Note that to minimise the entries and the opportunity for confusion, the text and image sources are not shown here – do follow the links to the artists or their works and you will find a proper acknowledgement of the sources.
1891 – 1976
The Entire City
|Like many of Ernst’s paintings during his Paris period (1922-1941), Ubu Imperator resembles a collage in painted form. The artist’s knowledge of theories by renowned psychologist Freud, familiarity with myth and extreme wit are reflected in this early painting, which is now considered proto-Surrealist due to its strange juxtapositions. In Ubu Imperator, an anthropomorphic top dances in a vast, empty landscape. Such works captured early on the surrealist notion of estrangement and commitment to the subconscious, but also they seem surprisingly contemporary.|
The Entire City is part of a series of around twelve paintings on the same theme that Ernst made between 1933 and 1937. Later ersions have a larger expanse of sky that covers roughly half of the canvas, in contrast to the earlier paintings where the sky forms around one quarter of the overall composition. Ernst recollected in 1953 that he painted the 1934 version of The Entire City, owned by the Tate, in the studio of the British surrealist painter Roland Penrose at the Chateau de Pouys in the south of France, where he was being hosted at that time as an exile from his native Germany.
|According to Rafael Santos Torroella, a Salvador Dalí scholar, between 1923 and 1926 the painter did at least a dozen portraits of his sister Anna Maria, including two in the Museo Reina Sofía collection. After they were shown in 1925 at the Dalmau gallery, certain critics, including Folch i Torres, linked Dalí’s portraits to Catalan Noucentisme. According to Dalí himself in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, Picasso praised the pictures after his visit to the Dalmau gallery, and there is no doubt that they contain a certain echo of Picassian Classicism.|
Visage du Grand Masturbateur: – the quintessential symbol par excellence of his sexual obsessions. Dalí painted the picture in late summer 1929, after spending a few days with Gala, who had decided to stay with him in Cadaqués, despite the fact that her husband at that time, the poet Paul Éluard, had returned to Paris alone. The work is an autobiographical painting: the large head of the masturbator is one of various personifications of the artist, who appears in several simultaneous scenes in the painting, reflecting the spiritual and erotic transformation that Dalí had just gone through as a result of Gala’s appearance in his life.
Persistence: Hard objects become inexplicably limp in this bleak and infinite dreamscape, while metal attracts ants like rotting flesh. Mastering what he called the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling, Dalí painted with the most imperialist fury of precision, he said, but only to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality. It is the classic Surrealist ambition, yet some literal reality is included, too: the distant golden cliffs are the coast of Catalonia, Dalí’s home. Those limp watches are as soft as overripe cheese—indeed, they picture the camembert of time, in Dalí’s phrase. Here time must lose all meaning.
Metamorphose: This was Dalí’s first painting to be made entirely in accordance with the paranoiac critical method, which the artist described as a Spontaneous method of irrational knowledge, based on the critical-interpretative association of the phenomena of delirium. This painting is Dalí’s interpretation of the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a youth of great beauty who loved only himself and broke the hearts of many lovers. The gods punished him by letting him see his own reflection in a pool. He fell in love with it, but discovered he could not embrace it and died of frustration. Relenting, the gods immortalised him as the narcissus (daffodil) flower.
Dream: The sleeping figure of Gala, Dalí’s wife and muse, floats above a rock in a tranquil marine landscape. Beside her naked body, two drops of water, a pomegranate and a bee are also airborne.
Gala’s dream, prompted by the buzzing of the bee, appears in the upper part of the canvas; there, from an exploding pomegranate shoots out a fish, from whose mouth two ferocious tigers emerge together with a bayonet which, one second later, will wake Gala from her restful sleep.
Soft Watch: The Melting Watch is often referred to as Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion, or simply, Soft Watch. The dreamy world found in Dali’s subconscious mind was the inspiration for this and many other Surrealist works in his career. The melting watch faces are repeated in several of his paintings, as is the elongated elephant. Dali would enter a meditative state in order to access this part of his mind, then quickly sketching down the creativity that flowed from it.
