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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

The Reflected Faun

housman.jpg

Another one to add to the stock of fauns, satyrs and Pan figures that proliferate from the 1890s to the 1920s, Laurence Housman’s The Reflected Faun appeared in The Yellow Book in 1894. The magazine’s publisher, John Lane, also published Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan in the same year although an early version of Machen’s story had appeared a few years before. What’s notable about Housman’s drawing is the way he combines in a single image several distinct themes: Faunus/Pan, the reflected Narcissus, and all those tales of beguiling spirits lurking in water. The nature of the spirit in this picture is distinctly androgynous, a detail that wouldn’t have impressed those critics who considered The Yellow Book to be an unwholesome publication. The androgyny may be taken as deliberate: Housman was one of London’s “Uranian” artists, and a few years later joined George Cecil Ives’ Order of Chaeronea, a secret society for gay men and lesbians. In the light of this, the drawing might be interpreted as a symbol for a clandestine existence where true desires remain buried or submerged.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aubrey Beardsley’s Keynotes
In the Key of Yellow
Ads for The Yellow Book
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Great God Pan
Peake’s Pan

 


 

Posted in {art}, {black and white}, {gay}, {illustrators}, {magazines}.

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3 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Tororo

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    “J’avais des nymphes”… laments the Faun in Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune.

  2. #2 posted by John

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    Yes, that’s most likely the inspiration, Mallarmé being a big favourite among the Decadents. I wanted to avoid mentioning nymphs, however, since that spoils the androgyny!

  3. #3 posted by Tororo

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    Well, one of Mallarmé’s Faun‘s themes being the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness of this hybrid creature, the nostalgy for some golden age already past, the possibility of some sexual ambiguity subtext in the longing for absent nymphs can’t be ruled out.

    Housman’s drawing is, for sure, a wonderful study in ambiguity!

 


 

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