The Painting and the Poem Web Assignment
Peter Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus and Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts Writing Assignment (10 points possible)
Due: Please see our course calendar
This assignment asks you to do three things: examine a painting in detail, study a poem until you understand it, and write briefly about what you find.
Please do NOT use Web resources for help—I would far rather hear about what you discovered. In addition, there is no right answer.
Here’s what to do: first
1. The link below will take you to a painting by the Dutch artist Peter Brueghel. Spend some time really studying the painting because its meaning lies in the details, some very subtle. Something that might help is a brief explanation of the painting’s title: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. You may have heard of the classical character Icarus; he was the youth who, in order to fly, glued wings to his body with wax. Unfortunately he flew so close to the Sun that the wax melted, and he plunged to his death in the sea.
2. When you feel you understand the painting, move to W.H. Auden’s poem Musee des Beaux Arts (translation: Museum of Fine Arts—a museum that exhibits the masterworks of great artists). But, before reading the poem, imagine that the poem’s author is on a thoughtful visit to a world-renowned fine arts museum. While touring the museum, the poet’s attention is drawn to Peter Brueghel’s painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. The poet stops to closely examine the painting, trying to understand what the artist is trying to say. After a bit of detailed study and reflection, the poet discovers Brueghel’s point and then attempts to capture this experience with a poem.
To understand the poem, I recommend you first read it two or three times aloud. Next, try to paraphrase each line of the poem; in other words, try to restate each line in common language. Time and effort in paraphrasing should yield an understanding the poem, hopefully accompanied by the joy of discovery (the “Ahah!” feeling).
3. Finally, write a page or so sharing your discoveries about the painting and the poem, and what they have to do with each other. To get started, you might consider the following: What is the point of the painting? What theme or insight is the artist hoping to convey? What details support this theme or insight? What does the poet discover about the painting? What lines in the poem suggest this? To what universal human condition does the poet connect the painting?
When you are ready to examine the painting, please click on this link.