Sir Alfred Munnings – Ichabod Rubens. Ballads and Poems or a Rhyming Succession of Rhyming Digression,1957

“What a muddle.’ Not to cuddle!
A stupid way to paint the nude.”

ICHABOD RUBENS

In a travelling circus years ago,
A boy was born upon a tour;
And when he reached the age of two,
His mother dropped him on the floor.

Because she dropped him on his head,
A screw got loose inside his brain:
He loved to spend the day in bed,
And hated getting up again.

And when the youth was twenty-one,
From any task he used to shrink;
No job of work he’d ever done;
He drove his poor Mama to drink.

He was the Prince of bearded freaks:
He got a bastard child, and so
He started wearing corduroy breeks,
And took to Art at twenty-two.

Because he couldn’t draw or paint,
He ran a painting class in Town;
Where bedlamites without restraint
Created abstracts upside down.

The females were seductive dears,
All out for love and wine and song:
They couldn’t squeeze or box his ears,
His hair and beard had grown so long:

His sophistries on Art appeared
In Sunday Press, with columns three;
They televised him with his beard;
He lectured on the B.B.C.

Then, after many abstract talks,
His chance of chances came along!
One morning after pulling corks,—
Not feeling quite so bon vivant,—

Not feeling as he’d like to be—
Not feeling quite so bon vivant,—
To cool his brain he’d go and see
The paintings of that crazy throng,—

That suicidal, jolly throng
Whose pictures caused such wide debate,
With legs and necks a mile too long,
That puzzle people in the Tate.

And there inside the Tate he met
That precious Vet.—Sir Piebald Park-
A leader of the cultured set
Who vetted pictures for a lark.

Before Sir Piebald did depart
He’d pumped him full of every name
That ever was in modern Art,
The ’Inskys and the stars of fame.

And then Sir Something Something came,
Tiptoeing through a further door;
Sir Piebald Park he introduced them,
And left them talking on the floor.

Sir Something Something, fraternising,
Began to tell him what to do;
Catechising and advising,
He gassed away till half—past two.

“Forget the beauty nature yields:
If you today would win success,
Away with silly sunlit fields ;
Redeem your soul with Ugliness!

“The Critics seek for Ugliness!
’Tis they who run the show today!
Impress the Press, and then, God Bless!
Your name is made, sir, right away!”

The talking man, he was so keen,
He grew more hotted up and hotted;
No single object had they seen,
No inspiration had they spotted;

With sculptured monsters all about,
And wire all twisted up and knotted,
Although the walls around did shout,
No single picture had they spotted;

In running rhyme, and all the time,
His voice resounding through the place;
He rattled on in lively rhyme
As fast as any trotting race!

“Tiddy-um ti-um-ti-um,
It may seem rather rum,
The great Sir Something Some-
thing said :—

The only thing for you
Is to think of something new
And put ’em in a stew
And knock ’em dead ! ! !

“If you want to be reviewed
By The Times with promptitude,
You do a monster nude
To weigh a ton;

With a belly to protrude
Of genetic magnitude
And leave it crude and rude
And half begun!

“Make the bottom large and round
Like a prehistoric mound,
All solemn and profound
To cultured eyes.

And chuck your weight around
And you’ll be with glory crowned,
And with twenty thousand pound
As a prize!!!”

.       .       .       .       .

Imagine then the closing scene;
The time was nearly half-past four;
They did not know how long they’d been
Upon the shiny, parquet floor.

And when the two had said “ Adieu ”
The long-haired fellow he returned;
And there inside his studio
His abstract passions blazed and burned.

He needed something to excite
His inner man and make him glad,
To fire his soul—to see the light—!
A special drink to make him mad.

He fancied Orange Curacao;
A brand that wasn’t spurious!
When mixed with gin it made him glow;
It made him feel luxurious! ! ‘

Down went the gin and Curacao,
It livened up his lassitude!
He’d drink a bottle just to show
These fellows how to paint a nude!

His inner fury all at work,
A lovely model then he found,
In whom no sauciness did lurk,
Although she was so soft and round.

And as he couldn’t paint or draw,
And as she wouldn’t let him cuddle,
Although not painting what he saw,
He got in such a bloody muddle!

What a muddle! Not to cuddle!
A stupid way to paint the nude!
And the patient posing model
She sat for days with fortitude.

