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Work of Art

 

Title: Inferno

Artist: Franz Von Stuck

Completion Date: 1908

Style: Symbolism

Genre: religious painting

Out of all the Symbolist painters, Franz Von Stuck (1863-1928) produced enigmatic, occultist works that surpassed canvases by many of his colleagues. In our own decadent, sensitized age, Stuck’s works are often regrettably relegated to museum subcellars and provincial galleries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns only two Stuck bronzes and neither are currently on display. Museum curators simply do not know what to do with Franz Von Stuck. Gallery directors prefer to ignore Symbolism, present Impressionism as the only radical break from Academicism and simply showcase those canonical Manets and Renoirs which university students and the ‘ladies who lunch’ pay entrance fees to see. Stuck unnerves such unreflective sightseers by confronting them with nightmarish visions and shrouded glimpses of dreams yet to come.

Stuck invited his viewers into dark tableaus of Orphic shadows and Eleusinian initiatory ordeals. His painting Inferno rendered an extraordinary panaroma of the damned writhing in eternal torment. A syphilitic whore with a death’s head stands stiffly on the left while a demon readies to suckle at her withered teat. Two muscled figures sit doubled up in agony at the scene’s center. On the right, a venomous serpent coils itself around two damned souls. Stuck used ophidian imagery repeatedly in his paintings and this particular Hydra wildly sibilates as it crushes its victims. Backlit with fiery igneous rock, Stuck focused light on each damned soul so as to detail every facet of their agony. Inferno successfully depicts an arresting scene of chthonian grotesques for its viewers. As a worthy successor to Hieronymous Bosch’s extraordinary imagination, Franz Von Stuck rightly deserves reappraisal for his remarkable vision.

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The Men of the North
and the Power of Norse Paganism (Part I)

THE NORSE In the Eddas, both the Younger and the Elder, the Gods are strong and definitive beings of staggering power and divine splendor. They embody various aspects of the […]

THE NORSE

In the Eddas, both the Younger and the Elder, the Gods are strong and definitive beings of staggering power and divine splendor. They embody various aspects of the world and our lives, through imagery pertaining to loyalty, honor, or the acceptance of difficulty; also joy and revelry in bountiful times, while in lean times determination and resolve. The various deities of Asgard and Vanaheim embody these tenets to the point of stubbornness in some situations. For instance, Thor is a being both bold and strong, yet quick to anger and susceptible to being goaded; Týr stalwart and efficient, and yet put upon most severely in the binding of Fenrir. There are many more Gods in the pantheon and I will touch on this more in the next part of this article, but for now we shall focus more on the aspects of the Gods that the men we now call Norse embodied in their everyday lives.

A man in ancient Norse Pagan society was more than just a warrior, although excellent warriors they were. Aside from being very knowledgeable in combat their role was also that of a land-owner, a provider of goods or perhaps a priest of the community. Some Norsemen were thoroughgoing men of war and consequently did not have time for other things, as there was an abundance of conflict in their world lasting for their entire known history. Clans fought each other and fought abroad often — for spoils or conquest usually, but the inter-clan blood feud was not an uncommon occurrence either. These conflicts led to immense battles and there were sagas written of legendary Viking warriors who often held off an impossible amount of enemies in small numbers and, in some stories, completely alone.

Aside from their fearsome resolve in battle and their various roles in society, Norsemen were intensely vested in their religion. Their Gods were the embodied spark of the divine, and that spark lives in all things, including men, who claim their descent from the Gods. By being like the Gods and upholding their teachings, a man could become God-like. A man of immense strength was ascribed the favor of Thor or a man of immense knowledge was thought to walk with Odin, the All-Father himself. Those who were exceptional at mediation or resolving issues were thought to be favored by Týr or Heimdall. Women who were very fertile were blessed by Freyja. Females of exceptional beauty were beloved of Sif.

Great warriors and women of legendary worth are written of in sagas, as the Gods themselves recorded their own exploits. It is a true honor to be remembered in festive song and story by those who knew you and, later, by those who revere you for being who you were and nothing else. This practice is very much minimalized in our modern world, where individual deeds seems to rarely be noticed let alone exalted by anyone other than your immediate family past the death of the individual who carried them out. The Men of the North knew that the strength of a great man was worthy of notice, that his blood and his upbringing were a direct cause of his greatness. This is why lines of lords and kings in their culture were from continuous lines of venerable descent.

