If you were disappointed by New Line's Golden Compass adaptation, here is a gift to lighten and brighten your spirits - a portrait of Dulac's from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London - the same Dulac who did so many beautiful paintings for The Thousand and One Nights and other texts. I found this on the Endicott blog, which is buzzing busily lately - definitely check out the recent posts there. Terri Windling & company have been posting everything from fairy tale costumes to art galleries to the covers of recent French retellings of old tales...their blog is itself a museum and a wunderkammern filled with bright and beautiful curiosities, or oddities. Their Dec 27 entry highlights a showing of work by Dulac and his contemporaries in London. I am trying to find out what story the illustration above belongs to.
It makes me think of Margaret Cavendish's Blazing New World, when the captive lady is rescued by creatures that walk upright but have the shape of bears. A memorable passage from a seldom remembered book - or at least seldom remembered until very recently. I have no idea if Cavendish was reprinted at all in Dulac's generation. Perhaps the illustration belongs instead to some Andersen fairy tale that I missed as a child. Those bears and that lady beneath the stars are beautiful, yes? Sing out if you know what story the image belongs to.
Although it would be hard to beat the efforts of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, here is a New Year's challenge to the few and the brave who are listening in to this blog and reading Dante's Heart: wherever you are, get some collection together or contest for fairy tale and imaginative art in your own town. I think that even in the smallest and most allegedly drab of towns there are a few born artists, and if there are not, there are at least an entire flock of children who have not lost the talent of wondering, and they might come up with such work as would surprise whole academies, given the chance. Strike up a league with whatever local galleries, libraries, universities, or museums are readily available, post word of a contest, and see what happens. In the wake of the financial successes of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, the studios are pouring films with fantastical themes and imagery into our waking eyes; are we going to leave it up to Hollywood to give us our dreams? Any town on this continent or overseas can produce beautiful or provoking art that speaks to the heart more loudly.
If every reader of Dante's Heart was to assemble some kind of gallery before the year 2008 was out, what beauty and imagination we'd all be wondering at by next Christmas!