Leonora Carrington’s Scenes inspired by Hieronymus Bosch

Where does the real end and the surreal begin? You could spend hours staring at Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, pondering this question. And one modern artist did just that, before her mind went on a strange journey.

The famous fourteenth century painting is full of tiny figures – human, plant, animal, and monster – in a three-panel landscape thought to represent the Bible’s Heaven, the Garden of Eden, and Hell. On close observation, these figures are engaged in lots of strange activities, some definitely sexual, others, just weird.

Hung in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, the Dutch artist’s striking scene intrigued a young Surrealist, 450 years after its creation. Leonora Carrington encountered Bosch’s works here while escaping the 1939 Nazi invasion of France, and her own art found a muse.

Left: The Temptation of St. Anthony, Leonora Carrington, 1947; Right: The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch, c 1500-1525

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Carrington’s midcentury Temptation is one of her only works on a Christian theme and very obviously influence by Bosch’s painting of the same Biblical story.

Commenting on it, the artist said: “Naturally, one could ask why the venerable holy man has three heads, to which one could always reply, why not?”

This playful yet cryptic response was typical of Carrington’s character. Inspired by Bosch, her surreal paintings are just as mysterious.

Left: The Giantess, Leonora Carrington, 1947; Right: The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1500

Choice of symbolic imagery is key in these two paintings.

Like Bosch, Carrington depicts hunters in an uncertain landscape and winged fish and seafarers floating in an ocean-like sky. Her central giantess holds an egg while birds fly from her cloak.

Figures, animal, man, and object, interacting in a strange way… sound familiar?

Left: Adieu Ammenotep, Leonora Carrington, 1960; Right: The Stone Operation, Hieronymous Bosch, c. 1494

Both artists explore the boundaries of magic and medicine.

A man extracts a “stone of madness” from the head of a patient in Bosch’s The Stone Operation. His funnel-like hat suggests he’s less doctor and more charlatan, and the “stone” is a flower. One previously removed sits on the café-style table.

Carrington’s figures also perform a magical operation over the mummified body of Amenhotep, an Egyptian pharaoh. In a kind of medical operating theater, figures pull red strings through the body, whose insides are a flower.

For this Surrealist, Bosch as muse is clear. But, Carrington’s mind was filled with strange and uncanny thoughts long before she could release them in paint.

She crossed the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain and visited the Prado Museum in 1939. However, it was not long before the artist suffered a psychotic break and was mandated to an asylum. She describes the traumatic experience in her memoir, “Down Below,” (1944, revised in 1988). For Carrington, the line between real and surreal is never drawn.

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Learn more about Carrington’s life and career here: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/carrington-leonora/

In the documentary film “La Novia del Viento” by Andrea Di Castro, Delmari Romero Keith and Rafael Segovia, the artist gives her final interview in 2010, one year before her death. Watch an excerpt here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBa5Uy9Yl0I

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The Top Four Songs About Modern Art

Clockwise: Paul McCartney; Arabia Mountain Album Cover-Black Lips; Jay Z; Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time-Salvador Dali, 1939; Vincent van Gogh; Salvador Dali; Black Lips; Pablo Picasso; Starry Night-Vincent Van Gogh, 1889; Don McLean.

Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Salvador Dali are some of the greatest artists of the past century who have inspired some the greatest musicians of our time. Here are four songs that combine the best of both music and art worlds:

Shawn Carter Strikes Again:
Jay Z-Picasso Baby

The track starts out with Jay saying that all he wants is a Picasso in his castle. He then goes on to name drop like no other: he wants a Mark Rothko, a billion Jeff Koon balloons, to be surrounded by Andy Warhols, and to live at the MOMA. Hey, it’s Jay Z, he can have whatever he wants.

The most awesome part of this creation is his performance piece that got turned into a ten-minute art film. Jay Z raps the song to people in a New York gallery and even sneaks in a dance with Marina Abramovic.

Unhappy Marriages & Asylums:
Don McLean-Vincent (van Gogh)

McLean wrote this song during a rocky period in his life, while pushing through an unhappy marriage. The melancholy of Starry Night (painted by Vincent van Gogh after checking himself into an asylum) struck a chord with the singer, who proceeded to write the lyrics for the song on the only thing he had handy at the time, a paper bag, while looking at a print of the painting.

To step into mind-blowing territory for a second, van Gogh was an inspiration not only to McLean but to the rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur has been quoted saying that he was moved by McLean’s “Vincent” and that he aspired to make songs just as touching.