Figure at the Window
(Figura en una finestra)
The Great Masturbator
The Persistence of Memory
Metamorphose de Narcisse
Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening
Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion
House by the Railroad
The Lighthouse at Two Lights
|Haskell: The towering Victorian property atop a hill seen in ‘Haskell’s House’ is largely intact, with even the decorative iron trim on the roof. But Hopper’s view from Main Street is gone. In the painting, the house is framed by blue sky, a white fence, and shrubs. Today, the house is almost hidden from the busy road. Tall evergreens screen the front, and a group of low-lying gray townhouses with orange doors block much of the side view. An iron fence in front is padlocked, with two large dogs roaming the yard.|
House by the Railroad features a grand Victorian home, its base and grounds obscured by the tracks of a railroad. The tracks create a visual barrier that seems to block access to the house, which is isolated in an empty landscape. These effects evoke the quiet yet charged atmosphere that would become a hallmark of this artist’s work.
Lighthouse: In this work, Hopper isolates the dramatic silhouette of a lighthouse against an open expanse of blue sky. Set on a rocky promontory in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the architecture is bathed in bright sunlight offset by dark shadows. Standing proudly upright and seen from below, the Lighthouse at Two Lights seems to symbolise a resolute resistance, even refusal, to submit to change or nature.
Gas: This work resulted from a composite representation of several gasoline stations seen by the artist. The light in this painting, both natural and artificial, gives the scene of a gas station and its lone attendant at dusk an underlying sense of drama. But rather than simply depicting a straightforward narrative, Hopper’s aim was ‘the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature’. In this case, the loneliness of an American country road.
Nighthawks: Nighthawks is a 1942 painting that portrays people sitting in a downtown diner late at night. It is Hopper’s most famous work and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Within months of its completion, it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago for $3,000, and has remained there ever since.
|Pillars of Society is not about the rise of national socialism but rather a portrait of the pillars of what used to be the Second Reich in their utterly downtrodden state during the Weimar Republic. At the top right is the Freikorps, paramilitary organisation dressing as if they were the old Reichswehr but mainly concerned with beating up striking workers and terrorising minorities. Below them is the Catholic clergy. The Catholic centre party was the main conservative force. Under the priest there is a ‘politician’ bearing both the Social Democratic slogan Socialism means Employment. Then there is a journalist with a chamber pot on his head. Grosz was bemused that parties could try to combine previously mutually exclusive demands.|
Poet: George Grosz details the lines, bumps, veins, and ruddiness of head and hands of his friend Max Herrmann-Neisse’s, picturing him almost within arm’s reach.
Herrmann-Neisse, a poet and Berlin’s leading cabaret critic, shared the same politics, sense of humour, and cynical outlook as Grosz.
Couple: The artist said that the watercolour A Married Couple belongs to a series of drawings and watercolours which he executed during the ‘twenties up to 1930. He worked on a kind of portfolio entitled Natural History of the German Middle Class, for which he also wrote a text. Political events, however, interrupted his plans; he went to the United States and this portfolio was never finished.
1893 – 1959
Pillars of Society
The Poet Max Hermann-Neise
A Married Couple
René François Ghislain
The False Mirror
The Treachery of Images
La Condition Humain
(The Human Condition)
Son of Man, The
(Le fils de l’homme)
|Mirror: A huge, isolated eye stares out at the viewer. Its left, inner corner has a vivid, viscous quality. The anatomical detailing of this area and its surface sheen contrast with the matte, dead-black of the eye’s pupil, which floats, unmoored, against a limpid, cloud-filled sky of cerulean blue. The sky appears as though seen through a circular window rather than mirrored in the spherical, liquid surface of an eye.|
The eye was a subject that fascinated many Surrealist poets and visual artists.
The Treachery of Images was painted when Magritte was 30 years old. The picture shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ French for ‘This is not a pipe’. The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe. This masterpiece of Surrealism creates a three-way paradox out of the conventional notion that objects correspond to words and images.
Condition: Two of Magritte’s favoured themes were the ‘window painting’ and the ‘painting within a painting’. The Human Condition is one of Magritte’s earliest treatments of either subject, and in it he combines the two, making what may be his most subtle and profound statement of their shared meaning. The Human Condition displays an easel placed inside a room and in front of a window. The easel holds an unframed painting of a landscape that seems in every detail contiguous with the landscape seen outside the window.
