Thursday, 9 February 2012

Capricorn Self-Portraits: Solid Intense

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (8 Jan) painted this self-portrait when he was 16.

During his lifetime, he was one of the richest, most sought-after painters of his day, creating vast fantasies of Roman decadence and fairyland luxury. His charm lay in the way his people looked so real – and yet there they were in these unbelievable settings.

After he died, Lawrence Alma-Tadema's work fell out of fashion, but perhaps to the surprise of last century's critics and connoisseurs, his work has never ceased to have appeal for the ordinary punters.

He has everything you'd expect from a Capricorn: precocious talent, solid skill, high status, and look at that gaze, steady as a rock.



Untitled #96. 1981
Here's who it reminds me of – oddly – because she is looking away from the camera, but she has the same solidity. The photographer Cindy Sherman is also famous for putting a contemporary (herself) into antique or vintage settings. Here she is dressed in 50s gear for one of her "conceptual" self-portraits.

This picture recently became the most expensive photograph ever sold. How satisfying for a sea-goat.

Like Alma-Tadema, Sherman achieved recognition and respect by her mid-20s. Capricorns, of course, often achieve at a young age. Also like him, a lot of her work is about dressing up.
Matisse (Dec 31)

And how about those earthy colours for the cardinal earth sign.

Paul Cezanne (Jan 19)
Hepworth (Jan 10)
Here is Paul Cezanne, a contemporary of Alma Tadema but during his lifetime quite unrecognised, in fact rather despised. But he persevered, another great sea-goat quality, against all the criticism and lack of popular success. In fact, he famously said he wanted to die painting.

Here's what else he said: "The artists makes things concrete and gives them individuality." 

And just when we were getting comfortable with earthy colours, here is Henri Matisse and his Fauvist self-portrait. I love the way he gets the colours talking to each other in this picture – allowing each one it's own integrity.

There is another element to the intense solidity of Saturn-ruled artists and that is sculpture. Two of the 20th century's most important sculptors, Barbara Hepworth and Louise Bourgeios, were born under the goatfish. Hepworth clutching a lump of rock, Bourgeois apparently with her head in an egg.

Louise Bourgeois (Dec 25)

Augustus John (Jan 4)
And speaking of old goats, here is a superb self-portrait by that notorious shagger, Augustus John.
He even looks like a goat with those whiskers and long eyes.

7 comments:

  1. Avery accomplished collection here but little warmth even Matisse has dampened his fiery colours in case he should appear frivolous. And who are they directing those accusatory looks at? Us? No,it's their own reflection that troubles them I think..

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  2. oo Morvah - you're right cold, cold, cold. Matisse is one of my all time favourites but I'm going to think about him again now.

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  3. Thanks for posting the chart of Matisse - I love him too and now I can see why! I have precious little Earth in my chart so this lot look a bit frightening...Hepworth's so austere and living here where she worked makes me appreciate how hard she must have laboured to represent such mighty bleakness. Augustus John does have a naughty twinkle I agree!

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  4. The chart of Matisse is over on the FB page for anyone interested - and jolly earthy and sensual it is too!

    Lucky you living down there.

    Augustus John though: I wonder if all that seed-spreading was him trying (and failing) to warm up the coldness?

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  5. Even before reading the comments I thought 'Matisse a cap?..really?

    The strokes are definitely substantial, but I find his overall tone a lot lighter and playful than the the rest of the cap artists.
    I guess the lesson is to remember that Capricorn and Saturn DO have a very sensual side!
    Btw I love your series of self portraits...

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  6. @Sabrina - I do think it must be the Leo rising/Venus in Aquarius that that give Matisse the colour pizazz. But it bears some investigation. I think I mentioned over on the FB page that the most consistently colourist Sun sign seems to be Cancer.

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  7. I'd recognize those intense eye expressions anywhere: I've seen it in my dad, oh, since forever.
    It even helped me pick him out instantly in a pic of him and his extended family - and it was a baby pic of him and he was but a small detail in the crowd of people.

    Plus he has a Scorpio Moon. Believe me, when he's focussed, he's focussed.

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