Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ten more paintings for Halloween...

1.  Edward Munch's The Scream (1893, in the case of this version)
The poster boy for the neurotics' most famous painting; this expressionistic masterpiece begs the questions: what, why, who, when and where - and who told them where to find me? Or maybe it was just the red wine and cheese he had before he hit the hay.

2.  Francisco Goya's Saturn Devouring his Son (1819-1823)
A more graphically brutal and disturbing version of the subject matter painted by Rubens discussed a few posts earlier, depicting the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus (or Saturn in the Roman version), who, fearing that he would be overthrown by his children, ate them upon their birth. This is one of Goya's Black Paintings,  painted directly onto the walls of his house near Madrid.

3.  George Tooker's The Subway (1950)
Tooker's masterpiece reveals modern America as a world of alienation, confinement and anonymity.

4.  Francis Bacon's Figure with Meat (1954)
The one painting in the Gotham City Museum that Jack Nicholson's Joker wouldn't deface in Tim Burton's Batman (1989) - because he liked it! The screaming figure is based on Velasquez' portrait of Pope Innocent X (1649/50) and the two hanging carcasses were probably derived from Rembrandt's Carcass of Beef (1657). Bacon's nightmarish vision associates the Pope and  the Catholic Church with butchery and brutality.

5. Andrew Wyeth's Crows: Study for the Woodshed (1944)
Too often dismissed as a regionalist realist painter, Wyeth's work at its best confronts despair and isolation in rural modern America.  The twisted, hanging black birds, light reflecting off their oily feathers, evoke a raw, Frost-like depiction of rural life without the sentiment sometimes associated with it.

6. Otto Dix's Anti-War Tryptich (1929-32)
With its images of dead soldiers distorted by decomposition, this is one of many works by World war One veteran Dix to expose the needlessness and sheer savagery of trench warfare.  Puts the work of his British counterparts to shame.

7. John Atkinson Grimshaw's Moonlight Walk (nineteenth century)
Many of Atkinson Grimshaw's nocturnal scenes invoke invoke a mood of melancholy, but this one seems to hint at real menace as the bent over traveller, dwarfed by the leafless branches of the tall trees surrounding him, heads off into the unknown distance on an eerily moonlit night. Or perhaps the menace is behind him, as Coleridge says in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798):

"Like one who, on a lonely road, 
Doth walk in fear and dread, 
And, having once turned round, walks on, 
And turns no more his head; 
Because he knows a frightful fiend 
Doth close behind him tread."

8. Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937)
Created in response to the Franco-allied German and Italian bombing of Guernica, a village in the Basque Country, during the Spanish Civil War, Picasso's famous painting, in sombre black, white and grey tones, reveals the tragedy and horror of modern warfare in its depiction of the effects on innocent citizens and their property. In a no doubt apocryphal story, a German officer, on seeing the painting, asked Picasso: "Did you do this?" The artist replied, "No. You did."

9. Peter Brueghel the Elder's The Triumph of Death (ca. 1562)
An horrific depiction of medieval warfare with an army of skeletons rampaging over earth which is barren and scorched as far as the eye can see. Note the woman being embraced by a skeleton; the cardinal being escorted by a skeleton in a cardinal's red hat; the gold coins of a dying king being plundered by an armoured skeleton; the starving dog eating the body of a dead mother that still cradles her child.

10. Giorgio de Chirico's The Anxious Journey (1913)
Chirico's use of shadows and parallel lines creates a sense of confinement and the anxiety of the traveller.

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