John Duncan

November 25, 2009 at 8:27 pm (Uncategorized)

Decadent Handbook is one month old now. Huzzah! A brace of prostitutes and absinthe all round! To celebrate, I thought I’d do another art post.

John Duncan (1866-1945) was a Scottish painter whose subject matter was closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but is generally referred to as a Symbolist. He experimented a lot with different techniques and styles, and his work has a mystical, otherworldly quality. He claimed to hear ‘fairy music’ when he painted, and he married a girl who claimed to have found the Holy Grail in a well at Glastonbury. The marriage didn’t last. I can’t imagine why. The images have come out quite small, but you should be able to click to enlarge.


Masque of Love

Masque of Love

I think this is probably my favourite. I love the bright, jewel-like colours, not to mention the fact that there is a floating woman with her head on fire in the foreground. Despite the fact that this is an allegory of love, Duncan still manages to make it strangely creepy.





Duncan took a lot of inspiration from Celtic myth and legend. There’s something about his paintings that remind me of Botticelli.



Ivory Apes and Peacocks

Ivory Apes and Peacocks (the arrival of the Queen of Sheba)

Duncan often used blocks of pastel colours, giving his paintings a dream-like quality.








St Bride

St Bride

This painting of the Irish saint being held aloft by a couple of angels is reminiscent of medieval art in its two-dimensionality, and the stained-glass like quality of the angels’ robes.




The Sleeping Princess

The Sleeping Princess






  1. melmoth said,

    An esoteric selection for your mensiversary. In vain I scrambled through my moth eaten tomes so kudos to you! The flame-girl is especially memorable. These paintings deserve to be better known.

  2. Liam said,

    Congratulations on the blog — I’m really enjoying it. Do you have any more information on the allegory of love? I find it very interesting — kitschy, but interesting.

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