OAC EXAM VISUAL ARTS
The painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus was created in 1937 by oil on canvas by Salvador Dali. This painting uses a lot of images to say what it means, for example, a person, a hand, water, a starving dog, a chess board, a canyon or cliff, and people. This is not to fill the paper or distract the viewer from the suggested meaning or point, but to support the idea that hope and despair are reflections of one another; on opposite sides of a coin, spinning in mid-air, waiting to land and fix or destroy everything.
The first thing that one thinks upon first seeing it, from far away, is that Dali just painted the same thing twice. From afar, it appears as if he simply cut the canvas down the middle and made one side brown and the other blue, but on closer inspection, one sees that the two sides, although very similar, are nothing alike.
On one side, there sits a limp body staring at the reflection of herself in the water that she sinks in. The setting sun glistens off the back of her head, but she just wallows in grim depression and boredom. The canyons trap her in the barren wasteland as she sits motionless, without movement, struggle, or life. This mysterious figure looks so vacant that it might as well be dead. Nothing is happening on this side, so one’s attention is directed to the other.
On the other side, a blue decaying hand emerges from the ground with ants crawling on it, possibly making their homes in it or finding food on it. Atop this pedestal, rests an egg with a flower sprouting from it. This display of life emerging from the dead is a symbol of hope and beauty. To the left of the hand, a very unhealthy malnourished dog feasts on fresh meat; his salvation is handed to him and he survives. Behind the dog is a chess board with a young man in the middle of it, proudly surveying the battlefield as though it were his kingdom. To his left are people on a road that leads off into the horizon. All these things symbolize new beginnings out of old life and hope from death.
The message that Salvador Dali was trying to get across is that hope and despair, failure and victory, and life and death are all equal forces, each one pulling the other in an eternal war to balance everything. It’s all a cycle, and like all cycles, it repeats itself forever and ever, and there’s no way of having one without the other.
Guemica – Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” Pablo Picasso’s painting entitled “Guernica” has been a masterpiece of modern art since it’s first appearance at the World Fair’s Fair of 1937. The huge mural has become an icon of Picasso’s work and has been interpreted in several unique ways, many of which contradict Picasso’s actual intentions.
Artistically, the composition is balanced and is a characteristic of Picasso’s work; perfectly planned and flowing. The symbols of this piece despite the misconceptions of it’s many critics, including those present at the World’s Fair in the year that the painting was introduced, were clearly defined by Picasso himself.
The preliminary sketches of the work began in May of 1937, and was commissioned by the official Republican government of Spain in January of the same year. It was to be displayed in the International Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition, or as it is more popularly known, the World’s Fair. Picasso was given a large studio in which to conduct his artistic endeavors in partial payment for the work which was being done.
Picasso went through many artistic periods throughout his career as an artist, one of which was cubism. In a few ways, Guernica, somewhat broke from the traditional cubism which he had a hand in inventing. The painting makes use of a two dimensional picture plain with all of the objects on the canvas appear flat looking as is dictated by the cubism style. The picture plain is not, however, fractured like many of the previous works which were categorized under the same style.
Picasso’s reason for painting Guernica has been disputed by the many art critics of modern art, but perhaps the most accurate summary is the genius himself. Picasso explained that the work was not specifically about the bombing of Guernica, nor was it specifically about the Spanish Civil War which was the culprit in this destructive incident. It was rather a broad statement about human beings fighting amongst themselves, and the chaos which would ensue should such hateful human relationships be allowed to continue as they had in Guernica, Spain.
The organization of the piece was carefully planned in the forty-five preliminary sketches, which obviously concentrated on leading the eye thorough the composition. The objects themselves balance each other well to create a peaceful composition. Picasso makes a conscious effort to emphasize the bull, the horse and the woman in the window as each of these images are important to the symbolic aspect of the graphic depiction of the bombing of Guernica. As one looks at the overall movement in the painting, they get a sense of frozen motion unlike what is typical of the futurism style of composition. The idea that everything came to a sudden halt with no time to come to a real rest. The one piece of evidence contrary to this is the soldiers arm which lays peacefully across the ground.
The enormous 138″ x 308″ canvas was painted using only grey scale colors, which is said to be in co-ordination with the ink of the newspapers which often covered the bombings during the civil unrest in Spain. Picasso uses dominantly blacks and whites using value changes in few areas over the picture plain. He uses line extensively, with almost geometric shapes taking form and leading the eye as can be seen in many of his pre-production sketches. Texture is kept to a minimum in the specific work as it is a very two dimensional art work and as is common of the cubism style. He has made extremely good use of space as nearly the entire canvas is used, while maintaining the balance which is necessary to keep the composition aesthetically pleasing. Among the many symbolic images in the work are a bull, a horse a soldier with a broken sword and a woman looking out of a window with a very concerned look on her face. The broken sword in the soldiers hand, which can be seen at the bottom center of the composition was used to symbolize the broken spirits and the failure to resist on the part of the people. The woman is a symbol of concern for the fighting people by people who have succeeded in being able to see the whole picture.
The largest contributing factor to “Guernica’s” overall appeal is the excellent use of symbolism which encourages it’s audience to think. If ever given the opportunity I would be most interested in seeing the original of this work. I have gained a lot of respect for not only the artistic integrity of this painting, but also for Pablo Picasso as an overall intuitive and creative person.