20 Feb 2011

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - My Top 10 Works of Art

Evening everyone, can't believe it's sunday evening *again*, how did that happen? This weekend has flown by even though I've not done much except chores, visit the mothership and eat. Hey ho, onwards and upwards (clicks neck boxer style) `bring it ON, monday`. However before we get to monday, perhaps you might like to see this week's top 10 list. I've gone for an art theme this time - and again as with poetry and love songs, I don't claim to have hugely original taste, but hopefully there will be something on here you've not see before. Anyhoo, let's get on with the show

1. Flaming June by Lord Leighton
This is, without doubt, one of my favourite paintings, ever! And I don't even like the colour orange. I've blogged about Leighton - and how you can visit his house - before, but this picture speaks for itself and no trite comments from me can really do it justice. However...all I can say is that there is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, I love the images in the background, I love the curve and heft of June's thigh. This painting is at once sensous and also, given that June is sleeping, seems oddly innocent, It's a painting I always find myself drawn to over the years. For proper info on the painting, click here

2. Guernica - Picasso
I'd never even heard of this painting before I read the book of the same name - and about the same incident - by Dave Boling. Both the book and the painting are incredibly moving and Picasso's talent at rendering the effect of war on innocent civilians seems to transcend his regular genius! The painting I believe, is now seen as a potent anti-war symbol and an `embodiment of peace`. Whatever you see when you look at it, I think that this painting changes your perception of war forever.

3. The Kiss - Klimt
There's lots of proper analysis of this painting online, but for me it perfectly embodies love and sex at the same time. I know that really the man + woman are wearing separate outfits but when you first look at the picture it seems as though they are wrapped up in an intricate blanket of gold. It is an incredibly intimate picture - I feel almost voyeuristic looking at it, so wrapped up are the couple. Oh, it's just so beautiful - and it's a visual representation of how I feel when I'm with husbando. PS Check out the link to wikipedia (above) for how this painting is also, apparently, a penis...

4. Four Darks in Red - Rothko
I never really `got` abstract art properly until I went to the Rothko exhibition at the Tate a few years ago. And then I fell head over heels in love with Rothko. Looking at one - or several - of his paintings at a time made me almost dizzy with colour. It sounds kinda weird but I wasn't sure if the paintings were inside or outside of me. The colour was so intense it felt three dimensional, the paintings seem to wrap themselves around you. Anyway...I've picked Four Darks in Red simply because the maroon hues felt so friendly and comforting to me, but really Rothko's works need to appreciated in bulk because that way you get their true, transcendent affect.

5. Girl With A Pearl Earring - Vermeer 
Not the most original choice, I give you that, but something about this painting just really gets to me. I love the expression on the girl's face - and the look in her eyes. I'm not sure it's as overtly sexy as the book/film would lead us to believe, there is something in her knowing gaze. Aside from the girl herself, what I also love about this picture is the light that plays across it even though the background is black. Where is the light source and why does it make the girl glow? Finally, the blue of her headscarf is just so beautiful.

6. Ophelia - Millais
I don't have anything big or clever to say about this painting, I just think the intricate detail of the riverbank and the use of colour makes it so very beautiful. Ophelia, as we know is, a character from Hamlet and her death is described by Queen Gertrude. Although the painting is almost photographic in its clarity, the patterns and colours used actually remind me of the clothing in Klimt's Kiss (above). What do you think?

7. The Scream - Munch
I'd like to quote Munch himself on the inspiration for this painting:
"I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Again this is another painting that means something different to every single person who sees it but I think we can all relate to that desire to suddenly stop in the middle of everything and just let out this scream. For me it would be a scream made up of equal parts terror, sorrow, anger and frustration. It is a scream of tiredness and also clearly a cry for help. I've read before that this painting is a visual representation of depression and mental health issues and certainly that chimes with my feelings about it.

This is a fabulous, all consuming painting, I feel like I am standing on the water's edge watching her pass by. Also I am assuming you're all familiar with the poem `Lady of Shalott` by Tennyson which is an awesome poem and one that nearly made it onto the poetry top 10. Anyway, the painting! Colour, shape, detail - it's all there. I used to have a big poster of this painting pinned up on my bedroom wall (around the same time as my River Phoenix RIP poster which I used to kiss goodnight....I *was* 14) and so the first thing I saw every morning when i woke up was the Lady of Shalott. Whenever I see this painting, it's like greeting an old friend.

I love Andy Warhol's pop art images - in particular the Campbell soup can work - but the Marilyn prints are the ultimate in pop art in my opinion. One of the worlds greatest cinematic actresses immortalised on canvas by the genius that is Warhol. I know that this print is everywhere - and so can get a little tired from time to time *but* it's rare that you actually get to see the diptych in its entirety - colour and black + white. I didn't realise that the images were created soon after Marilyn's death and so the idea that each side of the diptych represent both her life and her mortality is fascinating to me. Plus I've always had a bit of a girl crush on Ms. Monroe, so I'd love to own a copy of the diptych!

