Australian Painter Garry Shead Finds Divine Inspiration in Dante

“Gregorian chants play softly and a curl of incense drifts high into the air at Garry Shead’s studio in Bundeena on the coast of the Royal National Park.

“For almost five months, Shead, one of Australia’s best-known figurative painters, has been grappling with a new series based on Dante Alighieri’s poem, The Divine Comedy. Invoking the spirit of the 700-year-old poet has been “terribly difficult”. He grimaces as he recalls stepping up to the blank canvas every morning, regardless of whether he felt like it or not.” […]    –Ali Gripper, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2014


Gelrev Ongbico, Paradiso 28 (2014)


Guy Denning’s Oil Painting Series on the Commedia

Guy Denning is an artist based out of Finistere, France since 2007. Beginning in 2011, he created a three part series of oil paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The image above is a painting called “ch’io ‘l vidi uomo di sangue e di crucci” from his first series, ‘Inferno‘ (2011).

“In 2011 he presented ‘Inferno’, the first part of his three-part series of oil paintings on Dante’s Commedia in Bologna; this was his first exhibition in Italy and the complete exhibition sold out.
In 2011, he presented the second part of the series in New York City for the exhibition ‘Purgatorio’. Originally drawing inspiration from Dante’s writings, his intention was not to recreate the poem in a visual or literal sense, but instead let the ‘Purgatorio’ series act as a framework for his own personal interpretation of the world following 9/11. As with the writing of Shakespeare, Denning finds a perpetual relevance in Dante’s work where the specifics of name, situation and place are easily adapted to the modern world; as if time moves on but the problems of humanity remain essentially the same. The events of September 11th and the emotional toll it took on the US identity was a critical element to this body of work. Poignantly enough, this exhibition was held in a ‘pop-up’ location just blocks from Ground Zero and on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.” [. . .]    —Widewalls Magazine, 2017

On exhibition set- “Inferno”

“This was the first part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Inferno was exhibited at my first solo exhibition in Italy at MAGI’900 Museo, Bologna.”     –Guy Denning, on his site, January 19, 2017

On exhibition set- “Purgatorio”

“This was the second part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Purgatorio was exhibited in Manhattan at a pop-up gallery space by Brooklynite Gallery on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 30, 2017.

The image above to the right is a painting called “the cardinal virtue of media temperance” from the ‘Purgatorio‘ exhibition.

On exhibition set- “Paradiso”

“This was the third part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Paradiso was exhibited at Signal Gallery in London.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 27, 2017.

The image below is a painting called “Looking for Beatrice” from the ‘Paradiso‘ exhibiton.

To view Denning’s full list of exhibitions, check out his website here

Chris Orr, Divine Comedy – not waving but drowning (2018)

chris-orr-divine-comedy-not-waving-but-drowning“As part of the ongoing Academicians in Focus series, The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists exhibition presents around 28 new unique works on paper by Chris Orr RA. His eclectic range of subjects includes some of the great names from art history, such as John Constable, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso, all of whom he depicts using a characteristically humorous visual language. With extraordinary attention to detail, Orr portrays each artist in a scenario that elaborates inventively around well known elements of their life and art.

“‘Artists have a lonely job and success is often elusive,’ says Orr. ‘Life in the studio is not all it’s cracked up to be, but it is there that dross can be turned into gold. Each of my Miseries is subjected to the cliché and reputations that haunt them.

“‘In his paintings and etchings Reginald Marsh gave us a vision of a dystopian ‘utopia’ in Manhattan and on Coney Island Beach. […] There are photographs of Marsh drawing at Coney Island, dressed in a grey flannel suit – a very different outfit to the holidaymakers. He stands like Dante on his epic journey, observing the bodies of the tormented souls around him.'” — Artwork description from Royal Academy Shop

See more of Chris Orr’s work on his website.

Contributed by Claudia Rossignoli

Inferno by Franz von Stuck (1908)

Inferno. Franz von Stuck (1908)
Oil on canvas.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY

“This painting’s title refers to Dante Alighieri’s medieval epic of a journey through hell. Although Stuck employed traditional symbols of the underworld—a snake, a demon, and a flaming pit—the dissonant colors and stylized, exaggerated poses are strikingly modern. He designed the complementary frame. Stuck’s imagery was likely inspired by Auguste Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, particularly the figure of The Thinker (see related works nearby). When Inferno debuted in an exhibition of contemporary German art at The Met in 1909, critics praised its ‘sovereign brutality.’ The picture bolstered Stuck’s reputation as a visionary artist unafraid to explore the dark side of the psyche.”    —The Met on Franz von Stuck’s Inferno.