Aside from those on a throne or a seat of power, all of the people of the Norse world tracked their bloodlines in some way or other. It was important to know where you came from and who came before you, as they were a link to the past and the cause of your current station. Even a farmer could track back his line at least five or six generations to various men of means and great warriors, and the fact that he was now in agriculture instead of battle wasn’t shameful as his line had fought many great battles before him and brought the family honor. Women descended from strong lines were likewise proud and strong as their father’s fathers has also brought them honor through battle and great deeds. To marry into a family of strength and honor was an eminently good thing and was heartily encouraged. Linking together the two lines would only produce stronger progeny and further the greatness of the kin.

Along with ensuring the blood of your own immediate family, it was also important to maintain the strength of your wider clan. Weak marriages were looked down upon as they brought nothing beautiful, useful or salutary to the community. A man considered weak or incompetent should not have children, as he would pass down his weakness to them and weaken the line of the mother as well. Often, a man who had definitively shown he was of no worth or substance was sent away so as not to shame his people further; this applied to women as well, since the Norse were, in many ways, much closer to a gender parity in public life than other, more southerly civilizations, e.g. the Mediterranean civilizations of the Greeks or Romans.

This leads us to another point. In the ancient world, a woman had a small place in most cultures. In Norse society, by contrast, a capable and free-born woman could own land and property and also could divorce her husband if she found him lacking. Likewise, of course, a man could divorce a woman if she failed to produce heirs or was incompetent as a wife. Even though Norse women did not go to battle with the men, they were fearsome warriors in their own right. Any band of mercenaries or raiders attempting to take a Norse village while the men were away at battle were often killed or forced to retreat, beaten by a force of angry Norse mothers and housewives.

Both women and men in the Norse world took their religion seriously. The various rituals and tenets of the Gods applied at all times. Honor and loyalty were paramount, strength and valor were seen as virtues to which one could not but aspire, to become the greatest possible in everything they did is what the Gods expected of them and nothing short of that would suffice. It is no great wonder that the Norse people were seen since time immemorial as a strong and virile people when one recalls that the very core of their religion and myth expected them to excel in all things. Furthermore it was easy to flourish within a religious structure that did not apply guilt or fear to everyday life but instead pride and joy at accomplishment, along with the love of one’s family and people, side-by-side with the Gods themselves.

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Work of Art

Title: Janissary Smoking

Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme

Completion Date: c.1865

Style: Academicism

Genre: genre painting

Technique: oil

Material: canvas

Dimensions: Height: 35.6 cm (14.02 in.), Width: 25.4 cm (10 in.)

Painted in 1865, Gérôme’s Janissary Smoking continued to explore his fascination with the Orient. Here, Gérôme depicted an Osmanli trooper in momentary placidity. Immersed in thought, the janissary reposes whilst smoking from an elaborate narghile. Late afternoon sunlight streams in from the latticework windows and illuminates his uniform’s creases. Although covered in brocaded silk, his developed biceps strain against the fabric. The janissaries composed an elite unit of the Sultan’s military and were renowned for their ferocity. Gérôme cleverly chose to depict this soldier off-duty in order to highlight his hardihood. What proves more remarkable about this work is the artist’s extraordinary use of light and shadow.

Gérôme’s precise detailing in his Janissary Smoking illustrated his artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. This particular work showcased an advanced chiaroscuro evident within Academicist paintings. Inheriting an artistic patrimony, Gérôme adroitly incorporated established techniques into this reflective work. By clearly delineating sunlight from the delicate wooden latticework, this detailing demonstrates his extraordinary abilities. Few artists whose works are displayed in contemporary galleries can imitate this talent. Gerome’s Janissary Smoking serves as a vital model for dissident traditionalist artists in our decadent epoch.

 

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Work of Art


Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme

Completion Date: c.1870

Style: Academicism

Genre: genre painting

Technique: oil

Material: canvas

Dimensions: 84 x 122 cm

Gallery: Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA

 

Painted in 1870, Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Snake Charmer represents Nineteenth-Century Academicism at its height. In his age, Gérôme occupied the highest position in the art world. Teaching at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he influenced many pupils and even became a fixture of the Imperial Court at Compiègne. Gérôme emerged as a major Academicist painter and his highly stylized, layered canvases reflect his training. Striving for synthesis between Neoclassisism and Romanticism, the Academicists dominated Parisian mid-Nineteenth Century art circles. After rigid, hierarchical training in specialized ateliers, they emerged into the limelight with exhibitions at the Paris Salon and Salon d’Automne. If successful, the artist would enjoy a prosperous, rewarding public career. Jean-Léon Gérôme, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Thomas Couture all basked in their bourgeois audience’s acclaim during their respective careers. Their paintings typically depicted mythological themes with an emphasis on idealized figuration and romanticized settings. Gérôme’s The Snake Charmer depicts an Orientalist scene of imaginative wonder for its viewers.