Golconda depicts a scene of nearly identical men dressed in dark overcoats and bowler hats, who seem to be drops of heavy rain, against a backdrop of buildings and blue sky. The men are spaced in hexagonal grids facing the viewpoint and receding back in grid layers. Magritte himself lived in a similar suburban environment, and dressed in a similar fashion. As was often the case with Magritte’s works, the title Golconda was found by his poet friend Louis Scutenaire. Golconda is a ruined city in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, near Hyderabad, which from the mid-14th century until the end of the 17th was the capital of two successive kingdoms; it was the centre of the region’s legendary diamond industry. Its name remains, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a synonym for ‘mine of wealth’.
Magritte painted The Son of Man as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man’s face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backward at the elbow.
|This is painted in the Art Deco style, which was heavily influenced by Cubism. The distinct angularity of the style did not prevent De Lempicka from capturing a sense that the fabric in the dress was moving in the breeze, or conveying the subtle eroticism of her subject’s curves, including the outline of her nipples, bellybutton, and upper thigh. Born Maria Górska in 1898 to a wealthy Polish family, Tamara appears to have been determined from an early age to determine the course of her own life.|
Lempicka, Tamara de
Young Lady with Gloves
1872 – 1944
in Red, Blue, and Yellow
with Red, Yellow, and Blue
Broadway Boogie Woogie
|RBY: Around 1930 Mondrian’s art attained a highpoint of purity and sobriety, for which the groundwork had been prepared in the paintings of the previous years, the 1929 Composition, for example. Actually, the Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930 is a variation on the picture of the preceding year, at least in so far as the linear framework is concerned. But there are subtle differences in the work – such as the subdivision of the left strip of the painting into three unequal rectangles, one of which is the blue square – are all the more remarkable. |
RYB: Walking up to Mondrian’s painting, Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow can be a baffling experience (see image above). The canvas is small and uses only the simplest of colors: red, blue, yellow, white and black. The composition is similarly reduced to the simplest of rectilinear forms, squares and rectangles defined by vertical and horizontal lines. One would hardly suspect that we are seeing the artist’s determination to depict the underlying structure of reality. Mondrian called his style ‘Neo-Plasticism’ or ‘The New Plastic Painting’.
Broadway: Mondrian arrived in New York in 1940, one of the many European artists who moved to the United States to escape World War II. He immediately fell in love with the city and with boogie-woogie music, to which he was introduced on his first evening in New York. Soon he began, as he said, to put a little boogie-woogie into his paintings. Mondrian’s aesthetic doctrine of Neo-Plasticism restricted the painter to the most basic kinds of line—that is, to straight horizontals and verticals—and to a similarly limited color range, the primary triad of red, yellow, and blue plus white, black, and the grays in between.
|Gothic: This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The impetus for the painting came while Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spotted a little wood farmhouse, with a single oversized window, made in a style called Carpenter Gothic. I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house, he said. He used his sister and his dentist as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as if they were tintypes from my old family album.|
Revere: Here, Wood depicts the legendary story of the American patriot Paul Revere, as learned from an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. From a bird’s-eye view, the painting shows Revere on horseback racing through a colonial town square in Massachusetts. Despite the work’s historical subject matter, Wood did not attempt to depict the scene with factual accuracy. The houses are overly bright, as if lit by electric light, and the dramatic moonlight casts unrealistic shadows. The stylized houses, geometric greenery, and high perspective give the painting an otherworldly or dreamlike dimension.
1891 – 1942
The Midnight Ride
of Paul Revere
|Vasarely delivered one of the most important pieces of his career when he created Zebra, a painting inscribed in Op-art movement. The first version of this artwork had been made 30 years before the Op-art concept was conceived; however, it is considered to be a part of this movement, some suggest it is the first Op Art painting. Vasarely has placed two zebras intertwined on a black background,. There is no outline, just the alternating black and white stripes. It therefore leaves the observer considering what is real and what abstract.|
Vega-Nor: There was a series of Vega paintings, the artist created in which an orderly grid seemingly swells and protrudes off the picture plane. They represent some of the most advanced applications of Vasarely’s systematic approach to form and colour. Vasarely was at the core of the movement, earning him the nickname ‘Father of Op Art’. Vega-Nor uses warm colours, like orange and yellow, that typically appear to advance in space, which is why Vasarely chose these hues for the area surrounding the central squares. The cells become progressively thinner and smaller toward the edges of the canvas, as if they are receding into space. These works take their title from Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.
