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For Prompt 14, I’d like us to consider how artists are often inspired by other artists.  Let’s face it; at times, our creative wells can seem pretty dry.  When you want to create but your ideas don’t inspire you, why not turn to other artists?

Consider the painting below. Pieter Bruegel, the Dutch master, created his Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in about 1560, and his subject is the Greek myth of Icarus.  (If you’ll remember, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were attempting to escape Crete by flying with wings made of wax and feathers.  The boy’s father warned him not to fly too close to sun, because the heat would melt the wax wings.  Of course, Icarus, in a bout of hubris, ignored his father, flew too close to the sun, and fell to his death in the ocean.)  Bruegel’s version of the myth is set in his contemporary times.  Check it out.  Can you spot Icarus?

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This painting (and others by Bruegel) inspired many artists.  In the 20th century, both W.H. Auden and Williams Carlos Williams wrote poems with Bruegel’s Icarus in mind.  Here they are: 

Musee des Beaux Arts

W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

According to Brueghel

when Icarus fell

it was spring

a farmer was ploughing

his field

the whole pageantry

of the year was

awake tingling


the edge of the sea


with itself

sweating in the sun

that melted

the wings’ wax


off the coast

there was

a splash quite unnoticed

this was

Icarus drowning

I’m amazed that both poets were looking at the same painting, but how different their poems are from each other!  For Prompt 14, I’d like us all to take some time to truly observe the image below.  Go beyond simply looking at the details (although they are important), and try to engage with the feeling of the image.  What emotions was the artist George Tooker attempting to evoke?  What is the tone?  After closely observing the painting, create a poem or a story inspired by it.  Don’t simply tell the reader what you see.  Use Tooker’s art to inspire a piece by you.  (Remember to respond to at least one peer’s piece.)  Go

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