Friday, July 27, 2012

The Poet and the Muse

Inspired By(?) #6 or: Pyle inspired by …Moreau? …Delaunay?  …Chassériau?  …Leighton? …Hokusai

Howard Pyle

A young man (a poet?) embracing his elusive muse (personified by a mermaid) for the final time?

"And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body, 
Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind." ~ Cream, Tales Of Brave Ulysses

Howard Pyle - The Mermaid, 1910

Gustave Moreau

Hesiod (a poet) and the muse, no mermaid but a Phrygian cap!

Gustave Moreau - Hésiode et la Muse, 1857

Phrygian cap

Jules-Elie Delaunay

A poet but no muse.

Sappho Kissing Her Lyre by Jules-Elie Delaunay

Théodore Chassériau

A poet and his muse, but again not a mermaid.

Hero et Leandre, also known as Le Poete et la Sirene, 1841

Théodore Chassériau, Apollo and Daphne

Frederic Leighton

A mermaid and a fisherman, hmm… who is perhaps also a poet?

The Mermaid (The Fisherman and the Syren). (From a ballad by Goethe.) (26½ × 18½ in.) R.A.

Shown in 1858 at the Royal Academy, and again in the 1897 retrospective exhibition, was first entitled The Fisherman and Syren, and afterwards The Mermaid; it is a composition of two small full-length figures, a mermaid clasping a fisherman round the neck. The subject is taken from a ballad by Goethe:

"Half drew she him,
Half sunk he in,
And never more was seen."




  1. What would you call that hat worn by Jack Bruce singing Tales of Brave Ulysses? He would have done much better with that Phrygian cap.

    I did not know about the Goethe poem that was the inspiration for this painting (or series of paintings) but it is a beaut-- better than the Cream song imo.

    1. Some form of Astrakhan. (What am I, a hatter?)

      I don't know what inspired what, hence all the question marks, but the Leighton was tagged with the Goethe when exhibited at the Royal Academy.

      Slighting Bruce/Cream will gain you no ground here.

    2. Personally, I think the Leighton is weaker than the Pyle. Leighton's literalism betrays him at the point where the mermaid morphs into a fish, while Pyle's imagination saves him.

      I figured you for a Cream fan, but wondered whether your loyalty would be tested by the fact that Bruce borrowed that hat from Papa John of the Mamas and Papas.

    3. I know what you mean, thanks for being such a straight shooter (and speaking of a muse that will drag you into the deep). Off the top of my head, that may be Leighton's weakest work, perhaps eclipsed by his "Pan, 1860", but then, both were painted before he was 30. (To put things in perspective, Robert Fawcett hadn't "arrived*" until he was 42.)

      *page 21 "The Illustrator's Illustrator"

  2. Inspired By(?) #6 or: Pyle inspired by …Moreau? …Delaunay? …Chassériau? …Leighton? …Hokusai

    Since the sea is symbolic of chaos, why not throw Herbert Draper in as well?

    1. I flipped through my copy of Simon Toll's" Herbert Draper, A Life Study". His work* seems to me outside the purview of the post's theme, i.e., a poet, the muse personified by a mermaid, and mysticism.

      * "Sea Melodies" lacks a certain pathos.

  3. "Sea Melodies" lacks a certain pathos.

    I see. It's just that Draper is the purely visual association that comes to mind. But if a certain pathos is your theme, Draper is out. But I do think he has it right that those sea nymphs are the stuff of pleasant dreams.

    1. That tune & video are some twisted outsider schlitz.