How the world’s most famous paintings were created: Intriguing stories of paintings by great artists
Gregory Landau, a journalist and philosopher, once said: “Art is a dialogue in which the interlocutor is silent.” Painting is a subtle art, allegorical, emotional, giving freedom in interpretation. This is a whole world of unsolved mysteries and unsolved riddles. Let’s try to open the veil of mystery over the history of the creation of the most famous paintings by great artists.
In fact, the artist has two versions of this painting. In this version, George defeats the dragon, which the Beautiful Lady holds by the leash. The painting has a deep religious meaning. According to legend, a dragon settled in the lake of a city in Libya. The pagan Emperor ordered beautiful girls to be sacrificed to him. When there were no young women left in the city, the Emperor sent his own daughter to the dragon.The brave warrior George went to save her and defeated the dragon. The Princess here symbolizes the persecuted Christian Church, the dragon — paganism, and George — the Christian faith. There are versions that George, later recognized as a Saint, tramples not just paganism, but the devil himself, the “ancient serpent”.
“J’aime la couleur” – self-portrait of the artist. Here’s how he reveals the meaning of his work: “Color is everywhere. I believe that color is life. Our head must spin in a spiral to understand that everything around us is nothing but colors. Color is the universe, the universe is life, painting is life .”
Experts believe that this picture and a series of similar ones in the work of Jerome symbolize “white” snobbery. This can be seen in the dynamics of the figures depicted on the canvas. The white woman is the object with the dominant role, while the black woman demonstrates submission.
Hieronymus Bosch is one of the most mysterious artists in the world. The symbolism of his paintings is so confusing that a single explanation for the huge number of symbols depicted on them is simply impossible to find. This particular work got its name from the art historians who studied it. The original name remained unknown. Historians believe that the left panel of the triptych is a Paradise, the Central panel is a modern sinful human life, and the right part depicts hell. But the picture raises many more questions than it answers.
This work is not a caricature of the Vice of dirty gambling. It is rather a quiet narrative of what Caravaggio was well aware of. After all, the artist himself spent his life very frivolously and even violently. The plot is reduced to describing the unfolding drama — the drama of deception and lost innocence. The naive youngster was taken in by experienced sharps. The older one looks at his cards and signs to the other cardsharper.
The painting depicts a real-life incident. In 1749, in Havana, Brooke Watson, a 14-year-old cabin boy, decided to go swimming. He was attacked by a shark. The captain of the ship on which the boy served, tries to save him by killing the shark with a harpoon. The captain managed it only on the third attempt. Watson, in this unequal battle, lost a foot. All his life afterwards, he walked with a wooden leg. This did not prevent him from becoming mayor of London. At the same time, he met the artist and told him this story. Which was the inspiration for John Copley.
Since childhood, Kandinsky has been fascinated by color. The artist believed that it had transcendental properties. Kandinsky wrote his compositions as a Symphony composer. Each composition reflected the artist’s vision in its own time period. Kandinsky used geometric figures in his works because he believed in their mystical properties. The colors of the figures reflected emotions.
In his old age, Goya became deaf, and his overall health, both physical and psychological, deteriorated. This is what historians associate with the writing of a series of 14, as they were called “Dark paintings”. Which he wrote inside on the walls of his house. “Saturn devouring the son” is one of them. This is a well-known ancient Greek myth about the Titan Kronos (later the Romans renamed it Saturn). Kronos was predicted to be overthrown by his own son. And Saturn ate all his new-born children. In Goya, Saturn is depicted as a terrible half-mad old man who eats not a baby, but an adult child. There are many interpretations of the meaning of this canvas. But the most important thing is that the artist did not write it for the public. Perhaps, in this way, Goya was trying to exorcise his own demons.
The artist depicted an ordinary scene from everyday life in new York at the beginning of the 20th century. Private fight clubs were usually located in poor neighborhoods. “Deer” was the name given to outsiders who were not members of the club. They received temporary membership in order to conduct the fight. Bellows painted the picture in such a way that when you look at it, you get the impression that you are among the spectators of the fight.
