Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oh Great, Now I'm Obsessed with Monkey Art

Yesterday I discovered the rich history behind singerie (literally, "monkey tricks"), which is art featuring monkeys acting like people.

I do not mean Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.
Look it up, children.
Oh, and Beloved Spouse and I made up. I told you we would. We said "'Til death do us part," and we haven't killed each other yet.

Anyway, there is an apeload of monkey art out there. "Apeload" being a word I just now made up, thank you very much. Basically, if you were an art lover in the 17th, 18th, or 19th century, you were awash in painted, sculpted, etched, and printed monkeys dressing up in people clothes or smoking pipes or smoking pipes while dressed in people clothes. Also, you know, religious tableaux, landscapes, and portraiture by the Great Masters, shit like that. But monkeys. Yeah. Lots and lots of those.

As in the aptly named "Monkey Smoking and Drinking with an Owl,"
by Ferdinand van Kessel.
 I'm sort of glad to know I'm not the only one who finds monkeys acting human an awesome subject for fine art. Apparently there have been a whole bunch of artists who felt the same way, probably as a result of absorbing large quantities of lead and mercury through their paints. So I'm in good company.

"Joyeuse Reunion," by Nicolaes van Veerendael, possible madman.
So I went in search of more entries to my Singerie Hall of Fame and was richly rewarded.

"Apes Celebrating in the Kitchen," another Ferdinand van Kessel spectacular.
Look at all those wonderful monkeys!
 I found out that among the biggest names in singerie is Teniers. Abraham Teniers and David Teniers the Younger, Flemish brothers, were both prolific artists in the 17th century. They painted a wide variety of subjects, but they both had a thriving sideline in the monkey-painting genre.

And if you could paint something like "Smoking Room with Monkeys," wouldn't you?
 In fact, David Teniers the Younger was such a popular practitioner of singerie that he actually had an entire studio of acolytes who produced work in his style.

"A Monkey Encampment," by David Teniers the Younger. Actually.

Not David Teniers the Younger, but an incredible simulation.

David Teniers the Younger. Really.

In the style of David Teniers the Younger. Also, monkey barbers, which got an awful lot of play as a subject.

And now I'll tell you that the above three drawings came from a wonderful Russian website (I think of those I-can't-read-your-alphabet langauges) I found. You think I've gone off the deep end with the monkey art? This website has an absolute apeload of gorgeous images of monkeys. They're not all singerie; some are just, you know, apes being apes. Check it out. It's fabulous.

I want to highlight one last artist from a little later in the singerie tradition, Gabriel von Max. His paintings have the distinction of making you think any of these other pictures are not disturbing at all, relatively speaking.

"The Studio Visit." Come on, guys, put on a funny hat or drink some wine or something. Just stop...staring.
 Von Max did several nearly photo-realistic paintings of monkeys doing human things, but in a very simian way. As if the apes really were taking over. Yeah, his work makes that idea seem not far-fetched. Which is creepy as hell.

"Renunciation," Gabriel von Max. God, she's reaching for a handgun, isn't she?
I've downloaded lots more monkey art. Like, easily another two posts' worth. It's a problem. So I'm going to back away from the computer now, while I still can.

Also, before I start thinking this scene wasn't completely stupid.
 All I'm saying is, if you want more monkey art, I've got it. You know where to come. I'll hook you up. And the first one's always free. Yeah.

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