Duchamp, Big Wheel – Sculpture

With the production of the first of his Bicycle Wheel collection in 1913, the great designer Marcel Duchamp

may very well have been one of the earliest artists to achieve widespread fame and success in the world of modern art.

Description

First unveiled in 1913, Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel was designed with the specific intent so common among the works of the great modern artists: to challenge what is really art.

While some people, including a narrator from one of Kurt Vonnegut’s stories, consider modern art to be little more than “meaningless pictures … entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid,” there is much more to Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel than simply this.

Unfortunately, the 1913 original has been lost to time and dust, leaving us with only Duchamp’s third iteration of the sculpture, which he produced in 1951. This version appears to be a simple bicycle wheel attached to a stool.

Is This Even Art?

In many ways, that’s all it is, all it was, and all it ever will be, but does that mean that it is not art? This is the exact question that modern artists of the late 1800s to mid 1900s sought to impress into the minds of their viewers, making Duchamp successful if nothing else.

The question of what art truly is or can be is at the core of every modern art exhibit. From bicycle wheels fixed to steels to literal garbage cans full of paper, modern artists consistently challenge contemporary definitions of art.

If you’re looking for more of a story behind the art then this, you’re simply looking in the wrong place. The primary purpose of modern art is to unsettle, to dethrone the popular understanding of art, and send ripples through the cultural world.

In that case, if art exists to challenge conceptions and to cause people to think and come to a better understanding of their existence, then yes, this is art. But then again, the modern artist might ask, “Is that really the definition of art?”

The Readymades

Bicycle Wheel (1913) and all the subsequent editions of that design were part of what Duchamp referred to as his Readymades.

This collection featured many different works, all of which are bound by the common theme of comprising ordinary household objects modified in minor ways.

These designs were intended to challenge retinal art, another popular style of Duchamp’s days. I

More from the Readymades

While the Bicycle Wheel was the first, it was far from the last and perhaps not even the strangest of the Readymades.

The L.H.O.O.Q. was essentially a simple photo of the Mona Lisa with facial hair drawn on. The title was a phonetic play on words in the original French, the translation of which reads, “She has a hot ass.”

Conclusion

There are plenty more Readymades out there if you are looking to broaden your understanding of French modern art from the early-to-mid 1900s.Like the rest of us, begin first with the Bicycle Wheel series and then expand into the world of constant existential dread, not knowing if anything really means anything.

Laocoön and His Sons – Sculpture

The sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons depicts a most violent scene as Laocoön fights to save his sons from giant snakes, constricting their bodies and ripping at their flesh.

As one son breaks away from the snakes, he can be seen looking back, watching his father and brother be killed.

Sculpted Death

This marble sculpture bears the hallmarks of Ancient Roman design. The sculpture comprises seven marble segments brought together to form one eight-foot-tall hulking representation of the brutality of the Gods.

The sculpture was designed sometime between 42 and 20 BCE by a team of three sculpters: Hagesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus. Although it is believed that this is a Roman original, there exists evidence that it was merely a copy of an original Greek piece.

The key evidence for this claim is that all three of the sculptors to whom the credit is attributed were known copyists, specializing in Greek sculpting.

It is now on display in the Vatican Museum and has been since 2006.

The Vengeful Gods

The story behind Laocoön and his Sons comes from a portion of the Aeneid in which Laocoön attempts to warn the Trojan leaders of the deceit of the Greeks during the legendary siege; but, as he makes his way to meet with them, Athena takes the moment to strike.

Acting on behalf of the Greek forces, Athena sicced two mythical sea serpents, Porces and Chariboea, on Laocoön and his sons. The snakes dug their fangs into their flesh and crushed their bones via construction, although one of the boys (seen on the right) seems to be breaking away.

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum showcases a wide variety of art from Pagan cultures to polytheistic pantheons, most of which centered around the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, as these two cultures contributed significantly to the evolution of modern Christianity.

Among the other sculptures from antiquity on display in the Vatican is Apollo Belvedere. Apollo Belvedere depicts an idyllic male body, standard for Greek and Roman design, surveying the distance, a sense of pride and confidence exuding from his outstretched arm.

Apollo Belvedere was actually the first addition to the Vatican’s art displays, well before even the foundation of the Vatican Museums.

