Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)

Vermeer Girl With A Pearl Earring 1665
‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, Vermeer, c.1665

While the historical novel by Tracy Chevalier, and the movie based on it, have told us otherwise, the truth is that we have no idea who this girl is, or why she’s dressed up in Oriental garb, complete with the titular earring (which one Dutch astrophysicist has suggested might actually be made of tin). Perhaps this mystery is part of what makes the picture so intriguing. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (c.1665)”

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Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

dostoyevsky-by-vasily-perov-1872
Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov 1872

One of the greatest writers not only in Russia but in the world, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote books which reflect a deep appreciation of human psychology, a profound interest in philosophy, and a devout Christian faith. His plots at times seem rambling to the point of chaotic, and his cast of characters extensive, but the reader is never left in any doubt that the author has a point and intends to make it.

Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow on 11th November 1821, to Mikhail Dostoyevsky, a doctor estranged from his family, who had expected him to become a priest, and Maria Nechayeva, who came from a family of merchants. He was raised in the family home in the grounds of the Mariinsky Home for the Poor, where his father worked, an upbringing which was steeped from an early age in the Christian faith and the literature of Russia and Europe: Pushkin, Goethe, Cervantes, Walter Scott, and Homer all joined the Bible in expected family reading. He had a ‘delicate constitution’ but a determined attitude which would see him in good stead in later life. Continue reading “Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)”

Five Classics of European Literature

Old booksAs I said at the very beginning, there’s a shameless bias in this blog towards English Culture, but the rest of the world is hardly a cultural void, so here is my pick of five of the very best works of European classic literature. I’ll be honest, I’ve only read three of the books on this list, but I have grand plans to tackle the remaining two in 2017 (mind you, I also have grand plans to read at least twenty other books, some of them quite weighty, in 2017, so we’ll see how that works out for me). These are books which not only spoke deeply to their own time and place but have continued to speak to people throughout the years. They’ve become ballets, operas, and popular musicals, and served as sources of wisdom and inspiration for readers all over the world. Continue reading “Five Classics of European Literature”

A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient

Lscaux Horses
Horses from the Lascaux cave paintings.

I’m at it again, compressing decades, and in this case millennia, of history into a few hundred words. This time I’ve set my sights on the world of European Art, and am starting at the very beginning: with Palaeolithic art and the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux.

I’ve already posted about these under Paintings You Should Know, but suffice it to say no-one now knows what motivated our ancient ancestors, over 17,000 years ago, to work by the light of flickering torches deep underground to paint, with prehistoric brushes and pigments, gigantic images of the animals then plentiful in ice-age Europe. What we do know is that no other animal that we are aware of has ever set out to create visual or symbolic representations of the things they observe in the world around them: the impulse to create art seems to be uniquely human. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient”