Friday, June 28, 2013

Arty Farty Spyday

As espionage is currently in the news, courtesy of Edward Snowden, I thought I'd take a look to see whether, over the centuries, spying has ever inspired artistic endeavours. It has been said that spying ties for first place with prostitution for the "Oldest Profession" award, so I'd expect some artist somewhere, at sometime, would have been sufficiently inspired to show it to us.

Several pieces of art depicting spying, found via Google Image, related to a Biblical story telling how Moses sent 12 spies, a man from each tribe, to suss out the land of Canaan. Their task: to find out about the land and its people. Did they live in cities or in camps? What the fruit of the land was like, and if they had forests or not. He asked them to bring back some of the fruit found there. Lots of illustrations show the men returning with grapes etc. I chose these rather more "arty" examples instead:

Escape of the Spies from Canaan by James James Lesesne Wells (1932)

The Spies Escape by Frederic Lord Leighton (1881)

Moving away from biblical stories, there's this, from India:

Krishna spies on Radha from the rooftop, Punjab Hills, Nurpur, India circa 1710.

There's also The Spy by Arthur David McCormick (1860-1943)

For a more contemporary take:
As part of the 2009 centenary celebrations of the British Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, artist James Hart Dyke was invited to record their work in a series of paintings and sketches. This unique project saw James working closely with SIS for a year, both in the UK and abroad. Given the sensitivity of the work, James had to observe the need for secrecy and his access to SIS was carefully controlled. Whilst the paintings do not identify actual officers, agents, operations, or actual events, James managed to produce a series of images illustrating this unusual and secretive world. (See HERE)

One of the paintings by James Hart Dyke

And, perhaps also relating to that centenary:

The Spy of Her Majesty by Eugene Ivanov (2009)

Finally, a painting closer to home - actually at home in fact. I featured it in one of my first Arty Farty Friday posts, in 2007. It does fit today's category so:

The Powers Trial

An oil painting by Himself - my husband. He painted it sometime in the early 1960s and called it The Powers Trial. (A larger view should be available by clicking on the picture).

When I first noticed this painting it was stored in a closet with a pile of others a young Himself had worked on many years ago. I liked it immediately for the shapes and colours. I later discovered that the main figure represents Francis Gary Powers, the U.2 pilot shot down while flying over Soviet Union airspace on May 1, 1960, sparking one of the greatest international crises of the Cold War. Husband said that for some reason the trial of Powers had affected him deeply, and this painting was more of a doodle than a serious painting about it. He just started drawing shapes on canvas one day and ended up sketching directly with oil colour.

I'm not sure the detail will show clearly on computer screen, but the scales of justice appear in the centre, some heads of observers in the background, representing the eyes of the world upon the proceedings, and a small depiction of Powers' wife in the lower left square. The figure to the left represents an attorney.

Gary Powers was born on 17 August 1929 in Jenkins, Kentucky. On the date Powers was shot down, 1 May 1960, his natal Pluto at 18* Cancer was being opposed by transiting Saturn at 18* Capricorn - such an opposition between two powerful planets might well be significant here. Saturn represents the law, limitation, and possibly imprisonment. Pluto is the modern ruler of Scorpio, said to represent, among other things, secrets and spying.

When Powers returned to the USA (as part of an East/West spy-swap) he was criticised for not ensuring that the revolutionary plane was destroyed, or killing himself with a suicide pin or pill. Powers was cold-shouldered by his former employers at the CIA. He died in 1977 at the age of 47 when a TV news helicopter he was piloting crashed in Los Angeles. On May 1, 2000, U.S. officials presented Powers' family with his posthumously awarded Prisoner-of-War Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the National Defense Service Medal.
Info. from


mike said...

Here's a precocious article written in 2006, "Hey, Kids: Spying Is Fun!":!/

The links are still active!

Twilight said...

mike ~ Goodness me! I guess we should be relieved that the kids were encouraged to investigate only one of the joint holders of the World's Oldest Professions Award - though no doubt they'd get around to studying some of the other soon enough with no outside encouragement. ;-)