Category Archives: Project 3 – Reading visual communications


  • Richard Fayerweather Babcock, Join the Navy, c.1917 (colour litho)

Looking at the “Join the Navy” advert, of a man riding a bomb in the sea has many connotations.  For one it looks like good fun. Two, he is so happy to be fighting for his country, and three, the bomb has a phallic feel to it, it doesn’t necessarily look metal, it’s more skin colour.  The tagline is “The service for fighting men,” how macho, with a lovely sailor boy wearing a cut white sailors cap.

I’m sure, for the time, when perhaps people’s minds were a tad bit more conservative, in today’s standards, I don’t think Babcock intended it to look so “GAY” if that’s politically correct to say.

The image I decided to explore is an advert for the Bon Marche.

Promotional card for the Department store, Au Bon Marché,  advertising 'Les Grands Championnats', 1910 (colour litho)
Promotional card for the Department store, Au Bon Marché, advertising ‘Les Grands Championnats’, 1910 (colour litho), Auzolle, Marcelin (1862-1942) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images

The Bridgeman education guide says this about the advert.

The Bon Marché Department stores in Paris were the creation of the French entrepreneur, Aristide Boucicaut (1810-77), who, after 1852 and with his wife, Marguerite (1826-87) revolutionised shopping and retailing in France; they developed the first department store (‘Grand Magasin’) in Paris, by 1877 the largest in the world with 1788 employees; the Boucicauts were responsible for introducing the concept of shopping as an enjoyable experience with glamorous interiors; innovations included fixed prices, home delivery, large choice of goods, guarantees allowing exchanges or returns, catalogues , mail order and advertising; families were targeted by providing reading rooms for husbands while their wives made purchases and by giving balloons and attractively produced cards for children; the cards, usually in a series of six and published weekly were extremely popular and acted as an inducement to return frequently to the shops;

There is no mention of a white boy, with a white referee, a white coach, and a white audience, punching a black boys in the face.

‘Les Grands Championnats’- The Great Champions,…  The Great French, Western, Elite, Champions,  out of how many of those 1788 employees were black African?

Has this anything to do with race, or it just a coincident? Why isn’t the boy fighting another boy of the same skin colour?

If this is an advert for a shopping center, than you can guess the type of clientage it is hoping to attract.

I can’t imagine what would happen if a similar advert was released today.  It shines light onto the outward and acceptable use of racism as a marketing in the early 1900’s.  The same is true looking at feminism or health consiousness in advertising, compared with today’s standards.



Consider the sign of a crop circle photograph

Rod Dickenson makes crop circles on the ancient lands of England, the West Country. For me the West Country is magic… ancient land which hold memories of old. The crop circles in Whiltshire, Stone Henge, and Avery are all perfect in line, where lay lines are hidden.  Sidbury Hill, 2400 BC, is the largest man-made hill. Iron age settlers built these ancient earthworks for their pagan gods.  They are all based on complex geometry, which is obvious from above, normally in the form of a circle, but also square, or horseshoe-shaped

David Keys writes in the Independent that “It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2000 years before Pythagoras.” and that The most complex geometrical achievement at Stonehenge is an 87-metre diameter circle of chalk-cut pits which mark the points of a 56-sided polygon, created immediately within the monument’s perimeter earthwork.

Rob Dickinson’s construction of crop circles are simplistic versions, with only six points. With the help of sacred geometry, you can construct one with simple materials such as surveyors tape, wooden boards and rope.  They are complex patterns which are impressive from above, but use a simple formula precisely executed.

The significance of Dickinson’s work is in the location, where he places his crop circles. They are all in proximity to an English Heritage site. Crop circles use the same Pythagorean principles as the Stone circles and sites, and symbolizes a mystery that has been perhaps forgotten about.

I did a pilgrimage of these mentioned sites a couple of years ago.  Avery was wonderful preserved, albeit with a pub in the middle of the fields of stones, but when we went to Stone Henge it felt like consumerism stole the magic, in fact, there is actually a Monopoly game being sold in the gift store called Stone Henge ??!!

Perhaps this is why Dickinson creates these earth arts, to remind us to look above for the answers, appreciate the wonders of the world, look back and feel our ancestors, to be reminded of land on which we take for granted, all too often.

The West Country, where music and festivals gather people, where the people 4000 years ago worshiped the earth, where there is still so much magic, to appreciate throughout the years.

David Keys, The Independent, [17-5-17]

Exercise 1 What does this apple mean?

apple – Carnal pleasures and sin; sins of mankind, original sin; forbidden fruit. When shown in the Garden of Eden, the apple tree symbolizes sin and mans fall from grace. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” — Genesis 2:16-17.

The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters [16-5-17]

Apples feature frequently in fairy tales. A well-known example is the Brothers Grimm tale “Snow White“, in which Snow White’s evil stepmother offers her a poisonous apple which puts her to sleep. Another evil stepmother maliciously offers her stepchild an apple in another Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “The Juniper Tree“. In Le piacevoli notti (The Facetious Nights) by Giovanni Francesco Straparola, apples appear in four stories.

“SurLaLune Fairy Tales: The Facetious Nights of Straparola” [16-5-17]

According to popular legend, upon witnessing an apple fall from its tree, Isaac Newton was inspired to conclude that a similar ‘universal gravitation’ attracted the moon toward the Earth. (This legend is discussed in more detail in the article on Isaac Newton).

Here are some images I downloaded from the Bridgeman eduction website

Madonna and Child, c.1480 (tempera and gold on wood)
Madonna and Child, c.1480 (tempera and gold on wood), Crivelli, Carlo (c.1430/35-1495) The apples and fly are symbols of sin and evil, the cucumber and the goldfinch are symbols of redemption.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Venus Verticordia, 1864-68 (oil on canvas), Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Charles (1828-82) Venus, the Roman goddess of love and this painting is full of symbols of lust and love. The arrow she holds in her hand is poised ready to pierce hearts, the apple represents the fruit that tempted Eve and the roses and honeysuckles are symbols of desire. The painting’s title is taken from a poem by the Roman author, Ovid, and translates as ‘Venus, turner of hearts’.

Thisisnotme digital artist- I’m not entirely sure what these images mean..  if you buy apple products, you get more sex?

René François Ghislain Magritte


Son of Man

“It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” Migrette.

I’m not sure what the apple symbolizes in these three paintings, but Migrette uses frequently in his paintings. Maybe he just likes them.


Eva, 2004 (acrylic on canvas)
Eva, 2004 (acrylic on canvas), Shawa, Laila (b.1940) (Contemporary Artist) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images

Perhaps the apple in the above painting, refers to women being a target.

In terms of commercial use of apple, I’m trying to keep away from the obvious “Apple Computers” to find something a bit less mainstream.  But an apple in modern-day could meant health, or organic food, but more likely will be associated with devices.

So looking at both historic and modern uses of an apple in art and popular media/marketing and brands, the apple has gone from a symbol of evil and temptation, to a marketting tool which perhaps cool be looked at as evil (huge company monopolizing computers) to tempting buyers into spending money and “needing” devices… with perhaps are leading to unsocial behavior such as smart phones and social media.