art), Uranus also opposes Mars, which can represent progress and movement; the opposite of movement in art? Remaining with the traditional !

So the elements I expected to see in Annigoni's chart are indeed present.


anthonynorth said...

Strange how remaining with tradition can be seen as reactionary, but so true.
A great contradiction of postmodernism, me thinks.

Wisewebwoman said...

he always captured something extra in his portraits, T, as if he had an inner eye. He brought their secrets out. Maybe I'm being fanciful but that's what I see in his work.

Twilight said...

AN ~~~Yes - although the term postmodernism always confuses me - and whenever I've looked it up for clarification I've been no wiser!

WWW ~~~ I know what you mean. I suppose that's the mark of a great portrait artist. There's a kind of magic going on, and sharp insight - so much more to portrait painting than just the ability to paint a picture. :-)