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Carousel Paintings

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Some believe that carousel paintings are in direct correlation with the artist's feelings and life experiences.  Others feel it is how the artist perceives the things that are relevant in the news around the world.  An artist's environment can be a crucial factor in the color scheme they choose; whether they know it or not.  If they are surrounded by the joyful laughs of children, their art will usually reflect the emotions that are brought on by watching and listening to those children.  This is probably why most carousel paintings will be depicted as either joy or pain.

This musical ride began as a cavalry training tool somewhere around 500 A.D.  It was used to train and strengthen soldiers on how to wield their swords against mock enemies.  It later began to develop popularity as a replacement for serious jousting during special festivities like royal weddings and state visits.  It never reached its full potential and renowned reputation as a fun ride until the 1860's in America.  Gustav Dentzel of Germany set one up in Philadelphia to test the American market and was met with great success!  This opened up the doors for many European families who were classically trained in the arts to begin their new entrepreneurships to satisfy this newfound audience in America. 

In 1909, Meridian, Mississippi became the home of an original Dentzel two row stationary menagerie.  This functional merry-go-round is the only Dentzel left in the world.  It is located in Highland Park at the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel and Shelter Building.  Between the years of 1984 and 1995, Rosa Ragan of Raleigh, North Carolina had the animals, chariots and various oil pieces restored to their original beauty.  Even the building itself was constructed from a Dentzel blueprint!

Carousel painting, more than 1,500 years of it, has changed many times over.  The earliest known representation of this merry-go-round was found in a bas-relief dated from the Byzantine Empire era during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.  There are as many artists that have painted these wondrous visions for all to enjoy as there are sculptures.  The playful artist Lennie Hirsh created carousel paintings based on the joys of this childhood carnival ride.  Hirsh used the softness of pastels and the brightness of floral colors to bring forth that wondrous innocence found only in children.  Others, like Amy Sol, use quiet and muted colors to show just how simple life was as a child on their magical merry-go-round ride. 

There is a distinct sense of freedom in Laurie Justus Pace’s ‘Escape of the Carousel’.  Although her use of darker colors may lead the viewer to believe that there is something dark happening, her use of light in the colors of the horse and how she has him galloping lends to an intense feeling of escape.  Her use of the color to emphasize the horses’ posture helps guide the viewer to believe that this horse is running towards freedom.

While most carousel paintings are based in the joys of a child, some artists like Werner Rentsch create pieces that invoke a sense of distressing emotions  His piece, the ‘Carousel Heads’, is dark in color and is characterized by the use of crisp, determined lines.  The emotions that are represented in the horses' faces can be viewed as panic, pain and fear.

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