of Narcissus – Salvador Dali
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.