I thought I'd finish with a bit of sculpture and what better than a spot of erotic romance from Mr Rodin. It's such a lovely piece, the way they're entwined around each other. Apparently the piece was originally quite shocking for its representation of a woman being an active partner in the act of love - and no longer passive. I was also surprised to learn that the sculpture was also designed to be part of a larger work by Rodin entitled "The Gates of Hell" - in which our amorous couple are in the second circle representing a 13th century noble woman who falls in love with her husband's brother. Without knowing all the background history, this piece always makes me smile.

So that's it - that's my list! I hope you liked it and please do talk about your favourites in the comments section - I love to look at new pieces. Also thanks to the following tweeps, who kindly suggested + recommended their favourite works of art - if you don't follow these people - you should!


Hope you all have great weeks this week and I'll be back on Wednesday with WoTW!

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building


  1. Lots of romantic images there. Nice to see a few pre-Raphaelite paintings in the list. I think out of the pre-Raphaelite's my fave painting is Ford Madox Brown's "Work". http://fr.academic.ru/pictures/frwiki/70/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Work.jpg Probably a bit of an odd choice, considering that the movement was very romantic... whereas work isn't!

    I also love Pieter Breugel's "Hunter's in the snow" http://www.historyonthenet.com/Medieval_Life/images/huntersinthesnow.jpg

    I'm also a big fan of Arthur Rackham's illustrations. The only prints I've bought for my flat are two of his from Midsummer night's dream. I keep thinking a Rackham style tattoo would be great. :-)

    Gary (@ggnewed)

  2. IMy favorites tend to shift. when I was little, I liked that painting of some pre-Greek hero getting his liver torn out by an eagle (because he stole a book of matches from THE GODS) Jeeze, couldn't he a gone in some other bar and gotten all he wants? But that's art. Now I like Jon Miro. I like his doodles with attitude. They rock. thomas Eakins is poetic and visceral at the same time (The Gross clinic...etc) I like some of your choices too...the Vermeer and the Picasso. Inspirational topic. Makes ke want to go out and buy a pack of those fine tipped felt markers that immitate paint brushes and see what I can come up with myself. thought provoking as always.

  3. Great list. I must admit I'm not a fan of modern art. I love to look at pictures and see beautiful images - much like The Lady of Shalott and Ophelia - both of which would feature on my favourite list!

    One of my other favourite paintings is American Gothic by Grant Wood. I find it so evocative.

  4. I'm a Vermeer fan myself (Girl with a pearl earring, anyone?) but I love how you give us images with your explanations. Not such a fan of modern art but I can see why you like the paintings you have placed in your top 10 :)

  5. Gary - that's gorgeous and I am partial to a bit of Breugel also. I like that kind of late Medieval/early Rennaissance style!

    Will - I believe you are referring to Prometheus :)Yeah go create something + send us some links! Glad you liked my choices

    Rachel, I thought we'd have simillar tastes re: pre-raphelite stuff. If you come to London you MUST go to Leighton's house :) I do like that American Gothic picture too

    Dooba - thanks :) Vermeer is so lovely. I did realise when I started writing this that people weren't going to be criticising my choices per se, but it was more about why I liked them!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment - as ever :)

  6. Must have been so difficult to select your favourite Pre-Raphaelites! I think the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood consisted of only three artists - Holman Hunt, Rossetti and Millais. The amazing Edward Burne-Jones, and Waterhouse etc etc came a little later. There are so many wonderful paintings to choose from but I am glad Waterhouse features in your selection :-)

    Klimt is also wonderful in my book and if you love 'medieval' type paintings look at the 19th century French artist Gustave Moreau.

  7. Ooh, good subject. I enjoyed looking through your choices - they're not all to my taste but they're all striking. I'm a big Vermeer fan too. Some that I like:

    A Starry Night - Van Gogh

    Cheesy, but it's really striking. Of course I knew what it looked like before I saw the original (doesn't everyone?!), and it impressed me way more than I expected.

    The Unicorn in Captivity - mediaeval tapestry

    I like the colours and all the foliage and the composition.

    Comtesse d'Haussonville - Ingres

    This one stays with me mostly because I love this quote from the subject:
    "I was destined to beguile, to attract, to seduce, and in the final reckoning to cause suffering to all those who sought their happiness in me"

    For anyone who likes old master type paintings, if you're ever in NYC I highly recommend the Frick Museum, which has a great collection and is small enough to see in one visit without being overwhelmed.