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Raising A Drink To Picasso:
Paul McCartney & Wings-Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)

The idea for this song came when Dustin Hoffman challenged Paul McCartney to write a song about the article “Pablo Picasso’s Last Days and Final Journey” in the April 23, 1973 issue of Time Magazine. 

The title and lyrics of the song come from the reported last words of Pablo Picasso, “drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore,” that were uttered to his guests before he went to bed and died in his sleep.

The album version of this song (unfortunately not the live version we have here), jumps around in terms of tempo and mood, but this fragmentation was an attempt by McCartney to evoke Picasso’s cubist paintings.

Tripping Out In A Salvador Dali Museum:
Black Lips-Modern Art

This song was conceived after Black Lips guitarist, Cole Alexander, went to a Salvador Dali Museum while tripping on ketamine. He said being high “canceled out the surrealism and [he] felt really normal” around Dali’s eccentric works.

The music video is far from normal but you should watch it anyway. It involves roosters floating through hazy red air and skulls wrapped in American flags, all electrified by punk music. It’s very psychedelic and makes you feel odd, but isn’t that how a surrealist painting should make you feel?

There are many other songs out there about art, what are some of your favorites? What artist-singer collaboration would you love to see? Let us know in the comments!

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Magic and Mystery, Fantasy and Fashion: Leonora Carrington in Pop Culture

Leonora Carrington might not be as well known as some other Surrealist artists, but her art has been quietly influential in popular culture and fashion.

Left: Madonna in "Bedtime Story," 1995 Right: The Giantess, Leonora Carrington, c. 1947

Left: Madonna in “Bedtime Story,” 1995; Right: The Giantess, Leonora Carrington, c. 1947

In 1995, Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” music video gained fame as an homage to the work of several female Surrealists. Directed by Mark Romanek, a filmmaker of most recent fame for pop singer Taylor’s Swift’s “Shake It Off” video and rapper Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” art film at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it includes a scene in which the singer opens her robe to release a flock of birds, much like the central figure in Carrington’s The Giantess (ca. 1947).

The dialogue between Surrealist art and fashion has a precedent long before Madonna. Artist Salvador Dali collaborated with designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s, and Surrealism continues to inspire contemporary designers. (Visit this Elle slideshow for some recent examples!)

In 2013, W Magazine published a Surrealist-themed fashion editorial photographed at the historical estate Las Pozas in Mexico.

Here are a few photographs from the W feature that echo certain figures and motifs from Leonora Carrington’s art:

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Darvault, Leonora Carrington, c. 1950

Top left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Top right and bottom: The House Opposite, Leonora Carrington, c. 1945

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Green Tea, or La Dame Ovale, Leonora Carrington, 1945

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Tuesday, Leonora Carrington, 1987

In addition to paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, Carrington created costume designs, stage designs, and playful, esoteric items such as decorative masks over her long career. Surely she would have enjoyed knowing that her work is still a source of ideas for creative artists of all kinds.

Learn more about Leonora Carringtons life and career here:

View the entire W feature here:

Las Pozas is located near the city of Xilitla in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. It was once owned by Edward James, a major patron of Surrealist art. You can read more about it here: www.xilitla.org

For more analysis of Madonnas Bedtime Story video, see here:

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And the Nominees Are: Ed Kienholz Introduces You to the 2015 Oscar Nominated Films

The Academy Awards, are coming up soon! There are ten movies nominated for Best Picture this year, but how many of them do you know? To give you a little help on the big night, we’ve used Ed Kienholz’s installations to describe some of the Oscar noms and make them a little more relatable.

American Sniper (2014) The Portable War Memorial (1968)

The American Sniper is a War Machine: War, huh yeah. What is it good for? If you’re Ed Kienholz you might say absolutely nothing, but if you’re a member of the Academy, you might say something different. Cast your vote and see who’s right on February 22nd.
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Wild (2014) The Illegal Operation (1962)

The Illegal Operation goes Wild: Turn down for what?! Not hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, that’s for sure. Better hope that all you need is a juice cleanse to detox after a wild night out and not a seat in either of these chairs.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Back Seat Dodge ’38 (1964)

Young Love, Inside and Outdoors: Romance isn’t always silk sheets and scented candles, sometimes all you’ve got to work with is the back seat of a car or a makeshift room in the attic of a candy-colored bakery.

Whiplash (2014) The Ozymandias Parade (1985)

Fight the Power! : Don’t be a doormat! It’s never good to let people walk all over you. Give them a piece of your mind; stand up to the tyrants in your life, from sadistic music teachers to totem-wielding oligarchs.

