Visual art is a medium – along with music – that I’ve always wished fervently I could be somewhat competent at. I’ve tried, many times and in many different ways, but apart from a few minorly successful attempts and being somewhat decent if tracing paper is involved, I just don’t have the talent (or perhaps patience and discipline) to bring to life the visions if they’re anything other than messy stick figures with triangular dresses and scribbled hair. Thus, I have a deep respect for anyone that has the talent, skill and dedication to produce works of art in a visual medium.
Favourite Painting – Valkyrie’s Vigil
Painted in 1906 by Edward Robert Hughes, who is responsible for several favoured pieces (I highly recommend visiting this online gallery to view more of his work). Though I really like almost all of the Pre-Raphaelite art and artists associated with the movement, the works of which are often a combination of beautiful, whimsical, romantic, tragic and dramatic, I fell in love with this the moment I first saw it – the tone and colour, the delicate impression of a warrior in a moment of reflection, while the symbols of her duty and power are still present (helmet and sword).
Valkyrie means ‘chooser of the slain‘ – they would, as the name suggests, choose which warriors would die in battle. The strongest of the fallen souls would then be brought to Valhalla where they would serve in Odin’s army of the dead. The valkyrie is often depicted as a half-naked Amazonian-type warrior in modern art (here’s a typical example), which is what I would call a relatively liberal interpretation of the text, one sprung from fantasy more than the original myths and legends. Though the origins, attributions and specific duties of the valkyrie vary, in Scandinavian mythology (which I am most familar with) they were both in the servitude of Odin and the dead souls they brought to Valhalla, so you can see how the linked example might have evolved… But when I look at this painting I wonder about all the unspoken things, the things implied and the what if’s, and I think to call a valkyrie a warrior is to acknowledge other aspects of the kind of life one would have lead.
Edward Robert Hughes’ Valkyrie is a far cry from the savage, sometimes beastial woman often seen in modern fantasy art. She is wistful and sad, reaching out to or for something; alone and waiting. The world beyond her is vast but altogether as ethereal as she is. In that light, and what I fancy she’s thinking about, the theme song I’ve chosen for Valkyrie’s Vigil is this beautiful live version of PJ Harvey‘s Angelene.