Category: Art Insight

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The Last Supper of Leonardo, Easter topic which is Never Enough

Religion and Art

Religious themes are an inseparable subject in most early art paintings. Because the Church has been the patron of art in past centuries, it is not surprising that the religious subject was one of the most frequently undertaken by artists. In the Middle Ages, the artists were creating only on religion and for God topics, and then from the Renaissance to modern times, this relationship between art and the church has gradually disappeared.

At present, painters who referring to biblical scenes are very rarely encountered, and this subject has become a kind of a separate niche. It cannot be concealed, however, that one of the greatest masterpieces of art arose from the Biblical inspiration.

All the New Testament’s themes strongly influenced the imagination of painters. At the same time, they were also an inspiration to communicate various contents, meanings, and symbols directly related not only to the topic itself but also indirectly to the existence of every human being. Such subjects as treason, pain, suffering, sacrifice, redemption, and victory accompany man on various levels of his existence and in various dimensions.

The Last Supper - Facts

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The most famous painting connected with the Easter subject is, of course, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Almost every year, new revelations and appear.

Amateurs and experts, they can’t get enough and still continuing to discover new meanings. The new chapters of the Last Supper are being opened every year. No wonder, eventually, that great artwork came out of the genius hands.

All known facts are that the Last Supper, or Il Cenacolo, is a fresco made by Leonardo da Vinci. The mural was created in the years 1495-1498. Its dimensions are impressive – 4.60 m to 8.80 m. Leonardo created it commissioned by Prince Ludovico Sforza, the fresco was made for the dining room of the Dominican monastery, in the Basilica of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, in Milan.

From my point of view, such valuable work should be immediately hung in the museum under special protection. I write this with a pinch of salt, but the fact remains that at the time when Leonardo created a fresco, was the same as for us buy a decoration to match the colour of the sofa. Of course, an exclusive sofa, because only such sofas could have the prince of Milan.

In the Last Supper, the artist used an innovative technique, which unfortunately proved to be unstable and despite the repeated renovations (21 years of renovation), the fresco is still in a very poor condition. Some people suggest that it is the attempts of restorations have done more harm to the artwork than the time. It can be easily counted that the renovation lasted longer than the process of painting the fresco.

Leonardo used the technique of combining tempera and oil paint. This allowed him to paint on dry plaster and what it involves – a slow refinement of details. He tried to find the intermediate way between the drying time of oil paints and tempera. The paints were put directly on the primed wall and not as it was before – on a wet surface.

The humidity of the air present in the Dominican monastery was not good for the fresco. Another element that contributed to the destruction of the work of art was the forging in 1652 of the door to the monastery kitchen, thus permanently damaging the fragment of Jesus’ feet and part of the table.

Other consequences and damages were during the Napoleonic wars, the stationing of the soldiers in Mediolan who organized the stable inside the monastery. I hope that the horses appreciated the surroundings of the artwork because the soldiers apparently did not. Unfortunately, looking on fresco damages, I am sure that artwork did not do well in this company either. The Second World War, in turn, and the bombing destroyed the part of the refectory.

The Last Supper - What it really represents?

In general, the Last Supper represents the apostles surrounding Christ and eating the last meal together. According to Christian tradition, this is the moment of the first Eucharist consumed in the form of bread and wine. However, in the Last Supper Leonardo Da Vinci illustrates this part of the New Testament:

“[…] After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (John 13, 21-24).

Leonardo introduced Saint Peter and Saint John who banded over towards each other. They are talking behind Judas. That is the way in which he describes the text of the Gospel. Peter, according to the text, could not sit next to Christ, although he was the successor of Jesus. Therefore, at the right hand of Jesus, Leonardo painted John.

Holy Trinities on the Fresco

All the apostles are depicted in trinities. On the left of Jesus, we see the figures of John, Peter and Judas. The next three are Bartłomiej, Jakub Mniej and Andrzej.

At the right hand of Jesus, the first three are Thomas, James the Greater and Philip the Apostle. Next to them, engaged in a discussion, were sitting Mateusz-Lewi, or later Matthew the Evangelist, and Szymon and Tadeusz.

Last Supper Trinities

Jesus sits in the middle as a central figure. His character symbolizes succumb and acceptance of the inevitable. Jesus divides the table and interlocutors into two parts. Interpreters of Leonardo’s artworks convince us that everything on the left side of the table is all that concerns divine thinking, and everything the right side takes place on human grounds.

He combines these two approaches. The figure of Jesus focuses the viewer’s attention. It is static compared to live gesticulating apostles. The very figure of Jesus is inscribed in an equilateral triangle.

Dalia Split Left
Dalia Split Right

Why is it a Masterpiece?

From an artistic point of view, what impresses in the depicted scene is the mastery of the perspective that Leonardo used. The interior on the painting is an illusionistic extension of the monastery’s dining room.

All lines connecting the heads of the apostles, tapestries and beams would all converge in the person of Christ.

The artist expertly introduced the depth of the refectory. Leonardo, as an inquisitive researcher, was not only an artist but also an inventor, researcher. He sought to paint the space between objects. He tried to recreate a 3d effect on a flat surface. He studied with mathematical accuracy all the issues to present the depth. He was designing the composition based on the legacy of the great Greek geometers.

Last supper perfect lines

Everyone, regardless of their knowledge of art, can admire the illusion of perspective. Also, the way in which he showed the characters. Their naturalness and realism. The viewer can feel like a participant in the scene he is looking at. Characters are not rigidly posed, they are not embellished, everything has the dimension of a real event taking place.

Looking at the fresco, we can almost feel how each of the apostles reacts vividly to Jesus’ words. We can easily notice the individual psychological features in each of the represented forms.

Leonardo spent months searching for models for the Last Supper, refining every gesture and the smallest detail. Rumor has it that he devoted the most time searching for Judah and apparently found such a figure in the criminal districts.

Another curiosity is that Leonardo did not like to paint halo, that’s why on the fresco the halo was replaced by the daylight entering the room. Thanks to this solution, the viewer has the impression that light is spreading from Christ. So nothing on this fresco is accidental.

The artist also depicted all the details of the presented scene with a great accuracy. Experts believe that in the presented pewter vessels, Leonardo painted the reflections of the figures of the supper participants. Unfortunately, this reflection hardly survived to our times.

All the above-described elements, such as realism of the depicted characters, attention to the details, ability to present the psychological character of the figure, mastery in painting the perspective, perfect knowledge of geometry and the great ability to juggle the meaning, make the Last Supper a true masterpiece.

It is also one of the most frequently reproduced religious paintings.

Codes and Theories

This famous Leonardo’s fresco still evokes many emotions and pseudo-scientific theories. According to many, it contains innumerable mysteries and allusions, what assures us Dan Brown in his book “Leonardo da Vinci’s Code”.

In addition, according to Giovanni Maria Pale, who is both a musician and computer scientist specializing at the Last Supper, the musical record of the short requiem is hidden.

