Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man

This drawing was done circa 1485.  Leonardo was illustrating points by the Roman architect Vitruvius (active 46 – 30 bce) who asserted in his treatise on architecture that the circle and the square are the forms that create the perfect space.  This concept was resurrected by many Renaissance architects.  Leonardo is attempting, perhaps via architectural principles, to show that man’s anatomy, probably divinely ordained, was perfect.  It is known that he had to “bend” his extensive knowledge of the human anatomy, experience recorded over many years on dissections of bodies, to fit the circle-square.

This iconic image also represented the Renaissance philosophy that man is the measure of all things, an idea that came from the Greeks in the ancient world.  The image is so iconic that the European Union approved it to grace the first one-euro coin.

What interests me too, is the visage of the Vitruvian Man.  Leonardo was one of the supreme masters of producing various expressions on the faces he drew.  It could not have been by accident that the expression on the Man’s face is, in my opinion,  an unhappy one.  Thus, in this perfection, in this philosophical enlightenment, the perfect man he draws carries no inward peace.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018


Wikipedia:  Leonardo da Vinci; Vitruvian Man



Full man – britannica.com

Coin – fleur-de-coin.com

Visage – dreamtime.com




Cote d’Azur





Art history: some images of the woman

The first in a series of three

Art does not improve, we are told.  The media of art change. In its time, art is good, bad or indifferent.  We have never equaled what the Egyptians achieved thousands of years ago.  I have seen paintings of women from various periods in history and it is interesting to see what has changed – form, colour, intention.  I offer some images, with gut responses.

What interests me from the earliest Egyptian images is the dignity the artist affords the image of the woman.  In the second image there is even wonderment.

I am not sure of this image, but I believe it is prehistoric rock art  from the Atlas Mountains.  It might well depict a queen and her hand maiden.

For me Cycladic art almost stands above history in its timeless modernity.  Women, probably as goddesses, were especially honoured in the art of these Greek islands.  This figure, probably votive, is at least 4,000 years old.

On this Greek vase, an imitation of work from Classical period, the woman happily plays her own flute.

This is an image of a woman painted on a coffin in the first century ad.  It is part of other similar images from Fayum, Egypt.

Here is the Queen amongst the dignitaries of the time, depicted in the mosaics at Ravenna.  She is beautiful and poised.  This is about five centuries ad.

In this early medieval illustration of courtly love we see the man, probably a knight, on his knee, proffering the wound of his heart to the woman on a throne-like chair.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



In some cases I have had images for many years and the sources have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

Woman on the Greek vase – my photograph

Ravenna mosaic – fr.wikipedia.org











Art history: some images of the woman

The second in a series of three

Mariology in the Catholic Church manifests more strongly by the 11th-century when images of the Madonna and Child became  ubiquitous.  This too, it is said, made for more dignity for women in general.  Fra Lippi’s Madonna and Child is, for me, one of the great achievements.

The late-Middle Ages ushered in the Renaissance and Botticelli was one of the artists depicting the woman with delicacy as Venus, a departure from the Madonna and Child.  The image for me, wistful and windblown, is strangely modern.

By the 17th-century there were more changes in the way artists saw women.  Here is a Jan Steen, an artist that had me laughing out loud in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam.

It is difficult to put a time on the rock art of Southern Africa.  This is a depiction of women that is a few centuries old.  It is perhaps my all-time favourite in San rock art.  It is surreal and sensual.  It conveys to me an essence of women, elegant and elevated, with their spirit free.

In the 18th-century Watteau painted the women of his time as few had done.  In this detail of a larger painting, the woman is busy with something, a breakaway from the static portraits expected of painters like Watteau.

In the next century Renoir would shake up the photographic conventions of the academies and usher in Impressionism.  The women he portrayed have a warmth that has endeared his work to many.

The changes to come after him would be more radical.  Both the Fauves of France and the Expressionists of Germany would leave almost all the traditions behind, in colour and form, as they depicted women.  This is Matisse’s Woman with hat, probably his wife Amelie.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Some of these images I have had for many years and sources have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

Fra Lippi Madonna – khanacademy.org

Botticelli Venus – fr.wikipedia.org

Watteau – aparences.net

Renoir – wikiart.org

Matisse – Wikipedia


Art history: some images of the woman

The third in a series of three

The changes in depicting women would take many forms in the modern era. In some cases artists ventured into abstraction as in the case of the nude that Nicolas de Stael painted in Antibes in his last years.  I was privileged to see the original.

It was an experience to see this depiction of a woman on a ladder by Picasso.  It is interesting that he has portrayed women in all their complexity and, it needs to be said, in all his complexity  –  from the creeping horror of Demoiselles d’Avignon to the strange serenity of this image.  Modernism had certainly left behind the tradition of commissions and artists would paint what they feel.

Where this etching of the South African artist Van Esche would fall in the tumult of modern art history I leave you to say.

The fragmentation would continue in the pop art of the 1950s and 60s.  As the post-war world desperately sought for a centre, Andy Warhol shattered images, as seen in his depiction of Marilyn Monroe.

