Why is it than when astrologers talk about the most creative signs, Aries is seldom the first word that leaves their lips?
The sign of the Ram is the beginning, the source, the start, the seed – and as such packs a huge amount of creative power. Especially when the Sun, the source of life, is here where it is exalted, of course.
|Vincent Van Gogh, b. 30 March 1853|
Aries is, of course, ruled by Mars, the planet of war, from whom we get the word martial. But this is also the planet of action. People with a well-placed Mars or Aries Sun are more likely to do stuff. While others may talk, analyze, dream, wonder or even follow orders, the martial ones are out there having a go. They may not always be successful or understand why they do it, but generally they give life a try.
And so it is with painting because we have some really great self-portraits to look at this month.
I have to start with Van Gogh – not only because his work is wonderful, and he did so many self-portraits but because he is just such an Aries. Aries rules the head, of course, and most of his self-portraits are from the neck up. His work has that untamed primal energy that comes from the first sign. It has a purity unmediated by fashion or style. Van Gogh was self-taught, of course and his paintings are all about self-expression. He threw his psyche at the canvas in all its raw glory and pain.
He also worked fast, another Arien quality and often with pure paint, straight from the (recently-invented) tube.
What’s interesting is that he is still so popular. You’d think we’d all be sick of those sunflowers and that straw hat, but in fact, the impact of seeing his work ins the flesh is still almost as fresh and emotional as it must have been the first time.
|Anthony Van Dyck, b. 22 March 1599|
And here’s another Aries with a sunflower. Sir Anthony Van Dyck was the greatest portrait painter of his day and his work still has the immediacy of a first encounter. You feel, looking into those 17th century eyes, that you may just be able to communicate across time.
|Raphael, b. April 6 or March 28, 1483|
Another great painter, Raphael, whose lovely madonnas were the objects of desire in Renaissance Rome, leaves a mystery. This sketch is said certainly to be him, but there are several other self-portraits which may or may not be the artist. One of the outstanding features of his religious paintings is the intense clarity of his vision of the virgin (in particular). His madonnas are both ethereally beautiful and very real.
|Max Ernst, b. April 2 1891|
And finally here is one of the most stunning self-porraits of them all – Max Ernst, surrealist.
I’ve never been an Ernst fan; although I can see that he is technically brilliant, his work is so often mysogynistic that I can’t bear to look at it.
But this picture is fantastic. What directness and clarity.
It’s no coincidence that this painting was done after photography changed the way we see, becasue he’s clearly influenced by the way a camera records the world. Look at the way he’s cropped in tight, so all we have is the head.
Do you see how his eyebrows meet in the middle, making the sign of the Ram? I’ve seen this on Aries Sun and Aries Rising quite a few times.