Another curiosity is the additional hand with a knife, which is hidden among the first Trinity from the left side of Jesus. On the image, you can see a hand holding a knife, just behind Judas. Initially, it was considered a mistake, if genius Leonardo could be so wrong. Currently, researchers believe that it is Peter’s hand. It is interpreted as a violent reaction of Peter to the words of Jesus regarding the events in the Garden of Olives.

There are numerous references to astrology and the placement of the Trinities of the apostles according to the seasons or constellations. One of the most intriguing is, of course, the theory that Mary Magdalene is depicted on the fresco too, that it is her and not John the apostle, and the knife held by Piotr is, in fact, meant for her. Even more, Peter’s second hand is aiming at Magdalene’s neck.

Last Supper Theory

Processing of the Last Supper

The Last Supper has had many modifications and depending on the modifying needs, the fresco was modified into a funny, shocking or carrying a deeper message.

The apostles could be changed into pop-culture characters or fictitious characters. Sometimes, even erotic items or other pop-culture items appear on the table.

An example of this is the work of Susan Dorothy White, an Australian artist who painted the First Supper in 1988. The da Vinci painting inspired the artist to raise the problem of human rights and especially women rights.

Many speaking version of Last Supper by Rauf Mamedov as a good example too. His interpretation speaks volumes about the loneliness of Jesus facing inevitable death. About loneliness as a general problem of each of human beings.

And maybe this is a true reason why Leonardo is genius – he intrigues and inspires despite the time.

Stanislaw Szukalski Portrait
The Szukalski Struggle

The life and struggles of
Stanisław Szukalski

Showing The Way 1978 Desa Unicum Auction March 2019
Showing The Way 1978 | Desa Unicum | Auction March 2019

One day, looking through the resources of Polish art, I came across Stanisław Szukalski’s works. This time my attention was caught by the acrylic painting “Showing the Way”. This is the artwork depicting the King of Saudi Arabia, Khalid and his son Fahd. Szukalski performed it on order in 1978. As soon as I saw this image the pieces of information began to emerge in the depths of my memory.

First of all, I reached for the film about Szukalski, realized by Leonardo DiCaprio “Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski”. The premiere of this movie was in December 2018 on Netflix, directed by Ireneusz Dobrowolski and screenplay by Stephen Cooper and Ireneusz Dobrowolski.

I do not know why, but when the information about this film appeared, I did not pay much attention to it. Now, consciously, I decided to go back to the movie.

Genius or Madman?

Szukalski, considered by many to be a visionary of his time, for some reasons, disappeared for years from the art scene. By some, he was considered as a genius, by others as a crazy sculptor with an ego. There are also critics who believe that the discoverers of his talent really let him lose his head. Critics emphasize his pseudo-scientific views on the origin of humanity and nationalism as part of his youth artistic way. He was also the creator of the pseudoscience of Zermatism.
Well, sometimes genius is accompanied by madness. Watching the documentary about Szukalski and collecting the materials about him, I wanted to find out which of these theories are closer to the truth – a genius or a weirdo, and what Szukalski was struggling with?

When I watched the movie and explored his artworks, I saw a man whose life and artistic career were directed by events completely independent of him. Which at the end of his life led him to the struggle of the constant feeling of unappreciation and unnecessity.

Szukalski was overwhelmed by the sense of the great loss, as according to his assumptions his talent was underestimated. He saw the loss rather in the context of his life, as he was feeling the lack of opportunities for creating, than through the prism of a personal career.

He struggled with regret that the achievements of his life would be lost and that he would not be able to accomplish all his monumental projects. Szukalski’s life is a true material for a biographical film, not just a documentary.

You certainly can not understand Szukalski without delving into his fate, intertwined with the fate of his homeland. Szukalski was a live mixture of talent, great ego and the times in which he lived – the formation of Polish independence, escape to the USA during the Second World War, the fight against the communistic Polish government for the return of the survived works and peripheral life in Los Angeles.

A great talent that fell into oblivion. Fell because of the successes in the USA and in Poland, where he was hailed as a national artist – after being nothing in an adopted homeland. In my opinion, it is impossible to fully assess and understand Szukalski’s attitudes without even understanding the times in which he lived.

Watching the movie, we see an old man full of regret about the world that did not appreciate his artistic contribution to the development of humanity.

Auction 04 2019

At the same time, a man of certain strength and self-confidence, a visionary, convinced of his importance to art. Sure, Szukalski was overwhelmed by the conviction that he is more valuable than other artists, such as Picasso, whom he, by the way, called the Pic-asshole.

Art was to bring content to him, to symbolize and serving ideas, free his emotions. It was supposed to evoke an unforgettable impression and not be a theory or decoration.

Szukalski was known for his indiscriminate criticism of works of other artists during visits to exhibitions and museums. He did not hide his thoughts and did not win because of that trait friends.

Overwhelmed by incomprehensible ideas, on the verge of nationalism and pseudo-scientific theories, obsessed with the Slavic issues and searching after the mother of all languages, he wanted to become the greatest Polish artist in history.

Most of these ideas were evolving in him. You can see how Szukalski changes after the Second World War. His nationalism gives way to cosmopolitanism, his approach to the Jewish question changes. This resulted in the attribution of some of his artworks to the Jewish people.

Looking at a certain distance on the artist’s life, one can notice several points that undoubtedly influenced the development of his personality and the fate of the artist.

His father – Dyonizy Szukalski. It was because of him that the family appeared in the USA. Great authority for the artist, the man with whom Stanisław was very connected. Dyonizy, who was involved in political affairs as a socialist, had to flee with his wife Konstancja from occupied Poland. They fled to Brazil looking for a better life. After a few years, they came back. Their financial situation was not the best one.

Dyonizy was looking for the opportunity to be able to contain the family, which at that time were already of two children, Alfreda and Stanisław. He left for South Africa. There he took part in the Second Boer War against the British Empire. The political views of Dyonizi will be reflected later in Stanisław’s views. After returning from Africa, his father had a chance to buy some land in Poland. The situation of the family still did not improve much. Dyonizy decided to move to the United States this time, where he took all his family.

Stanislaw Szukalski
Stanislaw Szukalski

Between America and Poland

Stanisław attended school in Radomsko, Poland. As a very young boy, his first steps in art were in sculpting figures. Which he handed out to the local favourite girls. But it was in the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was first time recognized as a great talent in sculptors. However, later his skills will be recognized as a great talent for sculpturing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
He studies further artistic studies in Poland. The father, at the instigation of the Polish sculptor Antoni Sublima, sends a 15-year-old boy to Krakow. We can imagine this youngster away from the family during a great journey through the huge Atlantic. It was not the first time when Stanislaw learned how to be independent.

Krakow and first successes

In Krakow, Stanislaw undertakes examinations to which, despite his young age, he is exceptionally admitted. He is accepted, first recognition from the professors was in the words “There is something special about him”.

