The Painting featured here is “Summer Evenings” by Edward Hopper. He painted this eerie, urban-isolationism image in 1947. This American Artist wanted to reveal the lonely quality and hopeless mood through the bright, sterile light. Instead of an intimate scene, the harsh light reveals a woman (whose clothing mirrors the curtains in the door) turned away from an equally mysterious man. Hopper is known for his desolate urban scenes, especially “Nighthawks”, and his clean lines. However, instead of feeling like this interaction is occurring in a large city, the porch gives this image a distinctly youthful and country feeling. Who knows, the couple may be getting back together instead of pulling slowly apart. The title given to this painting by Rad (“We’re up all night to get lucky”) certainly suggests this, albeit with a sexual tone.
I’ll admit that when I saw this shirt, I burst out laughing because the combination of high Renaissance art and trashy pop culture saying is genuinely hilarious. This juxtaposition works so well because the image on the background is so….terrifying and horrible, yet completely mesmerizing. Although I combed Google pretty thoroughly, I could not find the painting to which this small close-up belongs to. However, I am 100% sure that is the work of Bosch, or perhaps a strict follower of him. This work is Northern Renaissance because it contains grotesque figures, a not ideal setting by any means, and it shows humans are weak, pathetic, and sinful (as opposed to the Italians’ ideal way of depicting the body). This work was made in the early 1500s; I assume this because Bosch’s most famous work, the “Garden of Earthly Delights”, was completed in 1505. It now stands majestically in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. I think that Bosch would approve of the saying on the shirt because he often painted fiery hells and horrific creatures in his works.
This image particularly resonates with me because I saw the Sistine Chapel around three years ago on one steamy July day in Rome. “The Creation of Adam” is just one of several stunning panels that were painstakingly executed by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Along with the central panels, Michelangelo also painted the Last Judgment (a terrifying work depicting Jesus as an angry, unforgiving ruler). This work is the absolute epitome of the high Italian Renaissance because it has idealized bodies (look at Adam’s abs), neo-platonic shapes (i.e. circle, square), and strict geometry. There is a clear light source surrounding God as well as perspective and beauty. The Sistine Chapel artwork was commissioned by the Warrior Pope, Julius II, although Michelangelo purportedly hated the job. He was a professed sculptor, not a painter after all. The central panels in the Chapel are surrounded by 12 outer paintings that depict prophets and sibyls. The wordage on this shirt (“I am a God”) is particularly fitting because Adam was created in the likeness of God. Do you see Eve’s head peaking out from underneath God’s muscular arm?
This painting, “Nighthawks,” was created by Edward Hopper in 1942. Like the first painting analyzed by him, this one depicts urban isolationism, a realistic setting, and an eerily cast light. To emphasize the loneliness the characters are feeling, Hopper has not painted a door or other entry into the bar; the viewers are physically “shut out” as well. The male and female are turned away from each other, and the street outside is deserted; it even feels silent.
Enter the crazy world of Surrrealism. This amazing image, “Les Amants”, by was painted by René Magritte in 1928. Magritte was a Frenchman who painted other surreal images such as “The Treachery of Images (This is not a Pipe)”, “The Son of Man”, and “The Human Condition” (personally, my favorite of all his works). The Surrealists were obsessed with the bizarre and objects that were juxtaposed against one another. It certainly is disturbing that these so-called “lovers” (what “Les Amants” means in English) are draped in an off-white cloth. They cannot see or likely hear each other, yet the perverse love still prevails. It is also of note that the background is devoid of other superfluous characters. The lovers dominate the foreground, treating the viewer to a visual and mental quagmire. I researched this painting online, and Magritte’s inspiration for the covered heads was also quite unsettling. His mother committed suicide in the Sambre River (in Northern France), and when her body was discovered, her head was covered in a dress/shroud. Creepy. I appreciate the saying on the shirt though (“Looks Like All We’ve Got is Each Other) because it is witty (the couple cannot see) but half-true (they are alone in the realistic/lush landscape).
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Artist who was a vital cog in the Vienna Secession Art movement of the early 1900s. He is most famous for his “Golden Period” in which he covered his stylized and decorative paintings with iridescent gold leaf. The painting shown here is “The Kiss,” which was completed in 1908. It now hangs in a museum in Vienna. Although this image is supposed to be tender and intimate, I view it as more threatening. I only suspect this because the male is literally crushing the female and lifting up her neck forcibly into an uncomfortable position. They are also at the glittering and luscious edge of a precipice, as if they are about to fall into a chasm. To be honest, I do not understand the “UHUH HONEY” saying, although the use of the word “Honey” connotes affection and desire. See my video on Klimt’s “Sunflower” here.
Because I have neglected to discuss this important art style, I will now delve into the world of Rococo (cue Arcade Fire’s song about Rococo now). Rococo developed in the early 18th century and was favored by the wealthy and frivolous elite of France. However, this brief movement was killed by the peasant-led French Revolution which denounced the caprices of the aristocrats. However, while they were still ignorantly blissful, the Rococo artists did produce some interesting pieces. The most famous artist was Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a hedonist who lived and died near Paris. The work on the shirt, “The Swing”, was painted in 1767 by the young artist. Most Rococo paintings tend to have pastel colors, the extravagances of the elite, erotic undertones, feathery brushstrokes, and the idea of humans dwarfed by nature. The most famous example of this last guideline is “The Embarkation for Cythera” that was made by Watteau around 1717. The frivolity drips from the image, and it’s easy to see how the plebian masses of France were unhappy with this art while they were starving and freezing every day. As for “The Swing,” it depicts a lush environment in which a girl is letting her lover (a boy in the left-hand corner hiding in the bushes) look up her skirt. Her delicate little slipper flying (“So Fly”) into the air also suggests an air of playfulness and eroticism.
This image is the “Arnolfini Wedding” that was painted by the prolific artist Jan van Eyck in 1434. Van Eyck was a Flemish painter who mostly worked in Bruges (a city in modern day Belgium). The image currently hangs in the National Gallery in London, England. What makes this painting so interesting is the use of symbolism (a hallmark of the Northern Renaissance style). For example, the shoes in corner signify holy ground, the large chandelier at the top represents the omniscient Eye of God, and the elaborate costumes mean that the patrons of the artwork (the Arnolfini’s) are wealthy. Giovanni Arnofini was actually a Medici banker that worked in the North, and the open window on the left side reflects his active life in commerce. By contrast, his wife, Giovanna Cenami, is banished to the domestic realm (i.e. the cleaning materials on the right). The interesting aspect of this painting is the mirror hanging silently in the background; there is a reflection in it, perhaps that of van Eyck himself. I love the text on the shirt (“Say You’ll Never Let Me Go”) because it reflects perfectly the presumed wedding or engagement that is occurring. However, instead of being romantic, I think the words have a creepier, stalker vibe.