“A friend is known in trouble” is the most popular picture from the series “Dogs Playing Poker” by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. This series was commissioned for Coolidge by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars. Although Coolidge’s paintings were never considered authentic art by critics, they have since become iconic.
Van Gogh wanted to portray the peasants as they really are. He wanted to show a completely different way of life, different from the upper classes. Later, he wrote to his sister and stated that “potato Eaters” was his most successful picture.
The painting “the Raft of Medusa” (“Le Radeau de la Méduse”) depicts the consequences of the crash of the French naval frigate “Medusa”. Some of the people were put in boats, and a raft was hastily built for the rest of the 147 people. Boats were towing the raft. But the captain, noticing that the raft was too heavy, ordered the ropes to be cut. Almost a hundred and fifty people were left to their fate without food or water. During the 13 days of their journey on a raft, with a faint hope of salvation, 15 of the 147 people survived. Maddened by hunger and thirst, people ate each other and drank blood. This shameful story France wanted to hush up, but it was too egregious and it failed.
.This work is the most famous by Ilya Repin. The picture became a cult. The work that the artist did was not a joke. With all the boatmen depicted in the picture Repin met personally. The artist wrote hundreds of sketches and spent 5 years on this work. Both historians and contemporaries consider the painting a direct condemnation of the hard work of the oppressed classes. Although, Repin always disavowed such an opinion.
“Susanna and the elders” is a biblical story from the old Testament. In the time of the Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, the Jewish people were enslaved to the Babylonians. Among them were Susanna and her husband Joachim. The woman had an unearthly beauty and the two elders coveted her. They threatened her that if Susanna did not treat them kindly, they would tell the people that she was an adulteress. The woman refused, and the elders carried out their threats. According to Jewish law, she was sentenced to death. But then the young prophet Daniel intervened. He came up with the idea of interrogating the men separately and then together. Their versions did not match, the libel was revealed. Susanna was acquitted, and the elders were executed. It is very remarkable that the artist was only 17 when she painted this picture. For Artemisia herself, it became prophetic, for a similar story happened to Her later.
The plot of this picture is based on an operation that Eakins witnessed. It was conducted by one of the best surgeons in America, Dr. Samuel gross. The operation was performed in the classroom in front of students for the purpose of training. The doctor showed how to treat the infection with conservative surgery, rather than amputation of the entire limb (which was standard at the time). The canvas depicts reality without embellishment: both the calm professionalism of gross, and the suffering of a woman in the lower left corner. Researchers believe that the patient’s mother. Critics and viewers rated the work, to the disappointment of Eakins, extremely negatively. People who calmly contemplate the scenes of bloody battles were not ready to see the realism of medical surgery.
“Wanderer over the sea of mist” (“Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer”) – a canvas where the artist remained true to his romantic style. In the painting, Friedrich depicted himself standing alone with his back to the viewer on a dark, steep rock. “The wanderer over the sea of mist” is a metaphor. It’s about self-reflection, about an unknown future. Friedrich said of this work: “the Artist must draw not only what is in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself.”
The painting “ear Pickers” (“Des glaneuses”) depicts three peasant women who collect the remaining spikelets after harvesting the field. The artist sympathized with the hard, humble work of the peasants. These emotions were expressed in the picture. But in society, the work attracted negative criticism from the upper classes. France had recently gone through a revolution and the nobles found this picture an unpleasant reminder that French society was built on the labor of the lower classes. And since the working class at that time outnumbered the upper class, they were afraid that the picture might somehow incite the lower class to revolt.
“The scream” is one of the most mysterious masterpieces of world painting. Munk said that once he went for a walk at sunset. The light of the setting sun turned the clouds blood-red. And Munch suddenly heard, felt, as he put it, “the infinite cry of nature.” Another explanation could be the result of Munch’s emotional state, since his sister had recently been sent to an asylum. This painting has been stolen many times. The plot can be considered prophetic: at the end of the 19th century, Munch described the catastrophes of the 20th century.
The composition consists of three main elements: a stormy sea, three boats and a mountain. The snow-capped mountain is mount Fuji, which the Japanese consider sacred. It is a symbol of national identity and beauty. Such unusual games with space and bright colors for Asian painting. The painting symbolizes a person’s fear of the indomitable element and forced submission to it.