Harry Potter and the Magic of Art

by Robbie Fischer

I love the world of Harry Potter. It is a world of fantasy and entertainment where I have whiled away many a thrilling hour. It tickles my funny bone, it moves my emotions, it sparks my imagination. But I have never been one to stay for very long in one, and only one, fantasy world. This is why I write reviews for MuggleNet Blog; this is why my column shies away from commenting about the Harry Potter canon; this is why my past editorials have explored the magic of classical music, learning a foreign language, living with cats, and working things out with your family. J.K. Rowling has done a great thing: she has cast a magic spell that captured people of all ages, peeled them away from their video games and soap operas, and taught them to love reading again (or, in many cases, for the first time). In tribute to J.K. Rowling, I make it my special business to point out still other realms of magical discovery that the Harry Potter world may have prepared you to enter.

This time, I want to discuss the enchanted world of art, as a Potterhead might enter it. Mind you, I’m no big expert. But I have learned a lot in the past year by working for a magazine that uses a lot of paintings; and I should also give some credit up front to a wonderful, searchable, online art gallery called Art Resource. Thanks to Art Resource, you don’’t have to read my lengthy descriptions of the artworks presented below. You can point, click, and see the paintings for yourself!

And now, a walking (and clicking) tour of Robbie Fischer’’s “Magical World of Harry Potter Art Gallery.”

Here is a painting titled Woman with Child by Otto Dix. When I saw it, I was struck by the possibility that the woman’’s maiden name is Prince and that the child in her arms could be Severus Snape…

On the other hand, the same artist’s Portrait of the Parents of the Artist could be, in my opinion, a picture of James Potter’’s parents. And here I thought James was an only child!

A certain George Grosz painted a portrait of You-Know-Who, titled Lovesickness. What an ironic title.

For a creepy picture that might have a Dementor in it, check out Salvator Rosa’’s Saul and the Witches of Endor.

Here is a job for the Magical Accidents Reversal Squad. The painting by Rene Magritte is titled Le Sorcier.

Hieronymus Francken’’s Witches’’ Kitchen shows some Dark Magic brewing.

Who is the talented young pupil Dumbledore is tutoring in this picture? The title of Nathaniel Hone’’s is The Conjuror.

Here is a piece of art photography by Wulz Wanda, titled Me and Cat. Hermione knows this could really happen!

Oops! Somebody has been fooling around in the Time Room at the Department of Mysteries again. Here to show you the results (or consequences) is Salvador Dali’’s Persistence of Memory.

Need a little help in your Care of Magical Creatures studies? Take a look at this Egyptian bronze of a Griffin.

Or, dig this marble sphinx from the island of Naxos.

Most centaurs in classical art are depicted as bad guys, being slain by some hero or god or other. A couple of exceptions come from the villa of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The grown-up centaur is here.

The young centaur is here.

There are also several classic paintings of the centaur Chiron teaching Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War. Most of them have a lot of nudity in them, but here’’s one of the tamer ones, by Giuseppe Maria Crespi.

Finally, here is a Babylonian terracotta image of a “fish man or water sprite” –in other words, merpeople!

I do hope you haven’t seen enough. Now it’s your turn to pour through the annals of art and discover all kinds of magic for yourself. Like the magic of light, seemingly captured in paint. Like stone figures whose muscles almost seem to be in motion. Like pieces of rock, metal, paper, and fabric that are prized above gold, because they make the joy, anguish, and desire of men who died centuries ago come alive for us today. Everything short of pictures that move and talk of themselves (without the aid of television),  you name it, you’ll find it. And if you discover something really special, feel free to shoot me some feedback about it. Happy hunting!