It is so fucking hideous as to be absolutely beautiful. I want to shred it with a boning knife. Yet, it possesses me to the point where were I to have it hanging on my wall, I could anticipate with rapt eagerness the opportunity to projectile vomit every morning as I walked past it. This is my favorite thing in the world RIGHT NOW
The title Loreley refers to Heinrich Heine’s famous poem about a mythical Rhine maiden, who lured sailors to their death. Kokoschka explained that his painting mocks British claims to maritime supremacy: Britannia no longer rules the waves; inaction has lasted too long; an octopus swims away with a trident, the emblem of marine power. Queen Victoria, who built up the British fleet into a dominant position, rides a shark and stuffs white, brown and black sailors into its mouth. Only the frog on her hand refuses to accept the same fate: it represents Ireland, where there are no reptiles except frogs.
For some reason timing wise, I am usually at the helm through the narrow Straight of Gibraltar, which marks the entrance to the Mediterranean with the impressive Morocco Rock to the south. In the shipping lanes we are a bit far to really make out the land, but you can finally smell the earth and the brine of the fishing ports. At night the lights of Spain are to the North and Algeria to the South. We slip between Sicily and Malta, and past a few small Greek Islands. The shipping traffic is more congested and can often resemble a freeway. Surprisingly, the worst conditions I have seen on the voyage have been in the Med. It can go from glass-smooth water to 70 knot gusts and 10 meter wind waves in the matter of a day.
Heinrich Ehmsen, Execution by Firing Squad of the Sailor Egelhofer (central part of a triptych), 1931
The sailor Rudolf Egelhofer was one of the first members of the German Communist Party. Aged only 23, he became one of the leaders of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Together with Ernst Toller, he was commanding the “Red Army”. After the defeat of the Soviet Republic by troops loyal to the central government in Berlin, Rudolf Egelhofer was tortured and shot on May 3rd, 1919.
The appearance of the Philips’ Planisphere star plotter has changed only slightly since the 1850’s; this one could be anywhere between 1870 and 1930. Of course, with the exception of a few newly discovered planets, the heavens themselves have remained virtually unchanged for navigators through the ages.