One day at last she begs and begs
That she may be allowed to see,
If he had made her lovely legs
As lovely as they ought to be!

And after all her fortitude,
And patient posing for the picture,
When she beheld the monster nude,
She stood there rooted like a fixture!

Alas, her feelings! Who can tell?
Her heart was wounded to the core.
She screamed aloud and then she fell
And lay unconscious on the floor!

And as he went to lift her up,
And as his body came in contact
With lovely soft and rounded limbs,
He quite forgot about the abstract.

Filled with drink and indecision,
Upon a sofa then he laid her,
And gazing on the lovely vision,
Thought how lovely God had made her.

Then, watching her, he heard a sound
Of someone coming through the door.
He looked around and there he found
A “stranger” standing on the floor!

“I’m here! I’m William Etty’s* ghost!
I was a painter of the nude:
Of goddesses ! a mighty host,
In every kind of attitude,

“I strove to paint the forms I saw.
What Venus’s! And Juno’s too!
But there’s no need to paint or draw
For abstract mongers—fools like you!

“When all the crazy minds are loosed,
When Art is rushing down the drain;
When Art directors rule the roost.
A Nation’s soul is on the wane.

“I’m but a ghost, and you’re an ass,
A twentieth-century bearded goat:
You couldn’t paint that comely lass.
Go cut your hair or cut your throat! ”

Then as he spoke the model stirred
And opened one dark, lovely eye;
Then gave a scream that might be heard
From here to all eternity.

And like a violent mare that reared,
The wrathful, raging Venus rose,
And seized the painter by the beard,
And hit him bang upon the nose!

A raging Venus seeing red—
His red blood streaming to the floor:
And then she seized her robes and fled
And out she went and slammed the door!

And stamping round the studio,
The painter mopped his bloody nose.
Those ghostly eyes, they looked him through.
His evil passions then arose.

Spitting like a venomed adder,
And jeering at the fading ghost:
“You step again up Jacob’s ladder,
And go and join your Heavenly Host.

“And here’s a message you can give
To those old Masters in the sky:
Our modern Art is going to live
And their old junk is going to die!”

The ghost had fled, the model gone:
And then he switched on all the lights.
He faced his monster all alone:
Indeed it was a sight of sights!

And then he stood upon his head,
And viewed the monster upside down:
His nose and beard all bloody red ;—
A Master-piece! He’d won the crown.

.       .       .       .       .

Before he slept, one long, last glance
At his clear, abstract, swollen Dolly :—
He’d beaten all the lads in France.
At last, an English abstract folly! !

Next morning, lying late in bed—
His char had left him all alone—
A summons came as from the dead :—
A ringing of the telephone! !

’Twas Sir Herbert and Sir Something!
They wished to know if he’d be there!
And could they come and could they bring
A double multimillionaire?

And could they bring the President
Of the Con-tem-por-rary Arts ?
’Twas some mistake! An accident!
The message gave him fits and starts:

The meeting happened on a Sunday;
They met and talked and then they bought
His monster nude, and then on Monday
The artist found that he was sought

By many writers full of vigour,—
All precious critics one and all;
And soon his monster abstract figure
Hung in the centre of a wall

Of purple damask, in the Tate,
And people came from far away,
And all the folk who came too late
Were there at ten o’clock next day.

And the multitude applauded
When they were told it was profound;
And the painter was awarded
The prize of twenty thousand pound.

The critic on The Times was spiteful;
He thought the bottom far too square,
And not profound enough, and frightful,
But still the Judges didn’t care!

*William Etty—famous painter of the nude in early Victorian days.

Sir Alfred Munnings,1878-1959.  Ichabod Rubens. Ballads and Poems or a Rhyming Succession of Rhyming Digression,1957

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Robert Hughes (Junius Secundus) – The SoHoiad: Or, the Masque of Art: a Satire in Heroic couplets Drawn from Life,1984

NEW YORK, MCMLXXXIV

Close by the Hudson, in MANHATTAN’S TOWN,
The iron palaces of Art glare down
On such as, wandering in the streets below,
Perambulate in glamorous SoHo,
A spot acclaimed by savant and by bard
As forcing-chamber of the Avant-Garde.
‘Tis there, dread DULNESS dwells in sweats and glooms,
Gnaws her brown nails, and shakes her sable plumes;
FRIVOLITY extends her flittering hand
O’er the distracted, fashionable band,
And YOUTH sustains its present coalition
‘Twixt vaulting Arrogance and blind Ambition,
Whilst rubbing shoulders with the newly-great,
Impartially selling Smack and Real Estate.
Such is the spot for Apodictick Rhyme,
The Gadfly, yet the Mirror, of its time.

