Love has been one of the most important subjects of the arts for centuries. Some of the most moving plays, songs and paintings have been about or been inspired by desire, attraction, passion, selflessness, loss and despair, all of which can be attributed to falling in love. Some of these works have lasted longer than the love that inspired them, as if an immortal reminder that while love may change or be denied, the ones that truly move will leave a trace to be felt by others. Below are some of the works of art that have stood the test of time and the great stories of passion behind them.
Le Rêve (Pablo Picasso)
“When I love a woman, that tears everything apart especially, my painting.” – Pablo Picasso
Le Reve or The Dream has recently been one of Picasso’s most talked about works. First, because it sold to Casino Mogul Steve Wynn for $122 million dollars, and second because not long after Wynn bought it, he accidentally tore a hole through the canvas with his elbow. However, the painting which Picasso allegedly painted in just one day, has been the subject of fascination for many years. This is because Le Reve is one of the most sensuous portrayals of Picasso’s true love and most enduring muse, Marie-Therese Walter.
While it hasn’t always been considered the most important period of Picasso’s career, the late 1920’s to late 30’s was witness to how Pablo Picasso’s work changed the day he met Marie-Therese Walter.
She was 17 and he was 45 when they met at a Paris department store. “You have an interesting face” the artist said to her, “I am Picasso.” To the young woman with a distinct profile and coy smile, this meant nothing as she did not know of the Artist at the time. However, Marie-Therese was still seduced by a charismatic Picasso who was then married to Russian ballerina Olga. Despite the artist’s marriage, a secret affair between Picasso and Marie-Therese began.
As the affair progressed Picasso started including clues of Marie-Therese in his work. First in codes so his rightfully jealous wife wouldn’t suspect anything, but soon he put her likeness in everything he created. “When I love a woman, that tears everything apart especially my painting.” He said.
The two would never marry but during the course of their relationship Marie-Therese bore a daughter, Maya. Two months after Maya’s birth, Picasso, infamous for his many women, took on another mistress. Marie-Therese and Picasso’s affair may have ended but the gentle, submissive Marie-Therese continued to love Picasso until her dying day and the artist continued to be inspired by her. His depiction of her nose, her eyes, her hair and purplish skin were often seen drawn or painted, or even sculpted into marble and wood for over 3 decades.
Picasso died in in 1973 and 4 years later Marie-Therese took her own life. She was 68 years old.
La Fornarina (Raphael)
La Fornarina has been shrouded in much controversy and clues about it continue to surface. Who was she? The sensual, beguiling, loving look of an intimately posed woman holding her left breast — is this a look directed at a lover, a friend or a potential husband?
Of the many stories surrounding this painting, one of them has the makings of a novella.
As a young man, Raphael was easy-going, possessed great looks and, according to 16th Century writer Giorgio Vassari, very much sought after by women in that period. He began a promising painting practice with the help of Cardinal Bernardo, one of his more influential patrons. It was said that Cardinal Bernardo wanted to marry off his niece, Maria Bibbiena to Raphael. This joining would be advantageous for the young painter. He’d have a position in court and a patron would continuously support his art. However, Raphael had already fallen in love with a young woman named Margherita Luti, often called the little baker (La Fornarina). It was believed that the two had a secret affair while Raphael was engaged to Maria Bibbiena, and so he delayed the date of their wedding several times.
Maria Bibbiena never became Raphael’s wife as the painter died at the young age of 37. Margherita, the young woman depicted in the painting, resigned herself to a convent and not much was heard of her after that.
Now, this story could stand on its own and it has for a lot of analysts, but recent extensive x-ray analysis of the painting revealed that on the left ring finger of La Fornarina, is a square cut ruby and gold ring. Experts say that such a ring is unusual for a young single woman and this perhaps provides us with more information on the significance of the relationship between the two. One can also see a band on La Fornarina’s left arm bearing the artist’s name, leading to the possible conclusion that Raphael may have been engaged to two women at the same time.
The Kiss (Auguste Rodin)
Rodin picked a moment in the story where a deeply disturbing tragedy was about to occur.