As has been said, Modernist artists worked in reaction to the rise of photography, the great change in media, which was producing “things as they appear”.  Modernists often sought to seek out the reality below appearances.  Photography itself would, in time, also produce its own radical probing imagery.  But there was, and is, a need to see Sophia Loren as she appears.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



I have had some of these images for many years and the sources have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

De Stael – my photograph


Photographs by Stéphane Mader

Stéphane, who lives in Toulon, has done colour photography and is currently exploring black-and-white with remarkable results.

He didn’t tell me what inspired this image, whether it was a selfie (though both his hands are visible) or whether he asked his partner to take it.  Is it desolation or frustration or just a sense of drama?

An interesting study of a disconsolate boy, against a backdrop of vivid textures.

An intriguing composition with umbrellas and arms, framed by tilting diagonals in the background.

The lines of the landscape converge on the dog, contemplating his next move.

The triangle of the roof beams is echoed by the boy’s arms.

I imagine this shot came from Stéph’s recent visit to India.  He has a way of finding unusual angles, somewhere between documentary and creative shots.

I find the directions of focus in this image fascinating:  the central rather intense person stares to the left;  the young man in the top-left smiles to the right; the two men almost echoing each other, focus downward.  Yes, such images often happen by chance, but you have to have the skill of split-second decisions.

An engaging documentary image of a young woman in a colourful dress and a rather contemplative mood.

A striking image with the isolated central figure in contrasting colours.  The world, with the exception of a single gull, is far away.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Photographs, with many thanks, are used with permission.  

Published by ImageNouveau, Paris






Three American Songs

I have always been a student of popular culture.  It is not easy to find the gold nuggets in the miasma of rubbish, but, for those who are patient, they are there.  It is perhaps only in retrospect that one sometimes sees the value of something that has also been popular.  I offer some thoughts on three American songs that have each been in the Number One slot.  In each case, it is worthwhile to look up the lyrics on the internet, as I cannot include them here.

The first is The Thing, a ballad written by Charles Randolph Green and sung by Phil Harris in 1950.  It was a great sing-along, as I remember, though I have never heard anybody talking about an interpretation of this song.  The lyric deals with a man who finds a crate on the beach and when he opens it finds a Boom Boom Boom inside.  The word Boom is done with a deep bass drum, but the song never says what this Boom actually is.  In successive verses, the man takes it to a pawn shop, to his wife and to a hobo on the street and each one of them cries “Get out of here with that Boom boom boom” and he is left to his fate, perhaps needing to bury it.

It has occurred to me that this song hiding in its sing-along popularity might well have been a protest song against the atom bomb.  The horrors of Hiroshima were, by 1950, common knowledge.  The US army general who wanted to use another atom bomb on North Korea during the civil war was dismissed from office.  The realization of what an atom bomb could do was growing.    


A song that was inching closer to protest was the 1956 Sixteen Tons with the lyric by Merle Travis.  It is a song with unusually dark sentiments, even touching on bitterness, that of the labourer in a coal mine.  Ironically, he is described as having “a mind that’s weak and back that’s strong”.  But the smouldering anger of this man, obviously exploited, filters through: “If you see me coming, better step aside.  A lot of men didn’t and a lot of men died.”  In a desolate way, he accepts his fate, but the warning looms.

The 1964 song King of the Road written and sung by Roger Miller is a kind of ballad, but closer to a character description.  The vagabond hobo has no middle-class pleasures, ekes out a survival and gets a place to sleep by “pushin’ broom”.  But, in a humorous way, he celebrates his life in the word-play “I’m a man of means by no means King of the Road”.  As he celebrates his freedom, we also see that he is in fact a bit of a ruffian:  “I know every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around.”


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Wikipedia:  The Thing, Sixteen Tons, King of the RoadMy graphics 

My graphics

See too, on  http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com 

Four Songs from a War 31.3.2017

“The Day Before You Came” 27.10.2017

The Final Countdown” 8.1.2018

Melancholic moments – three songs from the 1960s  21.1.2018



I don’t know how I could have travelled without a camera.  Yes, one remembers some things, but just as soon one forgets.  I haven’t dared to count the number of images I’ve taken since 2007 when I left for South Korea.  I have a suspicion that I took about  5,000 images there.  And I haven’t begun on my seven years of association with France.  Some images are documentary and they don’t pretend to be anything else.  But yes, it is precisely the unusual that attracts me as well.  I share some images.  

In the Dongdaemung shopping centre in Seoul, there were many things that caught my attention.  I love the juxtaposition of the unreal models and the shopping assistant.

In February this year I experienced snow for the first time in France.  I had to touch the stuff and this is the record of  my touching it.

A kite-flier on the beach at Strand, Somerset West, Western Cape.

On the Cap d’Antibes, these yachts came by and I tried to catch them at the right moment.

This image from a factory in Anseong, South Korea, haunts me.

 This image is a combination of something inside a window while the window itself was reflecting a person behind me.

This image is of a sort of hip-hop mural in the playing area of the local primary school, here in Les Semboules.

This is a mural at the Bulguksa temples in the South of South Korea.  I find the difference and similarity between the two murals fascinating.

These are car tracks left in the snow in February.  I found them quite expressive.

This is an interior image in the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice.  The building itself is a piece of sculpture.

On the day it snowed I walked in the snow leaving an imprint which filled with water.  In the reflection I took this image of my hand.

All Directions … Cemetery

Some pessimist must have erecetd these two signs together.

(c) Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018


My photographs


Bronze man in the shadows of trees, Monaco


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