Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Gothic Art in Spotlight: Hugo Simberg's Death and Devils

It has been a while since I posted about art, but no worries, I have not stopped my dear hobby called art completely. In this post I am shortly introducing Hugo Simberg's paintings, which I find to fit the idea of Goth I have.

Hugo Simberg (1873-1917) was a Finnish painter, whose work is mostly categorized as symbolism. Simberg's works are mainly from the era of National Romanticism in Finland and as I have mentioned before, at the same time in Europe decadence was rising, especially among Parisian art scene, where inspiration and role model for a nationality was searched. Finland was not independent during that time, the idea of Finnish people as a nation or at least something more than a part of Russia or Sweden was on the rise.

Simberg's art divided people, because there are some decadent aspects, or even touch of macabre, which was not wanted in the patriotic and romantic point of view. A huge problem was also, that some of Simberg's work did not go that well along with the traditional christian symbolism and way of depicting things.

For example The Garden of Death, which was painted for the cathedral of Tampere year 1896. As you can see, there is no traditional symbols of afterlife, the heaven or skyline. As a consent, there is a small path in the background, but the viewer can not see where it is leading. Therefore there is no christian salvation in the painting.

The Garden of Death is open for so many interpretations, one can see the skeleton characters maleficent, waiting to take the lives of those little flowers, or one can see them caring and loving those plants. Also, are those flowers souls of the living, which death harvests, or are those the afterlife state for the soul? What if the heaven is to became a flower in Death's Garden?

Simberg has many other fascinating artworks in which the skeletons dance and make people feel uncomfortable both in the painting and the viewers. I shall not talk about them, instead I am drawing the attention to another frequent motif in Simberg's work: the Poor Devil.

Simberg's devil is not a powerful and evil creature. He is more like a poor little wretch, trying to do his part as tempting people to sin, but failing. My personal favourite of Simberg's devil painitings is Piru ruusupensaassa (The Devil in a rosebush). It was painted 1907 and I believe it is at the moment in another famous Finnish artists atelier museum, at Ruovesi. It is the old atelier of Gallen-Kallela a painter who acted as a tutor for Simberg. At least I saw the poor devil in that building last summer.

In this painting I think the little poor devil is adorable, playing his little flute. But I'll leave further interpretation to you.

1 comment:

  1. fascinating. and the almost-sarcastic portrayal of the devil is really interesting. I don't think I can recall any instance when the devil isn't punishing or frightening. Using humor to instill faith seems better than hellfire...