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Dabbler

Sidney H. Sime

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Dabbler

''You know, it takes profound art and profound insight into Nature to turn out stuff like Pickman’s. Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches’ Sabbath or a portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear—the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness. I don’t have to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh. There’s something those fellows catch—beyond life—that they’re able to make us catch for a second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or—I hope to heaven—ever will again.''

 

                                                                                                                          --- H.P.L.,  Pickman's Model

 

Sidney Sime is noted principally as an illustrator of the books of Lord Dunsany, which HPL held in high esteem and which inspired the Dreamlands. He does have the quality Lovecraft ascribes to him, and his madder pieces are, at the risk of tautology, maddeningly good, glimpses of things that men can barely perceive, and for which we ought to be deeply grateful.

 

As I have doubtless expounded my beliefs about art and the works of HPL many, many times I will spare the reader another monologue, but I will repeat that in my belief in order to really appreciate Lovecraft's erudition and inspiration one has to study all of the sources he gives -- if I can find good collections, I will follow this post with Fuseli, Angarola, Goya.

 

The lurid frontispiece of the second website (which I think deserves all of Lovecraft's maledictions) should not discourage the reader from exploring a gold-mine of refined dream-horror [alas not untainted by dross, see the postscript].

 

http://www.sidneysimegallery.org.uk/index.shtml

http://monsterbrains.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/sidney-sime.html

 

P.S. I am most sorry that I forgot to warn the viewer -- some of Sime's paintings are obscene, featuring nudity. One of Lovecraft's innumerable commendations is that (with the distasteful exception of ''The Loved Dead'') he produces works of chilling horror without stooping to the squalid and indecent. Even the miscegenation of Innsmouth is not treated squalidly, as in the cheap Spanish adaptation I have only read of. I skip the objectionable ones or blot out the figure with my hand, a process that I am sure Lovecraft's puritan morality would  have commended.

 

It is rather akin to studying classical sculpture. Although there is much that is a joy (or in Sime's case a horror) to any sensitive temperament, there is a good deal that must be expurgated.

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Dabbler

Thank you -- very much indeed. Incidentally, I forced myself to read ''The Loved Dead'' today, knowing it only from synopsis, and hence, since I wrote my last post in this thread, I decided it was unfair of me to condemn it off hand. It is in fact a finely written piece, handled with as much taste, eloquence, even erudition, and subtle horror as its abominable subject can be handled and as a psychological portrait it is really very chilling. The narrator's childhood mirrors my own. How little there is (blind genetic chance, I imagine) that keeps you or I from such, and what foolery to pretend we are not animals.

 

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

 

Nevertheless, I do not recommend it for general reading.

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