There is nothing quite so attractive as someone who can stimulate the mind as well as the body. I maybe in the minority here, as obviously most first attraction is built on the physical, but I find nothing more attractive than someone who can spark inspiration and hold an intellectual conversation with a witty rapport. This is probably not surprising if you have read anything else by me, as actually I am a pretty intense person, which can very often be misconstrued.
I think that Lettl captures this perfectly in “The man who puts women on fire”. At first glance this painting may look like an arsonists dream, but actually I find it deeply telling.
Lettl was a German artist who started in watercolour when while he was a communications officer in the second world war. On his return from his service he became a freelance artist, but during the currency reform had to take work in construction, although continued to refine his technique. In 1954 he was once again able to fully concentrate on his art and really develop and master his own style of surrealism.
“The man who puts women on fire” was painted in 1967, and I was instantly drawn to this piece. You might think that is because I actually enjoy surrealism and the naked form, which wouldn’t be a lie in the slightest, as I do find artists renditions of the physical form so telling as to how they perceive people, but this painting spoke to me.
There were several things that struck me all at once about this painting. Firstly, the plant life, it’s deep and lush and filled with exotic flowers which reach up to the men’s chests who are stood in it. There is an abundance of lilies and hocks and strongly scented flowers in this floral forest, which brought to mind a heavily intoxicated feel to me. Sensual and heady as I can imagine the smell as the men move through this field. The flowers used are all quite symbolic to romance and sex, adding to the overall feel of the painting. This did make me think of the “Primavira” painted by Botticelli. While Botticelli’s is not so dense with plants, it covers a wide range of plant life to an exacting detail, which makes me feel that this may be a subtle homage to this great painter.
We can see a red sun, just above the flowers on the left hand side of the piece. It’s setting, making way for the duck which surrounds the figures, beautiful blues and greens, almost as though the aura borealis is in the air, which if you have ever witnessed this or seen photos of it, you will understand the true magical beauty of the resonant lights in the sky.
For me, the two men in the field, are actually one and the same. Showing the two sides of Lettl. The one which is central and further away, dressed as a serviceman, the features less obvious in the face and acting like a distant memory. The one which is nearer and to the right, a masked man, mysterious and intriguing. Dressed as an artist, showing Lettl’s true calling and what inspires him. The mask, while not covering the whole face, does indicate that there are hidden depths to the man. His features more visible.
Finally and the central focal point, the woman with her head on fire. She is lounged on a loveseat, a shoe has been lost along the way to her being here, and a sheet of white fabric lies beneath her. We have lost her head in the blaze, which to me says that her mind has been set on fire. She has been inspired and enthralled to the point of ecstasy. This is driving her lust. She is almost posed as an artists model, and in my mind the artist and model have struck up an accord which has opened stimulated her thoughts and her body as we see her hand wandering down her torso.
I think that this painting has a beautiful message and a wonderful feel. It captures the true wonder of what an all encompassing relationship could bring. The headiness of romance indicated by the flowers, the intrigue of intelligence and experience shown by the men and the effect of spiritual and physical shown by the woman.
I simply can’t get enough of this picture, as I seem to find some different nuance in it each time I look at it.
If you want to see more of Lettl’s work you can find it here.
What do you see in this picture? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?