Vonal-Stri: Vasarely developed his ‘Vonal’ series out of his earlier line studies and graphic work but this time making full use of colour. Depth is created by the use of lines of decreasing scale advancing towards the centre so that the further we look into the centre, the further away the field appears to be. The changing colours also serve to create an impression of space and movement.
|This image of the two leaders near the Kremlin was much copied, with copies supplied to governement institutions. It was not just social realism, but part of a cult of personality that Stalin employed widely. Gerasimov’s monumental double-portrait shows Joseph Stalin accompanied by his faithful ally Kliment Voroshilov, one of the original five Marshals of the Soviet Union. Both are depicted as models of concentrated attention. The pair mimic each other’s postures in a show of unity as they walk alongside a Kremlin tower. The men appear deep in conversation, their forward glances signifying a focus on the Soviet Union’s bright future. In the background, barely visible, the proletariat form a line outside a factory.|
Stalin and Voroshilov
in the Kremlin
1907 – 1954
with Cropped Hair
|Two Fridas: This painting was completed shortly after her divorce with Diego Rivera. This portrait shows Frida Kahlo’s two different personalities. One is the traditional Frida in Tehuana costume, with a broken heart, sitting next to an independent, modern dressed Frida. In Frida’s diary, she wrote about this painting and said it is originated from her memory of an imaginary childhood friend. Later she admitted it expressed her desperation and loneliness with the separation from Diego.|
In this painting, the two Fridas are holding hands. They both have visible hearts and the heart of the traditional Frida is cut and torn open.
In this self-portrait, Kahlo has cast off the feminine attributes with which she often depicted herself—such as traditional embroidered Tehuana dresses or flowers in her hair—and instead sports a loose-fitting man’s suit and short-clipped haircut. Her high-heeled shoes and one dangling earring remain, however, along with her characteristic penetrating outward gaze. Locks of hair are strewn across the floor, a severed braid lies next to her chair, and the artist holds a pair of scissors across her lap. This androgynous persona may refer to Kahlo’s own bisexuality, while the lyrics of a popular Mexican song that appear at top suggest the address of a lover: Look, if I loved you it was because of your hair. Now that you are without hair, I don’t love you anymore.
|Pasiphaë confronts the viewer with a maelstrom of swirling and angular lines and broken forms, all pressed up to the front of the picture plane, an all-over effect later seen in Pollock’s ‘drip’ canvases.|
Number 5: The painting was done on a sheet of fibreboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance.
Lavender: Jackson Pollock’s mural-size ‘drip’ paintings met with mixed reactions when they debuted at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City in 1948. Sales were dismal, and critical reviews offered skepticism or mild appreciation. Yet only one year later, a Life magazine article featured Pollock, arms crossed and cigarette dangling from his lips, standing in front of one of his swirled, caffeinated images. The caption under the photograph asked, Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?
30: However revolutionary in technique, Pollock’s large-scale work was rooted in the muralism of the 1930s, including the art of Thomas Hart Benton and David Alfaro Siqueiros, both of whom he had worked alongside. Pollock proclaimed in 1947: ‘I intend to paint large movable pictures which will function between the easel and the mural. . . . the tendency of modern feeling is towards the wall picture or mural.
31: This is one of Pollock’s largest paintings, it exemplifies his ‘drip’ technique, in which he dropped, dribbled, or threw paint onto a canvas laid on the floor. His looping cords of colour accordingly register force and speed yet are also graceful and lyrical, animating every inch of the composition. On the floor, Pollock said, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.
11: Blue Poles, originally titled Number 11, 1952, is an abstract expressionist painting and one of the most famous works by Pollock. It was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia in 1973 and today remains one of the gallery’s major holdings. At the time of the painting’s creation, Pollock preferred not to assign names to his works, but rather numbers. In 1954, the new title Blue Poles was first seen at an exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery and reportedly originated from Pollock himself.
Number 5, 1948
No, 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)
One: Number 31
No.11, 1952 (Blue Poles)
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion
Figure in a Landscape
The Screaming Pope
George Dyer Talking
|Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, was the first painting Bacon was happy with and was an instant critical success. The canvasses are based on the Eumenides, or Furies, of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and depict three writhing anthropomorphic creatures set against a flat burnt orange background. Bacon did not realise his original intention to paint a large crucifixion scene and place the figures at the foot of the cross, but the themes it explores recur and are re-examined in many of his later panels and triptychs.|
Figure: This painting is thought to be based on a photograph of Bacon’s lover Eric Hall wearing a flannel suit dozing on a seat in Hyde Park. A substantial section of the body has been overpainted, suggesting a black void. An open mouth can be discerned speaking into microphone, a detail that may have derived from photographs of Nazi leaders giving speeches.
