Saturday, 5 February 2011

Art and Astrology: Aquarian Self-portraits

Aquarius is the sign of the avant-garde – and who could be more emblematic of the avant garde than Edouard Manet. Some of his paintings are still kind of shocking when you think about it.

Dejeuner sur L'Herbe scandalised Paris when it was exhibited in 1863.
You can see why. What's the naked lady doing with men dressed
in the 19th century equivalent of chinos & sweaters?


Self portrait. Manet 23 Jan (1832-1883)

When he was young, he rebelled against his conventional upbringing. Not only did he become an artist, he chose to paint all kinds of crazy subjects that were considered just plain wrong, and the way he painted was considered wrong too.

When he was older, he became a mentor for the Impressionists.

How Aquarian is that? You start off madly shocking the establishment and then you become the establishment yourself.

Here's Max Beckmann, 12 Feb (1884-1950), who had an incredibly long and productive career, which followed a similar curve to Manet's. Except he had to deal with the Nazis, an ordeal which broke most of his fellow avant-gardists.

He did many, many of self-portraits in all kinds of media – not surprising when you see what a great head he had.
Max Beckman, 12 Feb (1884-1950)



And here is Duncan Grant, of the Bloomsbury Group: boyfriend of the artist Vanessa Bell, Virginia's Woolf's sister. Since he was really gay and Vanessa was married to the painter Clive Bell, who lived with them, it was all kind of complicated. Then, of course, Bell had his girlfriend, Mary something... you get the picture. He was frightfully, frightfully bohemian darling.

But guess what, he started off shocking the bourgeoisie with his post-impressionist inspired work and kinky private life and ended up part of the core curriculum for art history BAs.


The avant-garde are just so darn avant the rest of us.



Duncan Grant 23 Jan (1885-1978)



Here are some more Aquarian artists who went from outsider to establishment.

Fernand Léger 4 Feb (1881-1955)
Yoko Ono 18 Feb (1933-   )
Carlo Carra 11 Feb (1881-1966)
Jackson Pollack 28 Jan (1912-1956)
Robert Motherwell 24 Jan (1915-1991)


2 comments:

  1. Manet is one of favorites. Just went to the Met in December and saw his work fresh again. It has a striking abstract quality that makes it stand apart (in my mind) from the rest of the Impressonists.

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  2. Mine too. Also I like his choice of subject.

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