Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Segrelles and Beethoven

Many artists have attempted to visualize the abstract, emotional language of music.

One who had a unique gift at conveying musical ideas was the Spanish artist José Segrelles (1885-1969), whose enigmatic and evocative watercolors were published on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1927, the Illustrated London News published his visualizations of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Here’s how he imagines the first movement’s familiar four-note theme, which Beethoven reportedly characterized in this way: “Thus Fate knocks at our door...” [now quoting Segrelles] "...to tell us of our sins and to announce the hour selected for our death."

The Roman numerals of a clockface, shimmer in the air behind the hooded figure of Destiny, whose right hand reaches for the iron loop in the shadows at the upper right.


Later in the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, Segrelles imagines a satyr clawing the air beside a glowing light in the shape of a butterfly. On the ground before him, weird organic forms grow upward toward a lone red flower.

Segrelles commented on the theme of this picture: “And so Destiny raises mortal men and women by its secret power, which urges us on, advancing without backward movement, despite our pleas, to the end of our days.”

And if that’s not enough, look what he does with Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung! Imagine how Fantasia would have turned out with him as concept artist.
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Gallery of Segrelles samples by Jim Vadeboncoeur
Segrelles Museum official site.
Thanks, Barry!

9 comments:

Brian Miller said...

wow. great pictures...

goat89 said...

X2 mr Miller!!!!

Anderhowl said...

Wow, I wish I could see the Wagner one larger. I've been listening to the Ring over the past few weeks, reading along with a translation and looking at the Arthur Rackham illustrations. Fantastic stuff.

Anderhowl said...

Come to think of it, in Fantasia 2000, they used a lot of light and dark, black, white, and red, and butterfly imagery for the same piece. I wonder if his name had floated around Disney all those years...

Bil Hardenberger said...

In the extras on the Fantasia DVD is an animatic set to the Wagner's music.. the imagery would have been amazing if they had completed it, but it was deemed "too Germanic" which was an issue with the second World War on the horizon, so it was cut from the film. Check it out if you get a chance.

These paintings have that same feel. Good stuff James.

Mark Harchar said...

There was a gentleman at Illuxcon that is working on a history of Jose Segrelles and his presentation was so utterly amazing as far as the imagery went that I just about lost it. The man's creativity was overwhelming.

-S said...

I wonder if he was a synesthete.

A. L. Ryder said...

I also attended Barry Klugerman's presentation on Segrelles at IlluXcon (hi Mark.) Very impressive work! I remember him saying that the depiction of the satyr here partially inspired Guillermo del Toro's creature in "Pan's Labyrinth," which I think makes sense in so far as the "feel" of the creature is similar, even though they are somewhat physically different.

Kudos to Barry for putting together his presentation (and future book-to-be) on this fascinating artist.

Speck said...

great digging, seems like the artists who designed fantasia built off his ideas especially with the satyr and wagner images.