Sunday, October 27, 2013

Salvador Dalí

“Drawing is the honesty of the Art. There is no possibility of cheating: It is either good or bad.” –Dalí

Salvador Dalí was born on May 11th 1904 in Catolina Spain. His skills developed early and it is said that his childhood memories and experiences contributed heavily to his style and artistic personality. Just nine months before Salvador Dalí was born, the Dalí family's first son Salvador died at the age of two, they then named the second Salvador the same name as the adored first-born son. This created a complex in the second son where he was jealous of his dead brother but also identified with him. This confusion led to him becoming an exhibitionist child seeking constant attention. This continued throughout his career as he could make such a spectacle of himself as well as shock and awe in his works.

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” – Dalí

            At the age of 17, Dalí was accepted into the Academy of San Fernando, the well-known art school in Madrid. The Surrealism movement in Paris was a powerful inspiration for Dali. His use of both classical and modern techniques is what makes his works so interesting and yet puzzling for critics and viewers alike. Dalí was an artist of many different talents; his painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, writing and film were highly imaginative and often involved collaboration from other artists of the time.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it only destroys what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” – Dalí

Above: Salvador Dalí: Study for The Lugubrious Game 1920. The painting that came from this study drawing earned Dalí's acceptance by the Surrealists. 

The Lugubrious Game was finished in 1929, knowing that the study drawing came 9 years previous emphasizes the importance of using study drawing and how these works took a long time. 

Above: Salvador Dalí: Portrait of Freud 1938. Dalí had been a longtime admirer of Freud and the two met in London in 1938. Freud later wrote to Stefan Zweig explaining that Dalí had positively changed Freud's mind about the Surrealists. 

    Besides his contribution to surrealism and art of the 20th century, Salvador Dalí is well known for his disobedience to authority and his often-strange behavior in public. His iconic mustache, walking cane, long cape and often an exotic animal by his side was just part of being Salvador Dalí. The closer you look at his life outside of creating masterpieces, the more you are interested in this complicated man.

“I have Dalinian thought: the one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous.” – Dalí

The Real World of The Surrealists, Malcolm Haslam 1978
Dali and Surrealism, Dawn Ades 1982

First and Last Image Websites:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pablo Picasso

            Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous and recognized names in the world of art. He was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer. His art was diverse and prolific, spanning across many different genres and styles. Most importantly, his art was revolutionary and innovative, becoming a catalyst for an abundance of avant garde movements in music, literature, and architecture. He almost single-handedly redefined 20th century art. His legacy and influence are as impressive as his art itself.
            Picasso was born in Madrid, Spain in 1981. His father was an artist and art teacher who introduced Pablo to art at a very early age. At the age of 13 years old, his father said that Pablo had surpassed him. At age 14, his family moved to Barcelona where he applied to the School of Fine Arts. The Institute usually only accepted students much older than Picasso, but they made an exception due to his impressive talents. At the institute, Picasso regularly skipped class and roamed the streets of Barcelona, giving him a reputation as a bad student. He ended up moving back to Spain where he attended the Royal Academy of San Fernando. Again, he got bored of the classes taught, irritated by the school’s focus on classical technique. He moved to Barcelona where he was captivated and inspired by a group of anarchists, where he made the life changing decision to focus on experimentation and innovation.
            Picasso’s art can generally be separated into several distinct periods. The first of which is the Blue Period. During this time, Picasso moved to Paris, France, where he would spend the majority of his life. Picasso was severely affected by the death of Carlos Casagemas, a close friend of his.  The topics of his paintings were focused on poverty, isolation, and anguish, using almost exclusively, a blue and green palette.
            During the Rose Period, Picasso’s depression had subsided, mostly in result of being deeply in love with a French model named Fernande Olivier. He also climbed out of his financial troubles he facing during the Blue Period, finding people who were interested in buying his art. Picasso’s newfound optimism showed itself through his use of warmer colors focusing on reds and pinks, and a focus on circus performers.
            A breakthrough work for Picasso was “Les Demoiseless d’Avignon”, the subject of which was five prostitutes. This painting is considered the precursor to the style of painting Picasso is arguably most famous for: Cubism. Cubism used a geometrical style and the use of simultaneous viewpoints to achieve a more abstracted form. Cubism caused great controversy in the art world, and marked the turn of 20th century art, becoming one of the most influential art movements Max Jacob described Cubism as “ a picture for it’s own sake.”
            During WWI, Picasso returned to a more classical style based in realism. His style during this period was reminiscent of Raphael and Ingres, styles that he tried to break free from in his adolescent years.  Although not the founder of Surrealism, Picasso was deeply involved with the movement during the 1930s, a style that had evolved from Picasso’s cubism. During this time, Picasso painted his most famous and recognized piece, “Guernica” as a protest against the horrors of war.
            After WWII, Picasso turned to politics and was an active member of the Communist Party. His painting took on a more simplistic and child-like approach. In response to the crudeness of his art at the time he replied, “When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cornelio Campos

