Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Influence of Man’s Ambition!
Along with George Elgar Hicks’s ‘Woman's Mission: Companion of Manhood,’ which I shared this past Saturday, Albert Henry Collings’s title for today’s painting makes a bold, old-timey proclamation which deserves an eye roll from modern viewers. That said, perhaps this piece worth a second a look to understand the artist’s earnest sentiment. They don’t make em’ like this anymore.
First off, I really admire Collings’s simple yet effective narrative approach to this scene. “Man” is seated at a desk, his face obscured from us, while overhead Collings supplies a plethora of womanly figures engaged in activities ranging from motherly, festive, sensual—and yes, there’s even an female angel straight from Heaven! Not a bad turn out!
Yes, some might argue that these women are mostly nude in order to satisfy the male perspective, however, citing the preposterous title, that’s would be the identified objective of this painting. After all, man’s ambition isn’t without its own share of flaws, which some might state are rooted in greed and power. Furthermore, perhaps this work is more successful at underlining’s man’s limited view of the female sex at this point in history; Out of the half-dozen women floating over this fella’s desk, not one is demonstrating their skills in the work force or exercising the right to vote. Depending on when Collings painted this work, I wonder if those milestones would've made a difference in his finished product, or if "man's ambition" simply involves woman operating as a convenient muse.
All that aside, I really admire Collings’s use of light, and the composition is pleasant to the eye.