With Many a Backward Glance

Even in the modern age, art often derives its inspiration from Greek and Roman classical stories. In many time periods, it has been considered fashionable to create works that were directly inspired by classical stories. One of the more recent revivals of this classical inspiration was during the Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite Movements in Europe during the 19th and Early 20th century.

"Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus (1900)" by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917)

John William Waterhouse was a painter in the 19th and early 20th century who is famous for his depictions of classical myths in a distinctive Pre-Raphaelite style. While Waterhouse did not begin his career painting images in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, even his early work was very classically influenced. Around 1880, his work began to show the distinctive style of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. One of his later paintings is titled Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus (1900). The image of Orpheus is not an usual subject for Pre-Raphaelite art. However, Waterhouse’s work is worth closer inspection for several reasons. First, he depicts a part of the narrative which is not usually shown; most Pre-Raphaelite images focus on Orpheus’s attempted rescue of Eurydice. Second, Waterhouse’s image is one of the most famous images of Orpheus, despite being a depiction of a less popular section of Orpheus’ saga. Finally, “Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus” is an adaption of Ovid’s work; Waterhouse uses a style and perception of beauty inherent to the Aesthetic Movement to represent a classical myth.

Before an analysis of his image can be thoughtfully done, one must first understand the art movements which surrounded him. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of predominately English painters, writers, and musicians who tried to reinvent art history – instead of expanding on the style of the Mannerist artists who followed Raphael and Michelangelo, they embraced the classical poses and style of art before Raphael and Michelangelo. Hence the group’s name. The Pre-Raphaelite movement was a part of the larger Aesthetic Movement, which encompassed all of Europe. The Aesthetic Movement rejected the 19th century’s artistic obsession with realism, and focused instead on creating art simply for the sake of beauty. Painters and writers such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Oscar Wilde dominated the movement. This is also the first art movement that experimented with photography. The individual photographers of the Aesthetic Movement are not well known, but their work is nevertheless famous for being some of the first to explore the uses of photography as an artistic medium. One of the most well-known Aesthetic Movement photographers is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but his fame stems from writing the Alice in Wonderland books under the pseudonym Lewis Carrol. Lynn Federle Orr argued that, by 1985 the Aesthetic Movement had become suffused with decadence (Federle and Calloway). The search for beauty that the Aesthetic Movement prided itself on made it easy for outsiders to lampoon the movement, and it was quickly evolving into a vehicle for mockery rather than a fashionably artistic movement. As such, the Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite movement was drawing to a close when Waterhouse was in his prime. Many consider him influenced by rather than a part of the Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite Movements. However, he is still considered one of the “greatest of the late Victorian romantic painters” and is lauded as one of the few painters to successfully reconcile classical-inspired romantic art and the Pre-Raphaelite movement (Wood 45).

The tales of Orpheus, and the despair caused by a single backward glance, have inspired many artists over the centuries. The Pre-Raphaelites were no exception. Writers and artists such as Roland Leighton, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, William Morris, and Robert Browning created texts inspired by Orpheus (Henry). While Orpheus’ death does not figure into the story of his katabasis, the narrative most commonly referenced, it is nevertheless an important part of the mythos of Orpheus. Ovid’s version of the story (probably the most poetic, and therefore likely the inspiration behind Waterhouse’s painting) tells of Orpheus refusing the advances of a group of Maenads, female followers of Dionysus. Angry, they throw sticks and stones at him, but he sings such a beautiful song that the inanimate objects refuse to hit him. Furious, the Maenads descend on him and rip him to shreds in a Bacchaen fury. (This behavior was common among the Maenads, at least according to myth.) His head and lire are knocked into the river, and he floats to Lesbos, still singing. His head is found by the occupants of the island, and they bury his head and build a shrine around him. He continues to sing. Apollo was prophesied to someday visit the island and silence his singing. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Waterhouse was a prolific painter. Some of Waterhouse’s most famous works are Hylas and the Nymphs (1896), Ophelia (1894), and The Lady of Shallot (1888). While his artwork was designed to mimic work of the classical period, he nevertheless uses period representations of beauty. Waterhouse’s depiction of the women of Lesbos finding Orpheus’ head clearly shows the influence the Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite Movements had on Waterhouse. The women in Waterhouse’s work look very similar to Dante Gabriel Rossetti‘s muse Jane Morris, who was considered one of the most beautiful women of the Aesthetic Movement. In fact, many of the women in Waterhouse’s work look extremely similar, and fit the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of female beauty. Ovid never refers to nymphs finding the head of Orpheus, but nymphs were a reoccurring theme in boh Waterhouse’s personal work and more broadly in Aesthetic Movement art. Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus is not simply a painting of a moment in Ovid’s story, but is also an adaption of Ovid’s work, using a style and perception of beauty inherent to the period Waterhouse painted in to represent a classical myth.


Federle, Lynn and Steven Calloway, eds. The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement, 1860-1900. London: V & A Publishing, 2011.Print.

