Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Hunters in the snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569)


This was probably my favourite painting age about 18-20 years - exceptionally evocative of that sense of aching yearning, Sehnsucht, that CS Lewis termed Joy. After living from brief glimpses of the picture held in memory, I eventually found an affordable reproduction to put on my wall - it was actually some luxury wrapping-paper, purchased at Durham Cathedral!

At that time, and originally deriving from my immersion in Tolkien; I had an imaginative desire of 'Medieval' things - either original e.g. Gothic Cathedrals, Chaucer and his contemporaries) or in Revival (e.g. William Morris, Pre-Raphaelites, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff).

Although strictly this painting is a bit late for the Middle Ages, it has that God's-eye not-perspective which aims to depict the distance with the same detail as the foreground; and it was the distant, right side of this canvas that I found so very attractive.

I also liked the winter scene; since I associated it with being warm indoors beside a blazing fire; perhaps in the philosopher's tower of a castle (an image of Merlin from TH White's The Sword in the Stone). And the birds.

It strikes me now that the people are all anonymous, absorbed into the public roles: no 'characters' - and this doesn't appeal to me anymore. My tastes and hopes have changed. Then, I yearned for an earlier time of order, structure, guilds; and yearned to be the kind of person who could indeed live that way...

But that was a lack of self-knowledge, a fancy merely - because I am not of that kind. And have, indeed, spent most of my post-adolescent life resisting anything of the kind. I became a doctor - one of the last of the guilds, and now gone - but while I wanted to be a part of the profession, I was always on the outside and a mixture of unable and unwilling to join-in. The same problems applied to academic - earlier and more strongly.

And either way, there is now no real 'in' to join' - just the lies of public relations and the reality of bureaucracy. So it turned-out for the best, after all!