More from the Great Copyists

There is evidence supporting the theory, which is somewhat of a conspiracy theory, that Hagesander (a.k.a., Agesander) was actually a group of various people. While this, like the similar claim made for Shakespeare, holds no water, there may have been multiple relatives in Agesander’s family bearing the same name.

Agesander worked closely with the other two sculptors with whom he created Laocoön, producing such works as many of the sculptures discovered in Sperlonga, a few pieces on display in the Vatican Museums, as well as of course Laocoön and his Sons.

Conclusion

Conspiracies aside, there is one thing that most historians tend to agree upon in regard to Laocoön and his sons: that, together, Hagesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus created a masterpiece of baroque, Hellenistic artwork, whether they copied it or not.

Defying Gravity: Aerial Dance

One of the things that separates modern dance from traditional dance is its willingness to experiment with new ways to present the human body in motion.

Aerial dance, which is a sub-genre of modern dance that emerged in the late 1960s, is one of the most novel forms of modern dance because its gravity-defying techniques allow the dancer to experiment with the fluidity that comes from floating in the air.

Aerial dance usually utilizes some kind of apparatus attached to the ceiling by which the suspended dancer can execute a number of maneuvers in three dimensions at once. The result is a stunning combination of dance and acrobatics that is always breathtakingly unique and stunningly close to flying.

The Early Origins of Aerial Dance

Dance historian Selby Schwartz has written that what would become aerial dance began the moment when women started dancing on pointe in the 19th century. It was at this time that “the quality of lightness” became an important feature in dance, marrying dancerly ideals of artistic motion with “19th-century moral values of femininity” like “grace, purity, and a denial of the body’s messy materiality.” When modern dance emerged in the early 20th century, one of the traditional dance values it attacked was this idea that dancers must be light and airy. This is why so many early forms of modern dance focus on the necessity of touching the floor with one’s feet and body in order to be grounded in the dance.

It was only in the 1960s and 1970s that modern dancers began to experiment with lightness again, most notably Alwin Nikolais and Trisha Brown who “started staging dances on rooftops and rigging their dancers up in harnesses and ropes.” Since then, modern aerial dancers have been looking for new and innovative ways to use apparatuses like aerial silks, hoops, tissue wraps, hammocks, nets, trapeze equipment, and much more to experiment with different ways of presenting choreography in the air.

Aerial Dance: Vertical vs. Floor-Inclusive

Most aerial dance follows two tendencies. The vertical tendency is what is most commonly associated with aerial dance. It involves a dancer being suspended by means of a cable or harness in order to explore the different possibilities for new kinds of movement provided by weightlessness. It is often assumed that this style of aerial dance is primarily trick-based instead of dance-based, but this is a common misconception that likely has to do with how often vertical aerial dance is used in circus performances like those made famous by Cirque du Soleil.

The second tendency involves combining aerial apparatuses with more traditional contemporary dance on the ground or floor. In such floor-inclusive aerial dance, the two spatial levels come together to express the juxtaposition between both types of movement. Many dancers who use aerial dance in this floor-inclusive way believe that by combining both levels, they can distance themselves from the circus-like assumptions made about aerial dance in order to present something that better meshes with tendencies in contemporary dance. 

Aerial Dance Today

Today, aerial dance is popular not just with modern and contemporary dancers but also with circus performers, gymnasts, acrobats, and fitness buffs looking for a unique workout. Troupes like Zaccho Dance Theatre and Blue Lapis Light have even done site-specific aerial dance performances in places like the roofs of tall buildings, over the edges of bridges, and along the cliffs of deep canyons. There are also annual gatherings and workshops for aerial dancers in numerous world cities including Boulder, CO in the US, Brittany in France, Brighton in England, and County Donegal in Ireland. The San Francisco Bay Area is also known as a place where aerial dance has traditionally been popular and as a result, many aerial dance classes are offered there. 

Big Sounds, High Energy: Swing Dance

The free-flowing style of swing dancing provides excitement, entertainment

and a whole lot of movement that sparked a 20th century dance and musical renaissance. 