To see the artwork that von Stuck was influenced by with this piece, check out The Met’s website.

The Spirit of Peace by Jasper Frances Cropsey (1851)

The Spirit of Peace. Jasper Francis Cropsey (1851)
Oil on canvas
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA

“This romantic and imaginary landscape is filled with palm trees, temples, tombs, ruins of previous civilizations, and an array of active figures. The benefits of peace are evident in the tranquil integration of philosophy, the exchange of knowledge, the visible signs of trade and commerce, and the arts of dance, music, and representation. Cropsey emphasized that this invented view of the ancient world expressed his belief that Christianity was historically inevitable. The shepherd with his goats in the lower left is a direct reference to Christ guarding his flock while the lion, boy, and lamb carved on the monument on the round temple allude to the Old Testament prophecy that the kingdom of peace, brought into being by the Messiah, would be a place of ‘no violence or destruction in God’s creation, even in the animal kingdom. Natural enemies will no longer be enemies. The food chain will be unchained.’ (Isaiah 11:6)” [. . .]    —Woodmere Art Museum on The Spirit of Peace, 2018.

The second picture is The Spirit of Peace on display at the Woodmere Art Museum, taken by an anonymous contributor.

Mike Donovan, depicting the Inferno

“I first read Dante’s Inferno in high school and many times since. I was fascinated by the Catholic concept of punishment and by the magnificent structures Dante built to accommodate those souls Dante felt should be there. My attempts at capturing the suffering souls, the colorful monsters and the hellish landscape are feeble compared to the illustrations of Dore’ and others but they are my honest attempts drawn and painted only to bring Hell into focus for me.”    –Mike Donovan

Inferno edition by Easton Press


Translation by Clive James

Illustrations by Marc Burckhardt

Easton Press

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Longitudes”

Untitled-Bernard-Frize-Yusef-Komunyakaa-LongitudesThe New York Times Magazine published the above watercolor by Bernard Frize as a visual accompaniment to Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Longitudes”:


Before zero meridian at Greenwich
Galileo dreamt Dante on a ship
& his beloved Beatrice onshore,
both holding clocks, drifting apart.

His theory was right even if
he couldn’t steady the ship
on rough seas beyond star charts
& otherworldly ports of call.

‘‘But the damn blessed boat
rocked, tossing sailors to & fro
like a chorus of sea hags
in throes of ecstasy.’’

My whole world unmoors
& slips into a tug of high tide.
A timepiece faces the harbor —
a fixed point in a glass box.

You’re standing on the dock.
My dreams of you are oceanic,
& the Door of No Return
opens a galactic eye.

If a siren stations herself
between us, all the clocks
on her side, we’ll find each other
sighing our night song in the fog.

— “An Artist and a Poet Find Beauty in Solitude,” The New York Times Magazine

Petra Greule-Bstock, “Beauty awakens the soul to act.” Dante Alighieri

greule-bstock-beauty-awakens-the-soul-to-act-dante-alighieriBeauty awakens the soul to act. Dante Alighieri is one of many works Petra Greule-Bstock creates based on inspiration from a famous quotation. On Greule-Bstock’s blog, she provides background information about herself and her artwork: “I love to paint with natural pigments mixed and prepared like a meal, it’s like working in a color kitchen. Also I use oil pastels, Chinese ink, well let’s say just all I can find in my studio. I love the sensation of feeling lost in colors, materials and forms. Since I was able to keep a paint brush in my hands for the first time, painting was, still is and always will be necessary for me. It’s impossible living without. I was born in the south of Germany and lived there until 2000 before moving to France/Burgundy. Since 2011 I have my studio in Barcelona. Mostly I live with the feeling: I’m not going through the world but the world is going straight through me. The world, the daily life, people, surrounding, colors, smells, views, buildings, plants… all is impressing me, touching me, forming me. Painting is the way of how the “footprints” of all the impressions entering into my body, into my soul, my brain, my senses can communicate with those who are watching the result. With my paintings I’m offering a sight into the mirror of my emotional universe and it is like a dairy of subconsciousness, left footprints, dreams, . . .”    —Petra Greule-Bstock