Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Robert Bateman's Heloise and Abelard

I ran across this painting while browsing Christie's website (hey, a girl can dream). It was pained by Robert Bateman(1842-1922), a lesser known artist who is considered more a member of the aesthetic movement than of the pre-raphaelite movement (i.e., he most likely preferred velvet knee-pants to medieval inspired garb).

Bateman was only known to have created 32 paintings during his career, and few have survived. His most well-known work, the Pool of Bethseda, was actually attributed to another artist with the same initials ( Richard Beavis )until 1965! His work has gained recognition over the past few decades as a result of its inclusion in several high-profile Pre-Raphaelite Exhibitions, including The Last Romantics, which appeared at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1989, and The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910, held at the Tate Gallery in 1997. Bateman was a tremendous fan of Edward Burne-Jones work and a accomplished artist in his own right, but he also pursued gardening and sculpture.

As for this painting, most people assume that the figures depicted are star-crossed lovers Heloise and Abelard, but nobody knows for sure, since Bateman didn't actually give a name to the picture himself. I'm interested to know what you guys think! I do think it's clearly a painting of two lovers whose time is running out. If you click to enlarge the painting, you'll see that Bateman has inscribed the phrase "carpe diem" near the base of the sundial. You will also note the dying sunflower draped over the sundial. (again, it's tough to think of two famous historical or fictional lovers whose time wasn't running out).

The painting is expected to fetch between £30,000 - £50,000 at auction ($46,350 - $77,250 USD).

For more information, visit Christie's website

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Attacking Suburban Sprawl in Vauban, Germany


I always find it incredibly depressing to drive from Edmonton to Calgary. It's starting to look like one unending stream of suburbs. While there are still plenty of wide, open spaces, they get smaller every year and the suburbs of both cities just keep on growing. I'm starting to wonder how long it will take before the three-hour drive between the cities evolves into a hellish tour of one giant housing development after another.

It's shocking what a tremendous amount of space these homes take up. They seem huge, which is of course a large part of their appeal. But at the same time, they are so close together that you can look in your neighbours windows! Even our flat has more privacy than that! You have to wonder why people don't just give up the pretence and share a wall with their neighbors. But I guess that violates the whole "my McMansion is my castle" mentality.

It's also pretty hard to imagine the suburbs without cars, but that is just what they have done in Vauban, Germany. Vauban has decided to take a new approach to suburban planning, creating friendly neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation. Parking one's car on the street is discouraged. And although car ownership is not forbidden, it is a bit of a pain (there are only two places to park in the entire town). As a result, 70 percent of residents have chosen to give up their cars. People either carpool or take public transportation. And because driving isn't really an option, small stores that cater to the pedestrian population thrive.

In addition, free standing homes are forbidden in Vauban, helping to eliminate a lot of wasted space (honestly, who really hangs out in the two square feet of land that separates houses from each other in these new developments? And why do they even bother putting windows on that side of the house, since the only thing you can look at is your neighbors siding (and maybe your neighbors, if you're lucky).

I really hope that this idea takes off, though there are some definite drawbacks to car-free living(especially where I live). Cars are lifesavers during the long Edmonton winter. When it's -30 C (-22 F for the Americans), you don't really feel like walking much of anywhere. Even if they grocery store is pretty close. So I guess I can see why suburban parking lots are so popular here. Still, I'm sure that things can be done to make developments more pedestrian/public transportation/bike-friendly. Hmm. What would William Morris do?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ladurée Macarons

I haven't really had any cravings during my pregnancy, but if there's one thing that I can't stop thinking about lately, it's the lovely macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) from Ladurée. I think this is partly due to the empty Ladurée box sitting in my living room that I can't bear to part with. Everytime I see it I am transported back to memories of those heavenly, perfumed, morsels. I'm not usually one to get overly ecstatic about my food. I'm not a huge chocolate addict (don't get me wrong, I love chocolate, but I'm not one of those girls that "needs chocolate" or craves it particularly).

Anyway, there's just something about Ladurée's macarons that just sets them apart. But there doesn't seem a way to get them that doesn't involve a 9 hour flight (which, I suppose, is part of their charm). Anyway, I dearly wish that they would at least open one shop somewhere on this continent. Currently they have shops in Monaco, London, Tokyo and Switzerland. Would it kill them to open a shop in Seattle, San Francisco or Vancouver? Or even New York?

Hmm. Well, until then, I guess I'll just have to cherish the memories. And maybe try bribing friends to bring them back from overseas trips. And perhaps even learn to make a decent macaron myself!