Oppression in History (2017)

„Divorced, beheaded and died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.“ (2017)

I have always been a history nut, and one of my favorite stories is that of Henry the 8th and his six wives. I am particularly fascinated by the character of his second wife Anne Boleyn. When I drew this painting, I just wanted to depict the different characters of his wives. Then I thought it is interesting to make a play out of it: „can you figure out who is who, e.g. which of the ladys is actually my Anne?“ The solution is that there are several options that make sense, so there is quite a lot of room for interpretation.

What I realized when preparing for my exhibition „Female Warriors“ 2018, is that I depicted not just various historic characters, but oppression and disrespect. A man who had six wives, who would be ready to behead them if they were disobedient in his opinion, who mostly expected them to give birth to sons, to be beautiful (he divorced his 4th wife because she was not pretty) and to be silent instead of outspoken.

There is a poem (unforuntely I don’t know the author), which I find very fitting here:

Divorced, beheaded and died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.
I’m Henry VIII, I had six sorry wives.
Some might say I ruined their lives.
Catherine of Aragon was one
She failed to give me a son.
I had to ask her for a divorce
That broke her poor heart, of course
Young Anne Boleyn she was two,
had a daughter the best she could.
I said she flirted with some other man
And off for the chop went dear Anne.
Lovely Jane Seymour was three,
The love of a lifetime for me.
She gave me a son, little Prince Ed,
Then poor old Jane, went and dropped dead.
Divorced, beheaded and died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.
I’m Henry VIII, I had six sorry wives.
Some might say I ruined their lives.
Anne of Cleves came as four,
I fell for the portrait I saw.
Then laid on her face and cried,
‚She’s a horse! I must have another divorce.‘
Catherine Howard was five,
A child of nineteen, so alive.
She flirted with others, no way to behave.
The axe sent young Cath to her grave.
Catherine Parr she was last.
By then all my best days were past.
I lay on my deathbed aged just fifty-five,
Lucky Catherine the last stayed alive.
(I mean, how unfair!)Divorced, beheaded and died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.
I’m Henry VIII, I had six sorry wives.
You could say I ruined their lives.

4 thoughts on “Oppression in History (2017)

  1. very powerful and deep. I understand, why you liked Ann Boylen. She was cunning and smart and knew of her power and influence. Even on her execution day, she held her head up high till..well…you get the picture. and her daughter i think is even more revolutionary, ruling as queen, without a king on her side. It was very advanced for that time and not the rule.
    I would say Ann is the woman in the right upper corner, with her head on Henry’s shoulder. She knew how to twist him around her fingers just with a charming look.

    1. Hi Julia, thank you so much for your lovely comment, so cool that we see many things so similar! 🙂 Of course it is quite an irony of history that Henry was very angry with Anne when she gave birth to „only“ a daughter – but that precisely this daugther would become the most successful British monarch of all time 🙂 And btw. I find it interesting that for you Anne is in the upper right corner, to me it is the brunett in the bottom left corner because of the flirty look- but see that is exactly what I wanted with this painting – diverse forms of interpretation and a bit of a guessing game 🙂

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