Recognized by others as exceptionally talented and seeing himself as a genius, Stanisław had the honor of being in touch with the greatest artists of that time. He was rebeling against the traditional teaching system. And he even was suspended in the student’s rights. You could say that he was seduced by his own ego.

Jacek Malczewski, one of the greatest Polish artists of the era, took him under his protection. After some time, forced by the situation Szukalski matured for the decision, and he apologized to the professors. Eventually, he returned to the Krakov Art Academy. His works are rewarded and staged equally with other great artists.

The first rewards for the sculpturing he received in 1910. He organized his first exhibition in 1912. Another success was during the presentation of his sculptures in 1913 at the exhibition along with the works of mature artists. Around 1914, he created sculptures in bronze: the Orator, the Bust of David and the One-Handed Man in the Wind.

Let us remind that he was a young 20-year-old artist at that time. Probably this whole situation strengthen Stanisław’s ideas of his absolute uniqueness. Certainly rightly. But the maturity of the personality didn’t accompany the ego. In the following years the overly bloated ego did not bring him supporters or allies in the artistic world.

Young Stanisław Szukalski
Young Stanisław Szukalski (With courtesy of Netflix)

Again America

In 1913, his father’s fate affected his life again. The artist, worried about his father’s condition and family situation, returned to the USA. He was doing odd jobs and continued his studies at the Chicago Art Institute. He was receiving awards and had the chances to organize exhibitions. At that time he created the first sculptures in bronze. It was then, the artworks as Work, Dream, Man’s Fall, Fight of quantity with quality or Atlantis were created.
A few months later, Dyonyzy was killed by a car. In DiCaprio’s documentary, Szukalski described himself the dramatic situation that he went through. He described how his father was lying on the street, how he carried his body, how he could not let his body be taken away. After years Szukalski will be asked where he learned anatomy for his sculptures, he would answer that it was the body in his hands that taught him human anatomy. It was a great personal tragedy for the artist.
With the death of his father, his material situation deteriorates even more. Stanisław was starving, he tried to seize any work, he even worked in slaughterhouses. Nevertheless, he happened to meet significant figures for the Chicago Renaissance and finally entered the artistic circles.
Among others, Ben Hecht, who met Szukalski in 1914, and who wrote about the artist in his autobiography “A Child of the Century”: “For twenty years my friend … experienced disasters which would have killed off a dozen businessmen. Sickness, poverty and hunger yipped everlasting at his heels. … during his struggles he heard only the catcalls of critics and the voices of derision. Yet when I saw him in 1934, I saw a man who had feasted on power and whose eyes smiled with triumph.”

Tagore. Szukalski. NAC
Tagore by Szukalski. NAC, 1929

Hindu threads

In 1917, Szukalski met the Nobel laureate, the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindranath was a prose writer, philosopher, composer, painter, and teacher. Szukalski, at his invitation, was to organize an institute of fine arts in India. Szukalski also carved a portrait of Tagore, the copy by an Indian sculptor – was placed at the University of Calcutta.

According to the Tagore proposal, the artist tried to get to India at the invitation of Rabindranath. Unfortunately, the repeated fate of Szukalski happened, everything seemed to be according to the plan but at the very last moment, decisions independent from him ruined the artistic development.

First, his visit was prevented by the war in India and then by the British embassy who refused to issue a visa due to political views. This mutual reluctance, the Empire to Szukalski and Szukalski to the Empire, will be reflected in the artist’s works.

Such circumstances were in a way a synonym of his life. Whatever Szukalski decide to do, it’s destroyed either in an embryo or after the realization of the project. This is what happens with the full of impressive designs of monuments, buildings, medals and coins. Something was always on his way, either making it impossible to implement or just destroying artistic achievements.

John Biro

Personal happiness, rest and further successes

Finally, after years of struggling with reality, there was a breakthrough. The personal and financial situations of Szukalski’s life improved. In 1923, he married Helena Walker, an artist and daughter of Dr. Samuel J. Walker, an outstanding member of the Chicago community.

Chicaco Society Egagement H.Walker And Szukalski

The New York Times
MAY 28, 1922: SZUKALSKI TO MARRY CHICAGO SOCIETY GIRL; Engagement of Miss Helen Walker to Sculptor of Tortured Figures Causes a Stir.
May 27, 1922: Stanislaus Szukalski, a long-haired radical Polish sculptor, “son of a blacksmith, arrived here today and announced his intention of marrying Miss Helen Walker, daughter of Dr. Samuel J. Walker, a prominent physician.
In this abstract, we see the clash of two worlds. The artist was described: “a long-haired radical” and a daughter of local high society. Szukalski was perceived as the Cinderella who met the princess.

NYT, Chicago Society

Newlyweds were travelling around Europe. The sculptor gained international recognition and prizes. Spouses lived in Italy and France. This applied more successes. He was able to take a break or focus on work.

In 1925, at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Paris, the artist received the Grand Prix for sculptures in bronze and the Honorary Diploma for architectural designs and the Gold Medal for stone sculpture.

He is also appreciated in America. The famous “Vanity Fair” wrote about him: “with his talent, he put Chicago on the art plains and in sculpting he is like Dante and Edgar Allan Poe in literature”

However, his personal life did not work so well in spite of the coming to the world of Elżbieta Kalinka, his daughter. In fact, not much is known about her. We get some information in DiCaprio’s movie.

Leonardo in his documentary raises the issues of incompatibility of spouses in their marriage life.  He suggested that it was about sex which that was not important for Szukalski and completely irrelevant to Helen. They divorced in 1938 and after a year he married his daughter’s kindergarten teacher – Joan Lee Donavan.

I did not find any information about contacts between him and his daughter. Elżbieta Kalinka disappeared from Stanisław’s life. Perhaps, what I can not be sure, such broken, because of the divorce, relations with a few-year-old daughter were never to be renewed.

I am convinced that divorce also affected the image of the artist, in the eyes of the apex of contemporary social society. Perhaps many doors were closed in front of Szukalski.

Szukalski Krakow 1936 Exhibition 2
Szukalski exhibition in Krakow 1936

Polish national artist - back in Poland

Another event that influenced the development of Szukalski’s personality and his talent was the arrival to Poland in 1929 at the invitation of the Polish government.
Polish independence lasted only 11 years. The young state after years of non-existence wanted to have its national artist. Stanisław Szukalski undertook this mission. He was feeling honoured, appreciated and very much sensing his historical mission.
He brought all his works to the National Museum. The artist received orders and task for the workshop. His personal life with his new wife, Joan, was also thriving. It was one of the happiest periods in the life of the spouses.

Szukalski exhibited 98 drawings and 34 sculptures in Krakow. He gathered a group of students from the Krakow School of Decorative Arts and the Art Industry, who later attempted to imitate Szukalski’s art. He lectured and gave speeches. He resented because of imitating Western designs. He criticized the way of teaching at traditional universities.

At last, he founded his own art school, so-called “Twórcownia” and an artistic group called “The Horned Heart”, whose main postulate was to cut off Western influences and establish into national, Slavic roots in art.

