“Now focus your mind’s eye on what I say,”
he said, “and you will clearly understand
the error of the blind who lead the blind.”
“It should be clear to you by now how blind
to truth those people are who make the claims
the every love is, in itself, good love.”
“Surely,” said, I, “surely that is something
at my window lattice; Let me see, then
what thereat is, and this mystery explore.”
In my imagination there took shape
the impious deed committed by that being
transformed into the bird that lives to sing:
my mind became, at this point, so withdrawn
into itself that the reality
of things outside could not have entered there.
Then poured into my soaring fantasy,
a figure crucified, whose face revealed
contempt and fury even as he died.
“On this home by Horror haunted . . .”
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; . . .
It is fun how we can live our entire lives and not know that there is an artist, author or some creator that will blow our minds away with their work. It seems that as I get older, to my delight, I find more and more of these people in the world. Several years ago it was the writer Neil Gaiman. I know, it was not until I finished school that I learned of the awesome works of Neil Gaiman and now I have read just about everything of his there is to read including all four volumes of the Sandman series. This summer I found the etchings of John Taylor Arms at the National Gallery of Art. Now I wish to share with you another artist, Paul Gustave Dore.
I found him this summer, while researching Dante Aligheri as I was reading the Inferno. In researching I found this illustration of a lost pilgrim (Dante) in a dark and lonely forest and thought it to be wondrous and perfect imagery for the text of the Inferno. Little did I know that there would be more illustrations such as this to compliment not only the first volume of the Divine Comedy, but for all three volumes, Purgatory and Paradise. Again, as in the case of the work of John Taylor Arms, the attention is in the details of his work. When you look at one of his illustrations you can see the amount of time, energy and patience he put into it as you can feel that energy pervade out of it. The work is like magic like the words are poetry.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love using my imagination when every I can in reading poetry, prose, short stories or novels, but there is a different experience when you have images such as these from an artist such as Dore. There is a quality that comes with them and an experience that follows. It is art and poetry combined into one symphony that any person whom appreciates the macabre will enjoy. The gothic appeal is strong in his work as he shows the beauty in the tragedy.
Here is a brief biography on Dore.
Born in Strasbourg, France on January 6, 1832, Dore made a name for himself as a prolific artist, illustrator, engraver and sculptor, but he worked primarily with wood and steel engravings. His artistic talent was recognized at an early age by his parents and friends. When he was 14 his parents moved to Paris. While out walking he saw in the window of a publishing company engravings to match different works of literature. Knowing he could do a better job he brought his work to the shop the next day and showed them to the publisher, Charles Philipon. Philipon was amazed by what the young Dore had to show him, but thought the work to be was too good for the hand of a teenager. After Dore proved the illustrations to be his own he was given a job.
Early in his career he was commissioned to illustrate the works of Lord Byron, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and the The Old Testament of the Bible (1866), which made him famous not only in France, but around the world. What he is most known for, however, are his illustrations for Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost and Poe’s poem, The Raven. In his life, he illustrated more than 200 books and thousands of illustrations.
He was a workaholic and managed to produce a lifetime of work in a short life. He died after a brief illness at the age of 51 in 1883. He grave can be found in the Pere Lachaise Cemetary in Paris.
His work is unequally in talent and imagination as he brings to life the very wonders of the classical works we still love and read today. As soon as I discovered that there is for sale as book of his illustrations to the entire Divine Comedy, I knew I could not finish the 100 cantos without his art. I find it difficult to understand how one person could produce so much work and have each one be excellent and amazing.
Recently I bought his work on Poe’s The Raven, which is one of my single favorite pieces of writing. His work is deep and thoughtful, complete and emotional. He seems to be able to draw out with an illustration the same passion and imagination that the author wrote in with words. The many collections he created are a testament to his talent, dedication and respect to his craft and the works of others. He was born with a unique talent that few have ever had. We are luck that at an early age he recognized that talent and was able to pursue it until the day he died.
Please share with me your thoughts on Dore’s work and any artists you think share his abilities and passion.
“But who are you, so eager to inquire
about us here — you with your eyes unsewn,
so I would guess, and breathing out your words?”
“Be proud, then! Onward, haughty heads held high,
you sons of Eve! Yes, never bow your head
to see how evil is the road you tread!”
“The more one learns,
The more one comes to hate the waste of time.”
How do paintings feel so strange and alive?
Out-living their creators as they strive to survive.
We – stare and wonder with hearts corrupt
Almost expecting a change with movements abrupt.
Expecting smoke from a chimney
A foot out the door
Movement through a window
Or steps on the floor
A lonely house in the distance
Covered in rain as it softly begins to pour.
I’ve nearly scene a person adjust themselves in a chair
Witnessed a woman brush back her forever, falling, hair.
I swear I’ve seen a man blink his eyes to see
And heard them both whisper and plea, “please rescue me.”
Strange thought to beget in a fragile human mind,
Trapped in its own frame away from the answers it tries to find.
How can an artist create such a Thing?
A photograph in this world created from a dream,
The memory of a bird and the song it is meant to sing,
Or is it the recording of a voice, fragile in its scream.
There is the absence of the creator in the image of their art.
Mixed with the feeling of power come bleeding from their heart.
“When our mind, far straying from the flesh,
less tangled in the network of its thoughts,
becomes somehow prophetic in its dream.”
~ Canto IX; Purgatory
Like a scenery of great birds,
On a snow fallen sunset,
Where your memory and words have met.
A vision that may never seem,
To be more than a soft escaped dream.
But please pause for a tune,
When next you see the full moon.
Imagination is one part, memory the other,
Let them meet and dance together.
Share your time and plant your sage,
To find songs from the heart, then words on a page.
Happy Full Moon,