The Birth of Swing

Popular dancing in the live music club scene of the early 1920s was very evolutionary. Dancers would feel the music and begin to create their own styles of dance. In the early 20s, the earliest form of swing known as the Lindy Hop was born. It combines movement and steps from several different dances such as the Charleston, and the Breakaway. But very much like mixing chemicals in a laboratory, the clubs with live bands and plenty of dancing created an opportunity for these new dances to evolve. When the Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926 in New York City, it was considered “the world’s most beautiful ballroom” and brought the best dancers in the city to show their stuff. The Savoy hosted dance competitions and drew a great deal of attention. Today, the Savoy is remembered as a landmark across the world for its contributions to the music of the 20th century. 

Learning to Swing Dance

Those interested in learning to swing dance definitely have their work cut out for them. There are a number of online resources, including multiple instructional videos on YouTube. This video from the channel The Swing Dancer shows you how to start swing dancing in less than 30 minutes! While getting started on anything is easy, the perfection of anything is difficult. There are a number of classes available in community centers and college campuses across the country and the world that teach swing dancing. Private lessons are available as well for you and a partner that may want to learn how to cut a rug – swing dancing style! 

Professional Swing Dancing

Today, swing dance is usually part of the ballroom dance category, though there are different branches of swing that are not considered a ballroom style. To do it at a high level of expertise requires a great deal of precision, talent and above all else, practice! Professional dancers in stage productions, film and television are frequently called upon for their swing dance abilities. Cruise ships and resort destinations will employ professional dancers to both dance and teach the swing style to their patrons. 

The Comeback of Swing

Swing-style dance and its accompanying form of music (also called swing) have made a comeback or two into the spotlight over the decades. The late 1990s brought a resurgence of swing. The movies of the late 90s frequently featured swing dance clubs or swing music in their soundtracks. Teen movies featuring prom or dance scenes almost always seemed to have some swing or swing-like band playing. Like so many other artistic styles, swing has come and gone from the edge of what’s trending more than a few times. Because it is so much fun both to dance and watch, it’s safe to say that swing will always be at least somewhat relevant in pop culture. 

Expert Precision

The expertise involved in high-quality swing dance is truly amazing to behold. The Global Swing Broadcast channel on YouTube showcases a video of the Sofia Swing Dance Festival from 2017 that clearly demonstrates this expert-level precision. But it looks so effortless and it is clear that those dancing are having an absolute blast. The movement in perfect harmony with the accompanying music is a dance all its own. The dancers and musicians are absolutely attuned to one another, making the experience of watching and listening just as much fun as actually participating as a dancer! There’s no doubt that for those interested in learning to dance for the sheer enjoyment of the activity should definitely look into the swing dance style! 

Elegance in Motion: The Waltz

The waltz is filled with sophistication and style as one of the most historic forms of ballroom dancing. 

What is the Waltz?

According to Vocabulary.com, the waltz is “a dance in which two dancers move in triple time as they turn together in circles.” In practice, it is the perfect display of partnership, creative expression, synchronization, and artistic beauty. The music written for the waltz is also called “waltz” music and is played in triple time. The waltz (as a dance) is one of the most important to master in ballroom dancing, as it is considered fundamental. With its beautiful circular movement in absolute precision, the waltz is beautifully structured. 

The Origins of the Waltz

To understand the history of the waltz is to understand what was happening in Europe at the time of its creation. It may be hard to believe, but it was developed as a popular dance beginning around the 13th century and developed over the next 500 years. It was essentially the same thing as if you were to go to a dance club today. At its peak, the waltz completely transformed the culture of dancing. It was developed in the Germany and Austria areas of Europe. It made its way all over Europe and eventually all over the world as one of the most popular styles of dance in human history. It was in the late 16th century that Vienna made the waltz what it is today. 

Learning to Waltz

There are number of ways to learn the waltz. Fortunately, the basic form of the waltz is relatively easy to get started. Not everyone wants to be a competitive dancer. For those that just want to learn the waltz so they can enjoy the dance, learning isn’t too difficult. For example, Joe Baker posted an introductory video on YouTube showing how to begin learning the waltz from the most basic fundamentals. There are a number of videos posted online where you can get instruction on how to start waltzing. Those that prefer a more hands-on level of instruction may want to take a class. Online resources like Thumbtack can help you find private and group dance instructors. If you live in a larger city, you may look into community education programs. Programs like this frequently offer ballroom dance instruction. Colleges and universities are also great sources for finding private and group instructors for the waltz and other different ballroom dance styles. 