Szukalski wanted Poland to have its own native art after years of occupation by three countries. He criticized copying trends from the west.

He referred to the Slavic roots, he issued appeals for the reconciliation of the Slavs, among others to Ukrainians, Slovaks, Czechs, Russians and others.

Boleslaw The Brave
Boleslaw The Brave 1972

Los Angeles - the beginning of the oblivion

The artist was also involved in writing as a result of which in 1938 he staged the play “Krak, Ludola’s son”.

Stanisław Szukalski, seduced by the narrative independence of the young state, begins a dangerous flirt with nationalism and anti-Semitism. He is a co-creator of the nationalistic newspaper Krak, in which aggressive slogans appear. I am convinced that, after many years, this episode will contribute to the rejection of Szukalski by the American art world.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 is, in my opinion, one of the most eventful events that completely re-evaluated the artist’s views and also shattered his further artistic career.

During the air raids, the artist’s studio was completely destroyed. Many sculptures and drawings have been destroyed or lost. Almost all the achievements of the artist have been lost. Stanisław himself barely escaped. It was actually the beginning of his fall.

Szukalski and his wife hid in the American embassy. They managed to return to the USA with a few suitcases. Szukalski had nothing.

In 1940 he and his wife settled in Los Angeles. They sometimes lived on the edge of poverty. In addition to the dirty jobs he managed to find, he wrote over 40 volumes of typescript about the mysteries of the origin of humanity and the language, including Zermatism.His family was living in a one-room house. The movie shows how small this room is. Cluttered space, scarcely enough room for the remains of his sculptures, drawings and books. There is no room for where to continue artistic work.

The Los Angeles authorities granted the artist a pension of 250$ US per month, which barely allowed the rent to be paid. The artist tried to get income for selling drawings or postcards or from occasional medal events.

Friends are trying to help Szukalski. However, the attempts fail. Museum curators are enchanted by his sculptural achievements, but at the same time do not want to get involved in the artist’s promotions. Nobody was interested in showing Szukalski’s works in galleries. The artist was considered too politically involved, for not cooperating, but criticizing the artistic world, for the lack of adequate facilities in the USA and for being crazy. Stanisław Szukalski also tried to deliver his works from Poland to the USA. However, the communist government was not willing to cooperate with someone who fled from Poland to the USA. The relations between the two political blocs were solely hostile.

Convinced of his exceptional talent, and unable to find a job or bring his works from Poland, that could become his surviving, he fell into deep bitterness.
Looking at this man who with tears in his eyes says into the camera that he is a stranger in the USA even though he is a citizen of this country, that they laugh at his name, that Poles are guilty of losing his works – I see a man painfully treated by the fate. “I am a patriot without the country” – he shouted with tears in his eyes.
Sculptor more and more often fell ill. He felt underestimated by both his homelands. After the death of his second wife, his situation had deteriorated. Joan was his good guardian spirit, she cared for Stanisław. They were both very close to each other. They never argued. This death was a very painful loss for Szukalski
In spite of this situation he still worked, even after several hours a day, he drew and wrote and carved.
The weakening artist was sent to hospitals or to social welfare institutions. He died on May 19, 1987 in a hospital. Glenn Bray took Szukalski’s death very badly.
It was Glenn who fulfilled the last will of the spouses and on July 30, 1988 their ashes were scattered on Easter Island, on the island which according to Szukalski was the beginning of humanity.

Szukalski, Kopernikus, 1973
Szukalski, Kopernikus, 1973

Evaluation of Szukalski's art and his artistic heritage

In the early years of his creating life, the artist was influenced by Young Poland’s modernism. Particularly noteworthy were the busts, at which he was able to skillfully show the characteristic features of his models. These were often small format works, moody with soft modelling.
Later, his work begins to combine many styles. There are elements of modernism as well as expressionism, cubism and futurism. Many of his works have folklore features or reminding similar to the art of pre-Columbian America.

Especially in the USA after 1915, his expressive compositions, symbolic sculptures, patriotism and eclecticism of styles met the great interest. The American press wrote that his artworks are full of life and imagination.

According to art critics, Szukalski possesses a unique ability to combine styles of different eras or even different cultures. For example, he combined American Indian style with Slavic elements. Images of poets, kings or politicians looked like Aztec leaders or priests in a modern version.

However, despite the fact his art seemed cosmopolitan, it was still accompanying his strive for creating Polish art. Perhaps in a mix of these styles, he wanted to find something that would be characteristic and unique. Therefore, he boldly used elements deeply rooted in the early Polish folk and pagan traditions.

After the Artist’s death, Glenn Bray dealt with artistic legacy. He and his wife, Lena Zwalve, administered and maintained artist’s achievements, for example, in the form of photographs and manuscripts under the name “Archiwa Szukalski”. Currently, Glenn works in the foundry in Hollywood, which deals with the production of subsequent editions of Szukalski’s works.

The artist’s surviving works are owned by the heir and the Polish Museum in America, the National Museum in Warsaw, and the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom.

However, Leonardo Di Caprio became a valuable collector of sculptures of Stanisław Szukalski. In 2000, he funded a posthumous and retrospective exhibition of sculptor’s works. The exhibition took place at Laguna Art. Museum in Laguna Beach, entitled “Struggle”.

Examples of the most important sculptor’s works in the last years of his 75-year-old life:

  • Struggle – the hand carving is finished
  • Monument to Bolesław Chrobry, the first Polish project – destroyed in a bombardment.
  • The monument to Adam Mickiewicz – the greatest Polish poet – did not come to fruition
  • Prometheus (1943), designed for Paris in tribute to the French partisans;
  • Copernicus – Polish astronomer
  • Gaul’s Rooster (1960), a gigantic and complex structure that he wanted the US to give France in thanksgiving for the Statue of Liberty.
  • Katyń (1979), a monument commemorating the deaths of over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals killed by the Soviets during World War II;
  • a monument to John Paul II, intended for the city of Venice (1982).

Szukalski is not an unambiguous character. Great talent is often accompanied by a pinch of madness. Eclecticism and combining of the ideas were very popular in the artist’s sculptures, but not necessarily in the ideas, he proclaimed.  The whole was made of contradictions. This man can not be described in one word.

He stood on the verge of several realities: pre-war, war and post-war. And in none of them, he was allowed to settle in for longer, grow in roots and develop. Fate insisted on throwing logs at his feet from which he failed to build the stairs to success.

These logs he often threw by himself through the lack of humbleness and excessive criticism of current trends in art. Living in an adopted country, he felt a second-class citizen. His real homeland turns away from him like from a “pariah”. Like many other artists before and after him, Szukalski is alone in his struggle with the grey and often brutal reality, in his fight for being allowed to create.

We can multiply the assumption of why DiCaprio and Ben Glenn were interested in Szukalski. Leonardo is a collector, Ben is in possession of an archive and works in a company dealing with casting versions of Szukalski’s sculptures.
Paying attention to the sculptor’s art is certainly in their interest. However, why it should be important compared to the fact that they enable Stanisław Szukalski’s art to see the daylight again. The most important is that this undoubtedly talented artist has a chance to re-enter the consciousness of art lovers. It is a pity that it happens so many years after his death.

