Category: Art

My Art Adventure

Posted September 12, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 9 Comments

While normally I don’t write blog entries about myself, I feel inclined to share some experiences I’ve had recently that do link to the overall theme of this site. I was in Spain and France for a holiday, which was an experience in itself but there was a few cultural activities that were done that I want to talk about.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

First stop was the Museo Reina Sofía, which is dedicated to 20th Century Spanish art. This meant a lot of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Recently I did a few posts about Picasso and the main reason I went to this museum was to see his masterpiece Guernica. I have to admit seeing this in real life was an experience in itself, there is no pictures out there that really do this painting justice and I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of it anyway. It was awe inspiring, I’m not sure if all the Spanish history leading up to this picture made this an experience or if it’s the painting itself. But there are no words to describe this encounter for me.

A bonus was the Surrealist wing of this museum. There is something about surrealism that I love, it’s weird and wonderful. This wing consisted on a lot of Salvador Dalí paintings, which were exciting to see, but it also included a painting by my favourite surrealist Rene Magritte. Magritte has always been my favourite surrealist, his works are so distinctive, recognisable and often very witty. The painting I saw wasn’t one of his more famous pieces but it was still exciting to see. The particular painting was his 1930’s piece Pink Belles, Tattered Skies.

Rene Magritte - Pink Belles, Tattered Skies (1930)

Museo del Prado

The Del Prado is the Spanish National art’s Museum which features a lot of Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, Titian, Rubens and Bosch as well as a huge selection of Romanesque, Gothic and Early Renaissance paintings. I was fortunate enough to see my favourite Titian picture; Sisyphus (1548-1549) but the highlight of this museum and possibly the trip was the two Caravaggio paintings. Most readers will know my love of his work, so it was exciting to finally see some of it. On loan from the Vatican; was The Entombment of Christ (1602–1603) and from Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; David with the Head of Goliath (1607).

Titian - Sisyphus (1548-1549)

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

We were lucky enough to go to the Guggenheim during Aste Nagusia (an annual festival in Basque country) and experienced this museum with live Jazz music playing. The music definitely enhanced the experience. While I’m not sure how I feel about modern art, especially Abstract; it was interesting to see some Pollock and other bizarre pieces.

Musée du Louvre

Probably the most visited and even the largest museum in the world, but it’s interesting to see that most of the people go to see the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo. While it’s good to see both, there is so much to see and it would take you days to go through it all. The Louvre has a lot of sculptures and decorative arts to look at as well as paintings by the greats including Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and of course The Death of the Virgin (1606) by Caravaggio. While there was some amazing art at the Louvre, it was so spread out the experience wasn’t as enjoyable as the other museums.

Caravaggio - The Death of the Virgin (1606)

It’s been quite an adventure and later I will tell you more, I just wanted to share with you the great museums and art I saw along the way. There really is nothing like seeing the art in real life, it was a real eye opener.

Guernica; Picasso's Masterpiece

Posted January 27, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 8 Comments

In 1937 the Spain was at war; a civil war between the Republic Government and Francisco Franco’s Francoist army. Franco led a rebellion army to overturn the government and bring communism to the Spanish people. The Francoist army had the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On April 26, 1937, 24 planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica. The town held no military significants, the objective; to send a message.

This tragedy effected many people including Picasso, and with a commissioning by the Spanish Republican government, Picasso set to work on a mural which would become his most famous piece of work. The painting, Guernica, broke Picasso out of a creative drought and renewed a passion, but now he did not want to be known as an icon breaker. Now, he set to work to create an icon.

The painting was 11 x 25.6 feet reflects the devastating effect of the bombing.   while early sketches showed images of hope and optimism, this faded and we are left with this powerful painting. We can pull a lot of meaning from this painting and many spend time analysing it. Like the ever-seeing eye; the focus of everyone’s gaze and could be a symbol of evil or the bombers, the light bulb in the eye symbolising the devastating effect of technology or maybe it’s there because the Spanish word for light bulb is “bombilla”, which makes an allusion to “bomb”. Some symbols in the painting may be easier to recognise, like the open palm of the dead soldier is a stigmata, a symbol of martyrdom. No matter what you see in the painting, it truly is a masterpiece that stirs up a lot of emotion.

I would love to hear what you see and think of the painting but I would like to leave you with a story I’ve heard about Picasso, the painting, during World War 2.

