It’s in the mid 90s right now in Boston, and it’s supposed to reach 101◦ Fahrenheit soon. When it gets that hot, my thoughts turn to... well, you know where.
While poking around online, the above painting entitled Faun (oil on canvas, 1914, Ateneumin Taidemuseo, Helsinki) by Finnish painter Knut Magnus Enckell (1870 – 1925) caught my eye. I knew virtually nothing about Enckell. Here’s what I found out:
Magnus Enckell was one of the leading figures of the Golden Age of Finnish art. After studying in Finland he traveled to Paris in 1891 and enrolled at the Académie Julian. He remained in Paris almost uninterruptedly until the spring of 1894. In Paris his development was strongly influenced by the mysticism and romantic symbolism of the arts and literature of the age. He was immediately attracted by the current in contemporary French painting that modeled itself on primitive art, the work of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the work of Manet.Enckell is believed to have had male lovers, though not much has been written about this aspect of his life. Based upon his work, I find this a credible assertion. Many of his paintings celebrate the beauty of the male form.
Enckell was also strongly influenced by the literary mysticism of the Soleil d’Or groups and of Joséphin Péladan. He firmly rejected Realism and developed a sculptural and synthetist style, adopting extreme asceticism in his treatment of color, which was limited almost entirely to various shades of grey, black and ochre.
Around the turn of the century, Enckell’s art took on a more picturesque tone. Having met A.W. Finch, a Belgian-English artist, who was living in Finland, and later Sigurd Fosterus, a young architect-art critic, he discovered the new colors of the Post-Impressionist style of painting. After completing the large fresco for Johanneksen kirkko church in Tampere in 1907, he focused on depicting light-filled landscapes and island scenery with pure unadulterated colors. His first fresh atmospheric images include Abutments outside Helsinki from 1908 and his spontaneous watercolor and gouache sketches of Helsinki harbor in the early spring of 1909 (Courtesy of The Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki and The Grove Dictionary of Art).
It was only while trying to gather more information on him that I came across his version of Daedalus fitting Icarus with his wings (oil on canvas, c. 1923). You’ll recall that my previous göz lokumu (that’s eye candy for those of you new to this blog) was Lord Frederick Leighton’s version of the same two mythological figures.
Enckell’s Icarus lacks the statuesque dignity and rigidity of Leighton’s and instead conveys a youthful innocence as the awestruck boy marvels at the prospect of trying out his wings. Note the pubes, btw. In Enckell’s Icarus, we see the anticipation of pleasure.
In Faun, we see the afterglow of pleasure. The beautiful youth lies spent, almost nude, his face aglow, blushing. He appears to be resting on a river bank. What kind of physical exertion has left him so exhausted and dreamily content, I wonder?