Ekphrastic refers to a form of writing, mostly poetry, wherein the author describes another work of art, usually visual. It is used to convey the deeper symbolism of the corporeal art form by means of a separate medium. It has often been found that ekphrastic writing is rhetorical in nature and symbolic of a greater meaning.

A photograph of an empty landscape can convey desolation, abandon and loss. Similarly, one can convey the same sentiments and concepts by using phrases such as ‘an empty doorway’ or ‘a childless nursery’.

10 thoughts on “Ekphrastic”

  1. In Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49” the main character recalls a painting she saw in Mexico City, in which “a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.”

    This excerpt describes the painting, but in a way that exemplifies the main character’s feeling of being trapped in her own life.

    (The painting is called “Bordando el Manto Terrestre”, if anyone is interested.)

  2. Mussorgsky’s symphony “Pictures at an Exhibition,” is based on his friend, Viktor Hartmann’s, sketches. This is another example of ekphrassis but in music not poetry.

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