Henry, Elisabeth. Orpheus and His Flute: Poetry and the Renewal of Life. Illinois: Southern Illinois UP, 1992. Print.

“Ovid: The Metamorphoses – Book XI.” Poetry In Translation. Trans. A. S. Kline. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph11.htm&gt;.

Peter Trippi on the Painting Nymphs Finding The Head Of Orpheus. Perf. Peter Trippi. Royal Academy of Arts. Web Video.

Waterhouse, John William. Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus, 1900. Oil on canvas, 149 x 99 cm. Collection of Sir Tim Rice.

Wood, Christopher. Victorian Painting in Oils and Watercolors. London: Antique Collector’s Club, 1997. Print.

Fair Use Rationale

All media files, articles, or musical pieces shown or linked to herein are in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. The two exceptions are David Sylvian’s music video Orpheus and the video Curator Peter Trippi on the painting Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus. Although these videos are subject to copyright, their use is covered by the U.S. Fair use laws because:

1) The videos are used as a means of visual and audio identification in reference to an important subject of the essay.

2) The videos are not used in such a way the a reader would be confused into believing that the article is written or authorized by the owners of the videos.

3) They are not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted video of comparable educational value.

4) The use of the videos will not affect the value of the original works or limit the copyright holder’s rights or ability to distribute the originals.


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Early Photography Infographic

Ever wondered what I do in my history classes? A riveting question that I’m sure occupies much of your time.

Well, wonder no longer! I do projects! How fascinating, right? But sometimes the projects are actually pretty cool. I made this for my History of the Information Age class. Hope you enjoy!


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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe & Ramblings

Well hello, it has been a while.

This summer was ridiculously busy. I worked, I went to school, I did a study abroad. I studied french in a desperate attempt to not fail 201. I picked up a side-gig filming weddings. I drank lots of coffee. I slept little.

But I have been taking pictures! Not many, it is true, but a few. I took a few photos of the First Manassas/Bull Run Reenactment in July for work, which you can see on PWC’s flickr. One of my photos was used by the New York Post.

Also, because several people have requested it, I wrote up my standard “Throw Things in a Pot” soup, and even took photos to demonstrate the process! What novelty!

But a forewarning – my laptop kicked it. I’m working on fixing up this monster (a turn of the century iMac) but it is a slow process. It has problems running multiple programs at once. As I said, it is a slow process (ba-dum-ch!). I’ve named it Dover, mostly so I can shout “Move your bloomin’ arse!” at it and feel cultured (start at 6:40, if you please). What this means, though, is that I don’t have a computer that really can handle photoshop (very well) at the moment. So all of the following photos are unedited. Oh my goodness! This all to say, please don’t judge the yellow tones of the photos. I shot these late at night.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup!

Here is what you’ll definitely need: Onions. Bouillon of some kind or another (usually use chicken or vegetable). Frozen/unfrozen veggies. Not pictured – butter/olive oil and a very large pot.

Here are the optional/replaceable things: Potatoes. Garlic. Pasta of some kind of another. Mustard (mine is homemade – be jealous). Beer/Ale. The stuff in this picture is Blue Moon Pale Ale, because I happened to have some. If you want a darker soup, go for a darker beer. My general go to is Guinness, mostly because I usually have some lying around. You could probably even put hard cider in, though I’ve never tried it.

Finally, a whole roasted chicken. It is not hard to roast a chicken yourself, I’m just lazy. If you don’t want to get a whole roasted chicken, feel free to cook up some chicken breasts or something. Just make sure the chicken is cooked before you throw it in the pot. Safety first, please!


Chop all the things! By all the things, I mean the onions. I chopped about three small red onions, but a single large vidalia onion will do.

Mm. Garlic is wonderful. I usually put in about four cloves of minced garlic, but I like a lot of garlic. Modify to suit your personal taste.

Put butter your large pot. This is about a tablespoon of butter. Turn the heat up to about 5. Let it melt, swirling the butter around the pan to coat the bottom. If you feel like being healthy (fah!) use olive oil.

Next, put in all of your lovely chopped onions and garlic. Stir occasionally, so they all get cooked. In between stirs, start chopping your potatoes (which I forgot to photograph, but hopefully you know how to chop potatoes). I cut up five or six small red potatoes. Three large potatoes of any variety will do, though. When the onions are done, they should start going translucent and your entire kitchen should smell marvelously onion-and-garlic-y. Mm.

Once you are done chopping potatoes, put four heaping teaspoons/cubes of bouillon in four cups of water. Microwave it for 1:30, then stir.

Ignore the stain on the counter.

Pour your chicken broth and potatoes into the pot with the onions and garlic. It should look something like this (but more in focus, hopefully).

Take a big heaping tablespoon of mustard and put it in the pot too. Stir in. Enjoy the smells. Turn the heat up to about 7-8. Then set a timer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the soup starts to bubble enthusiastically (it probably will), turn the heat down a few notches (like, 5 or 6). After 15 minutes, check to see the potatoes are cooked by poking them with a fork. The tongs should slide in easily. If they are done, yay! If not, set the timer for another 5 minutes, then check again. When they are done, turn the heat back down to 5 or 6 (if it isn’t already there).

