miércoles, 5 de julio de 2017

ADONIS || Christa Zaat

Christa Zaat

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John Dickson Batten (British painter, book illustrator and print maker) 1860 - 1932
The Garden of Adonis - Amoretta and Time, 1887
oil on canvas
104 x 127 cm.
signed with monogram and dated JB 1887; signed and inscribed 'The Garden of Adonis Spenser's Fairy Queen John D Batten' on a label on the stretcher
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

This remarkable masterpiece, painted in pure Pre-Raphaelite glazes with thin layers of pure colour over a pure white ground, shows the attention to detail demonstrated by Sir John Everett Millais in his Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, Ophelia (1852) combined with the avant-garde symbolism of Burne-Jones.

One of the most spectacular and famous paintings of the Victorian era is Flaming June by Frederic, Lord Leighton. Central to the composition is a seated girl dressed in a classical robe of seductive orange, a most unusual colour for the period. The comparisons between the two paintings are obvious. However, Flaming June was not painted until 1895, eight years after Batten's The Garden of Adonis. There can be little doubt that Frederic Leighton was struck by this spectacular painting when it was first shown at the Grosvenor Gallery and that the composition strongly influenced his famous painting.

The subject of Batten's painting is taken from Book III of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, which is devoted to the legend of Chastity. The twins Amoretta and Belphoebe were the daughters of the nymph Chrysogone. The two babies were adopted, Belphoebe by the goddess of the hunt Diana, and Amoretta by Venus, goddess of love. Venus took Amoretta to the Garden of Adonis, her `joyous Paradise', the flowers of which dame Nature doth her beautify, and decks the girlonds of her Paramoures. However, the faire flowre of beautie fades away, as doth the lilly fresh before the sunny ray, for:

Great enimy to it, and to all the rest
That in the Gardin of Adonis springs,
Is wicked Tyme; who with his scyth addrest
Does mow the flowring herbes and goodly things,
And all their glory to the ground downe flings,
Where they do wither, and are fowly mard:
He flyes about, and with his flaggy winges
Beates downe both leaves and buds withourt regard,
Ne ever pitty may relent his malice hard.

In this garden Amoretta was brought up by Psyche, and trained up in trew feminitee and goodly womanhead,

In which when she to perfect ripenes grew,
Of grace and beautie noble Paragone,
She brought her forth into the worldes vew,
To be th'ensample of true love alone,
And Lodestarre of all chaste affection
To all fayre Ladies that doe live on grownd.
To Faery court she came; where many one
Admyred her goodly haveour, and fownd
His feeble hart wide launched with loves cruel wownd.

John Dixon Batten began his career as a barrister reading law at Trinity College, Cambridge and Inner Temple in 1884. Shortly afterwards, he enrolled at the Slade School to study painting under Alphonse Legros. Sir Edward Burne-Jones showed exclusively at the Grosvenor Gallery. It was there, and not at the Royal Academy, that his close followers exhibited. John Dixon Batten first exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886, showing a work entitled Life's Recompense (untraced). The present subject from The Faerie Queene was first shown there the following year. The mythological and allegorical themes of Batten's work were in keeping with the type of subject matter that the Grosvenor's proprietor, Sir Coutts Lindsay sought to encourage. One of the most notable paintings exhibited at the gallery in 1887 was Edward Burne-Jones's The Garden of Pan, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery of 1887 was the last in which Burne-Jones and his various disciples, including J D Batten, were to participate. Batten subsequently exhibited at the New Gallery, which was the successor to the Grosvenor Gallery, and from 1891 onwards at the Royal Academy.

In the 1890's, John Dixon Batten illustrated various editions of fairy tales by Joseph Jacob, the first of which was Celtic Fairy Tales of 1892 and the last The Book of Wonder Voyages of 1896. From the mid 1890's, he worked chiefly in egg tempera, a painstakingly detailed medium, and played a leading part in the revival of the technique. The other main participants in the `tempera movement' were the Birmingham artists Joseph Southall, Arthur Gaskin and Charles Gere. In 1901, together they and the young Maxwell Armfield founded the Society of Painters in Tempera. Batten served as secretary to the society for many years. In 1906, he decorated Christ Church, Lichfield with murals in tempera and in 1922 Batten wrote The Practice of Tempera Painting, published in the Studio, number 84 (pages 301-11).

* * *

Born at Plymouth, the son of a QC, Batten went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and entered the Inner Temple in 1884. However, he soon abandoned law for art, studying at the Slade under Legros and exhibiting at the Royal Academy (1891-1922), the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery, and with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, etc. He is chiefly remembered for his illustrations to the books of fairy tales edited by Joseph Jacobs and published by David Nutt in the 1890s; for his colour-woodcuts in the Japanese style; and as one of the leading exponents of the tempera and fresco revival. He was a founder-member of the Society of Painters in Tempera (1901), its Secretary for twenty years, and Hon. Secretary of the Art Workers' Guild between 1903-8. Lived in London, latterly at Kew.

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