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Tag: Christmas

Alphonse Mucha: The Slav Epic

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The Oath of Omladina (detail) unfinished 1926

It was a Christmas miracle! Ok maybe not a miracle, but it always seems miraculous when an artist receives funding to realize their artistic vision. This is what happened on Christmas Day 1909 when a wealthy Chicago businessman agreed to fund renown Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha‘s ambitious Slav Epic. Ambitious would be an understatement; the work consists of 20 large scale paintings, some ranging in size of 26 by 20 feet. The series consumed the last decades of his life.

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The Abolition of Serfdom in Russian 1914

The series depicts the history of the Slav people and serve as a monument to both celebrate them and inspire them. The works have a very cinematic scope with their muted palettes and hints of the mystical and the magical. He employs the tricks he learned throughout his years of developing Art Nouveau but the series never truly veers into this realm.

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The Celebration of Svantovit 1912

I wasn’t too familiar with the work of Mucha before we stepped foot into the National Gallery in Prague. You are immediately struck by the scale of these works. It appears to be a cast of 1000s. The room is painted a neutral grey and the lighting is low so that even though the works are painted in a muted palette, they pop. These are those rare works that become more rewarding the longer you spend with them.

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The Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria 1923

Unfortunately my photos do them no justice, take a look here for a much better survey. If you find yourself in Prague and are tired of the masses on Charles Bridge, Mucha’s Slav Epic is a welcome respite from the madding crowds.

Harry Potter and the Crimson Cloak

latest“It’s bigger on the inside!” Ron exclaimed as he and Harry crossed the threshold of the most ordinary cabin you ever laid eyes on. Ordinary in the sense that it was 200 miles from nowhere, in the middle of the Arctic tundra and painted a bright Cobalt blue.

Up until a very short while ago Ron and Harry had been hot on the trail of an unknown object of extraordinary magical power. Their job as Aurors had taken on a new role: to track down and investigate objects of exceptional magic. (Normally this kind of task would have been handled by a different department of the Ministry of Magic, but still five years after the vanquish of Voldemort, many dark wizards had rightly decided to return to the path of the straight and narrow and Aurors were being  utilized for other things.) Their job of finding extraordinary magical objects was made that much easier with the help of the enchantoscope. The enchantoscope was an invention of Ron’s father Arthur Weasley who had made some alterations to a regular sneakoscope so it could now detect all types of magic, rather than just the dark ones. The enchantoscope had led them to a curious looking jingle bell in an antique shop in the town of Cokeworth.

Harry and Ron’s over anxiousness and slight competitiveness had them reaching for the bell at the same time. Turns out that it was no ordinary bell, but rather a portkey. The shock of being transported from the cozy warmth of a quaint antique shop to the frigid temperatures of an Arctic wasteland tends to knock the wind out of a person. Harry smiled as he cast a warming spell to help unfreeze the look of surprise on Ron’s face. They certainly weren’t dressed for the elements and needed to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. The enchantosope was going wild in Harry’s pocket urging them towards the blue building in the distance.

The door was unlocked when they tried the latch. It opened up to a long corridor leading to another door. The walls of the hallway were lined with hundreds of hooks over top of low sitting benches. The hooks were all waist high. It appeared to be a coatroom for house elves or maybe worse – goblins.  The room smelled of gingerbread. Ron and Harry exchanged glances and then took out their wands to be on the safe side and shed some light on the far away door.

The second door too was unlocked and opened up to an enormous hall filled with workbenches and machinery. Tools covered every surface. Everything was scaled for tiny hands except for a massive desk and wardrobe off to the left of the hall situated under a massive stain glassed mural of a map of the earth. Light filtered through the coloured panes, casting the map onto the floor. Harry noticed a difference between the window and the image it cast. The cast image not only showed the continents and countries of the muggle world but also the concealed and secret places of the wizarding world. Hogwarts and Diagon Alley were clearly marked as well as countless places all over the globe. There were far more of these than even Ron realized. You could also touch the light and enlarge any aspect of the map you liked. The enchantoscope was going mental.

“Blimey!” Ron exclaimed as his gaze found an enormous shelf at the end of the hall that looked like it contained every toy he had ever wished for as a child. Harry watched him as he bee-lined for a wizarding chess board that appeared to be carved from dragon’s teeth. Harry meanwhile made his way over to the desk. It was littered with parchments written in every language imaginable. The enchantoscope motioned towards the wardrobe. Harry proceeded with caution and gingerly opened the door. Inside he found an enormous crimson cloak trimmed with white fur and jingle bells for buttons. This was the object that had led them here. The cloak gave off a warm intoxicating feeling not unlike when Harry had taken Felix Felicius or when you’ve had too many butterbeers.  Harry was about to call Ron over when he caught the reflection of a figure on the surface of the brass bells. Standing behind him was a wizard with a great flowing white beard.

“Great Dumbledore’s ghost!” Harry thought to himself.

“Hello Harry.” came a familiar voice.

 

HagridtreeThere’s two things that I’m a total sucker for: Harry Potter and Christmas. I came late to the world of J.K. Rowling but was soon smitten. I started with the third film: The Prisoner of Azkaban (in my opinion the best film in the series) and was intrigued to see how the story played out. The first book I read was the next in the series: The Goblet of Fire and after that I was thoroughly hooked. I loved how each book matured in its writing style corresponding with the age of Harry. I caught up right in time for the release of The Half-Blood Prince (in my opinion the best book in the series) and experienced the crazy anticipation for the final chapter of the tale of Harry Potter. That same anticipation I would equate to waiting for Christmas morning as a kid.

In my mind Harry Potter and Christmas are linked. Every book touches on the holiday in some form or fashion. Even the darkest book in the series The Deathly Hallows has Harry and Hermione in Godric’s Hollow on Christmas Eve. There’s a quiet moment of beauty and hope that follows that fact; even though it takes place in a graveyard.

latestChristmas has come early this year for Harry Potter fans in the form of a series of new stories from J.K. Rowling published on the website PottermoreYou have to sign-up to access the new content but it’s free. The site will also sort you into one of the four houses if you like. Apparently I’m Ravenclaw – who knew?

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Related: 6 Degrees of Harry Potter

                6 Degrees of Harry Potter II

                6 Degrees of Harry Potter III

Hark the Herald

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Gislebertus   Dream of the Magi 1120-30

Art Noel

Warhol-Christmas-cat-228x300With only a week left till Christmas, here’s a little Christmas inspired art by Warhol, Hamilton and Matisse.

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Richard Hamilton I’m dreaming of a White Christmas 1967

Christmas was made for cut-outs.

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Matisse Christmas Eve 1952

Happy Holidays from Holditnow.

Andy Warhol’s Christmas Trees

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Warhol-Tree

Happy Holidays from Holditnow.

Lists: the Season

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It seems to me that December would be the official month of lists. Checking to see who was naughty and who was nice, who to buy what, countless food lists and the end of year round-ups chronicling the year’s highs and lows. We really love to rate things and list them from good to bad to ugly. So feeling in the festive mood, I thought I’d add my own list to the deluge of ratings that will soon totally consume the blogosphere.

Top 12 Christmas Tunes (for this year)

1. Skating by Vince Guaraldi Trio

2. Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses

3. Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade

4. Star of Wonder by Sufjan Stevens

5. Santa is Back in Town by Elvis Presley

6. Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters

7. Soulful Christmas by James Brown

8. This Christmas by Donny Hathaway

9. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kristy MacColl

10. Christmas Is by Lou Rawls

11. Baby It’s Cold Outside by Bing Crosby and Doris Day

12. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

Check it twice.