Saturday 28 June 2014

Work of Art Redux (3) - Live! CalArts (Coursera)

Here is the third required assignment from the course Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers by California Institute of the Arts aka CalArts on Coursera (MOOC), which had been ended last month. The course was about 9-weeks long and taught by amazing Jeannene Przyblyski.

For more information about the course, check out:

Required Assignment 3: Work of Art Redux

We’ve done a bit of research and have identified at least thirty artists who created work based on Velazquez’s Las Meninas. See here for a short list.

Choose one of those works, and write a 300-600 word essay that compares that derivative (or iterative) version to Velázquez's original work. For example, you could choose a single work from Picasso's series of paintings on Las Meninas, or any other work from the list above.

In writing the essay, consider the degree in which the second work:

  • shifted away from the original, either formally (visually) or conceptually
  • and expanded your understanding of the original, if at all.

Las Meninas (1957) by Pablo Picasso 

Las Meninas (1957)

painted by Pablo Picasso

Many of the great artists attempted in their own style, on Las Meninas, a master-piece painting by Diego Velázquez. After three centuries later, Picasso, one of the many artists who was inspired by the famous Spanish baroque painter, Velázquez, painted a series of 58 painting on Las Meninas in 1957.

Picasso was experimenting his style and reinterpreting Las Meninas in his way. One of the first painting in the series which he started with, also my subject of an essay, was almost similar in terms of important elements which were seen in the original painting. The major difference which we can see visually is the style, as Picasso transferred it into cubism. Using the original painting as a base, he started reinterpreting the painting and making it as his own original work.

Picasso's version of Las Meninas, makes the focus point to Infanta Margarita and the kneeled maid of honour, who seen serving the drink. He captures the face of Infanta as it was in the original, looking at the window as well as attending to her parents who are in front of her. Telling the same tale but she might be someone from his past, might be her dead sister, who died at the age of 7 and wanted her to be alive with his legacy. As for kneeled maid, she is the most detailed figure in his painting. She might be Jacqueline Roque, who was his last companion whom he married later in 1960's. For the another maid on the other side of Infanta with a deformed face might be also someone from his life as it was Picasso's personal Las Meninas.

Picasso seems less interested in other characters as it was seen in the original painting. The dog and the kid has been left as a simple outline and the dwarf figure seems to have a hat on her. The priest and nun has been pushed back towards the window becoming one of his compositional element. As for queen’s chamberlain, the black silhouette in the back, seems to be flipped, which helps us to see major characters well. The mirror which was reflecting the image of King Phillip IV and his queen Mariana seems to be blurry with least details. The only thing which is more visible in that frame is the anchor on King Phillip IV face. That might related to Christianity or maybe he just making the whole regime of King Philip IV described through an anchor.

The last remaining figure, which is of Velázquez himself, painted holding the colour palette, which in Picasso's version he was made as a tallest figure, almost touching the roof showing his dominance in the painting. The Cross of Saint James of the Order of Santiago which is painted on the chest can also been seen in his version. He gave Velázquez two faces, one profile and one facing towards us. It seems to me that Picasso made Velázquez looking himself, as he is pleased with the complexity and enigmatic composition which he has given in his master-piece.

Being as a first painting in his series of Las Meninas, we can see the transformation from Velázquez painting to Picasso cubism painting with the mixture of different elements, which meant in Picasso's life. The influence of Velázquez's Las Meninas on Picasso was from very early on. It was only later in his life that he re-visits it and reinterprets it. Picasso's version of Las Meninas is a kind of homage to the great Spanish master, Diego Velázquez.

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