Now at thy hands, great CHAOS! are restored
The brief and foolish pleasures of the bored:
The pompous novelty, the well-hyp’d trick
Delivered in the merest Augenblick.
The patronage of younger talent there
(A favoured sport) is flinging Eggs in Air
To mark if they will fly; and when they fall,
As fall they do, it matters not at all:
The temper of the age decrees at once
That none may tell the Dancer from the Dunce.
Opinion bows and scrapes, to Trade defers,
As Disco-Owners turn to Connoisseurs;
Historians to the urinous subway fly
To scribble theses on ‘The Spraying Eye’;
From Kutztown and the Bronx graffitists throng
To find, though Art is short, Reviews are long;
Our purblind Virtuosi now embrace
KEITH BORING, and JEAN-MICHEL BASKETCASE.
The spraycans hiss, the ghetto-blaster shrieks,
Above the clamour, DOLORES GRUESOME speaks:
“My pa-in-law became a millionaire
From unguents to straighten Negroes’ hair:
A generation later, I have come
To bring a new cosmetic to the slum.
In this fat piping time of cultural plenty
Art sheds its bloom when it is over 20:
Ripeness is staleness: Connoisseurs, behold
Th’apotheosis of the Twelve-Year-Old!
My Noble Savages, on sneakered feet,
Flock to the doors of Fifty-Seventh Street;
The infant dauber, whom MAYOR KOCH appalls,
Now sprays on Belgian Flax instead of walls;
The matrons twitter and the Cash-Bell rings,
I serve Hawaiian Punch and Chicken-Wings,
The fame of my invention spreads afar—
Part day-care center, part Bateau-Lavoir.”

With corybantic dance and Bacchic cry
Th’infatuate procession passes by:
And now the hybrid child of Hubris comes—
JULIAN SNORKEL, with his ten fat thumbs!
Ad Nauseam, he babbles, whines and Prates
Of Death and Life, Careers and Broken Plates
(The larger subjects for the smaller brain)
And as his victims doze, he rants again—
Poor SoHo’s cynosure, the dealer’s dream,
Much wind, slight talent, and vast self-esteem.

“Shall I compare me to Picasso? Yes!
Within me, VAN GOGH’s vision, nothing less,
Is wedded to the genius of TITIAN
And mixed promiscuously, without permision,
With several of BOB RAUSCHENBERG’S devices.
The Market’s fixed to underwrite my prices—
Compared to my achievement, JACKSON POLLOCK’S
Is nothing but a load of passé bollocks;
My next show goes by Concorde to the Prado:
‘Painter as Hero: Snorkel, Leonardo.’
Yet the comparison’s a trifle spotty,
Since Leo says I’m heir to BUONAROTTI.
Though those old Guineas knew a thing or three,
They’d certainly know more if they’d known me

Robert Hughes,1938-2012 (Junius Secundus).
The SoHoiad: Or, the Masque of Art: a Satire in Heroic couplets Drawn from Life,1984.  The New York Review of Books, March 29, 1984

Robert Hughes was art critic of Time magazine, and  The SoHoiad, is a mock-heroic satire on the vanity and hubris of the New York contemporary art scene in the early 1980s, written as a parody of Alexander Pope`s The Dunciad. Hughes’ poetic art criticism targeted the limited talents and shallowness of the triad of art, money and self-promotion embodied in the art of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and, in particular, Julian Schnabel.

The full text of The SoHoiad is published in Robert Hughes, Nothing if Not Critical, Selected Essays on Art and Artists. Published in 1990 by Collins Harvill, in Great Britain; and Alfred A Knopf, Inc, in the United States.

 

Gabriela Mistral, 1889-1957: Decálogo del Artista, Decalogue of the Artist

Gabriela Mistral-Plaza Baquedano, Santiago,ChileI. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God 
over the Universe.

II. There is no godless art. Although you love not the 
Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.

III. You shall create beauty not to excite the senses 
but to give sustenance to the soul.

IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury 
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.

V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair 
or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal 
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.

VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song, 
and you shall be the first to be purified.

VII. The beauty you create shall be known 
as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.

VIII. You shall bring forth your work as a mother 
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.

IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you 
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action, 
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman, 
you will fail to be an artist.

X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble, for it is never as great as your dream and always 
inferior to that most marvelous dream of God 
which is Nature.

 . . . . . . . . . . . .

Decálogo del Artista

I. Amarás la belleza, que es la sombra de Dios sobre 
el Universo.

II. No hay arte ateo. Aunque no ames al Creador, lo afirmarás 
creando a su semejanza.

III. No darás la belleza como cebo para los sentidos, sino como 
el natural alimento del alma.

IV. No te será pretexto para la lujuria ni para la vanidad, sino 
ejercicio divino.

V. No la buscarás en las ferias ni llevarás tu obra a ellas, 
porque la Belleza es virgen, y la que está en las ferias 
no es Ella.

VI. Subirá de tu corazón a tu canto y te habrá purificado a ti 
el primero.

VII. Tu belleza se llamará también misericordia, y consolará 
el corazón de los hombres.

VIII. Darás tu obra como se da un hijo: restando sangre de tu 
corazón.

IX. No te será la belleza opio adormecedor, sino vino generoso 
que te encienda para la acción, pues si dejas de ser hombre 
o mujer, dejarás de ser artista.

X. De toda creación saldrás con vergüenza, porque fué inferior 
a tu sueño, e inferior a ese sueño maravilloso de Dios, que 
es la Naturaleza.

Gabriela Mistral, 1889-1957.        Decálogo del Artista, Decalogue of the Artist

Image: Gabriela Mistral. Plaza Baquedano, Santiago, Chile

Kenneth Patchen – The Journal of Albion Moonlight,1941 (So It Is the Duty of the Artist)

Kenneth Patchen Poems For All

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous
To establish problems
To ignore solutions
To listen to on one
To omit nothing
To contradict everything
To generate the free brain
To bear no cross
To take part in no crucifixion
To tinkle a warning when mankind strays
To explode upon all parties
To wound deeper than the soldier
To heal this poor obstinate monkey once and for all
To have kids with pretty angels
To display his dancing seed
To sail only in polar seas
To laugh at every situation
To besiege all their cities
To exhaust the primitive
To follow every false track
To verify the irrational
To exaggerate all things
To inhabit everyone
To lubricate each proportion
To experience only experience
To deviate at every point
To offer no examples
To dismiss all support
To make one monster at least
To go underground immediately
To smell the shark’s ass
To multiply all opinions
To work only in the distance
To extend all shapes
To acquire a sublime reputation
To consort forever with the runaway
To sport the glacial eye
To direct all smouldering ambitions
To frequent only the exterminating planets
To kidnap the phantom’s first-born
To forego no succulent filth
To masquerade as the author of every platitude
To overwhelm the mariner with improper charts
To expose himself to every ridicule
To ambush their blow-nose Providence
To set a flame in the high air
To exclaim at the commonplace alone
To cause the unseen eyes to open
To advance with the majesty of the praying serpent
To contrive always to be caught with his pants down
To sprinkle mule-milk on the lifted brows of virgins
To attach no importance whatever to his activity
To admire only the absurd
To be concerned with every profession save his own
To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty
To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator
To lift the flesh above the suffering
To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit
To send the world away to crawl under his discarded pedestals
To have the cunning of the imperilled wave
To hide his lamentations in the shredded lungs of the tempest
To recommend stone eyelashes for all candid lookers
To attribute every magnificence to himself
To maintain that the earth is neither round nor flat but a scomaphoid
To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss
To be revolted by only the sacred cow which piddles at the toes of the swamp
To kneel with the blind and drunk brigands and learn their songs
To happen

