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Egyptian Grave Painting

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Pablo Journal

The Louvre Test
Dedicated to Picasso

Entertaining · Amusing · Interesting. And Free.

Year 1 · No. 9 · Dec 18 1998


Roots Of Our Civilization

Greek Vase Painting

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After World War II, Picasso was asked to donate some works to French museums. As a compensation, he was granted a confrontation of some of his paintings to works of his colleagues in the Louvre, on a day closed to the public. Only very few persons were present. In a kind of ceremony, his works were hung side by side with other works of his choice. Rarely did someone speak. Afterwards, Picasso is to have said: "C'est la même chose!", i.e. it's the same thing: He and the other masters were doing the same, despite of different styles and attitudes.

Hence this Journal is dedicated in humble reverence to
Pablo Picasso.


This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter and art lover only. As lover I will approach one of the works of art the heritage of all mankind has left us, one by one, week after week, as long as I can. I will keep my investigation personal and simple, meant to open your eyes to see for yourself. Words can be used as a means to that end, but it is rather the space between the words that does the work. A great master of the art of appreciation of art, Kurt Rossacher of Vienna, demanded to see with nose first, eyes, tongue, heart, and only at last with the brain.

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!).

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time.

Also, I invite you to join in my effort. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal.

Yours truly,
Signature Dr. Werner Stürenburg, Germany


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Egyptian Grave Painting
Harachte and Hathor · ~ 1250 B.C.

Greek Vase Painting
Achilles Bandages Patroklos · ~ 500 B.C.

Egyptian Grave Painting

Greek Vase Painting

Location Size Scan

Grave of Nefertari, Thebes-West

height c.150cm 60"


Location Scan
Berlin, Antiques Museum


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Egyptian culture is one of the oldest on earth. Egyptian figures are very peculiar, can be recognized easily, didn't change for thousands of years and are widely known all over the world.

As we know well now, human society developed from groups of gatherers and hunters. We still have societies of this kind living today. They realized a way of life that became a dream only soon after: They only work a couple of hours a day, have close relations to everybody in the group and plenty of time to enjoy life.

Next step in development was settlement, agrarian culture and accumulation of wealth and power, development of cities and kingdoms, all of which were consequences of the knowledge of reproduction both of plants and animals.

One of the first great kingdoms developed in Egypt and remained quite stable for three thousand years. This was a consequence of the life-cycle produced by the Nile River. The Egyptian culture was extremely conservative and managed to reproduce itself for long periods of time without noticeable changes.

Of course, with wealth and governmental structures came bureaucracy and tax system and the need to record business data. The Egyptian written language is well known for its pictures and has been deciphered for around 150 years only. You can see the hieroglyphs grouped in columns in the background very clearly.

As they are prominent in Egyptian painting and sculpture and couldn't be understood for so long, this knowledge being lost with the rise of the Roman Empire which put an end to Egyptian culture, hieroglyphs were a synonym to something absolutely non-understandable.

I can't read hieroglyphs myself, but I'm sure that these don't mean records of business or taxes. This is a painting in a grave, and most of what we know from the Egyptian culture stems from religious sources. The Egyptians were very much concerned about right living in this life for worries about afterlife.

Everybody knows the art of mummification developed by them and their huge pyramid constructions, still being one of the wonders of the world today.

With regard to painting, the Egyptians obviously painted with the left brain, that is to say, they painted what they thought rather than what they saw.

If you imagine the most important impression of a person, you probably won't think of any queer position but rather a view up front, as the shoulders are very significant. You will observe this approach with every child growing up.

Likewise, heads are shown in profile mostly, because this view is more significant than the frontal view. The eye in this profile is shown frontal in turn, just because an eye in profile view isn't visually appealing.

Although the Egyptians showed many details from everyday life, they weren't interested in realistic painting at all. Their images had to represent ideas such as gods and afterlife.

The whole culture centered around death, and images were used to show the dead what was to be expected and what was to be hoped for.

It was hoped that life would continue as a it was before death, therefore everyday scenes can be found. But mostly we learn about religious concepts. Just as famous as hieroglyphs are Egyptian gods, which are very often composed of human bodies and animal heads.

The center figure in our painting wears a peculiar headdress, composed of a disk denoting the sun and a snake circumventing this disk.

Early in this century, C. G. Jung, famous Swiss psychotherapist, observed that modern people often dream or visualize symbols well known in other, sometimes long dead cultures, of which these people didn't have any knowledge.

Nevertheless, these dreams had meaning for the dreamers, which led C. G. Jung to his theory of archetypes.

According to this theory, everything ever present in human conditions still lives in every soul today. My experience backs this theory very well. I didn't know about snakes or sun disks, but I painted something in this vein.

You can read about the development of one of my paintings in a speech called "On Observing the Creative Process" (which is rather untypical, but instructive), here I point you to the left part of another painting showing a peculiar headdress composed of a sun disk and horns, which are significant for the Egyptian goddess Hathor, which I never had heard of before.

Joe, 251 · Blue Man

You can detect a green snake in the lower left corner and another snake at right next to the center man.

