note to self:
Michaël Borremans - Red Hand, Green Hand (2010)
I only started painting at the age of thirty but I have always worked with images. It was simply the way it was, I never asked any questions. Everything starts with the imagination. I could also have been a writer, I can also work with language, but I never applied myself. I drew. With a pencil and a sheet of paper you can evoke a suggestion you could not express in language.
Mathias Gothards Neithardt Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece, 1515, oil on canvas.
The Isenheim altarpiece was commissioned for an Antonite hospital. Hospitals at this time were where people came to die, not to get better. In this particular period, a disease called St. Anthony’s fire was quite common and many of the sufferers in this hospital died from it. It began with boils breaking out on the skin that made you feel like you were on fire, and the monks caring for the sick would amputate sick and dying body parts until you finally died.
It was horrific.
It seems appropriate then, that the altarpiece that these dying souls would approach to take the Eucharist, is also gruesome. Christ’s body on the cross is mangled, destroyed. Blood drips from where the crown of thorns has been screwed into his temples. As you get closer, you can see the tiny lacerations from where he was scourged. His hands and feet are distorted with pain, and the whole weight of his body pulls at the nails in his hands.
The message was intentional—what you are suffering should make you consider the pain that Christ has suffered. In this hospital setting, there were only two forms of freedom—death, or a miracle. St. Sebastian and St. Anthony flank the crucifixion scene. St. Anthony was the patron saint of the hospital, and St. Sebastian who was miraculously healed. As one who was afflicted, you were encouraged to pray to St. Sebastian for a miracle. But you were also encouraged to come to Christ, to understand his suffering, so that if you were not healed that you could at least go to heaven when you died.
It was a very dark place to live, and I’m sure a dark place to die.
Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965
One of the artist’s most famous performances, Beuys covered his head first with honey, and then with fifty dollars worth of gold leaf. He cradles a dead hare in his arms, and strapped an iron plate to the bottom of his right shoe. Viewed from behind glass in the gallery, the audience could see Beuys walking from drawing to drawing, quietly whispering in the dead rabbit’s ear. As he walked around the room, the silence was pierced by intermittent sound of his footsteps; the loud crack of the iron on the floor, and the soundless whisper of the sole of shoe. (via)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-95
- What movement does this work fit into?
- Why does perspective play an important role in Toulouse-Lautrec’s work?
- What type of women did Toulouse-Lautrec most often paint? Why?
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907