DIANA DORSET ALLEGORIES
DURAND DIANA DORSET ALLEGORIES Myth, Magic and Mystery in the Dorset Landscape ‘As I started to indicate the flowing, sensuous folds and creases in Diana’s tunic, the beauty I sought to emulate dumbfounded me. Every carved Fortuny pleat enhanced the goddess’ assured, graceful movement in the most timelessly seductive way. Mesmerized, brushes in hand, I thought I will do more than justice to Diana, Princess of Wales if, in painting, I can do justice to The Diana of Versailles; this breathing incarnation of the goddess, so realistic that she had to be firmly fixed to her pedestal to stop her from racing off.’ André Durand
DURAND DIANA DORSET ALLEGORIES Myth, Magic and Mystery in the Dorset Landscape
Diane Chasseresse in the park of Château de Rambouillet by André Durand
In commemoration of Diana, Princess of Wales 1961 - 1997
Foreword André Durand agrees that Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, had it right when he said, ‘I think that after twenty years, someone shifts from becoming a contemporary person, to one of history’. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, Durand started to paint not one, but two allegories in Longburton, a village in the county of Dorset in southern England with a population of 470, setting up studio in the church of Saint James the Great. Durand’s new paintings shift Princess Diana, the historical person, to one of myth as the Greco-Roman goddess Artemis/Diana, after whom the princess was named. To emphasize the mythological aspect of his new allegory, the Cerne Abbas Giant features prominently in one of Durand’s allegories. During her short life as a Princess, Diana was Durand’s neighbour as well as the inspiration for the artist’s revival of the allegorical genre. Durand has said that with all the gossip and fantasy about the princess, allegory was his way to respond as an artist. Stimulated by what he saw daily in the media, Durand used the genre to convey hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, or events, which together created the moral, spiritual or political meaning that he wished to impart.
Church of Saint James the Great, Longburton, watercolour by John Lowe
Vesica piscis and the mandorla crop circle, Cerne Abbas 2017
“My only limitation would be my imagination. Deceased, Diana offered even more possibilities as a subject for allegorical painting. In 2001, I depicted the ‘people’s princess’ as the Greco-Roman goddess, Fortuna. Now two decades after her demise another mythological goddess triggers my imagination, the ancient goddess of the hunt, the moon and nature, Diana.” The Kalathiskos Dancer, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, is the classical basis of Durand’s first depiction of Princess Diana as a Roman goddess, Fortuna, which he painted in 2001, while artist in residence at Kingston University on Thames, a painting that caught the imagination of the entire country. For both allegories, DIANA OF CERNE GIANT AND ORION and TO THE CHASE, the classical base is The Diana of Versailles, a statue in the Louvre’s Hall of Antiquities since 1602, which Durand has drawn and photographed countless times. This statue, is striking for the dynamic position of the body, a body movement that reminds Durand compellingly of Princess Diana. “In the allegory, TO THE CHASE, there is very much a feeling ‘of the whole’ about it and a sense of expectancy and happiness. Intensely sensitive to the ravishing beauty of the Dorset landscape on the early summer’s evening when Durand first saw from the Giant’s viewpoint the uniquely mystical crop figure of May 22nd, TO THE CHASE has been conceived as a pendent for THE DIANA OF THE CERNE GIANT AND ORION. The vesica piscis and the mandorla of the crop figure set in the glowing Cerne landscape enhance the sense of adventure - lots of places to hide and seek and captures the playfulness of the Princess, which her sons described in the recent ITV documentary, Diana, Our Mother” Graham Smith
Durand’s Diana Allegories in Context Armando Alemdar At the turn of this millennium, André Durand and I set out to prove a hypothesis: that elitism in art is a recent attitude, reflecting both current art theory and the treatment of art in the popular media. In a project called Art’s Content, Elitism and the Public, we hypothesised that the public would respond to the work of an artist focusing on contemporary subject matter, that is art’s content, and that the response would be unequivocal and wholehearted. People still crave a story in pictures and Durand’s use of allegory and mythological themes offers an opportunity to investigate the power of visual symbolism and to determine exactly what constitutes the nature of elitism in art. When I first met Durand, I immediately saw that his narrative pictures had a close link to Italian 15th and 16th century painting and sculpture. The subject matter of his paintings reminded me of those artists influenced by Renaissance Neoplatonism, a style that looked back to ancient Greece and Rome and sought to revive the language, values and intellectual traditions of those cultures. Durand was born in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, far from the source of his inspiration, ancient Greek art, however, when we met I was astonished to find an artist, in post-modern Britain, with a profound knowledge of mythology, art history and in command of traditional painterly skills and disciplines.
