Monday, May 25, 2015

Classical Inspiration from Abstract Art

We've just returned from an wonderfully inspirational trip to Barcelona, Madrid and Seville where we were enthralled by the history, antiquities and amazing artwork.

Each city had it's own artists who inspired, but we spent most of our time with Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, Gaudi, Sorolla and Picasso. Quite an eclectic group!

The Communion, Picasso 1896 (age 15!)
As a representational painter, Picasso's Cubism is not my "thing." Happily, the Museo Picasso in Barcelona focuses primarily on Picasso's early work: his beautiful, sensitive realism, and his mastery is obvious. Picasso entered the Royal Academy of Art in Barcelona at 15. The Communion is an example of the fine, classical paintings he created in his teens! You can see more examples here.

What really impressed me was Picasso's dedication. There are many, small studies like the ones below, showing how he practiced and worked out color and composition. I wish had been able to photograph the full array of studies because the volume of work is impressive and shows a deep commitment.
plein air studies by Pablo Picasso, early 1900s
Of course, an artist's commitment to painting many studies shouldn't be surprising. After all, musicians practice scales, dancers exercise at the barre, golfers putt... or, ...whatever. You get the point.

Yet, many painters expect to create a "work of art" each time they pick up a brush. But what we really need to do is practice more. And explore and experiment with abandon. Without expectations.
Goals are great.
Expectations can bring disappointment.

For his own exploration and experimentation, Picasso embarked on a series of works based on Velázquez's iconic Las Meninas, working to convey the contradictory feelings and perplexed expression of the young Infanta Margarita. Picasso interpreted Las Meninas in 45 paintings.

He wasn't pandering to a current trend (like recent, ubiquitous cupcake paintings); he was experimenting and exploring to create the effect he desired. As a graphic artist I can sort of relate - how do you know you have the best font until you've tried... oh so many!

You can read a bit about Picasso's series Las Meninas here and Velázquez' masterwork here.
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez 1656
This is Diego Velázquez's original Las Meninas painted in 1656. There is a lot to say about this painting, but in a nutshell, he portrays the artist at his easel, the king and queen in a mirror, the Infanta Margarita with her maids in waiting... and her dog, and dwarf...

Velázquez captures the Infanta's conflicting desire to explore and behave regally. Even a five year old knows when to act like a princess! But, her attention is torn between so many areas of interest. She's a child.

Picasso, 300 years later, created his 45 painting series interpreting the scene of Velasquez' Las Meninas.

The painting at the left, in particular, shows the Infanta's distraction and indecision.

Pablo Picasso 1957
All of the works in this group were painted in 1957 and all are at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Seeing them together reinforces Picasso's dedication to exploring this subject.

As I mentioned, Cubism is not exactly my thing. But it's fascinating that Picasso was a classically trained and accomplished representational painter before he ventured into abstraction. It's also interesting to see the lengths he went to, with studies and repeated subjects, to perfect his works and reach his vision.

Pablo Picasso famously said, "Inspiration exists but it must find you working." He lived that belief.

There are no shortcuts!

Pablo Picasso 1957

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you!