The pastoral setting is therefore contrasted with the intimations of organised political violence, making this an early example of Bacon’s combination of aggression and everyday mundane reality.
Pope: Bacon worked on his pope paintings, variations on Velázquez’s magnificent portrait of Pope Innocent X, for over twenty years. He was already exploring the idea while in the South of France in late 1946.
The first surviving version (Head VI) dates from late 1949, and he finally stopped in the mid-1960s. Subsequently, Bacon announced that he thought the works ‘silly’ and wished he had never done them.
Dyer: Bacon painted George Dyer many times and in a variety of ingenious poses: crouching, riding a bicycle, shaving, reflected in a mirror and, as here, seated on a revolving office stool. He appears, centre stage, in a luridly coloured setting, a blind cord mysteriously swinging above his forehead, its cast shadow seen on the curved wall behind, the whole scene lit by a menacing naked lightbulb – a feature of the artist’s own austerely furnished studio. Dyer appears to writhe in a contorted pose with his legs crossed, as if caught in mid action as he twirls himself round on the stool, papers scattered away from his summarily sketched-in left foot. His head is framed in an opening, which may be either a window or a door, or even a trimmed photograph of Dyer’s head pinned to the back wall.
Spatial ambiguities abound, as Dyer’s body seems to defy the normal conventions of perspective by linking background to foreground.
|de Kooning’s first paintings of women, a subject that preoccupied him throughout his career, were begun as early as 1938. By adopting this subject, de Kooning was identifying himself with a long-standing artistic tradition.|
Yet, by approaching the theme in a contemporary manner, he was challenging the established masters on their own ground.
During the 1940s, de Kooning, who was fascinated by the human form, used to visit New York’s Metropolitan Museum to copy portraits by the 19th-century French academic artist J-A D Ingres.
Woman I: de Kooning once remarked Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented, and although he painted many abstractions he continually returned to the figure. Woman I took him an unusually long time to complete: he made numerous preliminary studies, then repainted the canvas repeatedly, eventually arriving at this figure of a woman, the first of a series. Some saw the painting as a betrayal, a regression to an outmoded figurative tradition. Others have called it misogynistic, understanding it as objectifying and violent.
Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme was a woman. Often they are depicted in an almost graffitilike style, with gigantic, vacuous eyes, massive breasts, toothy smiles and clawlike hands set against colorful layers of paint.
Marilyn: de Kooning’s particular brand of Abstract Expressionism retained a figural quality developed from the early influences of the avant-garde painters working in France, and especially the non-French artists in Paris, such as Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Piet Mondrian.
Police Gazette is a landscape painted on canvas using abstract elements, and colours such as yellow, green and red. It is a painting with simple geometric forms, creating a perfect contrast between the formal elements that compose the artwork. It was this painting that promoted de Kooning amongst the most important abstract painters of the modern world. Although known for continually reworking his canvases, de Kooning often left them with a sense of dynamic incompletion, as if the forms were still in the process of moving and settling and coming into definition. In this sense his paintings exemplify ‘action painting’ – they are like records of a violent encounter, rather than finished works in the old Beaux Arts tradition of fine painting.
de Kooning, William
Four Darks in Red
White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)
Yellow and Gold
The Rothko Chapel
Untitled: Black on Grey
|Four Darks in Red: exemplifies Rothko’s darker palette of the late 1950s, when he increasingly used red, maroon, and saturated black paints. Four dark rectangular areas of different proportions dominate the composition, simultaneously emerging from and receding into a luminous red ground. Rothko’s method of layering many coats of paint, along with the special reflective qualities of his colour mixtures, gives his paintings an inimitable depth and incandescence.|
White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) is an abstract painting by Rothko completed in 1950. The work was sold for 72.8m US$ in May 2007 by Sotheby’s on behalf of David Rockefeller to the Royal family of Qatar.