During the 1940’s Picasso’s studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins was often visited by German officers. On one of their raids a Gestapo officer found a postcard of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1937 lament for the Basque town bombed by the Luftwaffe.

“Did you do this?” asked the German.

“No, you did!” replied Picasso.  “Take it? Souvenir”

Picasso – The Icon Breaker

Posted January 21, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 0 Comments

Pablo Picasso is known as the pioneer of the avant-garde art movement known as Cubism; a modern art (almost surrealist) style which involves objects being broken up, analysed, and re-assembled in an abstract form. Not only is he known for this art style, but he should also be remembered as an ‘Icon Breaker’. Picasso made it a mission to break from the traditional; not interested in pleasuring the viewer, but trying to get to the core of the person in the painting.

Traditionally, art often depicted a man on a horse, nudes and the classic portraits; but for Picasso, well, let’s look at some examples.

Boy Leading a Horse (1906)
Boy Leading a Horse (1906)

In 1906 Picasso painted “Boy Leading a Horse”.  Most traditional paintings of a man with his horse depict a symbol of power and a man demanding respect; Picasso’s painting did the opposite.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

The ever popular nude was another target for Picasso. In a nude the woman is a simple of grace and beauty, but the 1907’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” showed five nude female prostitutes from a brothel, each woman, in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine.

Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)
Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

When it came to the traditional Portrait, Picasso often painted in the cubism style and painted how he saw his subject. As depicted in paintings like the 1910’s “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler”.

So what changed for Picasso that turned him from the “Icon Breaker” into an “Icon Maker”?

Find out next week

René Magritte’s The Lovers

Posted June 23, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 8 Comments

The Lovers I                         &                        The Lovers II

Belgian artist, René Magritte is one of my favourite surrealist painters. His paintings attempt to evoke emotion while never revealing the meaning of the weird art. ‘The Lovers’ (both pieces) are the most fascinating of his works – for me anyway. When I look at the two pieces the first thing that pops out is the fact that both people are yearning for love but are so oblivious to what is right in front of them.

This mentality is so common in today’s society.  People are so self absorbed thatthese paintings always ring true. The Lovers have been interpreted many times and appears in many different mediums. Two modern rock albums come to mind straight away. The Mars Volta’s ‘Frances the Mute’ and Funeral for a Friend’s ‘Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation’. The cover of Funeral for a Friend’s album is the more interesting of the two. If you look closely at the artwork you can see that the lovers are sitting on the rocks overlooking a storm’ representing the turmoils of life and how sometimes this gets in the way of love.

Of course with all art, people will interpret it differently; this is my interpretation and a little food for thought.

Nec Spe, Nec Metu (Without Hope, Without Fear)

Posted February 22, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 0 Comments

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608)

A Religious art war was raging, between the Counter-Reformation and Protestants. Protestants believed that art was a distraction or an idol and should not be in the churches, one of the main defences for the Counter-Reformation was that not everyone can read and deserve to learn about religion too, thus the purpose of the art. The Counter-Reformation Church searched for authentic religious art with which to counter the threat of Protestantism, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate, this was the beginning of the Baroque art movement. The Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s intensely emotional realism and dramatic use of lighting had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. Caravaggio grow up been told to be a painter you need to paint like the Mannerists (by teacher and mannerist Simone Peterzano), though for Caravaggio he couldn’t paint pictures of paradise as he had no knowledge of these things. Caravaggio painted what he knew to be real.

Calling of Saint Matthew (1600)

With paintings like Calling of Saint Matthew, you see nothing of Jesus but his arm calling out to Saint Matthew. “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). If you look at the painting you can see it’s a dark and gritty place which you would not see if this painting came from the Mannerist era.

Caravaggio lived by the motto “Nec Spe, Nec Metu” (Without Hope, Without Fear) he believed himself a sinner and it came through in his paintings. Probably the best painting to reflect that would be “David with the Head of Goliath”. In this painting Caravaggio is the head of Goliath; it is very rare for a self portrait to depict the painter as the villain. On the sword that David is holding is inscribed H-AS OS, in Latin: Humilitas occidit superbiam (“Humility kills pride”)

David with the Head of Goliath (1610)

Street Art

Posted February 15, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 3 Comments

Blek Le Rat

Street art is normally considered Graffiti but for artist like Blek le Rat and Banksy it’s a tool for getting their message across. For these artists stencil art or street art is the future of art, one of the few mediums which allows their works to get viewed by millions of people. Often considered satirical pieces of art, the works of Blek le Rat and Banksy are political, cultural, and ethical in nature. Blek le Rat has often claimed that his works are designed to bring often overlooked issues to the forefront of people’s thoughts.