This Valentine’s Day edition of the blog wouldn’t be complete without one of the most popular allusions to romance, Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss. Looking at this sculpture it is easy to think that this is about the pure love between two people, after all both seem to be completely enraptured with one another. However this sculpture is Rodin’s depiction of the story of Francesca and Paolo, the two adulterous characters in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Francesca da Polenta and Paolo Malatesta were from two rival families in Italy. Francesca was married off to Paolo’s crippled brother Giovanni as a means to solidify a truce between the families, while Paolo was married to Countess Orabile Beatrice. Despite their own marital commitments Francesca and Paolo carried on a 10 year affair. The sculpture shows us the pair on the verge of a passionate tryst, their bodies in different stages of submission. A walk around the sculpture reveals Paolo’s hand holding a book.
Rodin picked a moment in the story where a deeply disturbing tragedy was about to occur. Francesca and Paolo are sitting together in her bedroom. He is reading to her the story of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere, when Francesca, deeply enamored by Paolo, decides to throw herself at him. In the midst of this sweeping passion, there is a loud knock at the door. It is Francesca’s husband Giovanni who is determined to interrupt their affair and face down the lovers. When Francesca opens the door Giovanni sees Paolo on the verge of escape. Giovanni, deep in anger, kills his brother first and his wife next.
In Dante’s novel we find Francesca and Paolo in the second circle of hell, the part of damnation reserved for the lustful. There they are destined to be forever trapped in an eternal sweeping whirlwind and storm as they allowed themselves to be completely swept up by their passions.
This week we continue our conversations with some of today’s most promising artists, turning our focus to Haydee Torres and her work. Haydee combines the strength and diaphaneity of her colors with the grit and gentleness found in the women in her portraits. This careful balance helps her work exude both fragile beauty and stability, and makes it hard for art lovers to resist.
I’d like to go into detail about your work but first, please tell us more about you.
Where are you from?
I was born in New York, but my family relocated to Puerto Rico very early on in my life.
Where are you currently living and working?
I am currently living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; my studio is located in my home.
How did you get your start as an artist?
I first discovered my passion for art while completing a fashion design program at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. While taking my required courses, I found a particular interest in fashion illustration and my instructors further encouraged me to develop my drawing skills. This was a very important and exciting time for me. These were the first encounters in which I had found those around me referring to me as an artist which was a huge moment of revelation for me. Later on, I began taking drawing classes at a local college. One of my professors told me that he believed I had reached a high enough skill level to justify selling my work, which was an idea that both intimidated and exhilarated me.
Please describe to us your process and your approach.
Before I begin a piece, I take time to formulate a kind of mental image of what I would like to translate onto the canvas. There has to be a certain sort of craving to use a specific medium, which is the part of the process that I find truly exciting. The rest of the process is planning and is oftentimes very calm and almost ritual, but it can also be an extremely fast and disorganized process. I prefer to be listening to music, mostly piano such as Phillip Glass. Most of the time I find myself wondering and having this mental discussion about almost everything. I always been a thinker and preoccupied with existence, purpose and the different experiences that a person goes thought during their lives. As the piece develops, I take many photos to fix mistakes and make sure that the composition works and the colors are well balanced.
Women figure prominently in your work. What is the reason behind this? and what are some of the characters of the women on these portraits?
My work is very selfish because it is about me. Not physically but about the female in me. My women are representing a modern woman that has a real battle to get where she stands. That is why they are beautiful, tall hair like a crown and strong. I work from photos most of the time but sometimes my daughter will pose for me.
Because of your approach to color it would be easy to connect your work to fauvism. How do you feel about this association?
I can understand the connection. My approach to color is very spontaneous. I also associate my usage of color with expressionism, but I most definitely find that connection to be an extremely valid one. I like to leave a sense of mystery to my pieces so that the viewer can interpret them in their own unique way, so I really do think my work can be connected with several different styles.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your thinking?
When I started painting my may influence was fashion. As I evolve I have became more interested in contemporary figurative work and expressionist art.
What fascinates you most about the work that you do?
The process. Because I don’t have formal painting education I have a very unorthodox way of painting.Also acrylics are quite challenging when it come to the figure ,I have to figure it out as I go.
In your statement, you mention that your work encourages the viewer to develop their own narrative. What has been the most interesting interpretation of your work that you’ve come across?
I will say that a lot of my female customers they connect with the painting in a personal level and they can see themselves as the figure in the canvas. When I had have the opportunity of meeting my customers in person they have this curiosity about the feelings of the woman in the painting.And that is when the narrative begins. For some people it is about just questioning for other they explain to me what is going on, so it is wonderful how everybody has a different narrative.
Interviewed by: Jing Palad