Friday, 7 August 2009

Artistic Ancestors



More interesting facts have emerged, in the research for the 'Who Do You Think You Are?' programme about myself, regarding the artistic leanings of my forebears.

It would seem that my Great Great Uncle Tobias was a major influence on, the artist, Monet.

Indeed, Mister Monet would only allow himself to be painted by Tobias - seeing him as his mentor and being the only painter of equal ability to his own.



Hitler, it seems, set about conquering the world armed with a cultural wishlist, his obsession with art often dictating his military itinerary. It seems that he had a particular fixation with the works of my Great Great Uncle Tobias and with the few portraits painted of him. Apparently, when Paris was taken during the Second World War he insisted on going straight to the Louvre and looting the painting "Great Artist in Repose" by the 19th century Austrian academic painter Hans Makart.



It would appear that, at the same time as Tobias was astounding the art world, another one of my forebears, Great Great Uncle Renfrew, was opening up trade routes to the East and dallying in the art world himself.

In 1888 he sat as a model for the Japanese artist Hanabusa Itch's, ukiyo-e print "Blind monks examining an elephant".

In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement.

In this instance, as Renfrew sat for the painting, it would seem that the blind men were in confusion about him. Some felt that he was an elephant of noble birth and great wealth whilst others believed he was just a pompous elephant with an inflated view of his status. How interesting to have been a fly on the wall and to have heard the conversation that engendered such disparate views.

The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths.

How true, one must concur, when one considers the information that this journey delving into the past has uncovered.

I has always assumed that I had risen from humble beginnings, but it would seem that my family has made its mark on the world for quite some time.





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