The Mermaid by Howard Pyle (1910).

A print of Howard Pyle’s wonderful mermaid painting adorns my bathroom and after looking at the Delaware Art Gallery page I’m surprised to discover that it was left unfinished. The Delaware gallery has more of Pyle’s work including his strikingly sparse pirate painting Marooned, which appeared on the cover of the Hal Willner compilation Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, in 2006.

Mermaids are a popular thing on the web, of course, with several picture galleries of varying quality available, from prime Victorian to gaudy contemporary; needless to say, I prefer the former. All of which begs the obvious question: where are the mermen?

Previously on { feuilleton }
Howard Pyle’s pirates
The Masks of Medusa
Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys

12 thoughts on “Mermaids”

  1. John, do you think the moon is rising or setting? Marooned is fantastic. Mermen? Is that what women want? Robert

  2. Thanks for that, it is quite gorgeous. I am reminded of Boecklin mermaid I have just been fruitlessly trying to find! She lounges on a rock with some seabirds and looks – well – rather more flabby and fish-like than would be usual! I think a deceased merman may float under the water? Not sure. I do know it is a bit of a haunting image….

  3. I think that the Mermaids are a mythical fascinating figures, but don’t leave you to catch for her songs, they can be your ruin.


  4. Sue – I think the Bocklin you are looking for is called Calm Sea, it features a large red-headed mermaid who has clearly had rather a rough night, with auks perching on her tail.

  5. Robert: is it the sun or the moon? I’ve never been able to decide that either. I’d guess the rising sun for the way the rocks are lit at the top. The Delaware note says the sailor is being rescued but that seems ambivalent too, she could just as well be dragging him into the sea.

    Sue: as Alyx notes the Böcklin picture is this one. One of his less graceless mermaids. I think it was Böcklin who also did a really terrible painting of Sirens with huge chicken legs.

    Yvonne: thanks for those and good to see the mention of Pauline Baynes whose work I’ve considered featuring here. I like the Clark Kent merman, in fact I think I’ve seen that on a gay site somewhere, he’s rather cute after all.

  6. Hi Alyx , hi John
    Thank you – that is the very one and a perfect description, much appreciated.

  7. That’s a beautiful piece, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’m actually familiar with the Hal Willner compilation, because of Jolie Holland. The cover art was an excellent choice.

  8. Oh I love The Grey Funnel Line on that album! I was a bit disappointed when I heard Springtime Can Kill You that it didn’t quite have the same haunting quality. Still a great album though.

  9. PS: for more of that haunting quality (although the rest of the album doesn’t match it), I recommend A Prayer by Madeleine Peyroux from her Dreamland album. Used to devastating effect at the end of an episode of Deadwood.

  10. I saw your mermaid on a bicycle but missed the merman’s genitalia. I remember coming across an assertion once that mermaids must be expert at oral sex. Not quite sure that has to be the case; if streamlined meant lacking gonads then dolphins wouldn’t do much breeding, would they?

    For an exploration of the mermaid in 19th century culture (and other things), I recommend The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury Of The Kitsch Experience by Celeste Olalquiaga:

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