No 3: After works in the Expressionism and Surrealism forms, Rothko found his style in 1950. Using canvases roughly the height and width of a human standing with outstretched arms, he created what he sometimes called doors and windows in luminous colour. My pictures are indeed facades. There is argument about whether Rothko, a colour field painted, was an action painter. But Elaine de Kooning suggested that Rothko and Klein, saw the content of their art as moral rather than aesthetic.
Yellow/Gold: Rothko’s paintings had become quite abstract by the end of the 1940s due to years of experimentation. His signature style had also emerged around this time, which involved two or three rectangles that are set on a background that simultaneously differentiates them while uniting them compositionally. The edges on Rothko’s forms are not distinct. Therefore, this allows eyes to move easily from one area to another. He did this since he did not want viewers to think much about him while looking at his paintings, as he put in much effort to get rid of the evidence involved in the creative process.
Seagram: In 1958, Rothko accepted a commission to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City’s Seagram building. He was interested in having a permanent setting for the works so they could always be shown as a group and in an immersive environment. As he worked on the murals, Rothko increasingly concentrated on a sombre palette of reds, browns and blacks. A critic who visited his studio described the colours as ‘darkly luminous’.
The Rothko Chapel – a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas – is home to fourteen monumental modernist paintings by the Rothko. It is an interfaith sacred space dedicated to global human rights, art, and spirituality, that was founded in 1971 by arts patrons and philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, who placed their utmost faith in Rothko’s vision to express the profound, the miraculous, and regard for the sanctity of the human spirit in this oasis for the intellect and the spirit.
Untitled: The desolation of canvases such as Untitled (Black on Gray), drained of color and choked by a white border—rather than suggesting the free-floating forms or veiled layers of his earlier work—indicate that, as Rothko asserted, his paintings are about death.
|Ascension: Albers’ abstract canvases employed rigid geometric compositions in order to emphasise the optical effects set off by his chosen colour palettes. Albers was highly influential as a teacher, first at the Bauhaus in Germany alongside Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, and later with posts at Yale, and Harvard.|
Stand back from this Homage to the Square and look at the whole thing. What is the relationship between the squares? Are they stacked on top of each other, like cut out pieces of construction paper? Are they sinking underneath each other, as if you are looking at a painting of a tunnel? Do some appear to push toward you and others to fall away? And how does it change between each version of the painting? Looking at the pieces, you may find that you are able to force your eyes to see a stack of blocks or a tunnel, or you may find that you are instinctively drawn to one interpretation of how the squares are arranged. This is exactly the principle that Albers experimented with as he produced hundreds of variations on this theme over a period of about 25 years.
Square: Albers experimented as he produced hundreds of variations on this theme over a period of about twenty-five years. These included paintings, drawings, prints, and tapestries, but each explored the same basic question: can an artist create the appearance of three dimensions, using only colour relations?
Albers said, Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature, he once said. I prefer to see with closed eyes.
This bottom image shows Protected Blue from the series.
Study for Graphic Tectonic (Ascension)
Dissolving/Vanishing: Homage to the Square series
Homage to the Square
Homage to the Square: Protected Blue
Movement in Squares
Blaze 1 (of 5)
|Riley explained that she was seeking purity in the abstract form, She was drawing squares and things began to change. The twelve rows of alternating black and white squares, maintain the same height, but the width is changing to create an optical illusion, a sense of movement. This led her to further investigation of various geometric shapes. Riley credits this work from 1961, Movement in Squares, as the beginning of her exploration of geometric form and spatial dynamics. Its rhythm subtly evokes a meeting of two forms, a kiss or a folding of two flat planes into a vanishing line of contact. The repeated squares, gradually compressed give a restless impression of movement, and refuse to let the eye settle.|
Fission: Continuing her journey [above] Riley distorted the black dots at this painting’s centre. This again creates an optical illusion, a sense that the image surface is caving in, a suggestion that the viewer could be swallowed into it. The distortion is not unlike the illusion created by the traditional linear perspective. Riley was seeking to establish a new form of relationship between the viewer and her work.
