16 Mar The Art and History behind Artpocalypse
The Art and History behind Artpocalypse
We’re slightly excited about the epic history and hidden meanings behind the prints in Artpocalypse. So today we’re taking you on a mini Art History lesson so you can learn about them for yourself.
Chinoiserie was a popular style of art through the 17th and 18th century. But what’s so interesting about it? You might notice something a little funky about a lot of Chinoiserie art – from a distance it seems normal, but as you look closely, you might realise something is a little ‘off’.
Take the tigers’ faces in this design for example, they don’t exactly look like normal tigers. Their faces are more in-line with your tabby cat at home, rather than a menacing jungle predator. So why did they turn out this way? This style of art was created in a time when commercial flights weren’t really a thing, and neither was Google Images (let alone photos in general). So when Japanese artists wanted to draw tigers (from China), their images were based on a combination of domestic cats, tiger pelts and their imagination. Hence tigers with baby cat faces.
Besides our Eye of the Tiger Evil Tee Dress, you’ve probably also seen this interpretation of Chinese art on folding screens, ceramics or textiles. Fun fact: The whole Chinoiserie trend went further than just creating art or designs inspired by China; fashionable ladies at the time also took up tea drinking, which was more of a ritual than part of the morning routine. Having your own Chinoiserie decor at home was a must-have setting for drinking tea with your girls.
But wait! There’s even more symbolism to this piece. The juxtaposition of tigers and dragons is a reference to Yin-Yang, with the tiger representing feminine energy, and the dragon, masculine energy.
William Morris’ prints have been making an appearance in our pieces for some time now, and Strawberry Thief is one of our clear favourites to reincarnate. After using the original print in the past, we’ve since turned it into a Teal Burned Velvet design, and now there’s our latest iteration in Ruby.
The print was originally created by Textile Designer William Morris in the late 1800s to be used for luxurious curtains and wall drapes. So why the name Strawberry Thief? William was inspired by the thrushes he saw pinching fruit from his kitchen garden.
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter who worked from the 1880s to the 1910s, and was celebrated for his sensual portraits and paintings (although they sometimes landed him in hot water, like the time he was commissioned to decorate the ceilings of a university, and his finished works were labelled “pornographic”). There’s nothing nefarious to be found in this print though, just sweet little flowers. We formed Klimt Collage from a range of his paintings stitched together. The most obvious one you might notice is Farm Garden with Sunflowers.
Oh, and do the little yellow flowers remind you of someone? It’s said that Klimt was inspired by Van Gogh’s style when creating these paintings. The two were able to master a style of painting where every element is tightly linked so as to appear as a single, flattened piece, while maintaining a 3D look at the same time.
When we think Art Nouveau, we think Alphonse Mucha, the creator of our beloved Four Seasons and a huge portfolio of other stunning illustrations and posters. His specialty was drawing beautiful women, often as a way to personify elements of nature and time.
Mucha rose to fame after being commissioned to create a portrait of the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt. Recent advances in printing technology at the time meant he could take more risks with the design. And man did it pay off. He quickly became an international sensation.
This term loosely translates from Japanese to English as “pictures of the floating world”, and refers to a style of art popular throughout the Edo period. One of the most influential artists in this movement was Katsushika Hokusai, who created the renowned The Great Wave.
To create this particular print, we stitched together a huge range of Hokusai’s works. In this one dress, you might be able to spot:
- Kirifuri Waterfall at Kurokami Mountain – 1832
- The Great Wave off Kanagawa – 1830
- Togestsu Bridge at Mt Arashi – 1834
- Fukagawa Mannembashi – 1832
- South wind, Clear sky – 1830
- Kajikazawa in Kai Province – 1832
- The suspension bridge on the border of Hida and Etchū provinces – 1834
- Yahagi Bridge at Okazaki on the Tōkaidō Road – 1834
- Banana garden at Nakashima – 1832
- The sound of the lake at Rinkai – 1832
Which ones do you recognise?
Ohara Koson specialised in producing art in the kacho-ga style from the early 1900s. Kacho-ga refers to a Japanese-style art form of painting and printing flowers and birds. Koson drew on some Ukiyo-e techniques as well as more modern styles known as Meiji and Showa.
So what sets Koson’s art apart from any other paintings of animals or birds? If you look closely at any of his work, you’ll notice the creatures he paints all have interesting facial expressions, are getting captured mid-movement or even have their own cheeky sense of humour. Pretty cool, huh?
The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries
Our Unicorn In Captivity print comes from a series of tapestries known as The Hunt of the Unicorn that originated from Brussels around the year 1500. The series has been examined and debated for over a century, and there’s still no consensus on what it really means. Part of the reason for the great mystery is that we don’t even know who created these works, besides the fact their initials are A.E. We also know that whoever commissioned these tapestries to be made had a whole lot of moolah – at the time it was cheaper to build a castle than to create a tapestry on this scale. As for this particular piece in the series? There are many theories on what The Unicorn is in Captivity really means, but we’ll share our favourite with you.
Some people believe our unicorn friend here actually wasn’t being held captive, but his captivity is rather a metaphor. Notice his facial expression looks quite content, the chain attached to his collar is slack, and the fence surrounding him is very short (especially for someone with unicorn legs). He’s also surrounded by lush gardens, not water, or lava. Ergo: he could easily step out from his cage – but he stays – because he wants to. Some say it’s all a metaphor for being in love, or even entering into marriage. It’s a happy kinda commitment.
In this release, you’ll find this print on the Unicorn In Captivity Overalls.
Fun fact: You might have spotted some tapestries from this series hanging in the Gryffindor house common room.
The Night Queen
This print is based on a piece by Marjorie Miller, Queen of the Night, that she created for a magazine in 1931. You can see inspiration from Danish Art Nouveau artist Kay Nielsen in Marjorie’s illustration style. She even created another work similar to Queen of the Night where her subject is walking a polar bear – a clear nod to Nielsen’s art.
Whoever the Queen of the Night may be, we love that she’s out walking her hellhound in a sheer dress. Go girl.
We created a montage of three Van Gogh paintings for the print I Spy With My Little Iris. It takes elements from Irises 1890, Irises 1889 and Oleanders 1888. If you’re familiar with Vincent’s work, you’ll know he’s a big fan of painting still lifes of flowers (Sunflowers, anyone?). It’s said he embraced still lifes so fervently as he lacked the funds to pay models at the time. Whatever the reason, we’re not mad about it.
The Sacred Flame
This print comes from a work by Dutch illustrator and designer, Jo Daemen, who created it for a book about a young violinist who died tragically. Check out the level of detail in this illustration, it’s out of this world. The style draws some parallels to the level of detail in Kay Nielsen’s work, as well as the style of Howard Clark’s famous stained glass window designs.
Now, we have some good news for you. If you love admiring these pieces, and hearing their stories, now you have the opportunity to wear them too. After all, you’re a work of art in yourself.