Scion, Armando Alemdar and Giordano Bruno Burning (left to right)
We agreed to develop an artists’ residency at Kingston University’s Stanley Picker Gallery, in co-operation with Charles Ryder, curator of the Stanley Picker Gallery. Art’s Content, Elitism and the Public would involve debate about the role of art in society and would culminate in an exhibition of the pictures painted by Durand during his tenure at Kingston University. We wanted to explore recurring and salient questions about the role of art in society. Is there such a thing as linear progress in art? What exactly constitutes the nature of elitism in art? New insights were nurtured by prolonged conversations with students of diverse nationalities, artists and friends, which turned my research of art history into an interdisciplinary project, contributing to the maturing of my own artistic vision. Why did Durand’s large allegory of Princess Diana, FORTUNA, catch the imagination of the entire country and the rest of the world? It was because the recently deceased ‘people’s princess’ was still very much on the public’s mind; Durand had focused on a treasured contemporary icon. The attention his allegory attracted confirmed that art could have universal appeal, as well as reach all levels of society. A picture could become the common estate of all citizens if the artist were to choose a contemporary icon as his subject. In August 2000, the Stanley Picker Gallery was transformed into a busy open studio. We were meeting with students, curators and guests while Durand worked on a series of narrative paintings including The SCION, Giordano Bruno Burning, Et in Arcadia Ego and Messiah 2000.
Photo by David Partridge
Durand Diana Dorset Allegories Almost two decades after his Kingston University residency, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Princess Dianaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death, Durand created not one but two new Princess Diana allegories. These were painted in the church of Saint James the Great, Longburton, not far from the tumescent Cerne Giant, the hill figure that overlooks the village of Cerne Abbas. Here, between the world famous giant and an enigmatic crop circle, a pair of very different allegories has been conceived.
Kalathiskos Dancer Altes Museum, Berlin
Fortuna by AndrĂŠ Durand
The Diana of Versailles MusĂŠe du Louvre, Paris
Diana of the Cerne Giant and Orion (detail)
DIANA OF THE CERNE GIANT AND ORION 2017 - 2018 72 x 72 in / 182.88 x 182.88 cm
Diana of the Cerne Giant and Orion As in his 2001 allegory of Princess Diana as the goddess Fortuna, both Dorset allegories share a classical precedent but the difference in mimesis is remarkable. The small Kalathiskos Dancer relief in the Altes Museum is a template for Fortuna’s pose. However, the artist’s primary source of inspiration for the DURAND DIANA DORSET ALLEGORIES is the marble statue of Artemis/Diana known as ‘The Diana of Versailles’ in the Louvre, a gift from Pope Paul IV to Henri II in 1556, which Durand has drawn and photographed countless times. This statue, the first significant antiquity to enter the French royal collection, has been copied, cast and imitated many times in modern Europe, in engravings, ceramics and small bronzes. For Durand, the goddess’ rather aloof majesty and nimble-footed movement evokes the agile Princess Diana.
Armando Alemdar, Simon Schama, Andria Zafirakou. Alperton Community School 2018
Saint Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Church, Cerne Abbas 2017
Montage, Diana of the Cerne Giant and Orion brunaille 2017
Saint James the Great, Longburton 2017
The Good Shepherd
No matter how often I have looked at a work of art, it is only when I draw or paint it that the secret of its beauty fully reveals itself to me. At sunrise in the Church of Saint James the Great in Longburton, Dorset, I began to block in a new allegory, DIANA OF THE CERNE GIANT AND ORION. By midmorning the composition was delineated and I began to develop the central, almost life-sized figure of Diana, goddess of the hunt, based on The Diana of Versailles in the Musée du Louvre, a slightly over life-size marble statue of the Roman goddess Diana, accompanied by a small deer. As I started to indicate the flowing, sensuous folds and creases in Diana’s tunic, the beauty I sought to emulate dumbfounded me. Every carved Fortuny pleat enhanced the goddess’ assured, graceful movement in the most timelessly seductive way. Mesmerized, brushes in hand, I thought I will do more than justice to Princess Diana of Althorp if, in painting, I can do justice to The Diana of Versailles; this breathing incarnation of the goddess, so realistic that she had to be firmly fixed to her pedestal to stop her from racing off.’ André Durand
Sepia ink drawing, study for Diana of the Cerne Giant and Orion
