Wednesday, May 1, 2013

92. With the back to the viewer

A letter from the American artist Edward Gorey to Peter F. Neumeyer in Floating Worlds (published by Pomegranate in San Francisco, 2011) reminded me of Ricketts. I came upon this passage:

[Thank you] for the Gerard ter Borch "Cavalier". It put me in mind of a slightly curious idea I had for a visual anthology in which all the subjects would have their backs to the viewer; I have several Japanese prints of poets, and at least one of a puppy in this position, and I'm sure a quite respectable book could be got together from all times and places. What it would all be in aid of is another question (p. 130)

Gerard ter Borch, 'Man on Horsback, seen from behind' (drawing, 1625) (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
In Floating Worlds a picture of the painting in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts shows a man on horseback, seen from behind. A sketch for this painting is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which after a long restoration project has recently reopened its doors to the public.

Ricketts's final illustration for Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx (1894) contains an unusual image of Christ. The original drawing for this illustration is in the Manchester City Galleries.

Charles Ricketts, 'Christ Crucified', original drawing (Manchester City Galleries)
Charles Ricketts, 'Christ Crucified', in Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (1894)  (image from Connexions)
In Ricketts's image we see Christ crucified, but he has his back to the viewer, which is highly unusual. Although the crucifixion scene is surely one of the most depicted biblical scenes in the history of Western art, I haven't been able to find another image of it in this manner. Ricketts has stylized the scene, omitting the cross, so as to show the full back of Christ. The drawing illustrates the last lines of Wilde's poem:

Whose pallid burden, sick with pain, watches the world with wearied eyes,
And weeps for every soul that dies, and weeps for every soul in vain.

The Ricketts illustration could have been part of Edward Gorey's visual anthology.