This month is Disability Pride Month so we’re taking a look at one of the most prolific disabled women to date and her revolutionary lasting impact on society today. From queer feminist icon to Mexican fashionista - Frida Kahlo has become a household name and here’s why.
Visual & Decorative Arts Blog
This week marked the long awaited re-opening of museums and art galleries throughout the UK. We can finally indulge in some wonderful art culture again so here’s a list of ten of the top UK exhibitions this year. Grab your tickets quick, we suspect they’ll be in high demand!
William Blake (1757 – 1827) was an English printmaker, painter and poet. Since early childhood, Blake had wanted to be an artist. From the age of around ten years old, his parents enrolled him at Henry Pars’ Drawing School. While now considered a central figure in the history of English poetry and the Romantic movement, he was not hugely recognised during his life.
One of only 35 girls to join some 2,000 boys at the national prep school in Mexico City, Frida Kahlo had dreams of becoming a doctor. In 1922, while at this school, Frida would come across a rather rotund painter doing some work in the school’s auditorium. Diego Rivera recounts, in his autobiography, remembering this young girl teasing him while he worked until she stopped and just watched.
Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) was born to Clovis Gauguin (1814–51) and Alina Maria Chazal (1825–67) inParis. A man driven by his own desire above anything else, Gauguin is a celebrated artist with a story that now warrants people questioning his work. He would come to be defined by his travels and work in what he termed ‘primitive’ cultures, but from an early age this travelling was a central part of his life.
Heath Robinson is a name synonymous with humorously complicated machines and inventions. Similar to the American Rube Goldberg, Robinson’s name became shorthand for these bizarre contraptions but differing in that they were generally not single use inventions like Goldberg’s. While these were central to his fame and success they were not the only illustrations he did and we thought we should take a look at some of his other beautiful work.
The Art Deco movement came to fruition in the early 1900s. In 1925 the Exposition Internationale, which focused on Art Deco design then called Moderne, opened for a six-month run that garnered over sixteen million visitors. The United States did not exhibit at the show because, according to then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover (1874–1964), they did not have a sufficient collection of modern products to display. The United States did, however, attend the show. They sent over eighty delegates who were captivated by the designs they saw. It fell in sync with American optimism and American wealth and would come to heavily shape the style we now associate with classic Americana. They didn’t just replicate the art deco style but developed it in to something that was specific to American design.
Egon Schiele (1890-1918) made no attempt to hide his desire to befriend Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). His admiration for Klimt, the star of the Viennese art circle, grew from his domination of the avant garde art scene in the early 20th century. In 1907 he became determined to meet Klimt. He had heard that Klimt had his own admiration for those who sought to be successful.
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) is hailed as one of the greatest portrait painters of his era. He is famed for his portraiture of aristocratic subjects and these have been compared with the work of painters like Velázquez (1599–1660) and Van Dyck (1599–1641) for their theatrical quality. Portraits are probably what he is most known for, but Sargent painted many subjects with many mediums. In this week’s blog we will be exploring some of these other avenues and looking at the many sides of John Singer Sargent.
Image Courtesy of Boston Library
Based on the character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia (1851–52) by Sir John Everett Millais (1829–96) exemplifies many of the values upheld by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Millais, along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, formed the group in 1848 and propounded artistic principles that took their influence from the ideas of John Ruskin. The Pre-Raphaelites favoured vivid colour and detail, with a focus on and accurate depiction of nature. This piece, in all its haunting serenity, depicts the moments surrounding Ophelia’s death. The plants, among which Ophelia is shown held afloat, are loaded with symbolism and refer directly to the lines uttered by Queen Gertrude in the play. The Queen announces the news to Ophelia’s brother through an immensely poetic speech (Act 4 Scene vii), which effectively transforms Ophelia’s death into a scene of ethereal beauty. So vivid is the description that it seems already to describe a painting of the tragic event, and it has as such served as inspiration for several artworks, not just by Millais but also by John William Waterhouse, Arthur Hughes and Alexandre Cabanel.