The transformation of the historical princess to one of myth, as the Greco-Roman goddess Artemis/Diana, after whom the princess was named, must have been instinctive for the artist. I was intrigued to see how the Cerne Abbas Giant features prominently in DIANA OF THE CERNE GIANT AND ORION. In the Iron Age the giant’s phallus was aligned with the constellation of Orion, the hunter who appears in the winter sky with his bow and his hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, trailing behind him. Greek myth tells us that Orion was Diana’s only mortal love. To this tragic love Durand alludes at the top of his composition, depicting the Horsehead Nebula, that dark gaseous nebula in the constellation of Orion. Dominating the composition is an idealised, cosmic Diana, Apollo’s twin sister, reincarnated as the fleet footed huntress - a very corporeal epiphany, as if the goddess princess, by some kind of ancient rite or magic, has just descended upon us to confirm her existence. The art of painting? Indeed, while painting this stupefying allegory, Durand must have been listening to The Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute, ‘The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart, Death and despair flame about me!’. The whole canvas is imbued with a delirious, magenta light. The composition is constructed with astute consideration to achieve a perfect balance of movement and stillness in some kind of eloquent silence. While the goddess of the moon, in the act of turning with angry mien towards the risen Horsehead Nebula on the high horizon, moves to the right of the composition, a perfectly balanced circle of energy and tension is created. Durand has achieved something spectacular here, something not unlike that achieved by Titian Vecelli, his favourite painter, in his wondrous picture The Money Tribute in London’s National Gallery. Jesus’ gaze is unfazed, not of this world; his declension is not the opposite of acceptance, his presence is not the opposite of absence. In the same way, Durand’s goddess is here but not here. Therefore, a likeness has not necessarily been Durand’s primary concern. Instead, Durand has idealised the princess. This Diana, represented as a slender and masculine huntress, is not of this world but from Olympus. In the absolute certainty of her movement, the goddess does not look in the direction of the hunt. She seeks other prey.
TO THE CHASE 2017 - 2018
72 x 72 in / 182.88 x 182.88 cm
To the Chase
The Cerne Giant and the crop circle figure, Cerne Abbas 2017
The second allegory, TO THE CHASE, depicts Princess Diana once again as the goddess Artemis/Diana, like a luminous apparition in the Cerne Abbas countryside. Most relevant to Durand’s allegory is the question, what is the giant’s link to the 22 May 2017 mysterious crop circle that first brought Durand to Dorset? Unlike other crop circles, the mysterious Cerne Abbas crop circle figure, which features so prominently in Durand’s composition, is not created in perfect symmetry. Interestingly, it appeared in a field in full view of the Cerne Giant above, which, incidentally, is on the same latitude as the Long Man of Wilmington.
It has been fascinating to witness the blossoming of TO THE CHASE that has taken place at the time of writing this essay. Durand has applied subtle finishing touches to the canvas that have led to a magical transformation. The luscious ferns in the foreground and the air between the foliage is delightfully tangible, while in the background, the fields of lavender and barley are softened with delicate cerulean glazes to create a sense of vast distance. The seductive purples and blues connect our eye to Dianaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s himation, banded at the waist for more freedom of movement. The whole image has now become four-dimensional. Under the spell of the Dorset landscape, Durand has discovered in both Diana allegories a profoundly numinous style surpassing comprehension or understanding. These qualities, that we rarely experience in postmodern art, suggest academic knowledge and spiritual consciousness. Of course, as the British philosopher Collingwood has observed, art is not all about skill because then a creation becomes a mere craft. The narrative reveals the lost meaning and significance of iconography. The content is both the soul and the driving force that gives life to a work of art. In the Durand Diana Dorset Allegories, Durand observes three criteria of the Neomodern manifesto 2000: A Neomodernist picture has links to the works of art that preceded it and/or antiquity. A Neomodernist artist must have sound drawing abilities and a command of the other traditional academic disciplines, such as perspective. Most importantly, a Neomodernist picture manifests the Idea in the Hegelian sense, meaning of the Absolute, the spiritual presence in a work of art.
Greeman at the Wilmington longman 2002
Acknowledgments André Durand is sincerely grateful and indebted to Graham Smith, a friend of a lifetime, and Simon Keyte of Mount Art Services for their inspiration, encouragement and support The Grain Gallery is grateful to Armando Alemdar and Andria Zafirakou of Alperton Community School in Brent for their enthusiasm and participation Sam Branch James Couper Captain Michael and Barbara Fulford-Dobson Adrian Gibbs at Bridgeman Art Library Sue and John Lowe Jessica Mann at Alamy Reverend Lesley McCreadie Helen Moyers Jennifer Newbury David Partridge Ian Rank-Broadley Terry Salt Reverend Jonathan and Jane Still Everyone at Saint Mary’s Church, Cerne Abbas and Saint James the Great, Longburton Technical support from Mount Art Services www.mount-art.co.uk Frames by Longpré www.longpre.co.uk
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