The sun disk also contains a cross which seems to be more Christian in nature. The Egyptian cross "ankh" is a symbol of life and can be seen as hieroglyph beneath the owl and in the hand of the center figure.

Anyway, as I don't construct my paintings, these symbols are proof of the creative nature of the subconscious (or however you will call that which is greater than us and does these things), which uses all kinds of materials to express new content. They are also proof that Egypt still lives in modern minds.

The Greeks were the first people known for realistic painting. Unfortunately, not a single painting of Greek times survived.

But we know from writings, that some painters of the later period worked realistic to an extent that even animals were cheated: birds are reported to pick at painted cherries.

In contrast to Egyptian history, Greek history is a constant development. Therefore, our painting only illustrates a very short time out of 2500 years of Greek art.

Actually, this painting is rather a drawing, a decoration on a dish, which could survive the centuries. This example shows the red figure style, which followed the black figure style. The red terracotta was covered with black terracotta, into which the drawing was carved. Here, the figures are red, whereas in the black style they would be black.

The scene shows a realistic everyday action, two heros and warriors in their armors (notice that they obviously didn't wear pants), one bandaging a wound on the other's arm.

These heros were long dead, figures in the epos "Ilias" from Homer, tales from a long gone past. This past still lives today, Homer and his books are still well known, only that now we know that these tales have several authors, not just one. Doesn't make them less fascinating.

Homer belongs to a dark past, but soon after Greek life flourished to an extent which still seems unbelievable. We know a myriad of details about 1000 years of Greek history.

We know all these facts because for several hundred years the most influential heads in our culture were influenced by and occupied with Greek thought, taste and style.

Many things reproduced for and by Romans were taken as original Greek at first, who were essentially unproductive by themselves. If we talk of beauty today, it is mostly Greek beauty.

The Greeks defined and developed our idea and conception of beauty, without the Greeks the Statute of Liberty wouldn't exist, artists went south to study beauty in Italy, European nobles traveled to Italy and Greece for hundreds of years, and each time projected its own definition onto the Greek heritage.

Remember the Olympic Games? A revival of the old Greek festival. Of course, the Olympic Games mean something totally different today. It is quite hard to imagine how Greek life was in these times, but this isn't important for my point.

These old Greeks are always on our mind. They invented philosophy, they invented mathematics, their tragedies and comedies still influence our theater and movies.

The Greeks had lots of gods, but they didn't have much respect. They knew pretty well that their life wasn't safe and sure, much in contrast to our own time make-believe, and they always knew one god or another who could be blamed with bad fate, but their relation to the gods was rather similar to that of grown up children and their parents.

This scene in the dish is illustrative only. It doesn't relate to high or deep subjects. It is all surface. This drawing is technically simple, but shows complicated poses. Greek realism didn't just try to capture life.

They portrayed their Olympic heros as gods, they portrayed their gods as idealistic beauties. Their sculptures are very impressive still today, and hopefully many more will be found on the ground of the Mediterranean Sea in the future.

They achieved realism without scientific methods, and later paintings found in Roman houses show that they probably were not far off discovering the secrets of perspective.

Suddenly, all these developments, driven by only very few people, came to a halt. Enter the Dark Ages. For several hundred years, realism didn't have any chance. People weren't interested in the outside world. Christianity had taken over and pictures had to show religious truths.

This is not at all surprising. If you look at other cultures, you'll find a majority of religious paintings.

Paintings in these cultures mean more than just technical perfection. Generally, life in these cultures doesn't stop at materialistic questions. On the contrary, life is aimed at some higher goal, and this is expressed in painting as well.

Vice versa, if the culture is destroyed, the higher goals are lost and the culture and with it painting deceases.

This happened to the Greek culture also. The Egyptian culture was destroyed by the Romans, the Greek culture was destroyed by the Macedonians, and it took a long time for the world to recover.

If you're interested in an essay trying to encompass the development of the history of Western music including its decline in this century, relating to our time and trying to find a future, read the essays of Christos Hatzis. You don't find people with this kind of perspective very often.

We don't know much about Greek music. We don't know much about Greek painting. But we know even less about the influence of our immediate ancestors.

I never heard of Germanic painting. Very little sculptures are known, some jewelry, some rites, little poetry. The roots of our civilization lie definitely not in the Germanic forests.

This month, I omitted the advertisements for the Galleries of Art Quarter. If you approve, please vote yes, if not, vote no.

Time to wish you a Merry Christmas! I will take a break for three weeks, so the next issue will be in January 1999.

Time also to present my Christmas gift to you: I launched a new service called

Monthly Give Away.

Every month I will donate one or more of my works, preferably an original print. I start off with the most valuable item I have in this range. It is a large colored woodcut, at the same time a large watercolor original.

If you would like to possess one of my works for free, this is your chance. I hope you like my gift.

Also, I hope you have had a fulfilling life during this year and wish you the same for next year. Happy New Year!

All the best 'til next time. Yours truly,
Signature Dr. Werner Stürenburg, Germany

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Last month

In The Blue


Red Curve VI

All Abstract


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See also the other journals:

Weekly Work
Marketing Musings
Art Journal
Creative Journal
493 · Two Clowns
First Sale and Serious Inquiry
Being a Modern Painter
The First Picture

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