‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.’ –Pablo Picasso
This couldn’t be truer. I stayed up late listening to music whilst drawing with my trusty ink pen. Aside from my many law books, my shelves in front of me are lined with literature – Hemingway, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Wilde, and Dickens. I can’t say I’ve finished reading all of them though.
These are six women from and in art. They are from literature and music, presented in a drawing. I really didn’t intend to draw this; it just started with some lines and voila, inspiration.
The first from the left is Jordan Baker from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel The Great Gatsby. I first read it when I was in 14 and the Roaring ‘20s caught my attention. Jordan Baker is, to me, a modern woman of her time. She is a golf player, dressed flapper-style, probably with a stylish bob, as was the rage then. She goes where she pleases, attends glitzy parties, and is immensely practical to the extent of appearing shady. She is wise enough not to carry forgotten dreams from age to age. Yet, with too much time in her hands, she is ‘bored to tears’.
The book, ribbon, letter and mask are of Emma Rouault of Gustave Flaubert’s risque Madame Bovary. A romantic, she derives fantasies of love from books and expects the same when she marries a physician, but is disappointed at the bore of marriage. She desires a life among the bourgeois and subsequently is involved in affairs with two men. She also buys many things to satisfy her desires on credit from a Monsieur Lhereux, but is unable to pay her debt. Desperate, she kills herself by consuming arsenic.
The woman with different eyes is the effervescent Daisy Buchanan nee Fay, also from The Great Gatsby. She is frivolous, flirtatious, yet irresistible with a voice ‘full of money’. The subject of love of her husband and the titular character, she is a dreamer who idealises her past relationship with Gatsby, but is torn between the two men. She recognises societal pressures, but clings on to the little hope she has. While driving Gatsby’s car, she kills her husband’s mistress Myrtle who dashes out onto the road. The blame is on Gatsby and Myrtle’s husband shoots him dead.
The diseased lungs belong to Fantine, a picture of desperation from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. A beautiful grisette, she conceives an illegitimate child. Her daughter is left in the care of innkeepers who abuse her and demand money. After being fired from her job for being an unwed mother, Fantine sells her hair, her two front teeth and turns to prostitution. She falls ill with what might be tuberculosis and then dies upon finding out that her daughter will not be brought to her.
The woman reaching for the jar with the face is Eleanor Rigby from the song of the same name by The Beatles. She’s enveloped in loneliness. She dreams of company and sits at the window waiting for company while she wears a face she keeps in a jar. I feel it’s a mask of something she strives to be to gain companionship. When she is united with the equally lonely Father McKenzie, it’s too late; he conducts her funeral which nobody attends.
The final woman with the glass bottle is the young dove, Sibyl Vane from The Picture of Dorian Gray. She is chanced upon by the devastatingly eternally handsome Dorian Gray at a dingy theater as she brilliantly portrays Juliet. They fall in love. Experiencing love has dulled everything for Sibyl. Dorian watches her performance again, which she does poorly as all her passion has been channeled to her love. Disgusted, Dorian rejects her. She commits suicide by drinking prussic acid.
In drawing this, I realised we are all a little of each of the women. At least I am.