Sunday, 26 April 2009


“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” - Benjamin Disraeli

We had our first truly winter’s day here in Melbourne today with rain, cold and wind. A little early this year, but we should all get used to the wildly changing climate around the world. And it’s going to get worse in the years ahead…

For Art Sunday today, Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). He was a French artist, one of the leading Symbolists. He was a pupil of Chassériau and was influenced by his master's exotic Romanticism, but Moreau went far beyond him in his feeling for the bizarre and developed a style that is highly distinctive in subject and technique. His preference was for mystically intense images evoking long-dead civilizations and mythologies, treated with an extraordinary sensuousness, his paint encrusted and jewel-like. Although he had some success at the Salon, he had no need to court this as he had private means, and much of his life was spent in seclusion. In 1892 he became a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts and proved an inspired teacher, bringing out his pupils' individual talents rather than trying to impose ideas on them. His pupils included Marquet and Matisse, but his favorite was Rouault, who became the first curator of the Moreau Museum in Paris (the artist's house), which Moreau left to the nation on his death. The bulk of his work is preserved there.

The work here is his “Perseus and Andromeda” of 1870. It illustrates the Greek myth, which is so reminiscent of the story of St George and the Princess:

Cepheus and Cassiopeia the king and queen of Ethiopia had a daughter called Andromeda. Andromeda was beautiful. Cassiopeia was proud of her daughter and boasted about her beauty constantly. Cassiopeia even said that Andromeda was more beautiful than all the daughters of Poseidon the sea god. This made them very angry, so Poseidon decided to punish Cassiopeia. Poseidon sent a huge sea monster (called the Kraken) to ravage the land of Ethiopia. In order to calm Poseidon down, Andromeda was to be sacrificed to the monster. Unable to change Poseidon's mind, she was chained to a large rock by the seashore to await her fate.

Luckily Perseus happened to be flying by. He had winged sandals! He was carrying with him the severed head of the Gorgon, Medusa. It had snakes for hair and was so ugly that any creature that gazed directly at it was turned to stone. Perseus saw Andromeda and the dangerous position she was in. With quick thinking he uncovered the head of Medusa, pointing it straight at the eyes of the sea monster. Just in the nick of time the sea monster turned to stone. Perseus and Andromeda fell in love and were married to save the kingdom. The Greeks said that when Perseus, Andromeda and Cassiopeia died their images were put into the night sky as constellations of stars.

Enjoy your week!

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