You may ask what 17th century Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens could possibly have in common with 20th century cartoonist Hergé, responsible for the Tintin comic book series? We recently attended two separate lectures on each of these artists that shared a surprisingly common theme.
One anecdote he did convey was to describe how the original owner, Carenna of Antwerp, hung the painting up high above a fireplace, as a "chimney piece". Although the Massacre of the Innocence is a huge painting that spans floor to ceiling at the AGO, in its first home, it was apparently dwarfed by massive tapestries that hung beside it. Imagine what tall ceilings this mansion must have had!
Like Rubens, Hergé used people and places that he knew of or had seen as inspiration for his comics and kept photos, newspaper clippings and other materials that detailed these sources. Farr's talk and main theme paralleled Jaffé's as he showed many examples of Tintin cartoons side by side with the images that influenced them. Unlike Jaffé, Farr peppered these comparisons with amusing and illuminating stories that kept the audience entertained.
It was sad to see the low tech ancient overhead foil projector that was used to display these pictures (an indication of budgetary deficiencies in the library system?). I felt sorry for the poor little woman who's job it was to squat in front of the projector and place the next foil as Farr spoke.
Farr showed examples where Hergé copied entire scenes from some source, perhaps a photo or postcard and seemed to just insert Tintin in the middle of it, almost in a cut and paste fashion. In this example of a Shanghai Street scene, the wording on the banners in the comic strip mirror the photo exactly.
As a roving reporter and adventurer, Tintin traveled to exotic locations around the world including Russia, Middle East and even the moon. When Hergé drew images of China, he was introduced to several Chinese students who helped him add accuracy and authenticity to his renderings.
Both the Rubens/Massacre of the Innocents and Hergé/Tintin lectures assumed that you knew something of the subject matter and did not delve too deeply into the basics. The Farr presentation was much more satisfying and enlightening due to all the little stories that he told, which enhanced your understanding and appreciation of the topic.
Both lectures showed how these two disparate artists were each majorly influenced by their surroundings. The common directive to writers is "Write what you know". I guess this applies to artists as well.