When examining Academicist Orientalist paintings, one must remember that they are fantastic images of the Orient through Western eyes. Like Perrault’s Arabian Nights and Burton’s travelogues, they illustrate wild scenes of Ottoman seraglios, dueling Mamelukes and vertiginous dervishes. The Snake Charmer frames its setting with walls of blue mosaic inscribed with Arabic calligraphy. Seated on the floor are several tribesmen, who gaze enraptured at the spectacle before them. An aged  مُلاَعِبُ الأفَاعِي ( السّامّة ) (snake charmer) ensorcells a boa constrictor as it winds around a pubescent’s nubile frame. Gérôme focuses the viewer’s attention on the odalisque’s effulgent body through chiaroscuric detailing and luminous oils. Holding aloft the anvil-headed serpent, she artfully displays it before her spellbound assemblage. We are meant to engross ourselves in this Asiatic spectacle as it tantalizingly unfolds before us. Utterly alien to the Septième Arrondissement, it offers a momentary gustation of alluring Turkish delights.

 

 

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Newport and the Decline of American WASPdom

The November 28th issue of the American Conservative carried an ominous feature article discussing the myth of meritocratic admissions in elite American Universities. Written by publisher Ron Unz, it effectively […]

The November 28th issue of the American Conservative carried an ominous feature article discussing the myth of meritocratic admissions in elite American Universities. Written by publisher Ron Unz, it effectively demonstrated the anti-WASP and pro-Jewish admissions biases of the Ivy League. If true, this constitutes a sociological seismic shift and bodes ill for America’s future. The history of the North Americna WASP is a complicated narrative, which runs like a thread through the past several decades of this nation’s history. Following it leads to new discoveries and a greater awareness of where the decay first began within this country’s former ruling class.

As an observer, I can offer a unique perspective on this issue. I was born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island, which was the playground of America’s Gilded Age capitalists. As an energetic ten year old, I rode my Schwinn down streets crowded with reproduction Italianate and XVIIIe Siècle chateaus. Raised an Episcopalian, I received First Communion and Confirmation at Trinity Church, which was the ‘society’ parish and flaunted gaudy stained glass windows dedicated to various Vanderbilt family members. I became quickly familiar with sartorial choices such as pink trousers and madras jackets considered eccentric by most Americans, (although I was sensible enough not to wear them). Many of my childhood playmates boasted names readily found in the Social Register and gained access to trust funds when they reached twenty-one. Yet, I personally was not of them. I came from a solidly middle-class family and lived in a respectable neighborhood but one removed from Bellevue Avenue’s grandeur. To put it simply, I lived in Newport but was not of it. This allowed me a chance to observe American Old Money society for years and reflect on its attributes and limitations.

Firstly, I can agree with Mr. Knickerbocker’s assessment of American WASPdom and attest to its accuracy. The first aspect one notices in the utter lack of energy on the part of so many within this subculture. After spending an evening with them, one comes away thinking, “These are the descendants of the men who built America into a world power?!” They lack initiative and seemingly spend much of their waking lives in a state of languid ennui. Armed with a gin and tonic and the Wall Street Journal, many doze away their afternoons at exclusive clubs such as the Newport Reading Room and the Spouting Rock Beach Association. This is also a distinctly geriatric crowd and their progeny do not surpass them.

With the rise of a Judeo-liberal New Class and its prejudices, WASP children no longer attend Ivy League schools. For example, Unz’s article demonstrates that White Gentile enrollment dropped sixty-four percent at Brown University between 1980 and 2011. What was once a Baptist school for Rhode Island’s old families, (Williams, Goulds, Metcalfs, Chafees) is now a leftist camp. This reverse discrimination effectively means that true ability among young WASPS is often underdeveloped. In response to Ivy League admissions discrimination, WASP children often matriculate at overpriced liberal arts colleges known more for their affected Anglophilic traditions, squash teams and easy access to high-quality cocaine. Trinity College, Lake Forest, and Rollins all compete for their tuition dollars by promising a fun campus life and accommodating professors. WASPs have begun to believe the myth of Jewish superior intelligence and abandoned their own institutions. A culture which once valued education and striving ability now looks upon these qualities as optional accoutrements. This ennui and lethargy is a cancer within America’s former ruling class. Nowadays intellectualism is frowned upon within these circles—that’s for Jews and nerds. It’s certainly good to be intelligent but one must never be a bore. Tellingly, the private library in Newport (Redwood Library) boasts several prominent society doyennes on its board and a beautiful interior filled with busts of Classical poets and rare books. However, nobody really reads these holdings. You’re not supposed to; the books are there to look good.

