Sunday, 13 September 2009

Revolution Embodied

The iconic Nightmare of Johann Fuseli has had a great impact, spawning various copies and pastiches and providing cover material for many books on vampires and related subjects as noted here. As mentioned in that post, it inspired Danish painter Nicolai Abildgaard. A current retrospective exhibion of his art in Copenhagen focuses on the recurring themes of his opus, including his depiction of 'the body in pieces', and his interest in apparitions from e.g. Shakespeare and Ossian, 'the ghost of tradition'.

His Nightmare painting, however, is exhibited under the theme 'Eroticism, Love and Relief'. Studying the painting in the context of other of his works, it looks slightly more crude, as if Abildgaard did not pay as much attention to finish and detail when painting it, and that probably explains the red outlines of the female bodies that puzzled me in my original post.

In the accompanying catalogue, an art historian theorizes that the painting itself alludes to Abildgaard himself and his two wives. According to this theory, the nightmarish troll should be the artist himself sitting on top of his second and much younger wife, with whom he spent a happy time during the last years of his life. The other woman who has turned her back on him then should be his first wife who left him for another man. Whether you find this interpretation pertinent or not, the painting is as evocative as some of the other variants of this popular motif. And once you have grown aware of it, you will notice that the motif crops up inmovies now and then.

For the exhibition a number of vides have been produced, like on this page where you will find some of the more ghostly painting accompanied by music.

The exhibition by the way includes an interesting sample from Abildgaard's own library, as well as a time line of most of the 18th century and the early 19th century, allowing one to follow Danish and international politics, art and science contemporary to the development of the vampire from the Visum et Repertum and the early vampire debate into a theme of art and literature.

1 comment:

Niels K. Petersen said...

Another example just cropped up in another blog.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...