Monday, August 17, 2020

"Taking a Shine to Magritte"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

Brett's comment to my finished painting was "The shine on the apple looks like the shine on the man's bald head."  Such a great observation and it didn't occur to me. 

Rene Magritte's The Son of Man is widely known and endlessly satirized.  Magritte painted this surrealist self-portrait in 1964.  It's simplistic.  It's ambiguous.  Left to interpretation like most Surrealism-style works of art.  

Rene Magritte started his artistic career as an Impressionist but his wit took over, wanting to paint more thought-provoking subject matters.  His first gallery exhibition in 1927 left the art critics puzzled and expressing a thumbs-down review so he moved to Paris meeting up with fellow surrealist artist - Joan Miro and Salvador Dali notably.  Although he tried, the critics in Paris weren't much different so he moved back to Brussels jumping back on the Impressionist bandwagon for a time in 1930.  It wasn't until the late 40's did Magritte revert back to Surrealism and the time, after the war, critics and patrons seemed to click with his work for the first time.

The Son of Man features a bowler hat, a prop that appears constantly in Magritte's work.  They say the hat hinted at his political leaning to the Communist party.  It's the shiny green apple, hiding most of Magritte's face, that's most curious.  There is a theory it refers to Christianity, as a symbol of the common man surrendering to temptation like Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Another interpretation is the apple simply hides a man's true self from society.  That is Surrealism.  We see what we want to see.

~ Stay safe. Stay healthy. Wear a mask.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"An Open Book"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

During most of the 1700's the artist Jean-Honore Fragonard was a painting rock star.  The Rococo era, by definition, was characterized by "hedonistic freedom and a pursuit of all things aesthetically pleasing" and Fragonard was all about that.  His fantasy female figures are the epitome of femininity - calm, docile, frilly collars and dresses, playfully tossing their children in the air - you get the picture.  And that was the rage in the 18th century, with respect to how women were portrayed on canvas.

Although Jean-Honore Fragonard's style fell out of favor as the 1800's began, Young Girl Reading was and still is one of Fragonard's most popular images.  I can attest to that because I framed multiple prints of it during my picture-framing years.  It's a classic.

From the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

Friday, August 7, 2020

"Good Boy"

9 x 12"
oil on panel

Jamie Wyeth, the son of the great artist Andrew Wyeth and the grandson of the illustrator and artist N. C. Wyeth is a giant to me.  He remains tireless and prolific - my favorites are portraits of Andy Warhol and the Soviet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, his gigantic portraits of pigs and any painting with a dog.

Meet Kleberg, Jamie Wyeth's yellow lab.  As the story goes, told by Jamie in a Saturday Evening Post article, one day, Kleberg got a little too close to his easel and he spontaneously painted a black circle around Kleberg's eye to make him look like Petey from the Little Rascals.  Kleberg seemed to enjoy the extra attention so Jamie switched to a black mustache dye that lasted longer, remarking "Kleberg would come to me when it needed touching up."  And that circle remained for the rest of Kleberg's years.

The painting Kleberg includes a Victorian skep or beehive, woven from straw - essentially a basket placed upside-down - used to house bees for some 2000 years. The books on the shelf reflect Jamie's favorites, including Treasure Island, illustrated by N. C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle's illustrated Pyle's Book of Pirates and a biography of John F. Kennedy, who's portrait Jamie was commissioned to paint.

Kleberg can be viewed in the Denver Art Museum.

Please click here for a larger view.