It has been said that Goya was the last of the great masters and the first of the modern painters which makes him a transition, of sorts. (If you haven’t been following along this month, my theme for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge is Travel, Transitions, and Transformations… ).
Goya, like a number of Spanish painters, spent time in France (he hung out in Bordeaux for a number of years). Picasso is another with strong ties to both nations.
While I was in Paris I went to a lecture which I thought was going to be about Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I imagined slides that would focus on specific details and then describe how and why Picasso chose the imagery he did.
The talk (in the basement of the Picasso Museum) was all in French, so I only caught bits and pieces, but it seemed to be more about Picasso’s role in the Spanish ex-pat artist community in Paris and his involvement with bringing what was going on during the Spanish Civil War to a broader audience than it was about deconstructing the painting in great detail. Despite the fact I struggled to follow along, it was a pretty cool experience to attend the lecture and doing so made me all the more determined to PRACTICE MY FRENCH between trips.
I am including this jug by the French artist Gaugin because of the macabre story behind its creation. Gaugin had been visiting with Vincent van Gogh when Vincent lopped off part of his left ear. I’m not sure why, but Vincent left the ear at a brothel both he and Gaugin liked to visit. What does seem to be clear is that all of this ear-lopping upset Gaugin, who left town shortly after the incident. Back in Paris, Gaugin was unfortunate enough to witness the beheading of a criminal. This jug/self-portrait makes reference to both these traumatic incidents and goes to show that no experience in life is wasted when one is an artist. It’s a great example of transforming trauma into something compelling (I was going to say beautiful, but I don’t find the jug to be beautiful… but yes, compelling).
I hadn’t planned to include so many works of art in these posts, but art really is transformative in the way it can make us take another look at pretty much anything we experience (or can imagine). From some initial spark or idea or observation, artists create something worthy of our attention. Then we consumers of art respond and dissect and analyze and are moved by the product of their labours, which is a strange kind of alchemy indeed.