Cornelio Campos is a Mexican-born artist who now resides in the U.S. He was born in 1971 and moved to the U.S in 1989. He originally crossed the border illegally, but later became a U.S citizen. He was always interested in art. As a child, he was interested in comic books, and this style comes out in his work sometimes. Campos gives lectures at different universities, including Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill. He is most well-known in North Carolina. He also has many exhibits at these universities and Peace College and NC State as well.

Last year, I met Mr. Campos through my focus, Humanitarian Challenges, at Duke. He had an exhibition that I went to in the Freidl building called, Suenos Americanos, or American Dreams. I am very passionate about Latino rights, and I think Mr.Campos helps put a human face on the issue of immigration.

Campos specializes in paintings that illustrate the complex realities of migrant life that are often concealed or misconstrued to the public. He intends to present a spin on contemporary issues, such as immigration, the U.S Mexican border, and culture identity.  In his exhibition last year, his paintings presented Mexican culture through depicting every day scenes in Mexican culture. The exhibit was around October, so a few of Campos’ portraits represented spiritual and festive aspects of the Mexican celebration, Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. His paintings also had scenes of Mexicans selling handmade crafts and connecting with family. 

Campos uses a modern folkloric art style and explores culture through vibrant colors and deep symbolism. He describes his art as Mexican folklore art as well as political statements.

This painting is called "Pajaro Azul" or Blue Bird. It was made with acrylic, oil, and pastels. It was the most widely-known piece from his exhibit last year, and also my favorite of his work.

This painting is called "Realidad Nortena" or Reality of the North. It represents the North, or the U.S, the journey Mexican immigrants take to cross the border, the Mexican faith (represented by Lady of Guadalupe) and the merging of two cultures. It was also made with acrylic, oil, and pastels.

This painting is called "Frontera" or Border. It represents the U.S - Mexican border, both the opportunities and the death. It was made with acrylic, oil, and pastels.

This painting is called "Katrina". It is one of my favorite examples of Campos' work that represents Dia de los Muertos.

More of Campos' work is displayed at the Durham Art Guild.


Albrecht Durer

Durer selfporitrait.jpg

Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, engraver, printmaker, and mathematician in the late 1400s and early 1500s.  Dürer was only in his twenties when he became a great influence across Europe during the Northern Renaissance, mostly through establishing printmaking as its own independent art form.  His legacy inspired other major artists such as Raphael to pursue printmaking, as it helped to distribute his work all across Europe during a time when paintings could only be held by few private collectors.

Dürer's printmaking involved woodcut, where he would draw a design on a plank of wood and a woodcutter would carve away parts that didn't need ink.  Paper would be pressed over the block surface covered in ink to transfer the desired image onto it.

Dürer was regarded as the "greatest artist" of the Northern Renaissance, the Renaissance that occured in Europe north of Italy after the Italian Renaissance (the earliest in Europe).  A talented, ambitious, and intelligent artist, Albrecht Dürer received attention from and became friends with the German elite - he was even the official court artist for Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V!  When he wasn't busy drawing or painting for royalty, he enjoyed keeping company with the age's finest theorists and philosophers, along with researching human proportions (wrote several books on them).

Dürer's first self-portrait came at the age of 13 in 1484 using a silverpoint technique.  Silverpoint is a traditional drawing technique used on manuscripts, made by using a silver rod or wire as a drawing tool.  Dürer's father was a craftsman who taught Albrecht how to draw using metalpoint, hence how he created this masterpiece at a very young 13 years old.  The lines in the portrait appear very fine and detailed like it could have been sketched using modern fine tip graphite.  This effectiveness of silverpoint was a major reason why artists in the early Renaissance era favored this technique for fine line drawings.