As another example, I was recently at a fundraising party held at the former estate of Walter Hoving. Hoving served as CEO of Tiffany’s in the Fifties and his contentious son Thomas led the Metropolitan Museum of Art for ten difficult years. Decorated by Ogden Codman in Louis XVI style, it looked the perfect setting for an Edith Wharton novel. Glancing at the bookcases in the study, I noticed a complete first edition of Thomas Carlyle’s collected works on their shelves. Surreptitiously inspecting them, it was obvious they hadn’t been read in years, if at all. I think that is a revealing illustration of WASPdom’s decline. Appearances are kept up but there is little substance behind it. There are multiple hypotheses for this trend but I will attempt to explain my personal explanations for it.

Firstly, many WASPs actually do believe in the rhetoric of American meritocracy and regard their ancestors’ prejudices with embarrassment. Those from the Baby Boom generation will justify their listing in the Social Register as ‘something that keeps my mother happy’. Likewise, membership in exclusive clubs and fraternal associations such as the Sons of Cincinnatus are maintained as a family tradition but do not dominate their lives. They will exclude newcomers from these clubs unless they are judged to be acceptable. However, they will sell properties to them. This has led to Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive possessing a schizophrenic quality. Some houses are inhabited by very old families and European nobility while others are owned by New York City nouveau riche types. In my early twenties, I became friendly with a lovely girl who is the descendent of an admiral in the Sun King’s navy. Wearing blue jeans and fond of electronica tracks, she currently spends much of her college years dancing in Paris clubs. Her sense of family pride is as clear as her signet ring, yet she would never be condescending or rude to anyone of my background. She lives about half a mile away from a seaside mansion owned by the Israeli publisher of NEXT magazine, (a Chelsea gay lifestyle periodical). On this point, it must be noted that WASP’s are perhaps the most accepting of homosexuality out of all American ethnic groups.

In keeping with this trend, civility is highly prized and WASP matrons place a high value on politeness to their staff. If one used the ‘N-word’ around them, they would be genuinely offended. Anti-Semitism is allowed because Jews are seen as pushy arrivistes but only expressed among trusted friends and acquaintances. Often, once the speaker expresses the remark, it is qualified in order to lessen its import. At a dinner party I attended, the mildly inebriated host remarked that ‘Jews’ run the art world and produce decadent works. One of the women guests replied that if they do create dreadful paintings, it must be as a psychological response to the Holocaust. This kind of conversational thrust and parry demonstrates their impotence. They will catch an interesting topic but then release it in order to avoid controversy. Life is to be enjoyed and seriousness detracts from tennis and polo matches.

It is the lack of seriousness which also accounts for WASPdom’s degeneration. Their great-grandfathers were a hard-shelled, pig-eyed lot who took no prisoners and asked for no quarter. Bridge and Canasta were reserved for the rare moments they had as leisure time. The Newport summer season was largely for their wives and some arch-capitalists as Edward Julius Berwind only infrequently came up from Manhattan on August weekends. After all, he had Berwind Coal Company to run and miners’ unions to crush! These days, their descendants live lives of leisure because they simply can afford to. E. Digby Baltzell noted this trend as far back as 1964 in his work The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America. Originally coining the term ‘WASP’, he astutely observed that WASPdom was rapidly transforming from a class to a caste. Retreating from political power, they fell back into their decaying mansions, the Episcopal Church and quiet causes such as historic preservation and environmentalism. If engaging in politics, it is typically only as donors. They usually will not run for political office and rarely win on the occasions when they do. Cool, slim and well-dressed, they departed the field of battle because others were harder and hungrier for power.

Conclusively, my father offered the best commentary on WASPdom’s decline. Recently discussing this phenomenon with him, he offered the following maxim, “The first generation makes it, the second generation spends it, the third generation drinks it.” Demonstrating Spengler’s belief that civilizations are organic with life cycles, we are now in WASPdom’s Winter. Both Juvenal and Ammianus Marcellinus noted the same abrogation of authority by Roman patrician families in the Empire’s waning days. If the loss of the foundational ruling class’s power foreshadows social ruin, then America may very well be on the road to destruction.The next few decades will see the Republic change into Brazil-North and we will all have to live with the consequences of WASPdom’s decline.

Peter Sayles
Bangor Maine, 2012

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