Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Heavy Metal Woman in the 14th Century

(taken from "Uppity Women of Medieval Times" by Vicki Leon

"Shades of Rosy the Riveter - a woman with the delightful name of Fya Upper Bach, took advantage of the career opportunities in blacksmithing - and did it six centuries before American women were exhorted to get into heavy metal for the World War II war effort. Fya, lived in the 14th century and made horseshoes in Germany. She first became an independent mastersmith known at the "smithy of Siberg". Later she moved her anvil into the city of Cologne. Besides an aptitude for pounding red-hot iron, Fya had leadership qualities. Twice in her thirty-year career she held office in the blacksmith's guild."

To be a blacksmith was such a physically demanding job, especially for a woman - but even more so for a woman of the 14th century. I think she would have been a fascinating woman to meet.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Pyle of Van Gogh? (Pun Intended)

Vincent Van Gogh and Howard Pyle were born in the same year. They were both artists but lived on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and never met. However, Vincent did get a chance to see some of Pyle's illustrations in a magazine and wrote in one of his letters to his brother:

"Do you know the American magazine "Harpers Monthly"? There are wonderful sketches in it, which strike me dumb with admiration, among others . . . sketches from a Quaker town in the olden days by Howard Pyle. I am full of new pleasure, because I have new hope of making things myself that have soul in them."

When I read this, I wondered in amazement at the irony of life. Howard Pyle was world famous as an artist and illustrator during his life time - his paintings commanded the highest prices and he was wined and dined by the rich and famous. Vincent Van Gogh labored in obscurity during his lifetime, never selling even one painting. Yet with the passage of time all these years later, which artist is known by everyone (even those not in the art world) and whose paintings sell for millions of dollars? Strange isn't it?

My question for you, dear reader - Can you explain this seeming change? Their art has not changed, it remains just as it did when they put the last brushstroke on the canvas. Why this seeming fickle hand of fate that deals fame and fortune to one and then takes it away only to be given to another?