At the age of 22, Dürer created his first painted Self-Portrait (1493) using oil on vellum paper.  He frequently liked to cast a "bold light" on himself, "eager to assert his creative genius and inherent nobility, while still marked by a clear-eyed, often foreboding outlook."  I find it interesting he is almost in the same position as his 13 year old self-portrait.  

Self Portrait At 26 - Albrecht Durer -

At age 26, he created yet another portrait of himself, in the same position.  It is interesting to see the progression of Dürer's aging.

Three of Dürer's most famous metal engravings are shown below: Saint Jerome in His Study (1514), Melencolia I (1514), and Knight, Death and the Devil (1513).  All were quite large engravings and were viewed as representing the three spheres of activity in the medieval times.

Theological and contemplative life

Intellectual life

Moral and "active" life

At first, I simply picked up a book called "Dürer, Rembrandt, and Goya" in Lilly Library thinking I would research Goya, however, flipping through Dürer's work intrigued me.  The book was written in German, however, so it required me to look on the Internet for Dürer's biography.  I never realized he was such an important figure, but learning about his life and amazing talent had me pleasantly surprised for choosing to research him.  His pieces are so detailed and amazing for having been done through engravings and woodwork - something I imagine could have taken excruciating efforts to accomplish.  It is humbling to read about such influential people and I'm glad I got the chance to see amazing work I would have probably never seen or heard about if not for a fancy volume that happened to catch my eye on the shelf.


Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528; Goya, Francisco, 1746-1828Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669Rochard, Patricia; Internationale Tage Ingelheim. Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya: drei Giganten der grafischen Künste. Ingelheim: Boehringer Ingelheim. 2012. Print.
(Fun fact: The next closest copy of this book is in the National Gallery of Art Library in Maryland)

Thomas Eakins

Self Portrait, 1902

Thomas Eakins
(July 25, 1844 – June 25, 1916)

Thomas Eakins is an American realist painter well known for his realism and controversial expression. He stretched the limits of nudity in art and had a strong desire to explore the heart of American life.  Although he received little recognition during his years, after his death he has acquired the honor of being considered “the strongest, and most profound realist in nineteenth and early twentieth century American art.”

Thomas Eakins was born in Philadelphia on July 25, 1844. He grew up on a farm and by the age of twelve was already demonstrating amazing ability and understanding of perspective and line drawing.

Shown above is a drawing of a Spanish scene done in March 1858, when Eakins was just fourteen. It is clear he already has a firm grasp of lines, value and shading, and some empirical perspective.  Eakins is well known for his portraits of prominent people in arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. He was interested in the aspects of human figure with a focus in anatomy and surgical dissections. His early works of rowing scenes are done in mostly oils and watercolors but through his education and teaching he also became skilled in photography and sculpting. Most of his works were criticized for their nudity however, today we see that his work not only helped change the acceptance of nudity in art, but also highly impacted the world of medicine.

The Gross Clinic  and The Agnew Clinic were two works that made Eakins an icon of modern medicine. With his high level of expression, he helped to popularize the new ideas of surgery and turned something that was once considered mundane and repugnant into something more admirable and accepted. The contrast of both works is key to their understanding in that The Agnew Clinic shows the advancements of science and health that changed the world of surgery.

The Gross Clinic, 1875                                    The Agnew Clinic, 1889

As you compare the two it is clear that The Gross Clinic depicts early surgery in a dark, not very clean surgical theater. The dark colors and shadows make the gore of the surgery a prominent part of the image however, keeping in mind the times, this amount of gore is minimal to that of the more commonly used amputations. This work depicts the advancement of surgery from regular amputations. In comparison, the colors of The Agnew Clinic are much brighter and less depressing. The surgery theater is shown to be cleaner and more hygienic.  There is much less gore and there is a highly prominent female nurse in the picture. This image is a complete transformation of surgery.

I chose this artist because I was particularly interested in the way he broke boundaries in art and became such a large influence in medicine. Through his art he was able to communicate the advancements in health to the mass public and therefore played a huge part in the transformation of surgery. He also worked with nudity and the growing prominence of women in his works regardless of the large criticism that came his way. Overall, one can see why Thomas Eakins is considered such an important artist in American history.

Finally, because he is a painter, I have included some of his study drawings below in which you can see line, shading, negative space, and perspective techniques that we have worked with in class.