Anxiety is a desire for what one fears, a sympathetic antipathy, anxiety is an alien power which grips the individual, and yet one cannot tear himself free from it and does not want to, for one fears, but what he fears he desires. Anxiety makes the individual powerless.
The theme of the severed head was a widely spread topic in the second part of the nineteenth century, especially among Symbolist artists, and in particular in works by Odilon Redon. This theme is often derived from the Biblical story of Saint John the Baptist and his beheading as a result of the dance of the unnamed girl, mentioned as a daughter of Herodias in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, from the myth of Orpheus, and sometimes was a symbol of the disturbing French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
In earlier times, the works of Goya, Rubens, and Géricault depicted the severed head as a symbol of horror, capital punishment, of cruelty and
terror. The Renaissance self-portraits and portraits in décapité liked to toy with the idea of a suffering artist, or a tormented lover. Late nineteenth-century works of decapitated heads, mainly works of the Symbolists, although sometimes following the ideas of the period––évolution, degeneration, wars ––as well as the Renaissance traditions, endowed the severed head with new, more personal, and complex meanings.
In this article, I will examine a number of cases of severed heads in the works of Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon, which could be interpreted as embodiments of their personal history and personal views. We will see how these artists endowed the severed head not only with the dark meaning of horror, punishment, vengeance, suffering, and dissatisfaction, but also with the meaning of light, of spiritual elevation, liberation, freedom, and uniqueness.
For the artists, writers and musicians of the Symbolist Movement of the turn of the century, true art, an extension of one’s “soul” or unconscious, was often regarded as dark, mysterious and unreliable – the world of Dionysus. Such artists, writers and musicians searched for symbols to express or suggest psychological pathologies manifested in exaltation, madness, and other extreme mental states. Mental Illness in Symbolism inquires into the mysteries of the Symbolist psyche through essays on works of art, literature and music created as part or extension of the Symbolist Movement.
In her article “Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus,” Rosina Neginsky examines how Shaffer depicts Mozart’s and Salieri’s personalities. Although the play is called Amadeus, thus dedicated to Mozart, and narrates Mozart’s life through Salieri’s eyes, it is first of all, as Neginsky argues, about Salieri, and most of all about the human condition. She demonstrates, how through his confession to himself — depicting his jealousy, pain, fight and competition with God for what he perceives as justice — made partially because of guilt he feels for supposedly having killed Mozart, Salieri embodies humanity in general, its pains, its unanswered questions, and its unsatisfactory attempts of and searches for self-realization.
Le langage visuel dans la peinture symboliste de Lyubov Momot: un dialogue avec la poésie contemporaine
(Visual Language in Lyubov Momot’s Symbolist Painting: A Dialog with Contemporary Poetry)
The relationships between visual arts, art criticism, and poetry as well as the connections between the poet with artistic movements of his time were illustrated by several artists, among whom are Oscar Wilde (Pre-Raphaelites, Beardsley, Degas, Pissaro), Charles Baudelaire (Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Guys; cf. his Beacons), Guillaume Apollinaire (Henri Rousseau), Aleksandr Blok (Vasnecov, Vrubel’). Those connections contribute to the elaboration of an authentic understanding of standards that regulate the act of creation. Rosina Neginsky, a poet of the Russian origin, of Franco-English culture, writing in English, is both the author and the object of this essay dedicated to the study of Lyubov Momot’s art, a 21st century Symbolist artist of Ukrainian origin, living in Chicago. The likeness of themes as well as the circulation of pictorial and verbal metaphors are interpreted as an inter-semiotic dialog between two contemporary artists. At the heart of the analysis, there is a parallel between the styles and imagination of Momot’s art and their reflections in the poetry of the author of this essay. The paintings’ perception through the prism of the poetic word helps us to understand better the visual metaphors and the paintings’ aesthetic acuity. In addition to its analytical value, the essay allows the discovery of Lyubov Momot’s art and several Rosina Neginsky’s unpublished poems which will appear in print in November 2021, at Austin Macauley Publishers in New York.
Oscar Wilde’s play Salome was written in French, while Richard Strauss used as a libretto Hedwig Lachmann’s abbreviated version of German translation of Wilde’s play. In her article “The Opera Salome in the Richard Strauss’ and Romain Rolland’s Correspondence,” through the correspondence between French writer Rolland, and the German composer, Strauss, about the adaptation of the Strauss’ opera Salome to the French language according to Wagnerian principles, Rosina Neginsky demonstrates that we are confronted with two very different personalities. One is the personality of the musician, revolutionary in his musical works and in his view of the relationship between the text and the music, who, struggles in trying to bend the language to the music, even when he aspires to adapt the music to the language. The second is the writer who watches the purity of the language and its flexibility in singing, unconsciously attributing to the language the primary role, since for him, although unconsciously, to give the language the primary role always remains his first priority.
Mikhail Vrubel’s Sculpture in the Western European Context
Author: Neginsky Rosina, Dr. Habil. in Art History and Comparative Literature, professor at the University of Illinois (USA), affiliated with the research lab Eur’Obem
The article “Mikhail Vrubel’s Sculpture in the Western European Context” is dedicated to Mikhail Vrubel’s sculpture. It examines its Symbolist specificity and discusses the technic that allows the artist to convey his sculpture’s spirituality, depth of the invisible although present world, and other Symbolist characteristics. To create his sculpture, Vrubel develops new technical methods which lead to the creation of the perfect harmony between the content and the technic. The article traces the specific features of the artist’s originality as well as the influence on him of the Art Nouveau, artistic and architectural style widely present in Russia at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The study specifically discusses the comparison between the innovations in sculpture pertaining to findings of the French 19th century giant August Rodin and some other artists, who had a strong impact on the development of the sculpture in the second part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries in Western Europe, and Vrubel. Neginsky arrives to the conclusion that Vrubel’s sculptural technic is stylistically new and might be seen as revolutionary. It develops in a parallel way with artistic tendencies of the Western European Symbolism such as Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts, known to the artist through Russian and foreign publications, his European travels and numerous discussions with artists returning from their travels to Europe and sharing their impressions at the Savva Mamontov’s circle, Vrubel’s friend and sponsor. The author demonstrates that Vrubel’s sculptural works have a direct connection with technical and spiritual evolution of sculpture of the first part of the 20th century in Western Europe.