Art that screams Halloween

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Contributed by Joanne Caputo

Halloween is America’s annual foray into costumes, masks and trick-or-treats. We may not remember its roots as “All Hallows’ Eve” (“holy evening”), which precedes All Saints Day and All Souls Day for remembering the dead. During these special days, the recently departed “who have yet to reach Heaven” receive special prayers, and as far back as the 15th century, children went door-to-door offering prayers in exchange for sweet “soul cakes.” The departed were also believed to wander the earth until All Saints’ Day, making All Hallows’ Eve their last opportunity to seek vengeance on the living. For protection from being recognized and targeted, people wore costumes or masks.

Our Halloween outfits are often fun and disturbing. Equally enjoyable are works from select artists who have moved us with their “grotesque” forms. Francis Bacon (1909-92), best known for his idiosyncratic approach to the human figure, produced somber yet striking art, like “Study for Self Portrait” (at right) following the suicide death of his lover.

In 2013 Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” set the world record as the most expensive piece of art sold at auction to date (the $142 million feat was later surpassed by Picasso art):

bacon-threestudieslucianfreud

Bacon

Salvador Dali (1904-89) was a Surrealist who depicted the theme through paintings with striking and bizarre images. “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War),” at right, expresses the destruction during the Spanish Civil War and, perhaps, Dali’s personal reaction to his sister’s torture and imprisonment by soldiers, and his friend’s murder by a fascist firing squad.

“The Madonna of Port Lligat,” below right, depicts Dali’s seated Madonna with the infant Christ on her lap. Both figures have rectangular holes cut into their torsos, suggestive of their transcendent status.

Dali

Art by Dorothea Tanning (1920-2012) was also influenced by Surrealism. “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” right, depicts the menacing forces at play in the shadows of darkness . . . according to our own imaginations.

A song from Tanning’s childhood lamented the fate of a gangster’s wife who poisoned herself in a Chicago hotel room. “Poppy Hotel, Room 202,” below right, depicts the lyrics (“In room two hundred and two ~ The walls keep talkin’ to you ~ I’ll never tell you what they said ~ So turn out the light and come to bed”).

Finally, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) depicts in art nouveau style, his experience of a piercing scream heard after two companions parted from him on a walk. His image allows the foreground figure to become distorted by the “unifying force of nature” with the scream expressing the agony of the obliteration of human personality.

By | 2017-04-21T08:52:46+00:00 October 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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