The Art of Communication

CHAPTER 7: From text to image

Classical myths, biblical stories, and famous works of literature have inspired artists for centuries to give visual form to compelling characters and moving scenes that may only exist as a written text. Artists play with such literary sources like musicians with a score, instilling in their rendering their own personal preferences and styles. These images complement the original texts, expanding their meaning and opening new avenues of interpretation.

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Personification of Astrology

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)
Cento, Italy, 1591 - 1666, Bologna, Italy

Personification of Astrology
Oil
81 cm x 65.6 cm (31 7/8 in. x 25 13/16 in.)
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1984
1984.57

This art object can not be displayed
This art object can not be displayed
This art object can not be displayed
Satan viewing the ascent to Heaven, from John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 3, line 501

John Martin
Haydon Bridge (Northumberland), England, 1789 - 1854, Douglas (Isle of Man)

Satan viewing the ascent to Heaven, from John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 3, line 501
Mezzotint and drypoint with rocker
37.4 cm x 27.6 cm (14 3/4 in. x 10 7/8 in.)
Purchase through the generosity of the Still Water Foundation, 1996
1996.263

From afar, Satan scowls at the sight of angels ascending the stairs of heaven, enveloped in extraordinary formations of clouds. Milton writes that they “ascend by degrees, magnificent” with a “frontispiece of diamond and gold embellished.” Heaven and its entry are “inimitable on earth by model, or by shading pencil, drawn.” Martin takes on the challenge and succeeds in rendering what Milton proclaims impossible: the sublime transition from earth to heaven.

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Image credit:
Diego Rivera
La maestra rural [The Rural Teacher], 1932 (detail)
Lithograph
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1986

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