Notice:

Photos we attached to the article are used for a non-commercial reason. They serve to illustrate the content of the article.

Bibliography
● https://www.szukalski.com
● https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/01/a-patriot-without-a-country/
● https://culture.pl/pl/tworca/stanislaw-szukalski
● https://www.nytimes.com/1922/05/28/archives/szukalski-to-marry-chicago-society-girl-engagement-of-miss-helen.html
Official trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPkoW4cmqT8
The Angel Played A Violin
Might Angels Walk Among Us?

Might angels walk among us? They appear in art, literature and in every day life, or so many people believe.

Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
His Majesty Crown Prince Frederik portrait by Kasper Eistrup

Frederiksborg Castle
National History Museum in Denmark

Group of Amateur Artists from Hvidovre go at the exhibition a in Roman Empire

One of the beautiful February days, I and a group of my favorite artists – amateurs, whom I meet every Thursday in painting classes, went to the exhibition at the Frederiksborg Castle.

The plan was to see one of the most exciting paintings in Denmark in these days – Kasper Eistrups portrait of the Successor of the Throne, Crown Prince Frederik.

In addition to this “pearl”, we were also going to see other paintings of the artist which were available for us too, as this was his first solo exhibition. In total 84 artworks from the artist, 20 years working with art are exhibited at the castle.

My group, always joyful and creative artists, gathered just after lunch in front of the castle. The castle itself deserves a separate story. It’s both amazing and beautiful at the same time, and it is essential because of the history of Denmark. But about the castle, I might write another time.

After buying tickets, we all went to the exhibition with works by Kasper Eistrup and let me add a few words about the artist.

Kasper Eistrup, known as the former vocalist and guitarist of the Danish rock band Kashmir, has devoted himself to art. The artwork, showing His Majesty Crown Prince Frederik, was made for the museum of Frederiksborg Castle.

As I’m not Dane and haven’t even followed the Danish rock music, I can’t tell you if it’s good Kasper resigned from the world of rock music, though I can tell you I’m glad that he decided to focus on painting.

His paintings, being on the edge of surrealism, symbolism and realism, appeal to me. I am glad that the artist experiments and combines techniques from lithography, drawings and paintings and create a kind of collage. And of course including, as was the main attraction today, the painted artwork of His Majesty Crown Prince Frederik.

The history of how the portrait of High Prince was created, is known to most Danes. The artist portrayed the prince in the Royal Castle Amalienborg. He rearranged the living room, which for Princess Mary was accepted with some doubts and only for the sake of the art.

The painting shows the Prince in the role of a gentleman, a relaxed version of James Bond. As far as I know, this was the artist’s intention, and I admit the two characters, James Bond and the gentleman, was my first impression. Not the heir to the throne but a gentleman, Bond and a martini on the table… shaken not stirred.

At first, my eyes got a little confused by the composition; diagonal. It’s challenging to work with a diagonal layout.

The artwork is broken by a nonexciting line, that cuts the artwork into two parts. Artist balance the composition with tables on one side and a tree on the other and the harmony is intact in this way.

It is also essential to locate the figure of the High Prince, who seats in the corner of the couch. He is like a central point and makes a ballast for the composition. Diagonals bring a specific dynamic to the image, tension; it electrifies the space on the canvas.

The second surprise is a pink sofa. It exists at the Royal castle Amalienborg. The juxtaposition of this piece of furniture with the prince, also adds a kind of glamour, sophistication.

And then there’s a tree, growing straight from the carpet. One of the surrealistic and symbolistic features of Kasper. Is it a fig tree? I do not know if the artist deliberately used this tree, but his symbolism is strongly connected with the biblical message, and a man resting in their shadow of a fig tree is a symbol of peace, prosperity and safe existence.

The abstract background is slightly too much antagonistic with other objects. A way to create the background is quite typical for Kasper. Different, thin lines and doodles.

However, it brings a bit of confusion to the picture. With this amount of detail, in contrast with the rug, I think I prefer a more uniform, stable background.

Maybe the artist intended to introduce this “anxiety” ant to intrigue a viewer.

The High Prince Frederik sits with scattered hands, relaxed. Who would not be after such a martini and if he was James Bond?

Dressed in a tuxedo, apparently, it is a special gift for the 10th anniversary of the wedding from the High Princess wife.

If I had to play in a psychologist, I would say that the artist presented the High Prince as an open, modern man, a good listener, a remarkable versatile human being.

Here, it is vain to look for signs typical of royal family performances such as; signs of power. Well, unless you consider it a tuxedo and a fig tree.

I like the various characteristics appearing in the picture. For example, how the artist painted the shirt or shoes and the face. You can easily see that the artist is very talented.

Generally, the picture makes a good impression on me. It is indeed unique when it comes to presenting royal family members, in this case, the future king of Denmark.

I feel slightly unsatisfied when I looked at some lack of precisions when the artist painted the legs, especially shown in the thickness of the ankles etc. The edges of the sofas could have been much more carefully done.

It’s a bit like Kasper was in a hurry or decided that the knees of the prince and his ankle in socks should not deserve more attention. While there is no doubt about the artist’s talent, we could expect greater perfection in this painting, created especially for the museum. But it’s my impression and my opinion. Of course, the time available to the artist may also have played a part. But in such cases, the necessary time must be given.

Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
Frederiksborg

Opinions from the participating group

I was very excited about the image of the Crown Prince probably because you recognized him easily. The easily recognizable is probably from where my excitement comes.

Anyway, the part of the painting where there were only doodles was absolutely incomprehensible to me, and when we saw the other paintings of the royals, ministers and other characters, my enthusiasm fell. It was as if he had been too busy. The rest of his paintings I could not understand. Others must judge them.

– Preben M.

Kasper Eistrup shows me fun subjects with exciting effects. Regarding the Crown Prince, I see a relaxed Frederick with a warm, humble expression. He appears as a quite ordinary guy in an environment that also doesn’t seem particularly royal.

That said, the artist has nevertheless managed to bring out the dignified and nice person that Crown Prince Frederik is now. Well done.

– Helen Friis

I was both impressed with the exhibition, but also a little disappointed. Kasper Eistrup’s painting with Crown Prince Frederik, I had previously seen on TV, where I became very excited about it. But when I saw the painting in reality, I was a little disappointed. Crown Prince Frederik looked 10 years older.

However, there were many beautiful features in the painting. Kasper Eistrup’s many other portraits were stunningly beautiful, but messy because of his way of building the paintings as a kind of collage.

We had a great trip to the castle which was so beautiful and the weather was lovely; It was the most beautiful spring forest day you could imagine.

– Linda Engblom

City in the Pink Cloud Agata Ruman
What’s Hidden Behind Each Artwork?