Professional Waltzing

The television series Dancing With The Stars has brought a lot more attention back into the world of ballroom dancing in recent years. There are professional ballroom dancers that work on cruise ships, resorts, and other entertainment venues. Typically, you can’t make a living just waltzing, but the waltz is, of course, one of the fundamental dances in ballroom dancing. The site Career Trend estimated the average salary for professional ballroom dancers was approximately $30,000 in 2013. While that’s not exactly a gold mine, when you consider that they are getting paid to do something they absolutely love, it’s not too shabby.

Watching the Best

When you watch experts perfectly executing the waltz, it is an absolute thing of beauty. At the 2013 Stanford Viennese Ball, this YouTube video of the Opening Committee Waltz shows just how artistic and beautiful the Viennese waltz can be to watch. Competitive solo waltzing like in this video from the 2018 Russian Championship highlight how much the wardrobe contributes to the whole experience, depicting the flowing movement and grace of the waltz. It is truly a work of art watching the waltz at its finest. Over the last 800 years, it has risen to a level of sophistication and artistic perfection that is second to none. 

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

It’s a familiar sensation for any human: the feeling of being stuck in thought, and failing to possess the faculties to move out of that motionless thought for the time being.

The familiarity of this feeling is what Auguste Rodin believed made his famed sculpture The Thinker a success. 

Making Thought Physical

Perhaps Rodin’s most famous art, The Thinker leaves nothing up to question. It’s clear that the sculpted bronze figure, originally crafted in 1880, is deep in thought by his body language and facial expression in addition to the title. 

Nude and hunched forward so his arms can rest on his knees, The Thinker places a folded hand under his jaw and furrows his brow. The uncertain position of the body is a stark contrast to the muscular form. 

The original version of The Thinker is smaller than the hulking monuments that likely come to mind when you think of the statue. That’s because The Thinker was originally part of a larger work called the Gates of Hell, set to frame the entry of a museum in the late 19th century. 

This particular component received so much attention that Rodin decided to capitalize on its success and make it an attraction of its own when it became clear that the museum would actually never open. Since then, many recreations of The Thinker have been made. Rodin created his first large Bronze version in 1904, which is often regarded as the true original version of the statue since the first incarnation was very small and connected to a series of other pieces. 

That bronze 1904 version can be seen at the Rodin Museum in Paris, where it graces the garden, and various other castings of The Thinker can be seen all over the world. 

From Poet to Ponderer

In its original framework, The Thinker was actually named The Poet. Given that it was part of an installation called The Gates of Hell, it’s apparent that Dante (poet of The Divine Comedy) was the inspiration for the piece. 

Among the other elements of the installation, The Poet sat in the center, apparently thinking back on his work. This adds a much darker context to the origins of the piece, as The Divine Comedy discusses in great detail the levels of Hell. 

Still, fans referred to the statue casually as The Thinker since that’s what the figure is actually doing—thinking. Eventually, Rodin gave into this perception and renamed the statue himself as The Thinker. Since it was meant to sit at the top of a doorway, The Thinker is usually placed on a pedestal to allow viewers to take in the statue from below. 

A Modern Take

Rodin is sometimes referred to as the Father of Modern Sculpture. This is due largely to the fact that although he sculpted in the style of Michelangelo, Rodin gave his figures passion, and movement. He didn’t confine them to the bounds of perfection, but instead gave them license to experience the full range of human emotion. 

Modernist Sculpture took on a life of its own following Rodin. Pablo Picasso, Antony Gormley, and Paul Gauguin are just some of the brilliant artists who followed in Rodin’s tradition. As time went on, sculpture certainly got more abstract that Rodin’s work, but he opened the door to new conventions with the form. 

The Thinker is certainly one of the world’s most famous sculptures, and its impact on the art world is still felt today.

David, Michelangelo

The term “Renaissance Man” is used to describe someone who is highly accomplished in more than one field, and Michelangelo was a Renaissance Man in every sense of the term.

Not only did he help give rise to the Italian Renaissance, he also became a true master of multiple artforms, but he is perhaps known best for his work sculpting David. 

