Thursday, September 06, 2007

Image of the Day

Apropos this article in Sign and Sight.

I first came across this painting by Balthus on the cover of an old Penguin edition of Nabokov's Lolita. I have always been in two minds about it, is it artistic or is it pornographic? Lee Siegel, the former art critic for Slate, calls him "an empty, pornographically-inclined opportunist." You can listen to his audio tour here.

Whatever it is, it definitely doesn't capture the essentially playful nature of the book. Incidentally in one of his interviews Nabokov said that Balthus was one of his favourite contemporary artists and "not just because he painted Lolita-like creatures"! The cover of the new penguin modern classics edition is even more inappropriate. But yes, they do make up for it with their cover of Pale Fire, which is glorious.


Preyanka said...

I love it. When I first glanced at it, before I knew your post was about Lolita, I thought it was of an anorexic woman, so thin, yet so confident.

Alok said...

Now I am feeling like that repressed governess in that henry james story who sees sex and corruption of innocence everywhere.

nothing wrong with the girl, it is the painter's gaze that i find a little troubling.

Szerelem said...

I find the painting a bit more disturbing than the book giver with the photo of the girl.....
actually your post made me think of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele....I was lucky to see a lot of his work in Vienna and while I knew of him before seeing the works is person just blew me away. He is definitely one of my most favourite room is full of postcards of his paintings and sketches i picked up there.
There is a slight grotesqureness to his figures and they are very angular but completely mesmerising...and his paintings and sketches of women are just gorgeous and very erotic.
There was also a lot of scandal about his working with underage models....if you want disturbing this is it:

jyothsnay said...

I found the painting "langurously beautiful" and a marvelous trapped by the streaks or strokes of languor around her slender arrogant they look!

nothing is more exhilarating than "philistine vulgarity"

I feel he was taken by surprise, his eyes were mesmerised by her impudent vibrant youthfulness & by the fact that her temper was so like his own. Why cant one see a subtle conflict as nurtured by the initial gentle flutterings of femininity, trapped between the slender folds of child-like innocence..that first ever recognition of glorious deelopments unfurled across the body, the sheer excitement...

Alok said...

szerelem: have seen a few of Egon Schiele along with Klimt and Kokoschka in new york museums.

There was certainly something disturbing about the way the expressionists saw sexuality and eros. It is present in the german painters of the period too. Some paintings by Munch has this quality too.

jyothsnay: I can trust you to see the celebration of femininity and budding womanhood everywhere... there are obviously different ways of seeing the same things. there are no clear-cut demarcations which separate one viewpoint from another.

jyothsnay said...

Mr Zembla
yes, different POVs on the same subject do make the world so vibrantly distinct..
I may not sway towards the imminent carnival where "femininity" is celebrated with the utmost gaiety...what really arouses interest in both the victim (here the creator, thw writer and the painter) and the reason (a honey-skinned pubescent girl) is the initial realisations, the headiness of the first flight into something so beautiful,a sense of wonderment at the afct that it unfurled from a young body,the fragile layer of arrogance over the effect resulted within the milieu