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The Art of the Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic
Mystical beliefs and practices have existed for millennia, but why do we still chase the esoteric? From the beginning of human creativity itself, image-makers have been drawn to these unknown spheres and have created curious artworks that transcend time and place – but what is it that attracts artists to these magical realms?
From theosophy and kabbalah, to the zodiac and alchemy; spiritualism and ceremonial magic, to the elements and sacred geometry – The Art of the Occult introduces major occult themes and showcases the artists who have been influenced and led by them. Discover the symbolic and mythical images of the Pre-Raphaelites; the automatic drawing of Hilma af Klint and Madge Gill; Leonora Carrington's surrealist interpretation of myth, alchemy and kabbalah; and much more.
Featuring prominent, marginalised and little-known artists, The Art of the Occult crosses mystical spheres in a bid to inspire and delight. Divided into thematic chapters (The Cosmos, Higher Beings, Practitioners), the book acts as an entertaining introduction to the art of mysticism – with essays examining each practice and over 175 artworks to discover.
The art of the occult has always existed in the margins but inspired the masses, and this book will spark curiosity in all fans of magic, mysticism and the mysterious.
From the Publisher
Under The Rose Susan Jamison, 2017, egg tempera on panel.
Susan Jamison’s feminine iconography spans several media – including painting, drawing, textile based sculpture and installation – all steeped in ritualistic and mythological associations. Her Rocks and Threads series pairs classical shapes and symbols associated with sacred geometry, alongside natural elements, intertwining both the ephemeral and the eternal.
The Astrologer Damian Chavez, undated, oil on linen.
Damian Chavez (b.1976) is an artist and instructor from Los Angeles who studied in Florence, Prague and Paris before he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the ArtCenter College of Design, CA. His signature style consists of allegorical portraits incorporating a strong emphasis on ornament and richly intricate background textures.
The Chemical Wedding Robert Ellaby, undated.
British Surrealist artist, Robert Ellaby (b.1964), is much influenced by kabbalah, alchemy and other esoteric systems of ideas. He has been a student of the Western Mystery Tradition for over thirty years. His passion for kabbalistic and alchemical concepts are at the heart of his studies, informing and inspiring such paintings as The Chemical Wedding.
MANY THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF religious iconography and museums spanning the globe full of human art and artifacts glorifying the gods, would imply that we are eternally awestruck, terrified and, well, maybe just a bit concerned with our relationship to a higher power.
Looking to the past, we can see countless depictions of how ancient cultures imagined their gods and goddesses in different ways, reflecting their own needs and environments, hopes and threats, beliefs and traditions at various points in the timeline of human history. As these works evolved and became more sophisticated in their execution, we can follow the growth and change in artists’ perceptions and understandings of the holy in their sublime portrayals of gods and goddesses – from their superhuman engagement in the heroic world of epic, to their complex religious function in culture and society, as well as their transformation from divine corporeality into metaphors in aesthetic and philosophical thought painted on canvas, illustrated in manuscripts or carved in stone.
As we study these classic works in an effort to examine the relationship of the gods to human perception and imagination, we can also take a moment to observe how these religious and philosophical questions gave rise to several occult organisations and movements.
What is the essence of God and how can the greatest intimacy with the divine be achieved? Is there a spark of the divine hidden within us and by what means can we access that precious kinship? In our quest for inner self-knowledge and understanding, can we reveal these higher cosmic truths? The esoteric doctrine of the Kabbalah, the school of ideas and systems in the Hermetic tradition, and the wisdom and tenets of Theosophy all seek to address these questions. And along with them, of course, were the artists inspired by these esoteric spheres of thought, who generated visionary responses to what they saw in these mystical traditions.
As you’ll see in the following pages, artists, in collaboration with whatever deities or higher powers they may choose to call upon – even if it is just the sacred flame within their own passionate, beating heart – remain as deeply compelled by such powerful questions today as did their counterparts worlds away and in times long past.
The Wish Theodor von Holst. 1840, oil on canvas.
The London-born painter Theodor von Holst (1810–1844) is said to occupy a unique position in the history of British Romantic art, between his eccentric master Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) and his most important admirer Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882). Von Holst’s painting The Wish is a moodily and exquisite piece depicting fortune teller as femme fatale. It was the inspiration for Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem ‘The Card Dealer’.
Publisher:Frances Lincoln (October 13, 2020)
Item Weight:1.9 pounds
Dimensions:7 x 1 x 9.13 inches
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