So you think you’re a so-called “cultured” person, eh? A profound lover of the arts, a true patron of intellectual creativity and skill. You can discourse for hours upon The Prince by Machiavelli or openly admit (more like say very loudly so other plebeians will hear you) that you’re in love with the delicate and thought-provoking painting style of the Pre-raphaelites. You are an esteemed member of at least three museums in your area and attend all the symphonies, especially the ones performing Bach, Mozart, and Rimski-Korsakov, in a swanky concert hall while holding a skinny glass of sparkling champagne. You adore the musings of Nietzsche. You tell others how you sympathize with Sylvia Plath. You have visited, or dream of visiting, Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, and Barcelona just for the Instagram pictures and the bragging rights.
However, when it comes to relationships, just because you’re a person of sophistication doesn’t mean every romantic encounter is straight out of a schmaltzy Jane Austen novel. The obsession with Sibelius and George Orwell won’t guarantee a faultless and beautiful love affair, much less a seamless and agreeable breakup. If you do happen to experience a complicated, Anna Karenina-like situation and a breakup nastier than the axe planted in Alyona Ivanovna’s skull, read below for some “cultured” ways to experience a thrilling catharsis and a return to your normal state of artistic pretension!
I always find fascinating art uplifting and relatable, so here are a few pieces that demonstrate each stage of a breakup. Hopefully they will elevate you out of your relationship-induced funk!
Goya’s Pinturas Negas, specifically Duel With Cudgels (1820) and Saturn Devouring His Son (1819)Yes, these gruesome images may be a little bit disturbing and extreme, but they may help you identify/come to terms with the ending of your relationship. Anger and denial are common, but accept your dark and poisonous thoughts while looking at these amazing Romantic paintings! Instead of taking out your hostile feelings on your ex, relate to the fighting duo in Duel With Cudgels created by the increasingly senile and dour Goya in 1820. This work, along with most of the other Black Paintings, is in a muted corner of the Prado Museum in Madrid. The second painting, Saturn Devouring His Son, is even more macabre and features the legend of the Titan god who ate his children to prevent his eventual downfall at the hands of one of them. Unfortunately for him, his son, Zeus, survived and fulfilled the prophecy by destroying the Titans and establishing the Olympus Gods as the supreme rulers. Transform all the raw hurt and bitter pain inside of you into art appreciation—instead of biting your partner’s head off with harsh and hasty words, just look at this painting to get the literal vibe! And who ever said that masterworks of art couldn’t be cathartic?
Bridge Over Water Lilies (1899) and The Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil (1873) by Monet
To quell your boiling rage because you figuratively bit off the head of your ex, meditate upon these Impressionist paintings by Monet. Impressionism, inherently, is calming because of the warm treatment of light, the playful subject matter often depicted, and the complete lack of weighty or stressful issues. After crying your eyes out to an unsettling and dark Goya image, dry them up with the comfort of a tranquil land or seascape created only with dabs of bright color and the artist’s soft touch. Bridge Over Water Lilies is one of Monet’s most famous paintings, and it depicts the rickety wooden bridge near Monet’s picturesque home of Giverny. The Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil recreates the still but florally wild garden of Monet’s home in a Parisian suburb. Like a stinging cut that becomes numb the more hand sanitizer you apply, keep on exploring the serene world of the Impressionists until hearing the name “Renoir” makes you ill.
The Lady of Shalott (1888) and Ophelia (1889) by John William Waterhouse
I find Pre-Raphaelite paintings so uplifting and proof that true splendor still exists on Earth. While it is true that your dying relationship may not have been beautiful in its withering end, be comforted that grace still exists within the works of Millais, Waterhouse, Hunt, and Rossetti. Maybe your next jaunt with another person will be just as spellbinding, exquisite, and drunkenly thrilling as the Lady of Shalott or the twisting Ophelia. The colors forever trapped within the canvas are so luminescent, popping, and expansive, their shimmering hues bringing light into a gray world. Pre-Raphaelites achieved this radiant sensation because they painted on a white ground as opposed to the black (or darkly colored) ground of earlier Baroque and Romantic artists.
A good book has that special, spell-binding capability of ferrying away the reader to places and thoughts unknown simply with a few well placed adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs. Imagine the seductive power of being able to make a person forget their true, mundane life and leap into the pages of a thrilling character! More people should really aspire to be authors. Here are a few books to help oust out your grieving and usher in an age of self exploration and happiness.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Yes, this is the most depressing book I’ve ever read, but shedding a waterfall of tears is normal (and healthy) during a breakup. If you’re one of those stubborn, “I don’t cry because I’m a woman who don’t need no man” people, then hop off your unemotional high horse and let the tear ducts flow. No matter how many times you tell yourself “I’m fine,” nothing makes you feel as refreshed as a good cry. The Bell Jar will only assist in this cathartic cleansing because the main character, Ester Greenwood, descends into major depressive disorder after her glamorous (but ultimately phony) escapade in the Big Apple. The life of Sylvia Plath is a terribly sad story; like Ester, she attempted and succeeded in her untimely suicide involving ovens. Listen to an interview with the talented Plath here.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
This read is mainly for the purpose of distracting your thoughts away from him (or her) and diverting them towards the exhilarating adventures of hobbits, furry-footed creatures that inhabit the mystical world f Middle Earth. What are attractive men with chiseled features and dark, piercing eyes compared to wholesome dwarves with a proclivity towards violence and overwhelming amounts of bodily hair? Forget that real life exists and leap into the Shire to help Bilbo against the trolls and the gargantuan spiders. Who knows, maybe your next love will not be some uncultured swine of a human, but Fili or Kili, the manly dwarves with a sense of humor as well as rocking beards.
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
You swim in the mind of Tolkien. Thorin Oakenshield is your new obsession. The roughness of Beorn you find strangely titillating. However, preferring to stay trapped within the pages of Middle Earth isn’t exactly realistic. Therefore, swipe a copy of The Red Notebook, a charming novel by Antoine Laurain about a middle aged bookseller (Laurent) who finds an abandoned mauve handbag in the seedy streets of Paris. Searching and falling in love with a woman he’s never met, Laurent scalds himself because the hot trail of curiosity eventually leads him right to her apartment. Meanwhile, Laure, the owner of the purse of contention, is in the hospital with a coma and unable to meet her fashion savior. The love story is sweet, captivating, and short, making you believe that yes, true love based on words in a notebook (not looks) does exist.
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
Nocturne No. 2 Op.9 by Chopin
La Habanera by Bizet
Hopefully this guide has helped you kick the wallowing dust off your feet and learn more about the amazing subjects of art history, classical music, and literature. Personally, writing about my thoughts and feelings always helps me to get over particularly strong emotions (which is rare for me since I’m generally quite stoic).
**DISCLAIMER: THIS IS SATIRE! Some of the snarkier portions are not to be taken literally (i.e. eating your ex). Thank-you.**
Pictures from Wikipedia