For my next several posts, I will discuss my impressions of individual paintings by the Pre-Raphaelites of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This group includes artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Herbert James Spencer, John William Waterhouse, and Evelyn DeMorgan. These individuals are often noted for their realism, and they have sometimes been criticized for this and for their practice of working off of photographs taken in their studios. This was explained to me by Michael Greenholt, an animator for DisneyToon Studios.
What can be said about these painters? They were predominantly men, enjoyed portraying scenes from mythology, and evidently also enjoyed painting naked (or nearly naked) women, which was at least sometimes in keeping with the myths they portrayed. The realism for which they are criticized also made mythology more tangible. In my opinion, the composition of their paintings is unusual and visually arresting. What often draws my attention is that which is implied but not shown.
Next week, I will begin examining specific examples of their work.
Hayao Miyazaki is not only a brilliant animator but also an ingenius creator of new mythologies. Many of his animated features exhibit wonderful imagination and originality in this regard. A common device which he uses very effectively is anachronism, the combining of elements from different periods of history and prehistory.
Take, for example, Ponyo from 2008. It superimposes images of Devonian fishes and invertebrates on those of a more modern Japan. These serve as effective symbols of his ecological theme. Of course there is the mythological element as well. The title character is the daughter of a sea goddess (Granmamere) and a scientist/wizard (Fujimoto), and the ecological and spiritual themes are interwoven.
This story is a wonderful and beautifully drawn reinvention of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It is made more endearing by the truly touching portrayal of friendship between Ponyo and a little boy (Sosuke) to whom she becomes devoted. The supernatural love story aspect of the movie employs an element from many ancient mythologies: relationships between divine and mortal characters.
Next week, I will take a look at one more animated feature from this celebrated director.