Today we received a wonderful artwork made by our great artist Agata Ruman. She has many faithful buyers and followers. It is not hard to understand. She has a completely unique understanding of colors. It’s amazing to see how her technique makes the colors talk and tell the story of the artwork.

Each artist works differently, and their style often has a significant impact on how a painting is created and not least how long it takes from beginning to end. Agata and her style require 100% attention and once the painting has been created in her imagination, colors and brushes are fast transferred from mind to canvas. She can work continuously for days and at an incredible speed.

Together with the painting ‘A City in a Pink Cloud’ we received a private gift, a graphite drawing. In this, it’s even more clear how she works because you can see how fast the different pencils danced across the paper like a beautiful ice princess. It’s amazing and it creates a lot of respect when you are invited to see how artists are working.

Therefore, every work of art is also a personal signature from the artist. Every time a piece of art is transformed from Agata’s mind to the canvas, she gives a part of herself to the person who later becomes the lucky owner of the artwork. It’s what makes art unique. Not only the fact that every piece of art is found in one copy only. But more the fact that we get a part of the artist’s feelings and emotions caught like in a magic box. We all can show feelings, but in a work of art, feelings are saved for eternity. They do not disappear but are preserved in oil and colors.

– Thomas Lyngskjold, Gallery BeArte

The Guy with the Ear and His Vibrating Restaurant Article
The Guy with the Ear and His Vibrating Restaurant

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Van Gogh

The statement that artists become famous only after death is half true, considering stories of the most famous ones but it would be trivial to say so. Nowadays, it is a little easier to become famous during life, as you can use internet tools in a more skillful way. Presenting and spreading your artworks and ideas has never been so easy before.

Everyone probably heard about Van Gogh. Sometimes I thought that he was probably more known for his difficult life than for his art. And I wondered what is more important here then? – His life, as a good topic for a novel or a movie, or actual talent and influence on the emergence of further directions in art. Van Gogh did not have great recognition during his lifetime as well as he did not have all the tools that are available to contemporary artists nowadays. Only after his death, he became the most famous Post-Impressionist.

Over time, the world appreciated his contribution to the development of art. Walking around the exhibition in Arken (Moder Art Museum in Denmark), I had a feeling of lack at the beginning. As everything seemed to be so simple… Just think, we are bombarded with interactive programs from all over, living in a world overloaded with short and simple contents, we turn into fools when we look at something that is simple, simple like a picture. Trees, landscapes, sky, fields, restaurant interiors – all these are simple things. Nothing flashes, nothing disappears, nothing forces you to guess: what the artist wanted to say by this piece of canvas? Just an ordinary representation of reality painted with funny brush strokes. Without an intellectual contribution, not manifesting socio-political ideas but simply – CLEAN ART. Artist, object, creative act and its result, everything that needed. How pure and maybe even naive it may sound in the modern world. Simply light and color forming shapes and passion as a glue between them.

Van Gogh must be seen as an artist whose give us purity of his art. The purity of the relationship between the impression and its projection. The exhibition included many stunning and well-known works by Van Gogh, including his portrait and “Yellow House”. However, a less-known artwork caught my attention.

I was charmed with the painting “Interior of the restaurant”. It is a painting that is covered with questions as well as with incredible details. Accurately dating Interior of a Restaurant in Arles has been difficult, largely because van Gogh never mentioned the painting in any existing letter. But no precise information about this artwork doesn’t make it less incredible.

It is an image that no photo can convey. Even the illustration I used for this blog makes me feel pity and not satisfied, as it has nothing to do with the original. Who is interested in the empty interior of a restaurant? However, it is not important. As this painting is not about the context – it’s all about light and color.

The restaurant is a pretext to show all these luminous phenomena, the dance of the color, those hallucinations that our eyes experience and which the artist presented masterfully with the light. I had the impression that the air in the restaurant vibrating, the colors were ringing, they were clean and loaded at the same time. I was fascinated by this dance. I tried to analyze how the artist built shapes, what colors he used, what and how he contrasted. However, these intellectual puzzles have only made me feel tired. Have Van Gogh analyzed as much I did before putting paint on the canvas? I think everything was simply driven by his emotion, passion and the need to create.

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

Van Gogh

Not because of his cut ear, but because of the dance of light and sound of the colors, because of the vibrations of the air on the canvas, and this ubiquitous, uncompromising and pure artistic soul – Van Gogh must be seen.

– Beata Piechocka, Gallery BeArte

Abstract Art – How to Understand Article
Abstract Art – How to Understand

On a recent trip to Lisbon, I had a great pleasure of having a conversation with Rita, who besides have introduced me some wonderful port wines, and artworks of students that are very interested in modern art forms and directions. Our conversation spread across many subjects, and it covered not only wine and art, as you can say that both topics include fundamental human qualities like emotions and curiosity and are therefore closely related.

To me, it was very exciting to listen to a young art student because, among other things, we inherent in a tendency to change and develop our opinions and perceptions through the years.

Rita is a beautiful calm and balanced young woman who was quite literate and very well-educated in her opinions and explanations. Certainly, because she taught children in art and thereby, was able to ask a lot of interesting and certain questions.

When we talked about abstract art, she came up with a very simple formula that is worth mentioning here. She was using many others either, but the one below was the most often heard: “My son Jens in 7 years old, and he could do better or at least the same way”. And it’s both correct and yet wrong.

At times, abstract art is relatively naive and technically not so difficult to perform. So to say, it can be imitated along this way. We can make a copy as it were. But what most people will never be able to reproduce is the creation of the original; Even to get the original idea; Even be able to transfer the author’s imagination he took from his soul and put it on the canvas. It could only be the artist, after all, it is he or she that had feelings and thoughts that were released, and at the same time the skills that made it possible. So even though we can copy, the difference between us and the artist is that the author is the only one who creates and we are others who “only” copy.

As an art student in Warsaw, I even remember that one of the most difficult subjects was abstract art. When we were about to work abstractly on canvas during our third year, it seemed straightforward and not difficult at all.

Most of us “fall” right into the trap, as simply 8 lines on a canvas can be either an art or something sloppy, and since we had to explain in detail the color choices, motives to our professor, etc. we realized that we were already wrong with colors choice. Because for how will you intelligently explain that the brush spontaneously and without the larger plan had chosen a little blue spot here and yellow there. So we were going back again and again and again until we began, to think also abstractly. It was quite difficult and although it seemed incredibly simple, the abstract art for many of us was by far the hardest.

When I showed Sebastian’s picture “Baltica III” to my partner’s 11-year-old daughter, her first word was “a nice sunset” and she proceeded to describe the dark sky from the top, the calm water, the beach above the sea and so on and so forth.

The same scenario repeated with “Citronsø”, and although she did not know either titles or ideas behind these artworks, she could easily translate Sebastian’s thoughts and feelings into simple words and short sentences. It was fun though not uncommon, because children still have great developed creativity, as opposed to adults, who are also controlled by the other half of the brain that develops logic, structure, responsibility, etc. They look at the world differently and see themselves more abstractly, because every day they learn and form their own thoughts and stories about what is big and what is small, and not yet filled up with all the responsibilities we, as adults, have and take on us. The older we become, the more things we get stocked and clarified in our heads, that’s why we automatically suppress our creativity and abstract perception, when so many conditions have already been achieved by now we are moving on to something new. Of course, all this is put in general.

