Saturday, January 23, 2016

John William Godward, Neo-Classical Color and Scented Blueberry Pie

It’s January and the snow has sucked all the color out of the world. Have you ever longed for saturated colors or is it just me? We need a color blast.

A dozen or so years ago, the Brooklyn Museum held an exhibit of Victorian paintings. To tell the truth I remember very little about the exhibit save for one painting.

After meandering through the maze of rooms I turned a corner and came upon a veritable 6-foot sun of an orange backside. It was striking and beautiful and amazing (the original is large at 47” square but this was brilliantly exaggerated for dramatic effect). It took my breath away. The color was just staggeringly beautiful. It was the best orange I had ever seen. It was warm and sexy and so alive. I don’t know that Frederick Leighton’s 1897 painting of Flaming June was great art -- it was great color. So many years later I still remember turning that corner and seeing June flaming orange

Frederick Leighton by David Wilkie Wynfield, 1860’s

Dorothy Dene and Dene and her sisters

It was certainly affecting enough that I did a bit of research on old Sir Frederick. He lived from 1830 to 1896, studied in Europe and knew Delacroix and one of my personal art gods, Ingres. He was considered a minor satellite in the Pre-Raphaelite heavens, specializing in historical pieces with lots of gauzily dressed ladies strewn about magnificent marble sets. He was well-respected enough to be the first artist to be given a Peerage only to be completely forgotten soon after his death. He was never married but was rumored to have had an affair with his spectacularly beautiful muse, Dorothy Dene (he tutored her, changed her name and left her a good deal of money after his death). She was the model or inspiration for many of his paintings.

If I am supplying a full color cure for what ails you, it would be unfair of me to leave Leighton without giving you a taste of his amazing house full of William de Morgan’s (1839-1914)  magical tiles and ceramics that is now a museum.

The house is rich with saturated color but Flaming June was his shooting star. I longed for more color and found it when I revisited the work of John William Godward (1861-1922). 

An Offering to Venus
I want to have a room full of Godward paintings I can go into on dreary days.

You've never heard of Godward?  You are not alone, he is nearly forgotten unless you are a Victorian art fan. Godward was a student of Alma-Tadema and imitated his Neo-Classical style. He was a member of the “Marble School” and like Tadema studied ancient architecture and was certainly a scrupulous marble copiest. Godward went above and beyond satisfying the period’s classically educated art audience –– his meticulous attention to detail was remarkable. His buildings could have been dropped into ancient Greece and Rome without raising an eyebrow.

Waiting for an Answer (1889)

The only image I could find of him was a possible self-portrait, hidden in a painting called Waiting for an Answer. It is unusual because it has a man in it. Godward has no paintings of men alone and very few with men and women. Even in those few paintings the men always play a supporting role. Godward glorified female beauty, great marble and classical architecture. As with Leighton's Flaming June I won't tell you Godward made great art but his work great fun full of brilliant color.



The Old Story

What this guy did with sheer fabric is unreal. 

A Fair Reflection


Enjoy the color, the sensual forms and fabrics and my pie. Oh yes, I have a treat for you.

Last month, Mandy Aftel at Aftelier sent me a care package of new chef’s essences.

I decided to break into them for Christmas and made the most amazing pie that I called a scented blueberry tart. I used magnolia in the loose crème pâtissière, geranium leaf in the blueberry filling and a bit of nutmeg in the crust. It is heaven. We inhaled it. It will make any gray day a brilliant Technicolor dream. I even used a bit of photoshop magic to make my tart more painterly. In person it doesn’t need it. Spectacular flavor.

Do use Chef's Essences sparingly, they are very potent. You want to scent your tart, not drench it. They are a remarkable deal and give you a great value because they are so concentrated.  I am crazy about them.  They actually cheer me up when I use them. 

Scented Blueberry Tart

1 cooled tart shell
1 recipe Pastry Cream
1 recipe blueberry filling

Pour the pastry cream into the shell, making sure you leave enough room for the blueberries (you may not need the full amount). Add the blueberries to the top and chill. Serve after an hour chilling.

Pastry Shell based on a recipe from David Lebovitz

3 ounces butter
1 T hazelnut or walnut oil
3 T water
1 T sugar
1/8 t salt
1 C of flour
2 T whole-wheat flour
1 drop Aftelier nutmeg essence

Set oven to 410º

In a heat proof bowl, add butter, oil, water, sugar and salt and put in the oven for 15 minutes or until the butter browns. Keep an eye on it. Mine took a minute or 2 more.

Add the flour to the butter mix and combine.

Press this mixture into a 9” tart shell, leaving about 2t of dough for fixing any cracks. Prick with a fork.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Fix any cracks with the left over dough (I didn’t need to do this).

Cool the shell before filling.

Magnolia Pastry Cream

¾ c milk
¼ c cream
1/3 c sugar
4T flour
3 egg yolks
1T butter
½ t vanilla
1 or 2 drops to taste of Aftelier Magnolia essence (Rose or jasmine from Aftelier would also be lovely)

Heat the milk and cream. Combine the dry ingredients and then add the egg yolks. Slowly add the hot milk. Cook until thickened. Add the vanilla and the magnolia. Add the flower essence one drop at a time –– it is potent stuff. 1 drop may be enough. Add the butter and cover with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form. Cool in the refrigerator.

Blueberry Filling

4 cups blueberries
2 T cornstarch
2 t lemon zest
¼ c lemon juice
1/3 to ½ c sugar to taste
pinch of salt
1 or 2 drops to taste of Aftelier geranium leaf.

Add the sugar, lemon zest and cornstarch together and toss with 3 cups of the blueberries with lemon juice and salt. Cook the blueberries until softened and the sauce is thickened.

Then add the last cup of blueberries and warm for a minute or 2. Remove from heat and cool.

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La Table De Nana said...

What glorious rich colors! A bit Louis Icart in his women..

hope you are snow safe!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Thank you for introducing me to a new (to me) artist! I especially love the first one and those beautiful shades of apricot, orange and red. Glorious! The pie sounds delicious and beautiful as well.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Magnolia has an essence?! I hate Victorian furniture but love their art - pre ralphaelites are just so dreamy. As you say you could look at them for hours.

Diane said...

What a great post and these paintings are just amazing, I am going to look up John William Godward in a moment, very impressive. Bet that blueberry tart is good as well, yum yum. Hope all is well with you Diane

Marjie said...

Those paintings are magnificent in their color and detail. And your blueberry tart sounds wonderful, too; I will have to look into the Aftelier essences when our long house nightmare is over.

mandy said...

Wow Deana, just amazed at how you combined so many of my essences in your marvelous recipe! I appreciate so much your stunning artistry and very sage advice on how to use the oils!
xo Mandy

El said...

Incredible paintings and beautiful recipe!

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