Oh, how I love gigantic paintings! At more than 12 by 16 feet, The Death of Sardanapalus does not disappoint. The work itself is based on the historical tale of the last Assyrian king, Sardanapalus. According to legend, upon hearing the news of invaders in his capital city, the King decided that he would destroy his Earthly possessions instead of facing a humiliating defeat. Not only were his possessions burned, but so were his slaves and concubines as well. Sardanapalus knew that he would place himself upon the funerary pyre upon its completion.
Delacroix depicted this tale in its final moments. He captured as much destruction and chaos as possible, which is characteristic of the Romanticism style that this work was painted in. Beyond the pandemonium pictured, we see the main action of the painting taking place atop a large red bed. Figures are depicted in various disarray. One man wrangles one of the horses, while another lies at the foot of who we assume to be Sardanapalus. Trinkets surround the figures, indicating the wealth of Sardanapalus.
When Delacroix first exhibited The Death of Sardanapalus in 1828, the reviews were not stellar. This was primarily due to the fact that it wasn’t a traditional neoclassical painting with a clear hero. In fact, this work was quite literally the opposite with Sardanapalus playing the role of the anti-hero.
Several summers ago when I was in Amsterdam I found myself dashing into the nearest museum in order to escape an approaching thunderstorm. Luckily for me, the closest museum was the Van Gogh Museum! We spent what seemed like hours touring the floors of the museum, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to this sunflower painting in particular. Of course, the museum was filled with so many other masterpieces by Van Gogh, but I felt as if this one was most characteristic of Van Gogh’s work.
Van Gogh created several similar works in his Sunflowers series, and had intended to give them as gifts to Paul Gauguin. In total, 12 paintings were created for this series which were painted from 1887-1889. Due to the discovery of new yellow pigments during the 19th century, Van Gogh was able to create vivacious yellow hued flowers, like the ones we see here.
These sunflowers, along with his self portraits, helped define his characteristic style of bold and dramatic brushstrokes. It is quite uncommon for exhibitions featuring Van Gogh to not include at least one of his works from his Sunflower series.
Over this past summer I took a writing intensive course for my degree about chess. The class culminated in a long research paper comparing and contrasting chess to something else. For my essay, I chose to write about chess and art. Long story short, I used Surat’s oil painting to help convey the similarities between art and chess – perks of going to a liberal arts school!
Anyways, on to the art we go! This work is Surat’s largest and most famous work of art, and one of the best examples of pointillism technique. The work itself depicts a relaxing afternoon on an island on the outskirts of Paris.
Seurat spent many afternoons sitting and drawing in the park to perfect the form of his figures. At first glance we see a variety of individuals relaxing. To the right, a couple is on a leisurely stroll. To the left, we see a woman fishing, as well as people sailing along the Seine River. With further inspection, however, the viewer is able to see that not everything is as it seems in the painting. The woman who appeared at first glance to be on a leisurely walk with her husband is actually walking a monkey. It was uncommon for women of this time to go fishing, so the woman depicted fishing was possibly an euphemism for prositution. A young girl in a white dress stands in the center of the work. She is asking possibly the viewers what will become of the individuals, and the class of people who are represented in this image.
Seurat was highly influenced by scientific studies of color theory and in particular by the work of Michel-Eugène Chevreul. Together with several other artists, Seurat developed the technique of pointillism. Pointillism breaks down colors into their respective hues in order to simulate natural light in the eye of the viewer. This is the technique that Seurat used in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Pointillism makes Seurat’s work particularly interesting because of how he was able to manipulate color and light.
In most paintings shadows are depicted by using black, however this is not the case with Seurat’s work. Seurat was instead able to trick the viewers eye into thinking that it was viewing shadows by defining these darker areas with the colors that they come into contact with instead of a solid black.
Lauren is lucky enough to live surrounded by her families 100 year old farm. And I was even luckier to get the grand tour of it while taking her senior photos. Sprawled around the farm were several barns, gorgeous homes, and so much history. I loved being able to see the gorgeous country landscape, as well as meeting Lauren – who is planning to go to dental school post high school! So fun! Good luck in all of your future endeavors!