Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Catholic kitsch

Everyone looks at you as if to say, "How could you?"

I blame Guido Reni and Carlo Dolci for this.

Communist kitsch

Everyone smiles like an over-enthusiastic high school guidance counselor.

I haven't figured out exactly who to blame for this. Delacroix is too ironic, David is too classical, and Courbet is too detached and dry-eyed.

And then there are Pierre and Gilles who appreciate the camp quality of both, and how similar they can be.

The Virgin of the Blessed Heart, 1990

Le Petit Communiste, 1990

My Memorial Day was a long stressful holiday of final grading and really bad asthma. I'm seeing the lung doctor tomorrow, and as you can tell from this intellectually undemanding post, my holiday finally starts today, and lasts until summer school starts the last week of June.

Yes, I will be working in my studio, just not today.


And then there is that ultimate mother line, "Oh go ahead then, be a fine art major, just stick another knife in my heart!"

Is there Anglican kitsch? Yes, it's called the Pre-Raphaelite painters.


susan s. said...

Love these pictures!

Please take care of yourself, Doug!

I hope the Doc has some stuff you can use that will make you feel all better!

Healing prayers rise.

June Butler said...

The top picture reminds me of the small holy cards given out for good behavior by the nuns in my RC school. The Jesus and Mary cards with the exposed heart are a bit creepy.

June Butler said...

Oh, and prayers for relief from your asthma. "♫Get well, get well soon♫", as Elaine's co-workers would sing.

Peter Schweitzer said...

Doesn't the virgin of the Blessed Heart (1990) look like Queen Amidala of Naboo (Star Wars I)?

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Now don't you be slagging off on Guido Reni...the only man from that era who painted a nursing Madonna who looked real! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Surely the point about Catholic kitsch is that it's just bad art posing as good. But at least there were originals that were actually good: they just got copied and imitated badly over and over again until any artistic merit they might have had originally was lost and forgotten. Remi's contemporay portrait of St Philip Neri, for example, is a genuinely startling and inspiring work, and its countless reproductions should reinforce the reputation of the original rather than distract from it.

The Communist kitsch art, on the other hand, which is almost indistinguishable from its fascist and socialist realist contemporaries, is just bad art in its purest sense - albeit trying to set up its own rival iconography to that of Christianity. It too, ironically, hearks back to the great artists of the Nineteenth Century and earlier. But it has no authenticity of its own.

It's also hard to see how the Pre-Raphaelites can really be said to have been kitsch. Much of their output was actually very realistic and transgressive and the exact opposite of kitsch.

Counterlight said...

"But it has no authenticity of its own."

And that's the whole point of this post.

I come not to praise religious and political kitsch, but to laugh at it.

June Butler said...

Sometimes the holy cards were given for not asking to use the bathroom. Just saying.

Counterlight said...

Kitsch knows no ideological or sectarian bounds.

The problem with Protestant kitsch is that it is mostly verbal. See any number of new hymn books. And there is "inspirational literature," Protestantism's answer to Catholic devotional kitsch.

Counterlight said...

"Sometimes the holy cards were given for not asking to use the bathroom."

You must have been ready to plotz after catechism class.

June Butler said...

You must have been ready to plotz after catechism class

Not one class, Counterlight, all day with the nuns. Some of us were ready to plotz, but we competed to get the most holy cards. The nuns urged us to take advantage of the facilities during recess.

Tristan Alexander said...

Must post in defense of the Pre-Raphaelites! While they were inspired by medieval works and sought to emulate their techniques, they were very original in many ways! They are some of my favorite artists!

JCF said...

The problem with Protestant kitsch is that it is mostly verbal.

All those gun-toting, RW&B flag-waving GeeZuses? (As we saw last week) rapturing His Born-Again sheeple? The US of A has Protestant kitsch, fer shur!

JCF said...

Re "Le Petit Communiste, 1990": be honest, Doug. Don't you want to see his vanguard seize your means of production? ;-p

Counterlight said...

"Don't you want to see his vanguard seize your means of production?"

Anytime! Bring on the dictatorship of the proletariat, honey!

Counterlight said...

"The US of A has Protestant kitsch, fer shur!"

Well yes, there is that Jeezus monster truck I posted a while back.

Counterlight said...

And would I really put Edward Burne-Jones' "Seven Days of Creation" in the same league as a Jeezus monster truck, or even Our Lachrymose Lady of the Seven Sorrowful Swords?

Nah, I wouldn't. Too fine for that.