Artists are often more “childish” and therefore able to work in art very differently from “normal” adults. They, so to say live in another world and have had the opportunity to stay there since childhood and, in particular, were able to explore this world far deeper than most others were allowed to.

You can ask what should we do with this abstract art if only a few people can understand it? And the question is relevant because art that does not affect us or awakens feelings should not fill our everyday life. Yet, it may have its eligibility. Just as learning a new language can develop us, or reading a book of a new subject for us, or maybe the one that is written in a different way can make our brain work more intensely, so the feeling of the abstract can develop too. We just need to learn to understand it and inquire into what is unclear to us, just as a child would do. We need time to realize what hides behind the artist’s feelings and ideas. Because when we do, a new whole world will open for us. Our understanding will bring us to a new place and definitely what previously was not a matter for us, can now become like something amazing and affect us with feelings we have not had for many years. But we must dare to stop, learn again, try to keep everything else out and just let the imagination flow through our mind and soul.

In conclusion, a little advice from me: When we understand the abstract artwork in front of us, we do not have to doubt our own perception of this feeling, if only it doesn’t fit our taste. Art is so wonderful just like music or similar to that, it affects us a lot differently: Something touches our inner ones in a positive vibe, so other things can be even ignored. All this is about feelings and impressions and once we understand the artwork, it’s up to us to choose or choose it not. Art exists longer when we fall in love with it.

– Beata Piechocka, Gallery BeArte

Erotic Art – What is Behind the Curtain? Article
Erotic Art – What is Behind the Curtain?

Considering the topic, you probably know very little and feel puzzled. And it is a normal thing to feel so since Erotic art is a complex art and sometimes brings more questions than answers. The list can be huge! What is erotic art? Do all paintings with a sexual theme qualify as erotic? How to distinguish between erotica and erotic art? Can we draw a strict line between erotic art and pornography? We tend to think of art as complex and of pornography as one-dimensional, but how compelling is that differentiation?

Pablo Picasso once said

“…sexuality and art are the same things”

This article aims to provide a short overview of historical perspective, some philosophical debates on erotic art and hopefully will clarify the true meaning of erotic art.

In the history of Western art, the erotic has long been hidden, ignored or condemned. The greater part of Europe’s history is an enormous desert of time where sexuality in art is practically absent, especially compared to the rest of the world. But nevertheless, if looking back to the sources and history of art you will easily find works that were representing nudity and erotism. “The Venus of Hohle Fels” is the oldest goddess figure and the oldest example of figurative art known today.

It is amazing to know that such a type of art has a truly long history, even though, a lot of people still do not want to accept the existence of erotic art, or maybe feel embarrassed because of it, nevertheless history proves that erotic art was present since people remember themselves.

Another chapter in the Erotic Art history would be – Ancient Rome. Ancient Pompeii would have been an erotic art enthusiast’s dream come true! Many Roman artifacts from buildings to pottery were a great proof of that.

Want more arguments? Here you go, we move to Greece. Here you will have a fact that the nude is often seen in classical Greek art because it was a part of society and as acceptable as say, wearing a hat in public today. More to say, Greek people were exposed in their art a lot of topics that evoke contradictions even now. Things like homosexuality, mentor-pupil relationship, the “dominant” and “submissive” roles.

Then we move to the Middle Ages. Here erotic Art had a pause since censorship has been the scourge of European at that times. This was largely due to the spread of Christianity in Europe. For a period of almost 1000 years, practically no nudity can be found in European art, that is until around the 15th Century, when classical nudity began to resurface with the Renaissance.


The Renaissance began around the 14th century simultaneously in both Northern and Southern Europe. The Renaissance also coincided with a period in history known as “The Age of Discovery”

A favored subject chosen by many artists during the Early Southern Renaissance was the promiscuous Zeus/Jupiter, King of the Gods. Correggio (1489-1534) is a great representative of erotic artists of the Early Renaissance, he was the first to take art past modest nudity and straight into full-blown eroticism! One of his works: “The Loves of Jupiter”.
With the dawn of printing came the dawn of propaganda. Which caused the increase in nudes and erotic art, as propaganda used in a similar way sex is used in advertising today.

The Renaissance rather smoothly flowed into the next historical period in the art known as Mannerism, which later developed into the Baroque Period, which later developed into the Rococo style. The Baroque period looked like a bad time for erotic art: the Catholic Church clamped down on pornography. The stuff we associate with Rococo pornography in the early 1700s is almost innocent in its domesticity. These three styles were rich with colors, shades, expressions, and ideas, most of which were revealing erotic implication.

Art after the Rococo period began an accelerated evolution. New styles began cropping up all over Europe: Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism. All these flows are rich with paintings and pictures that represent nudity in all its beauty.


The separate place should be occupied by the French Revolution that represented erotic art as Satire. The French knew how to make their erotica pointed and upsetting. The Marquis de Sade’s famous erotic novels from 1787 onwards, which were illustrated by Claude Bornet, are now primarily known for their serious BDSM themes, but at the time were understood as biting social satire as well as sexy fun.

In actual fact, erotic art was taking different expressions throughout the years. Artists in different epochs were interested in the human body and were not afraid to show nudity on the canvas. Instead of claiming that erotic art is about sexual feelings or desires, one could say that erotic art elicits sexual feelings or desires.

For example, Jerrold Levinson acknowledges in his definition of erotic art as: 

“art which aims to engage viewers sexually through explicit sexual content and that succeeds, to some extent, in doing so”.

But what about our time? It would be wise to say that erotic art would go on to play an essential and inescapable role in the artistic revolution of the 20th century. By the 20th century, artists were no longer content with unambiguous celebration of the human form. The brutality of sex and anxiety brought by self-awareness began to take precedence over arousal.

Photography provided a new medium for erotic art and erotica, as well as a further blurring of the lines between art and obscenity.

New manifestations of erotic art appear: artists are expressing their feelings through photos, later you can find erotic fanfiction stories, people start to express their imagination by making erotic cartoons or even by running blogs where they mix all the possible ways of representing erotic art.

You may think that finally in 20th-century erotic art started to develop freely, as no longer people are as narrow-minded as before. People are no longer so shy about expressing their thoughts and feelings. But the real truth is a bit different. Modern aesthetics has cast a long shadow into the 20th and even the 21st century.

While not everyone will take the aesthetic side of the erotic, very few philosophers today will deny the existence of erotic art. So, does this mean that the wall between the sexual and the aesthetic has been torn down? Does it mean that people started to understand the aim of the artist who exposes erotica in his paintings? Not entirely. It seems that the battle lines have been redrawn. The suspicion towards the erotic has been replaced by a very pronounced skepticism of the pornographic.

