Piece: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Artist: Pablo Picasso
About: Perhaps the most famous example of cubism painting, dating back to 1907. All background detail has been removed to ensure nothing interferes with the impact of the subject, five naked women. In fact, it’s only through the name of the painting that we know it’s setting (on a street famous for its brothel in Barcelona). It’s a huge piece, eschewing traditional form and composition, instead favouring geometrical shapes to make up African masks.
Piece: The Starry Night
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
About: Beautiful swirls and an intense colour palette have ensured this painting is famous across the globe. Van Gogh painted the scene from his window at Saint-Paul asylum, but you wouldn’t recognise the view; the village was invented to frame the scene and provide some (much needed) order for the swirling expression above. Gogh preferred the night as it was “much more alive and richly coloured than the day.”
Piece: The Dream
Artist: Henri Rousseau
About: This was Rousseau’s first painting to receive acclaim, but he didn’t have long to glory in it, as he passed a few months later. Rousseau wasn’t burdened by an understanding of art theory and he developed his own unique look, featuring highly stylised jungle scenes. Rousseau wrote a poem to accompany the piece, but it didn’t add much for me.
Piece: The Lovers
Artist: Reni Magritte
About: This surrealist painting is almost as iconic as Dali’s clocks. Magritte has emulated the cinematic hero/heroine kiss, but he subverts the form by shrouding their entire faces with cloth. Frustrated desires are a common theme in his work, and the fabric barrier here is a perfect example.
Piece: Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
Artist: Johannes Vermeer
About: This one features on the front cover of my Gombrich’s Story of Art book, so it has been top of mind throughout this whole challenge. Vermeer aimed to paint the ideal woman, in an ideal home. The image is one of harmony, with balanced shapes and colours. It dates back to 1660 and is painted in oil on canvas.
Piece: Campbell’s Soup Cans
Artist: Andy Warhol
About: When first exhibited, Warhol’s 32 soup cans were placed onto shelves installed into the gallery to look like a supermarket. Each one shows of a type of soup Campbell’s was making at the time. Warhol was positive about modern life, and whilst some people read it as a celebration (or even a slight) on consumerism, it’s not generally considered as one. In fact, people close to him state it was simply a product close to his heart.