A Hulking Likeness

Michelangelo’s David is carved from a single piece of marble, despite being 17 feet tall and weighing more than 12,000 pounds. It took 40 men the better part of a week to move the statue from Michelangelo’s studio to its original post, despite the distance spanning less than a mile. 

During the Renaissance period in which Michelangelo lived and worked, artists focused on making very realistic depictions of the human form, and David is a perfect example of this focus. Despite its height, the statue features relatively accurate proportions, and extremely close attention to details like the contour of muscle. 

The fact that the figure is nude was nothing scandalous in 1501 when the statue was commissioned (Michelangelo carved it in the 3 years that followed), but later periods that valued conservatism and modesty handled the nudity with varying degrees of grace; Queen Victoria had a fig leaf plastered over David’s more sensitive areas when a replica visited her namesake museum.

Though flawless in most ways, David’s eyes appear to have gotten away from Michelangelo, as they are pointing in different directions. This fact went largely unnoticed for centuries, until Stanford went about creating a full rendering with images. The statue’s hand is also unnaturally large, though this is thought to be a biblical reference made intentionally. 

Michelangelo was just 26 when he took on the job of creating this famous art work, and he chose a traditional pose called contrapposto. This means that the figure appears to have shifted his weight to one side, so his shoulders and head can twist off slightly. The pose allowed Michelangelo to give the statue a more dynamic appearance, but also helped convey the kind of emotions he intended for the piece to evoke. 

David’s pose suggests a quiet confidence, if perhaps accompanied by a bit of hesitation or uncertainty. In any case, it’s clear through the body language that David is experiencing a moment of thoughtful reflection prior to entering into one of The Bible’s most storied battles, where the odds were stacked heavily against him. 

While it was originally visible in an open Florentine piazza, it was moved in 1873 under the roof of the Accademia Gallery, also in Florence, where it remains today. 

The Original Underdog

The story of David and Goliath is so universal that it transcends the bounds of Christianity so inspire anyone with the odds stacked against them. In the biblical story, which takes place in the book of Samuel, Goliath is a champion of the Philistines who regularly challenges the Israelites to produce a champion worthy to fight him. 

David, a young shepherd without any knowledge of or experience in combat, agrees to take on Goliath. He refuses any armor, and takes only his sling with five rocks. When the two meet to battle, David lands one well-placed shot of a stone on Goliath’s forehead, and the giant falls. 

During that moment of vulnerability, David cuts of Goliath’s head, thus winning the battle. This is how David is ordinarily depicted: triumphant, in the heat of victory, holding the head of his slain opponent. Michelangelo, however, chose to move in a different direction with his sculpture. 

The famous marble likeness of David shows him in the moments before battle. Though he does not appear hesitant, or as if he regrets the decision to stand up for his people, he does appear to be feeling the enormity of what he has taken on. In these quiet moments of reflection, Michelangelo succeeded in humanizing one of The Bible’s most unlikely heroes. 

It is, perhaps, this sense of humanity that makes David one of the most famous statues in the world. It speaks to the idea that no matter how high a person rises, they are still human and prone to the same moments of doubt and reflection as everyone else. 

An Era of Masters

Michelangelo and his contemporaries are widely regarded as some of history’s most talented artists. The Italian Renaissance (sometimes broadly referred to as just the Renaissance period) was a period of rebirth for culture on whole. 

People were suddenly interested in gaining new insight, forming new perspectives, and increasing their understanding of the world, as well as man’s role in it. The most famous artists of the day, men like Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo were on the forefront of this new exploration. 

Artists began utilizing linear perspective so that their works were more accurate, and made concerted efforts to better depict light, detail, and the human form (particularly as it related to nature). This was also a great time to be an artist since wealthy merchants frequently commissioned work from especially skilled masters; investing in art was considered a worthy pursuit during this period. 

Though Michelangelo primarily fancied himself a sculptor, he made a famous foray into painting when he took on the allegorical depictions in the Sistine Chapel, a project that rivals David for his most famous. 

The Renaissance artists paved the way for the subsequent eras of creative expression by renewing public interest in culturally enriching pursuits. 

David is more than 500 years old, and may well be the world’s most famous sculpture. The stunning accuracy to scale and the striking humanity of the piece ensure that it will live forever in the hearts of art lovers.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Occasionally, a piece of art comes along that makes a more powerful statement than any number of words ever could.