We still have religions, and we still have politics that accept erotic art as something evil.

They believe that human’s feelings cannot be expressed in the mood where the nude body is present. They still believe that nudity is a synonym to forbidden fruit.

So the logical questions appear in your head – Why things haven’t changed? Why does the art, that has nothing common with pornography or really filthy things, like sexual abuse, taken into consideration as something offensive and often is in under taboo? Art historians who write about erotic art are often quite anxious to draw a strict dividing line between “high brow” erotic art and “low brow” pornography.

Kenneth Clark once mentioned:

“To my mind art exists in the realm of contemplation, the moment art becomes an incentive to action it loses its true character”.

Was the Clark, right? Maybe to some extent, he really performed a wise thought. We believe that art is necessarily multi-layered, whereas pornography is one-dimensional. The fact is that there are numerous religious or politically inspired erotic masterpieces that call on people to change their lives or perform certain actions because they depict hidden sense.

Erotic art is truly an image without context, a naked and pure image that transgresses the norm by making the private, the intimate and the sexual public, expressing the infinite power and beauty of the subconscious.

Maybe again we have more questions than answers, so to sum up, here is a piece of advice: When you observe art, don’t try to find a hidden sense, just listen to your heart and open your inner “mischievous” side and the imagination will do the rest of the job for you.



Figurative Art And Its Mysteries Article
Figurative Art And Its Mysteries

We would like to take you to the very fascinating and cognitive journey, in which you will open up for yourself new interesting facts, will find out about the pieces of art and their representatives, and all the beauty of Figurative Art.

Definition

A dictionary definition of “figurative art” defines it as a relating to representation by means of animal or human figures – representational rather than abstract.

Currently, figurative art is defined as any art that has a reference to reality. It is, then in the colloquial sense, an art that presents the real world in a way that allows the identification of the presented objects.

History

“…What more attractive and challenging surface than the skin around a soul?” – Richard Corliss (1944-2015)

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Figurative art is itself based on a tacit understanding of abstracted shapes: the figure sculpture of Greek antiquity was not naturalistic, for its forms were idealized and geometric. Eventually, idealization gave way to observation, and Figurative Art which balanced ideal geometry with greater realism was seen in Classical sculpture by 480 B.C. Until the time of the Impressionists, figurative art was characterized by attempts to reconcile these opposing principles.

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From the early Renaissance, Mannerism and the Baroque through 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century painting Figurative art has steadily broadened its parameters. An important landmark in the evolution of figurative art is the first known reclining nude in Western painting in Sleeping Venus (1510) by Giorgione. It introduced the female nude as subject and started a long line of famous paintings.

Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), a French painter in the classical style whose work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color, served as an alternative to the more narrative Baroque style of the 17th century.

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He was a major inspiration for such classically oriented artists as Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Paul Cézanne.

Picasso after about 1920 is the great exemplar of modern figurative painting, and Alberto Giacometti from about 1940 is the great figurative sculptor. After the Second World War figuration can be tracked through the works of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and the other artists of the School of London, and through pop art, neo-expressionism, and new spirit painting.

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In the 70s, after the explosion idea of abstraction, figurativism once again returned to favor. The variety of approaches to Figurative Art is enormous and almost as diverse as the history of art itself.

For the much part of the 20th-century figurative painting was ignored by the western avant-garde, artists such as David Salle, Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Modern figurative art can be seen as distinct from modern realism, as Figurative Art uses modern idioms, while modern realists work in styles predating post-impressionism (more or less). In fact, modern figurative art is more or less identical with the general current of expressionism that can be traced through the 20th century and on.

Formal elements and subject

The formal elements, those aesthetic effects created by design, upon which figurative art is dependent, including line, shape, color, light and dark, mass, volume, texture, and perspective. The difference is that in figurative art these elements are deployed to create an impression or illusion of form and space, and, usually, to create emphasis in the narrative portrayed.

Generally speaking, any form of modern art which retains strong references to the real world can be defined as figurative. It should perhaps be mentioned that since historical times all art was figurative in one way or another. That said, the artist used his or her judgment to define what was seen.

Abstract vs. Figurative Art

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” — Pablo Picasso.

Definition

Abstract Art

Almost all art is abstract art if we take abstraction to be a process of drawing inspiration from the shape, color, and texture of objects. Abstract art tends to rely on the associations of form to suggest meaning, rather than employing recognizable motifs to point to particular themes and content.

Figurative Art

In the twentieth century, the opposite of abstraction is best thought of in the widest sense, as “figuration,” though some Abstract Expressionists considered any residual presence of the figure (such as is seen in Miró, or early Rothko), no matter how abstracted, to constitute figuration.

The Early Twentieth Century

Abstract Art

Pure abstraction was finally achieved around 1913 – those most often said to have created the first abstract paintings are Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, and Robert Delaunay.

Experiments in abstract art throughout the century have always aimed at disrupting the traditional understandings of easel painting, and this disruption has tended towards two logical conclusions, the grid (typically seen in Cubism), and the monochrome (understanding of painting as either a window or a mirror).

Figurative Art

Photography is often blamed for the disappearance of figures in the modern painting, the real reason has more to do with the experimental, self-expressive, and avant-garde urges of artists.

Although the figure did not have the dominant presence in the 20th-century art that it did in previous times, it has been particularly important to two styles – social realism and Expressionism. Social realists have deployed the figure in their attempt to accurately record contemporary social life. And Expressionists have put the human figure at the center of a style devoted to celebrating human yearnings and anxieties.

During Abstract Impressionism

Abstract Art

Rothko, Newman, and Still they all employed purely abstract form and expressive color to communicate directly with the viewer in the most immediate way. Jackson Pollock has come to be a particularly controversial test case of the significance of abstraction and figuration in Abstract Expressionism.

Critics, however, were more alert to the importance of abstraction. Clement Greenberg and his abstraction were central to the goal of all modernist artists, to rid art of all that was extraneous to it.

Figurative Art

The lack of figuration in Abstract Expressionism is typical of the post-war period, as World War shook the humanism at the heart of the Expressionist style. Few realists – other than Andrew Wyeth – gained prominence in this period.

However, in the period of Abstract Expressionist paintings, some artists still reintroduced the figure.

After Abstract Impressionism

Abstract Art

Most critics now agree that Pollock’s abstraction was a language of sorts, and, therefore, that it is more connected to conventional imagery that had been hitherto imagined. Today they argue that abstract and figurative paintings both do the work of representation, and in that sense are closely related.

Figurative Art

Although the decline of Abstract Expressionism did not result in an immediate return to figuration, some artists began to explore this direction in the 1960s.

Philip Guston is famous for having returned to the figure in the late 1960s. And others might be noted, including Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein, Chuck Close and Richard Estes.

As you can see there is a lot of conformity between Abstract and Figurative Art. Some artists were even changing their direction from Abstract to Figurative and back. Some may even say that “Figurative art” is often defined in contrast to Abstract art.

BeArte Gallery