There is no single way to be creative. Beautiful artwork can be created through a variety of different media, with each of these art forms sometimes being combined and seeking inspiration from each other.

Visual artwork (i.e. paintings, sculptures and so forth) and poetry are two examples of this artistic creativity. Throughout the history of mankind, both of these art forms have been intertwined by their creators, who have been inspired by pre-existing masterpieces to create their own personal projects.

An example of such a painting includes Figure 5 in Gold (1928) by Charles Demuth. The poem which takes the credit for this painting’s inspiration is William Carlos Williams’ The Great Figure (date unknown). The number 5, perhaps unsurprisingly, takes a prominent place in both painting and poem, as do the colours red and gold. The accuracy of the translation from words to picture can therefore be assumed to be relatively spot-on. The divide between painters and poets need not be a wide one. Some people think visually, others think through language, but the results of such thinking may turn out to be surprisingly close.

Another painting which has its roots in poetry is Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s Beata Beatrix (c.1864-1870). Rosetti, who had lost his wife Elizabeth Siddal eight years previously to creating this artwork, decided to immortalize her in artwork having been fuelled by Dante Aligheri’s La Vita Nuova (1295). This poem also deals with the sadness of womankind, and a particular moment of note is read as follows:

But only with such hearts as women’s are.  And I will say, — still sobbing as speech fails, —  That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly,  And hath left Love below, to mourn with me.

The sheer emotion in these words can also be found in the painting, particularly in the woman’s harrowing face. Words and pictures can do much to evoke an emotional response.

Another emotionally charged painting inspired by an equally powerful written piece is William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott (1890-1905), the title of which is shared with its poem of inspiration, The Lady of Shalott (1842) by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The specific scene from the poem depicted in the artwork reads thus:

She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces thro’ the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She look’d down to Camelot. Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack’d from side to side; “The curse is come upon me,” cried The Lady of Shalott.

As far as the painting is concerned, one need not look far to search for clues of the “curse” of which the titular woman speaks. With the cracked mirror in the background, the viewer’s centre of focus a woman who seems to have seen better days. Her billowing hair and frayed clothes speak volumes of the state she’s in, which is perhaps accentuated by the two pictures she stands between. On one side is the Virgin Mary knelt in prayer, while on the other stand Hercules, complete with a halo to emphasise his perfection. This strengthens the potency of the woman’s plight, especially when fueled by the poetry of Lord Tennyson.

The pen is mightier than the sword, as the saying goes. But is it mightier than the paintbrush? Given the masterpieces of genius that both objects have been known to create, it is perhaps safe to conclude that neither one is stronger than the other, but both are strong in their own separate ways. As the all-round genius Leonardo Da Vinci once commented, “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

– Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)

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