landscape with the fall of icarus
In the poem, the spring season is portrayed as the setting of Icarus’s drowning. Generally, spring is closely related to the idea of harmony, love, new birth, growth, romance, and pleasure. But quite differently, the spring results into the unexpected demise of Icarus, at the cost of all-round rejection and negligence by both human and nature. Even the spring turns to be cruel and brutal when a man has no time and interest to worry and suffers about other’s suffering. In such pretext, spring season has been ironically presented in the poem. The Idea of farmer is also equally ironical. We suppose a farmer to be far from selfishness and individual interest. But even the farmer had no interest and time to watch and worry the fall of Icarus. It means that the modern farmers are like other city people. Similarly, the idea of nature has been ironically presented in this poem. Unlike mankind nature is taken as equally loving, caring and resourceful to mankind. But, both the sun and the sea have no interest in the continual existence of Icarus.
William C. Williams (1883-1963)
The success of this painting dates back a very long way and even had a poem written in respect of it by William Carlos Williams. W. H. Auden’s poem MusГ©e des Beaux-Arts also comments on the work as well and that piece of literature was named after the museum in Belgium where it can now be seen on display, and has been for many years. This remains one of the most impressive art museums across the country and is well worth a visit, if only to see the original Fall of Icarus in person.
Many look in detail at the careers of the Bruegel artists and there are certainly many other paintings besides Fall of Icarus which are well worth checking out. Bruegel the Elder was certainly the most talented artist to have come from this family and other notable works included Hunters in the Snow, sometimes referred to as Return of the Hunters. This classic painting covers another broad landscape at winter time, with Bruegel’s small characters returning from a small morning hunting expedition.
John Sutherland describes the painting as
If you look carefully, you can see his legs as he drowns, in the far distance of the painting. They are dwarfed by the horse’s rump …
The ploughman, shepherd and angler are mentioned in Ovid’s account of the legend; they are: “astonished and think to see gods approaching them through the aether”, which is not entirely the impression given in the painting. The shepherd gazing into the air, away from the ship, may be explained by another version of the composition (see below); in the original work there was probably also a figure of Daedalus in the sky to the left, at which he stares. There is also a Flemish proverb (of the sort imaged in other works by Bruegel): “And the farmer continued to plough. ” (En de boer . hij ploegde voort”) pointing out the ignorance of people to fellow men’s suffering. The painting may, as Auden’s poem suggests, depict humankind’s indifference to suffering by highlighting the ordinary events which continue to occur, despite the unobserved death of Icarus.
The painting is probably a version of a lost original by Bruegel, probably from the 1560s or soon after. It is in oils whereas Bruegel’s other paintings on canvas are in tempera.
Both the poem and the painting contain a degree of self reflexivity. This is most obvious in the painting. Although “the fall of Icarus” is in the title, the only evidence of this occurrence is a minuscule pair of legs emerging from the ocean. Icarus and his death, the stars of the Greek myth, are insignificant to humanity as a whole. They have little to no effect on the every day farmer; to the point that none of the people in the painting seem to notice that a man with wings has fallen out of the sky and is now drowning.
There is no need to even read this poem by William Carlos Williams to know that it is self-reflexive. The title already references both a Greek myth and the well-known Northern Renaissance painting by Pieter Bruegel. So, from the very beginning the poem proves its internal awareness about the existence of other works of art, and by doing so correlates itself with these two great works of art.