EJN #4: Remembrance: Plan for a History Painting

Edward G. Nilges, “Plan for a History Painting in Honor of Edward Joseph Nilges”. EGN drawings in pencil wash and charcoal scanned, modified and arranged using Gimp, Microsoft Paint and Microsoft Office Picture Manager, 6 Sep 2010.

O anima cortese mantoana,
di cui la fama ancor nel mondo dura,
e durerà quanto ’l mondo lontana,

l’amico mio, e non de la ventura,
ne la diserta piaggia è impedito
sì nel cammin, che vòlt’ è per paura;

e temo che non sia già sì smarrito,
ch’io mi sia tardi al soccorso levata,
per quel ch’i’ ho di lui nel cielo udito.

Dante, Inferno, 58-60

The Mantuan is Vergil, in Dante’s time the most admired poet of the ancient world, and Vergil accompanies Dante through Hell and the lower parts of Purgatory. Vergil is telling Dante how and why Beatrice, Dante’s love in heaven, has contacted Vergil, asking him to conduct Dante on a tour of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

Dante, nel mezzo del camin de nostra vita is full of anger and resentment at being a misunderstood genius passed over in favor of lesser men: that is as ever the way of the world. Beatrice considers Dante ready to face the worst (what would now be medicated as depression) in Vergil’s company: the prevelance of sin in our lives, or whatever name “sin” has these days such as alcoholism or just being a total prick in business.

Here is my (very) free transliteration of the translation at the Princeton Dante Project.

O Mantuan, courteous spirit,
Famous in this world and that to come,
My friend, no friend of Fortune,
My love, who is not loved by the world,
Is so hindered in his ascent of the desert mountain,
That in fear he turns aside.
And, from reports in Heaven,
I fear he commits the grievous sin
Nam’d Despair, that slough of Despond so near to Vanity’s fair.
Were it so I should be too late to help him,
Even as the frantic mother scrambles by the flood
Of Arno or of Po, when in spate it snatches her child,
Then should I, too, despair, but that I am in Heaven now.

Complex subjunctive grammar, which Dante uses and Shakespeare even more, corrected after first post.

Devil a doubt, my uncle read the Divine Comedy at John Carroll University if not Cathedral Latin School. My fifth grade favorite Nun, Sister Andrew, gave me a child’s version to read when she found me not paying attention in arithmetic, drawing a picture of heaven, of hell, and of purgatory. My Dad had an edition illustrated if memory serves by George Grosz.

I wish de Niro would get on making a film of Dante’s epic.

I realized last night that my goal in art is to be old masterish without in the slightest being like those clowns on You Tube who have far more training than I in the techniques from art skewl, but whose work is deadened by the effect of this training. I don’t wanna be traditional. I don’t wanna be modern. I really don’t wanna be postmodern.

No, I just wanna rip art a new asshole.

Pretense? Perhaps. But that’s art, as opposed to tautolology and technics. Your daemon, your anima, rips you a new asshole and then you rip art a new asshole. And you must always be pure in heart, ever reminding yourself that you are doing l’art pour l’art, not glory or chicks.

Robert Hughes, an art historian from Oz, decries art historical thinking in terms of -isms and movements, and although he’s a buffoon, he’s on to something. Picasso didn’t wake up in 1916 and say, hey, I’m a Cubist.

Instead, what I do is get charged up over a mental image with thoughts and feelings attached, and for me, that image is deeply layered even as “old master” paintings were done in layers. The “indirect” method of the great Masters gives me good goals even as did “structured programming” in computers, and, like “structured programming” when you discover that a general-purpose module is needed, I produce extra art product such as drawings and computer-modified images.

During my work sessions I am thinking but not in words apart from the occasional “cool”, or “o shit”. The thoughts can not be labeled emotions nor can they be called cognitive. It’s like cooking rice, which I want to get right before leaving Asia.

Right after Edward J. Nilges was killed, the cities of Italy to the north exploded in revolution against the Fascisti and the Germans. So, perhaps after all the American and British pressure DID help to win the war. But it remains the case that we’re all, like the Chorus in Henry V, ciphers in the great accompt.

I am thinking of how as a worker or job seeker I push microscopically on one end of a great Beast and out the other end, by a process that is hidden, the Beast delivers me my trivial addictions to air conditioning and food. Likewise, the war/postwar stories of Richard “Revolutionary Road” Yates are mostly about following the man ahead of you in predawn darkness and then returning to get a job in data processing whilst some woman holds your balls for you in a silken box.


She also keeps the cards that read
Have mercy on his soul

(Bob Dylan, Desolation Row)


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