Blaze: It was the set of five ‘Blaze’ paintings that achieved international recognition for Riley. It appears to be a spiral, but Blaze 1 is formed from a succession of concentric circles. Where the ‘zigs’ of one circle meet the ‘zags’ of the next, it forms chevrons and the composition appears to rotate.
|Andy Warhol famously appropriated familiar images from consumer culture and mass media, in this work, the widely consumed canned soup made by the Campbell’s Soup Company. When he first exhibited Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962, the canvases were displayed together on shelves, like products in a grocery aisle. Though Campbell’s Soup Cans resembles the mass-produced, printed advertisements by which Warhol was inspired, its canvases are hand-painted, and the fleur-de-lys pattern ringing each can’s bottom edge is hand-stamped. Warhol mimicked the repetition and uniformity of advertising by carefully reproducing the same image across each individual canvas. He varied only the label on the front of each can, distinguishing them by their variety. |
Marilyn Monroe: she was a legend when she committed suicide in August of 1962, but in retrospect her life seems a gradual martyrdom to the media and to her public. After her death, Warhol based many works on the same photograph of her, a publicity still for the 1953 movie Niagara. He would paint the canvas with a single colour – turquoise, green, blue, lemon yellow – then silkscreen Monroe’s face on top, sometimes alone, sometimes doubled, sometimes in a grid.
Diptych: The use of two contrasting canvases for Marilyn Diptych illustrates the contrast between the public life of the star, who at the time was one of the most famous women alive, and her private self. This was not necessarily Warhol’s intention.
Eight Elvises, as its title indicates, is composed of eight identical, overlapping images of Elvis Presley in cowboy attire, silkscreened over a silver background.
The Car Crash paintings that Warhol made between late 1962 and early 1964, form the most varied and extensive group of pictures in his seminal series of Death and Disaster paintings. Drawing on six different documentary source photographs each outlining six separate, horrific and increasingly bizarre fatal accidents, Warhol’s Car Crashes remain among the most powerful, challenging and provocative paintings made by any artist in the Post-War era.
Riot: The tumultuous history of the fight for civil rights had been laid long before the appearance of Charles Moore’s 1963 photographs in Life magazine, and their appropriation by Andy Warhol for his painting produced in the same year. The Mustard Race Riot depicts the grainy images of police brutality to chaotic excess, recalling, perhaps, a printing press that has run amok.
1928 – 1987
Campbell’s Soup Cans
200 One Dollar Bills
Gold Marilyn Monroe
Green Car Crash
(Green Burning Car I)
Mustard Race Riot
1923 – 1997
Nude with Joyous Painting
|The source for his painting, Drowning Girl, is “Run for Love!,” the melodramatic lead story of Secret Love #83, a DC Comics comic book from 1962. In the original illustration, the drowning girl’s boyfriend appears in the background, clinging to a capsized boat. Lichtenstein dramatically cropped the image, removing the boat and the boyfriend so that the girl appears alone and centered, her head circled by a vortex of water.|
Whaam! 1963 is a large, two-canvas painting by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein that takes its composition from a comic book strip. The left-hand canvas features an American fighter plane firing a missile into the right-hand canvas and hitting an approaching enemy plane. The painting is rendered in the formal tradition of machine-printed comic strips – thick black lines enclosing areas of primary colour and lettering, with uniform areas of Ben-Day dots, purple for the shading on the main fighter plane and blue for the background of the sky. The work’s composition is taken from a panel drawn by Irv Novick which appeared in issue number 89 of All-American Men of War, published by DC Comics in February 1962.
Nude: Clad in only a pale blue headband, the shapely contours of the heroine in Roy Lichtenstein’s masterful late painting Nude with Joyous Painting is a classic American beauty—a sumptuous marriage of soft, supple flesh and steamy pulp fiction pin-up. Painted in 1994, it is an iconic, tour-de-force of the last series of great nudes that the artist began in 1993 and continued until his death in 1997.
|Big Nude’s variegated brushstrokes reveal it to be more of a prototype for future development than a fully resolved picture. Poised precariously between a common studio exercise in figure drawing and a 1960s girlie magazine shoot, Big Nude also challenges the future of representational painting at a moment in history when the genre would seem to have long ago exhausted its potential for future development.|
Big Self-Portrait, a watershed painting that virtually showcases Close’s unique method. Abandoning the full-body view, Close turned to one of the oldest traditions anywhere in art history, the self-portrait. Close had partially set out to refute the critic Clement Greenberg’s claim that it was impossible for an ‘advanced’ artist to work in portraiture.