To embrace the intemperate hermaphrodite of memory
It is the artist’s duty to be alive
To drag people into glittering occupations
To return always to the renewing stranger
To observe only the funereal spectator
To assume the ecstasy in all conceivable attitudes
To follow the plundering whirlpool to its source
To cry out nervously with every knock
To stock his shelves with plaintive confessions and pernicious diaries
To outflow the volcano in semen and phlegm
To be treacherous when nothing is to be gained
To enrich himself at the expense of everyone
To reel in an exquisite sobriety
To blush perpetually in gaping innocence
To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence
To burrow beneath the subconscious
To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason
To obey each outrageous impulse
To commit his company to all enchantments
To rage against the sacrificing shepherds
To return to a place remote from his native land
To pursue the languid executioner to his hall bedroom
To torment the spirit-lice
To cover the mud with distinguished vegetation
To regain the emperor’s chair
To pass from one world to another in carefree devotion
To withdraw only when all have been profaned
To contract every battering disease
To peel off all substances from the face of horror
To glue himself to every lascivious breast
To hurl his vigorous cone into every trough
To unroll the hide from that repugnant rhinoceros Time
To refrain from no ownership
To crowd the squat-rumped centuries into his own special residence
To plunge beyond their smoking armpits

. . . . .

Kenneth Patchen,1911-1971. The Journal of Albion Moonlight,1941.        So It Is the Duty of the Artist

Ambrose Bierce – The Devils Dictionary, 1911

Cynics_Word_Book

ART, n. This word has no definition. Its origin is related as follows by the ingenious Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J.

  One day a wag—what would the wretch be at?—
  Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
  And said it was a god’s name!  Straight arose
  Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows,
  And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns,
  And disputations dire that lamed their limbs)
  To serve his temple and maintain the fires,
  Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
  Amazed, the populace that rites attend,
  Believe whate’er they cannot comprehend,
  And, inly edified to learn that two
  Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do)
  Have sweeter values and a grace more fit
  Than Nature’s hairs that never have been split,
  Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts,
  And sell their garments to support the priests.

CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

  There is a land of pure delight,
      Beyond the Jordan’s flood,
  Where saints, apparelled all in white,
      Fling back the critic’s mud.
 
  And as he legs it through the skies,
      His pelt a sable hue,
  He sorrows sore to recognize
      The missiles that he threw.

Orrin Goof

LAOCOON, n. A famous piece of antique scripture representing a priest of that name and his two sons in the folds of two enormous serpents. The skill and diligence with which the old man and lads support the serpents and keep them up to their work have been justly regarded as one of the noblest artistic illustrations of the mastery of human intelligence over brute inertia.

PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.

Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work: the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.

PHOTOGRAPH, n. A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. It is a little better than the work of an Apache, but not quite so good as that of a Cheyenne.

REALISM, n. The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.

REPLICA, n. A reproduction of a work of art, by the artist that made the original. It is so called to distinguish it from a “copy,” which is made by another artist. When the two are made with equal skill the replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful than it looks.

Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1913
The Devils Dictionary, 1911. (The Cynic’s Word  Book, 1906)

Robert W. Service: Picture Dealer

There were twin artists A. and B.
Who painted pictures two,
And hung them in my gallery
For everyone to view;
The one exhibited by A.
The name “A Sphere” did bear,
While strangely brother B’s display
Was catalogued: “A Square”.

Now although A. (and this is queer)
Could squeeze a pretty tube,
The picture that he called a Sphere
Was blocky as a cube;
While B. (though no hint he disclosed
To pull the public leg)
The Square he placidly exposed
Was oval as an egg.

Thought I: To sell these pictures two
I never will be able;
There’s only one thing I can do,
That’s change around the label.
The rotund one I called a Sphere,
The cornered one a Square . . .
And yet, I thought: It’s very queer,
Unbought they linger there.

Then strange as it may well appear,
Derision did I bare,
And blandly dubbed the Square a Sphere
And tabbed the Sphere a Square.
Behold the answer I had found,
For to my glad dismay
The curious came crowding round:
A sold the daubs next day.

Well, maybe A. and B. were right,
Not mugs like you and me,
With something missing in our sight
That only artists see.
So what it is and what it ain’t
I
‘ll never more discuss . . .
These guys believe in what they paint,
Or . . . are they spoofing us?

Robert W. Service, 1874-1958

Image: Sonia Delaunay, 1885-1979

U. A. Fanthorpe: Not my Best Side

I

Not my best side, I’m afraid,
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

II

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–
Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl’s got to think of her future.

III

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can’t
Do better than me at the moment.
I’m qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don’t
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You’re in my way.

Ursula Askham Fanthorpe, CBE, FRSL  22 July 1929 – 28 April 2009). English poet.

Paolo Uccello, 1397-1475, St. George and the Dragon, c.1456. National Gallery, London. Oil on canvas, 57 x 73 cm.