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Last week was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. At her launch, she represented a new, golden age of science and technology, luxury and opportunity. She was an unprecedented monument to man’s greatness… but only for five days. James Cameron’s 1997 film, technically groundbreaking though it was, emphasized the pride of enlightened humanism while ignoring the true lessons of history, and turned a true story of heroism into groundless class warfare.
According to Paula Parisi’s gushing book Titanic and the Making of James Cameron, the director would actually go out of his way to enforce the brutish behavior of his cast. “Stop helping people,” she quotes Cameron barking on the water-logged sinking set. “I hate that. it’s every man for himself.” Despite being overbearingly demanding in his pursuit of the physical accuracy of costumes, props, and sets, James Cameron would chastise extras for modeling the very sacrificial character that made the actual sinking of the ship iconic.
The legacy left by the Titanic and her passengers is much bigger than mere records broken by a gigantic ocean liner or a gargantuan Hollywood blockbuster. The cultural impact and character lessons of this event should not be forgotten or ignored. Last week The Vision Forum put on a centennial celebration of the lives and examples of those who lived and died, underscoring the Christian principles that we should remember.
Also, a very important article just went up on the Western Conservatory website, entitled “What Lifeboats and Grief Ships Can Teach Modern Americans,” by Geoffrey Botkin. It puts the event and its fallout in the context of the hundred years that have followed, and underscores why we remember.
I don’t have much to add, but I was able to finish these two paintings in time for the Centennial. The sunrise painting shows the Titanic as the symbol of modernism at the dawn of the 20th century, and the wreck painting shows her as a monument to entropy. In continuing my study-through-forgery art experiments, I attempted to imitate the work of oceanographer, historian, explorer, and ship artist extraordinare Ken Marschall.
Since ocean liners with such flowing lines are tricky objects to draw, and cracked and buckled ocean liners are brutally difficult to capture the with proper perspective, I bought a rough 3D model and tried to rebuild it to match blueprints and wreck photos and experimented with camera angles in Lightwave. As I began painting the details and rust and lighting, I decided that I didn’t want to destroy her to the extent that she has corroded today.
Ken Marschall has painted the definitive pictures of the wreck as it was discovered in 1986, and the photos from the recent National Geographic expedition for the 100th anniversary show extensive deterioration even since then. I didn’t want to paint millions of rusticles, and I really didn’t want to corrode so much of the details and paint of the bow section. And so, my final painting is a semi-educated guess as to what the R.M.S. Titanic might have looked like in 1962, at the 50th anniversary of her sinking.
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