Archive for September, 2019

johan-huizinga

I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued.
He did it differently.
Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages – the more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages – published in 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He became a leading Dutch, indeed European, historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grands_Retoriqueurs.
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on Academia.edu from http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play; that is, play with rules.
He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.

Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity.
How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.

The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.
https://gamingconceptz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/huizingas-magic-circle.html

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this.

His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.

His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

maryshuiz
Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/johan_huizinga.html

HER FRIEND SAID

Posted: September 13, 2019 in Chat
Tags: ,

reversing her beloved Beetle to angle it better,
the parking-space side-on, and the pampered Chrysler
there unexpectedly. Inevitably
the exchange of insurance, names and addresses.

To be weighed against a feather, judged, then passed on.

And he was late for the lecture he was giving,
and she for the first paper of her exam.
Aged sixty; sitting her Egyptology: she had applied
for a post in the city museum already. He was lecturing
in Quantum Physics, some current thinking.
They met, parted; lives stalled, and then restarted;
crossed lines diverging into complex futures.
The story starts where it stops, they walk out of shot.

The correct positioning of the hieroglyph
in the cartouche, she would say, is crucial to the meaning.
For him, the pilot wave spreads out, a pulse,
until meeting an obstacle, is then registered as a particle.
These lives that cross, but do not meet.
By mapping out trajectories we think to identify natures;
weigh what we observe; judge; then pass on.
All are part of the same point.

Reblog: Contemporary Stained Glass

Posted: September 1, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , ,

I make no apologies for republishing this blog from last year: it is still a topic that excites.

Contemporary Stained Glass, by Andrew Moor. Published by Mitchell Beazley, 1989.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contemporary-Stained-Glass-Andrew-Moor/dp/1857324374/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526148225&sr=1-1&keywords=contemporary+stained+glass

Note the date of publication: 1989. So it is not new; it is probably not ‘contemporary’ any more. And this hits one gripe that I have: there is a present-day-only directive to a lot of attitudes. There probably always has always been – that is, after all, how things get done, by concentrating on the immediate. In culture, though, no – and this book is proof to me: there is work here from the 1950s that is really outstanding.
Note the current price. This is such a shame – the book is a lovely work, and remains so.

Why so old – 1989? A bit of back story.
It was shortly after this date I went through a period of the worst-jobs-I–have-ever-had. One of those was working in a warehouse – but it was a book warehouse, of remaindered and damaged in production books. It was horrible. Being able to bring money in, helped, of course. And then I had access to these books. I got so desperate at times that these books became my lifeline: I accumulated them wildly. This was one.

I got down to properly looking at the book only recently. It took my breath away. The reproductions are outstanding – full colour photographs of not only publically accessible works, but also works from private collections, private houses.

Take Germany.
Straight after the War, there was little perishable art left intact. Stained glass was mostly ecclesiastical, and churches suffered from bombing, and the destruction of war.
The 1950s was a period of reconstruction – speed was of the essence. West Germany needed artists and crafts people. Stained glass took off, it bridged art and crafts. What was possible in the field was unrestricted. The book comments that although German stained glass work was extensive, not all was particularly good.
But the good was stupendous.

Take for instance, the work of Ludwig Schaffrath:

also
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/519884350711103076
His design for the Aachen bank, 1986, for four arched windows is outstanding.

Then go and explore –
Johannes Schreiter:
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikolagrozdanov/johannes-schreiter/

Jochem Poensgen:
http://www.jochempoensgen.de/category/neue-projekte/

First of all stained glass need not be full-colour. Minimalist design and palates were experimented with, as here: a rectilinear, two-tone work.

The medium is glass.
But glass can be Antique Glass – that is:
Plain
Seedy
Streaky
Reamy (danziger/water glass)
Flashed (simple opaque, opalescent or opal)

It can be machine rolled glass:
Cathedral glass (tinted, and clear)
Clear patterned (ribbed)
American opalescent (Tiffany)
It can be Bevelled, or Cast glass.

Plain glass was created from a relatively new technique. This was the cheapest to make, and is what constitutes large shop and apartment windows.
The book gives examples of each of these.

It then goes on to describe the techniques used in presenting the glass: use of black iron-oxide and borax paint that is fired to produce stains. Or with designs scraped in it.

Etching, capable of great subtlety of effect, is an old technique, but also time consuming.

Flashing is a relatively new technique using high temperatures, but produces a stained effect that is capable of fine tones.

The use of leading developed a form of its own in the works of Johannes Schreiver, above.

From an historical angle, we saw a boom in stained glass use and development in domestic use of glass in Victorian England.
One particular innovator was Frank Lloyd Wright, in America. His use of, again, domestic stained glass was a very promising avenue. It did not turn off to a highway, unfortunately.
PreWar in Europe, the Dutch De Stijl and German Bauhaus groups explored stained glass use.

Not all stained glass need be full colour, as I commented above. One design approach has been the use of black and white (ie plain, clear glass), with touches of colour. We can see an example in the Jochem Poensgen, above. Other approaches to use of the medium involve rectilinear designs, use of pattern, use of ‘float glass.’
Naturally the artists mix their techniques, to great effect. Figurative techniques lead to use of glass as a canvas for paint and stain techniques.

Narcissus Quagliata continues to produce wonderful work. Take, for example, this commissioned work:

COMMISSIONED WORKS

http://www.narcissusquagliata.com/

The motif in the top right panel, was made for him by Venetian glass makers, and proved very intricate, and expensive.

The book gives us glimpses of work produced in America, Canada, UK, New Zealand, for commissions all around the world.

http://www.lindalichtman.net/portfolio.html#slide-1

Image02

 

http://sashazhitneva.com/?page_id=71

 

Stained glass enhances an inner environment. What about the outer prospect?
Anyone viewing a wonderful stained glass window from the outside is usually very disappointed.
Ludwig Schaffrath took this on, and produced work that has both inner and outer effectiveness. Their effects are necessarily altered by the source of light, and by the demands of technique. The outer effect cannot reproduce the inner effect, and so each view point has its own viability.

The development and exploration of the uses of stained glass continues. Glass screens were developed, and backlit panels.
As always, art vies fruitfully with decorative function.

We see above examples of high art, of decoration, of functional, and of exploratory works.