Monday, November 28, 2011

Everything being derivative.

While working on my last painting I was wondering just how many references to the work of Hieronymus Bosch's art there must be in other artist's work - or how often other artists may have been inspired by a particular figure or composition based upon something Bosch painted, and set about to reinterpret it.  It seems to me I have recognized the influence of Bosch, and or Bruegel, in several works of other artists I admire.  In researching and studying works of a few contemporary artists, I've recognized identical images apparently lifted from one artist by another to be included in one of his own compositions.  For instance, I've recognized some of Magritte's work repeated in Michael Sowa's work.  Was it intentional?  My intuition tells me yes.  However, a painter may say it was unintended and any similarity accidental and quite unconscious.  To me that is like people telling you they never watch TV but know exactly what all the shows are about.  I may be wrong of course.

Anyway - I came across an interesting illustration of what I 'think' I'm talking about with the two photos in this post.  Perhaps it was unconscious and simply coincidence, but the two artists seem to compliment one another in their compositions... in other words, was John Nava inspired by Norman Rockwell?  I suppose I could find out if I inquired more deeply into his work, but I'd rather just speculate instead.

Sometimes painters and artists think they know something - be it intuitively or through education - and sometimes they think that other people's work actually 'speaks' to them...  Although that is perhaps an exaggeration, rather, a painting can be 'read' - and there is a way to read a painting - the influences of art history studies aside.  Copying or painting from an archetype, such as an icon, can teach a painter that.

Not long ago, a commenter on an earlier post said something about medieval piety and how the artists of those times - as well as inferring the ordinary people who sometimes populate their paintings - could not be as debased and disturbed as they say the modern abstract impressionist of the 20th -21st centuries are.  Yet that is simply fallacious - for people were as corrupt and debased then as they are now.  I think we delude ourselves believing otherwise.  The Low Country artists pretty much prove that - as do the medieval penitents.

I may be wrong of course.

Top - Norman Rockwell
Bottom - Los Angeles Cathedral Tapestry, John Nava 


  1. Heck, you ever read about Caravaggio's life?

    Then again, I think what is so much more debased about a lot of modern artists is not so much their lifestyle, but the intellectual justifications they give.

    Caravaggio may have been a murderer who caroused with prostitutes and pederasts, but I don't think he'd try to claim that was "noble" or "sublime" in any way.

    People like Gaga are praised, and expect to be praised, BECAUSE of their debauchery, not despite it.

    Oh, and speaking of medieval penients, those penitential books also prescribed heavy penances for the "grave sins" of sex during pregnancy and after childbearing years, so do you think there were people doing penance for "sins" that weren't sins at all?

    Sorry, can't help myself :(

  2. Oh, and I might as well say it here:

    I've been thinking, about the "donate buttons" - there really are people out there, Catholic bloggers, some are even regulars 'round these parts, who are in very dire financial straits indeed.

    I know of some who have lost their homes, jobs, etc. They don't advertise this on their blogs usually, but a few have told me privately.

    So could it be that for many folks, the "donate" button is really about alms, saying "hey if you like what I write, please help me out because I am in need?"

    Sure, some people enrich themselves, and seem to do so quite publicly, but I'm not so sure about everyone. Sometimes contributing might mean that the person's family can pay a bill or something.

  3. Buskin’ bloggers! :)

    I feel sorry for anyone wanting to earn a crust from blogging. It can’t be easy. Better opportunities on Ebay and Amazon.

    Bad artists copy. Good artists steal. (Pablo Picasso)

  4. Have you seen the movie "The Mill and the Cross"?
    A Bruegel painting comes to life. The only characters who speak is the artist and his patron ( and you can hear the thoughts of the Blessed Virgin), all the rest is visual.
    I thought about this movie for days after seeing it.

  5. Medieval piety - heh.

    I went to a Rockwell exhibit once and you know that painting "The Babysitter" where the kid is all red-faced and the exasperated young babysitter can't seem to get him to calm down? The babe Rockwell was using as a model was there with his mom and they couldn't get him to cry. They gave him candy, took it away, yelled at him, whatever. He was just a precious, good baby. So Rockwell eventually said, "I'm sorry, but we just can't use your baby." The mom would have none of that, and grabbed a DIAPER PIN AND STABBED THE BABY IN THE LEG!!!!!!!!!111111111eleventy!!!!!
    THAT is why that babe's face is so pained and awful!

    And Rockwell took the diaper pin and actually stuck it in the canvas - that's not a painted pin in the pic.

    In classical music, one hears homages all the time. One example offhand a few notes of the Hallelujah Chorus in a Mozart Mass - which one I cannot recall right now. Coronation, maybe...anyway.


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