Desperate Romantics

Posted February 11, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art, Film & Television / 4 Comments

Desperate-Romantics-001I’m not sure how many people have seen this mini series, but I thought in an effort to make sure I post regularly I would mention this wonderful show. Desperate Romantics is a BBC series of the life of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. One thing that was impressive about this show, was all the effort they put into recreating some of the Brotherhoods paintings. In the show you will see a few pieces, such as;

  • Christ in the House of His Parents (1849–50) by John Everett Millais
  • Ophelia (1851-2) by John Everett Millais
  • The Order of Release (1854) by John Everett Millais
  • The Scapegoat (1856) by William Holman Hunt
  • Bocca Baciata (1859) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Beata Beatrix (1872) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • The Shadow of Death (1872) by William Holman Hunt
  • Oxford Union murals (1857-9) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones et al.

As well as sketch or images of;

  • Ecce Ancilla Domini (1849–50) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • The Hireling Shepherd (1851) by William Holman Hunt
  • The Light of the World (1853–54) by William Holman Hunt
  • The Awakening Conscience (1853) by William Holman Hunt
  • Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah (1855) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • The Blind Girl (1856) by John Everett Millais
  • Autumn Leaves (1856) by John Everett Millais
  • The Holy Family (undated) by Elizabeth Siddal
  • The Rowing Boat (undated) by Elizabeth Siddal
  • Venus Verticordia (1868) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Bubbles (1886) by John Everett Millais

Though I’m not sure how accurate the show is, it is a fascinating insight on some of some great artists.

Poetic Shock

Posted January 29, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art, Culture / 0 Comments

The Son Of Man

Possibly my favourite Surrealist would be René Magritte, one of the main reasons what because he ignored the previous 30 or so years of art and went back to basics, combining realism with surrealism. For example: in the painting ‘The Son of Man’ he painted an apple that looks like an apple (realism) but the apple was placed in front of a mans face (surrealism). Another artist that did some similar was Paul Delvaux and his reason for this; “to produce poetic shock by putting heterogeneous but real things together in an unexpected way.”

Poetic Shock has been used a lot nowadays, most notably in the 70’s by British graphics arts group Hipgnosis. The difference between Hipgnosis and the Surrealists was not only LSD, but the graphic design group used Poetic Shock to send very basic messages. Look at two Pink Floyd albums done by the group, Wish You Were Here and Animal. Wish You Were Here depicts two business men shaking hands but one is on fire (Getting burned in a business deal) and Animal simply has an inflatable Pig floating through the air (Pigs can fly). Magritte’s The Lovers shows two people sitting back to back with their face covered by a white sheet. Though Magritte never explained the meaning of his paintings, many have believed it’s a picture of loneliness and alienation.

Poetic Shock has also been used in Movies to scare people, one of the best example of this is the 1980’s horror classic The Shining. Danny was riding his bike around the Overlook Hotel and ran into the twins. Where normally people would think nothing of this, in the movie the twins were not expected to be there, leading to a perfect example of Poetic Shock in a movie.

Cultural Profile – The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood

Posted January 24, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art, Culture / 0 Comments

I mentioned avant-garde in the previous entry so I thought it was only fitting to look at the originals. The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood has been considered the first avant-garde movement in art. They throw away the rule book of art to create something different and exciting. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name Pre-Raphaelites.

The brotherhood rejected the rule and formula of art that were been taught by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the Royal Academy of Art. They considered the work ‘sloppy’ and formulaic, they believed that Sir Sloshua (Sir Joshua) was stopping them explore other styles, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

The brotherhood stop up against the norm and followed their own doctrine:

  • To have genuine ideas to express;
  • To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  • To sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote;
  • And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Influenced by Romanticism, they thought that freedom and responsibility were inseparable so they followed the principles of realism. The Brotherhood was met with lots of controversy in there struggle against the Royal Academy of art, but ultimately they influenced and changed art history as well. When the brotherhood disbanded the artists who had worked in the style still followed these techniques (initially anyway) but they no longer signed their works with “PRB”