Big Self Portrait
A Bigger Splash
Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy
|A Bigger Splash was painted between April and June 1967 when Hockney was teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. The image is derived in part from a photograph Hockney discovered in a book on the subject of building swimming pools. The background is taken from a drawing he had made of Californian buildings. A Bigger Splash is the largest and most striking of three ‘splash’ paintings. The Splash (private collection) and A Little Splash (private collection) were both completed in 1966. They share compositional characteristics with the later version.|
Seascape: On Hockney’s return to California from England in 1968 he worked on three big pictures. One of these was California Seascape. The view is through the window of the home of fellow artist Dick Smith, who lived in Corona del Mar on the Pacific coast. The picture was Smith’s suggestion.
Clarks: This is one of a series of large double portraits which Hockney began in 1968. He had painted imaginary couples in earlier paintings. In the later paintings, the subjects are real couples who were Hockney’s friends. They are portrayed in their home environment in a style which is both realistic and highly simplified. Hockney worked from photographs and life observation, making drawings to resolve composition. Usually one character looks at the other, who looks out of the painting at the viewer, thus creating a cyclical movement of looking. Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy is unusual in that both subjects, Mr and Mrs Clark, look out at the artist and viewer from either side of a large open window which is in the centre of the painting.
Parents: Hockney completed this work after two failed attempts at painting his parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney. They were frustrated when Hockney gave up on previous versions, having spent hours posing for him. However, speaking about their reaction to My Parents, Hockney’s sister Margaret said, Mum and Dad were very proud of it, and felt all the sittings had been worthwhile. Kenneth and Laura’s poses may reflect their personalities. Laura is gazing directly at the viewer. Kenneth, known for fidgeting during sittings, is shown reading, as though he has forgotten he is being observed.
|Stefan Sagmeiste, an Austrian graphic designer, and typographer is based in New York City. He ran ad campaigns for Levi’s and HBO and in 1993 he founded his company, Sagmeister Inc, to create designs for the music industry. He has designed album covers for Lou Reed (pictured), The Rolling Stones (Brisges to Babylon), Aerosmith (Nine Lives), Talking Heads (Once in a Lifetime)… From 2011 until 2019 he partnered with Jessica Walsh under the name Sagmeister & Walsh Inc. The image is Lou Reed’s Set the Twilight Reeling album cover.|
Happy: In 2012, filling the Institute of Contemporary Art’s (Los Angeles) entire second-floor galleries and ramp, and activating the in-between spaces of the museum, The Happy Show offered visitors the experience of walking into Stefan Sagmeister’s mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via mediation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals.
Lou Reed album cover
The Happy Show
Love is in the Air
|Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) features Banksy’s signature stencil style reaching back to his beginnings as a graffiti artist. The image depicts an angry young man wearing a bandana as a mask, in the action of throwing what could be a rock or a Molotov cocktail, but is instead a bouquet of flowers. It first appeared as graffiti in the conflict-ridden Gaza strip area of Jerusalem as an indication by Banksy that there still might be hope for a peaceful solution in the ongoing struggle between Palestine and Israel.|
Napalm, also known as Can’t Beat That Feeling, is a powerful print that reinvents the famous photograph The Terror of War, taken on 8 June 1972 by Nick Ut during the Vietnam conflict.
The following year, the photograph won both the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and the World Press Photo of the Year.
Napalm is one of Banksy’s most poignant works with its use of the shocking portrayal of Vietnamese children fleeing from a napalm blast that had just hit their home in Trang Bang village. The focal point of the photograph is a nine-year-old girl named Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running naked in fear down a road alongside other children and soldiers of the Vietnam Army. Despite suffering severe burns to her back, she survived the attack and now lives in Canada. Portraying her between Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald is disturbing, and perhaps shows his blend of political issues and humour.
On the side of a garage in Port Talbot, south Wales, a new Banksy artwork appeared. The piece, titled Season’s Greetings, very quickly brought thousands of visitors to the town. And by January 2019 there was so much interest in it that art dealer John Brandler paid a “six-figure sum” for the graffiti. The decision to sell the Banksy sparked some controversy, with the most prominent concern being that Brandler would take the work away from Port Talbot, removing a valuable tourist draw. But Brandler has moved the work to a new Street Art Museum in the town, alongside works by other famous street artists such as Blek le Rat and Pure Evil.
Note that to minimise the entries and the opportunity for confusion, the text and image sources are not shown here – do follow the links to the artists or their works and you will find a proper acknowledgement of the sources.