That’s exactly the case with Pablo Picasso’s famous art work, Guernica. Painted in response to one of the most terrifying events to befall Picasso’s home country, Guernica gives a sense of the turmoil the painter was feeling. 

A Hectic Scene

A mural-sized painting, Guernica depicts a scene of general chaos and destruction. Painted in black and white, the image feel starker still by the lack of color when coupled with the disturbing content. 

On the edges of the composition, you can make out distinct figures. On the left, a woman appears to be holding the limp body of a child, rearing her head back in agony. Behind her, a bull appears shocked. On the right, another person throws their hands up with a similar expression, the bottom half of their body swallowed by some ambiguous darkness. Next to that figure, a woman peeks her head out of a window, holding a lamp. 

The center of this piece of art gets more chaotic still. An injured horse has apparently trampled a soldier holding a broken knife, and another limping figure approaches from the right. The entire piece is meant to echo the grainy narrative that the newspapers gave of the event which inspired the work. 

Guernica finally found a permanent home at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 1992, and it can still be visited there today. 

Political Commentary

In the 1930s, Spain had entered a Civil War. Hitler, who was the leader of Germany at the time, threw his support behind Spanish Nationalists in a very real way. Germany warplanes bombed the city of Guernica, often viewed as the Northernmost holdout of the resistance movement. 

They first flattened the buildings, as they wanted to ensure that a fire would burn easily through the city. Reporters who arrived on the scene concluded that the attack had been largely an attempt to terrorize civilians, as military posts did not appear to have been targeted. 

Picasso, disgusted by the blatant disrespect for human life, went to work on a piece of art titled for the targeted city. It was clear that innocent civilians had been targeted in the attack, and Picasso made that especially easy to discern with his depiction of a woman holding a child’s body in her arms. 

When the piece debuted at the World’s Fair, Guernica caused a great deal of commotion. It forced viewers to confront some ugly truths of about the realities of war, and is still today viewed as a piece of anti-war sentiment. Guernica traveled the world, spending many years in New York, before it finally made its way to Picasso’s homeland of Spain. 

Though the intention behind the work was obviously to draw attention in some way to the atrocities occurring during the Spanish Civil War, Guernica’s relevance has transcended any single conflict to represent a greater, peace-promoting message. 

In His Own League

Picasso, like many great artists of all types, went through different phases in his career. At different times, he could be classified as a Cubist, a Neoclassicist, and a Surrealist. 

In any case, Picasso always maintained his own distinct style. While you can see parallels between the abstraction in works of artists like fellow Surrealist Salvador Dali and Picasso, there is no mistaking Picasso’s work for anyone else’s, and certainly no chance of fitting it squarely in a single box. 

Guernica is one of Picasso’s most famous pieces because it is one of his most impactful, and his passion can be felt clearly through the piece.

Impression, Sunrise

Few great pieces of culture from history were ever received calmly, or praised in their time.

Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise is one such example of a beloved work of famous art that took time to gain appreciation. 

The Birth of Impressionism 

Monet painted Impression, Sunrise from his hotel room overlooking the French port of Le Havre in 1873. It is a hazy depiction of the early morning water, shadowy boats and their passengers are seen only as silhouettes and reflections. 

Further into the background, the vague outline of industrial buildings is visible but the palette of blue, gray, and green that Monet uses throughout most of the painting makes it difficult to discern a horizon (something that only became more common in his work). 

The sole source of brightness in the piece is the sun, which burns a vibrant orange against the mostly cool, and almost neutral backdrop. The sun is likewise reflected in the water, which makes it feel somewhat like the focal point of the piece. 

The year after he painted this piece of art, Monet hung it in the First Impressionist Exhibit. At that point, however, Impressionists weren’t calling themselves by that name, and Impressionism had yet to take shape as a movement. 

It was this painting—Impression, Sunrise—that led to the movement’s title. Critics opposed Monet’s sketch-like brush strokes, and felt that the piece simply looked unfinished. One article deemed the entire show the Exhibition of Impressionists, and the name stuck from there on out. 

