Maybe you have wondered why I like 19th Century Style Neo-classic, Romantic and Landscape Art. There are three reasons: Being Czech-American, a certain picture I found fascinating and something someone once said to me.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time snooping in Grandma and Grandpa Budka’s attic. They had all sorts of fun stuff up there including books and postcards. Many of those postcards were from Europe and many of them were in Czech. If you are Czech-American or even Slavic, you usually belonged to SOKOL or Falcon. It was and is a health organization bent on well-being, brotherhood (mainly Pan-Slavic in nature) and self-preservation, self defense and national identity. Dad is still a member of South Omaha Sokol (now merged with Omaha Sokol) and ZCBJ lodge Narodni Sin (National Hall . . . no jokes about the Czech word “sin” please). I used to be a member of Crete Sokol as Dad was a asst. instructor there. There is a semi-religious affiliation with it as regards to Slavic identity that is interdenominational. You could be Catholic, Hussite or Orthodox and be “brothers” in SOKOL.
In 1971 my parents bought David and I a Compton Encyclopedia set. In one volume was a print of an etching of Hero and Leander by the German artist Bodenhausen. What guy wouldn’t like to have his best girl grieve over his dead body? If you know the Greek tragedy of Hero and Leander (Hero is the girl by the way), you might understand. I am oddly romantic.
Between fifth and sixth grade my Mom sent me to art class at the Easter Day Center near Northeast High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. The instructor was a young college guy and he said to me “The human body is God’s greatest work of Creation, of Art.” I have never forgotten that, hence my fascination. If you study the Bible and Greco-Roman tragedy and religion, they are all about human nature. What is interesting is that Christianity largely refutes the Greco-Roman tradition of worshiping human nature. The Greeks and Romans elevated human attitudes and traits to the level of diety. Outside of Roman Catholic tradition, the original intent of Judeo-Christian doctrine was to tear down that misplaced worship.
Now you know why I like this kind of art.