Angels Around Us Everywhere
Here are some of my favorite paintings by some of my favorite painters depicting angels. There's no rhyme or reason for this post. Just an excuse to share beauty in all its various forms!
John William Waterhouse, Saint Cecilia, 1895
One of Waterhouse's greatest masterpieces is Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music, lying asleep in a chair. Two angels kneel by her side, both playing stringed instruments. The angels as well as Cecelia herself share a look of gentle innocence and vulnerability. The angels look at Cecelia admiringly for her strong faith and lasting virginity. The book in her hand is most likely the holy gospel which the actual saint always carried concealed from her non-Christian family. Saint Cecilia is considered to be one of the Catholic Church's greatest martyrs. She converted many to Christianity which eventually cost her her life. She was ordered to be suffocated by steam, but survived and was found smiling inside the chamber. She was then ordered to be beheaded, but the executioner could not sever her head with the three blows allowed. She supposedly survived for three days, throughout which she was said to be fully coherent and joyful. She finally died after being blessed by the holy Pontiff Urban.
Saint Cecilia and the angel by Carlo Saraceni. Venetian (1579-1620)
This painting shows an angel assisting Saint Cecilia, who is the patron saint of musicians. Cecilia is thought to have been a noble lady of Rome in the second or third century. She was a martyr. The angels are so enamored of the language that is spoken in heaven, that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether there be any who understand it or not. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Ramparts of God's House by John Melhuish Strudwick (1849-1937)
John Strudwick began his artistic career as a studio assistant to Edward Burne-Jones. Strudwick enjoyed the patronage of wealthy industrialists but his career went into decline when they withdrew their support. He deliberately left his painting 'When Sorrow comes in Summer Days, Roses Bloom in Vain' unfinished - an indication of the disillusionment he felt at the collapse of his career.
He painted in a flat linear style, with great attention to detail, especially in the draperies and accessories, using rich and glowing colors. The effect is sometimes rather static but always highly decorative.
George Bernard Shaw wrote an article about Strudwick for the Art Journal in 1891. An excerpt follows:
'... transcendent expressiveness is the moving quality in all Strudwick's works and persons who are sensitive to it will take almost as a matter of course the charm of the architecture, the bits of landscape, the elaborately beautiful foliage, the ornamental accessories of all sorts, which would distinguish them even in a gallery of early Italian paintings....'
The Annunciation, a watercolor by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint: Their wings are my protest in favor of the immortality of the soul. –Edward Burne-Jones
The Annunciation by J.W. Waterhouse 1914
Born in Rome, Italy, John William Waterhouse (1849 - February 10, 1917) grew up in an artistic household with both parents, William and Isabella, engaged in painting. John studied at London’s Royal Academy of Art and quickly found success in the Victorian world with his interest in classical literature, legends, and myths. His paintings presented beautiful visions of beloved female figures, such as William Shakespeare’s Miranda (1875, 1916), Ophelia (1889, 1894, 1910), and Juliet (1898); John Keats’ “Lamia” (1905, 1909); Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” (1888, 1894, 1916) and “The Lady Clare” (1900); Roman mythology’s Thisbe (1909); Greek mythology’s Circe (1891, 1892, 1911), Penelope (1912), and Pandora (1896). Nevertheless, also drawn to religious themes, John painted St. Cecilia (1895) and St. Eulalia (1885).
John Waterhouse bequeathed a bountiful legacy of colorful paintings to ever-admiring generations, he left few details about himself personally or professionally. In fact, the identity of many of his striking models remains a mystery.
John’s “Annunciation” reflects his consummate understanding of a palette of rich colors as enhanced by precise composition. The scene is an external location overlooking a lawn or garden. A colorful rug, on which Mary is kneeling, provides textural contrast with the stony patio which is the focus of the scene.
With a traditional distance between them, Mary appears in the right sector of the painting, and Gabriel is situated in the left sector. John’s painting has a clearly defined center, which is the open space between Mary and the white flowers in Gabriel’s outstretched right hand.
The quiet dignity of Mary as she receives Gabriel’s startling announcement is exemplified by her unassuming posture of kneeling with her left hand over her heart and her right hand on the crown of her head. The holiness and purity of Gabriel and Mary are exemplified by their individualized haloes. The full length of Gabriel is not shown so it is not known whether Gabriel is in the traditional airborne stance or with his feet in contact with the earth.
An interesting touch is Gabriel’s deep blue purple wings which gently shelter his shoulders and rest in repose against his back.
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