While the potatoes are cooking, start ripping into your roasted chicken. Pull out all of the meat, and put in a separate bowl. (Note – this is Damian’s hand, not mine. Thank you.)

Next comes the fun part – pour in the beer! All two bottles. Or cans, if that’s what you’ve got. Your soup should be smelling pretty good by now.

Next, put all of the chicken you salvaged in the pot.

Stir it in, and be impressed with how much this is actually starting to look like soup.

Now, grab your noodles and put them in the pot. Stir them in. Try to completely submerge them in the liquid.

Now pour in all your frozen veggies. Stir them in.

At this point, if you feel like the soup is too stew-like for you, put in another cup or two of chicken broth.

Let your soup sit for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, check to see if the noodles are cooked.

When you are done, this is what you will have. Doesn’t this look tasty?

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Note – this recipe is EXTREMELY flexible. I am not even kidding. You can modify the heck out of it to your little heart’s content. People will love you, and never realize your soup repertoire is one recipe. Yep, this recipe is a gold mine. So if there is anything you see in this recipe you don’t like – take it out! Substitute something else! Go crazy! (Not too crazy. Not The Shining Crazy. But you know what I mean.) This weekend, I made a variation of this with pork meat, no pasta, a dark beer, and barbecue sauce. It was delicious! So, I say, experiment. It is good for you!


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A Discussion of Methodology and Purpose

The purpose of this final exercise was to showcase the transition of typography over the ages. The first paragraph was designed to show traditional, modern typographic sensibilities. Most modern design is very minimal and focuses on simplicity and ease of understanding. The skinniness of the presentation of the text, the Hoefler font, and the use of another color draw the reader’s attention and place emphasis, but otherwise the piece is extremely normal and simplistic. The second paragraph is designed to show the origins of typographic design – that is, the Gutenberg Bible. I used a font called 1456 Gutenberg to replicate the original Gutenberg font, and a parchment texture (leather parchment) to give the piece a sense of age. The third paragraph moves into the eighteenth century, with Baskerville font and a page design that was supposed to mimic the papers of the 1800s. While I am not sure this piece was as successful as the rest, I hope it at least conveys the idea I was discussing in the paragraph. The fourth paragraph is based off of the 1970s game Space Invaders. Since the paragraph discusses the 1960s to the 1980s, I chose Space Invaders as a happy medium of time between the two. The paragraphs are the balustrades behind which the player’s ship can hide from the shots of the enemy. The font is Silkscreen from dafont, to represent the bitmap font movement which was so active from the 1960s to the 1980s. Finally, the last paragraph is based off of the Cranbrook Design: The New Discourse book, a page of which is showcased in Ellen Lupton’s book, “Thinking with Type.” While I modified the design to suit my own ends, it still bears a strong resemblance to the original, and I still think conveys the essence of  the 1990’s rebellious designs. Moreover, since the final paragraph is discussing the constant struggle in design between handwriting and computer fonts, I thought the breaking apart of the paragraph suited the discourse visually. Moreover, the free-floating words in between the paragraphs discuss the conflict between the two movements. All in all, I hope these designs convey a sense of the general arc of typographic history, from the early 1450s to today.

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5th Pharagraph

Materials Used for All: parchmentpaper, and space invaders. The border around the third paragraph I had as a stamp in photoshop already – I believe I got it from DeviantArt, but I’m not sure from whom.

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4th Paragraph

Materials Used for All: parchmentpaper, and space invaders. The border around the third paragraph I had as a stamp in photoshop already – I believe I got it from DeviantArt, but I’m not sure from whom.

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3rd Paragraph

Materials Used for All: parchmentpaper, and space invaders. The border around the third paragraph I had as a stamp in photoshop already – I believe I got it from DeviantArt, but I’m not sure from whom.

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2nd Paragraph

Materials Used for All: parchmentpaper, and space invaders. The border around the third paragraph I had as a stamp in photoshop already – I believe I got it from DeviantArt, but I’m not sure from whom.

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1st Paragraph

Materials Used for All: parchment, paper, and space invaders. The border around the third paragraph I had as a stamp in photoshop already – I believe I got it from DeviantArt, but I’m not sure from whom.

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I’m Not Fontin’ Around

Meet Adventure.

Adventure is a bitmap font, designed for an exersize in Ellen Lupton’s book, Thinking with Type. The exercise required that the font must be designed using a grid, and that no curves be used, staircased blocks or otherwise. I designed this font using 8-bit games as an inspiration. I wanted the letters to look like room layouts in 8-bit adventure games. Each letter is a different level. The dots in the center of the lower case letters are supposed to be symbolic of the boss. In 8-bit games, bosses tend to be shown standing in the center of the room, to draw attention to them. I tried to make the font very heavy-looking to make it legible at small sizes, and added the difference in weight on each side of the letter to create interest in the design.

Let me know what you think!


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