Today, the painting has overcome its tumultuous beginnings and is one of Monet’s most loved works, despite not being all that typical of is overall style since the colors are somewhat subdued and he created a relatively accurate landscape account rather than simply an impression. 

Impression, Sunrise can be seen at Musee Marmottan-Monet in France. 

Consistent Fixations

Monet is best known for his prolific depictions of Water Lilies. He painted hundreds of lilies during his career, and there are hints to the fact that he might eventually become obsessed with such a subject in Impression, Sunrise.

The unifying element in Monet’s Water Lilies works is their sense of disorientation. In them, he is only painting the water, the lilies, and the reflections in the water. Early shades of that style can be observed in Impression, Sunrise, as much of the work is taken up by the water’s reflection, and the horizon is difficult to make out at all. 

A Movement of Rebellion

After the title Impressionism was coined, the group of artists that belonged to it made no secret about their intention to let go of conventional norms. This subversive attitude kept them from receiving critical acclaim for quite some time. 

Impressionists resented the idea that paintings shouldn’t look like paintings, in the sense that painters were expected to hide their brush strokes as much as possible and make realistic accounts of their subjects. Instead, Impressionists embraced brush strokes, vivid coloring, unusual use of light, and disorienting spatial representation. 

Along with Monet, some other important Impressionists were Manet, Renoir, and Degas to name a few. Each of these artists had their own distinct style, but shared the sense of frustration with artistic convention. Though they were something of a counterculture in their own time, Impressionists are now understood ass trailblazers who paved the way for creativity and innovation in the art world. 

Impression, Sunrise may not have earned critical acclaim when it was unveiled, but it gave a name to a movement and eventually won the hearts of millions.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

A battered ship in the darkness, waves looming all around, a crowd of men fearing for their lives:

it’s not just a famous biblical scene, it’s also the one set in Rembrandt’s famous artwork The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Calm in The Storm

The full title of this work is actually Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, but it has been shortened for all intents and purposes. Rembrandt van Rijn painted this piece in 1633, and it remained his only piece of art containing a maritime scene. 

This painting prominently features a sailboat, tumbling around in the open water, surrounded by crashing waves. Inside the boat, Jesus Christ sits calmly as his disciples appear rattled by the storm around them. Various disciples clamber around for something to hold onto, and one retches off the side of the boat; in the back of the boat, several of them appear to be imploring Christ for something.

Among the disciples, Rembrandt also painted himself, looking directly at the viewer with his hand on his head. This is certainly Rembrandt, as it is identical to a small self portrait that he had painted around the same time. 

Amidst the darkness and turbulence, Christ’s expression appears serene and unbothered, glowing slightly. The clouds appear to have parted slightly to the left of the boat, as light streams in past the sail, but behind them is a menacing gray sky. 

This painting could be seen until 1990 at The Gardner Museum, but no more. In that year, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee was stolen along with a number of other paintings by men dressed as police officers. It has never been recovered, and so remains one of the largest and most successful art heists in history. 

Famous Passage

Rembrandt’s inspiration for this piece is fairly self-evident to anyone who is familiar with the Bible. In the New Testament, in the Book of Matthew, the Bible lays out exactly this scene. Christ and his disciples have boarded a ship, and they come upon a storm that pelts them with waves. 

During this commotion, Christ has fallen asleep. The disciples wake him, and ask him to save them as they fear they will perish. Christ famously states, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” before he exerts his force on the winds and the sea, resulting in great calm. 

Rembrandt’s painting, of course, depicts the moments just before Christ quiets the turbulent waves. The wild brush strokes present in this piece are a departure from Rembrandt’s normally collected and precise style, a testament to the passion that went into creating this work. 

Detail and Drama

Rembrandt was an important figure in the Baroque Period. This time in art was defined by elaborate scenes, opulent design, extreme detail, and an overarching sense of drama in every work. A cursory glance at any of Rembrandt’s work, but particularly The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, demonstrates how fully he meets these standards. 

Artists like Carvaggio and Rubens were also masters of the Baroque style, incorporating a great deal of detail and movement into their works. This style extended beyond painting, though. Sculpture and architecture we also important vestiges of the Baroque period, similar in their grandeur and opulence to the art of the time. Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee gave life to one of the Bible’s most beloved passages; with luck, perhaps it will someday be recovered for posterity to behold.