The Imitation Game (2014) The Bench (1975-76)

Check Your Newsfeed: In the prehistoric age before iPhones there was one type of social media, the radio. And certain people were masters at it. Hitler direct messaged his followers through the radio, and sent tweets using enigma codes. It’s a good thing that the abbreviations in a modern tweet are easier to crack than those codes, or else we’d never know what our favorite celebs were doing.
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After reading about half of the Best Picture nominees, which one do you think will win?

For more art and analysis by Ed Kienholz, click here.

More on this year’s Oscar Nominated films, click here.

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Sex sells, no matter the century or the medium… Check out how Gustav Klimt and “50 Shades of Grey” share eccentric commonalities.

Naughty and erotic art and paintings have always been popular. Just look at how much the revered paintings of Gustav Klimt, and the scandalous but beloved – Fifty Shades of Grey novel (and now movie) by E.L. James have in common.

Beethoven Frieze (1902)

Although born in different times, James is on a similar wavelength as Klimt when it comes to sex. They both understand the connection between pleasure and pain: whether it’s enjoying whips and chains, or facing censure for painting your greatest passion; naked women.

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Seduction at a Glance

Fifty Shades of Grey Poster (2015) – Judith (1901)

Desire, do you have it? Do you want it? Our heroines above definitely do. Anastasia, on the left, bites her lip to express it, cluing us in on her preference for a little pain with her pleasure, while Judith, on the right, conveys it with her eyes in Klimt’s soft style.

Sex with God

Danae (1908)

 Being kinky in the bedroom is not a new phenomenon. Although James has made S&M a water cooler topic of conversation, Klimt is the real trailblazer when it comes to putting kink at the forefront of pop culture. Klimt was way ahead of Fifty Shades of Grey when he painted Danae en flagrante, aka in the middle of getting it on, with Zeus represented by the golden shower of rain. Klimt’s very conservative society was more shocked than we were after reading about what went on in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Let’s see how this genre develops in the hands of the next generation: but no matter its highs or lows, we will never get enough.

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For more art and analysis by Gustav Klimt, click here.

More on 50 Shades of Grey, click here.

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Mouth as Muse: Bacon’s Fascination Became a Lifetime of Painting

“I like, you may say, the glitter and color that comes from the mouth, and I’ve always hoped in a sense to be able to paint the mouth like [Claude] Monet painted a sunset.” –Francis Bacon

Postwar Irish painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is infamous for his detailed depictions of figures’ mouths, often wide open and screaming.

But, his colorful shrieks are more than imaginative. Bacon was an ample researcher, and some pretty gruesome real life images are hidden in his artworks.

“The Massacre of the Innocents,” Nicolas Poussin, 1628-1629.

Bacon’s oral fascination grew when he moved from Ireland to Chantilly, France at age 17.

In the Musée Condé, he encountered his earliest art influence: The Massacre of the Innocents by Nicolas Poussin. He called it “probably the best human cry ever painted.”

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Left: Still from "Battleship Potemkin," directed by S.M. Eisenstein, 1925. Right: Study for the Nurse (detail), Francis Bacon, 1957

Left: Still from “Battleship Potemkin,” directed by S.M. Eisenstein, 1925. Right: Study for the Nurse (detail), Francis Bacon, 1957

Popular culture also permeated Bacon’s obsession with a trip to the art movie house.

The film “Battleship Potemkin” was a self-proclaimed “catalyst” for his artwork and the cry of an Odessa nurse would be direct inspiration later in his career.

Left: Image from “Atlas-Manuel des maladies de la bouche,” first edition 1894. Right: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, central panel detail, Francis Bacon, 1944.

Finally, he scoured the libraries of Paris for a scientific authority.

In Atlas-Manuel des maladies de la bouche, a French translation of an 1894 German medical textbook, Bacon found his ultimate source material: hand-colored plates of various mouth diseases in all their sore-filled, slobbery glory.

These diseased and distorted oral images would shape the creative canon of this existentialist artist for the next six decades.

“They always interested me,” he said, “And the colors were beautiful.”

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Learn more about Bacon’s life and career here: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/bacon-francis/

Julian Bell wrote extensively about Bacon’s scientific source material in this 2007 article for the New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/may/10/the-cunning-of-francis-bacon/

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Six Times Chris Burden Was More Extreme Than You

Burden emerged as a performance artist in 1971, using his own body as the material for works. From self-crucifixion to near-death by water dunk, Burden’s art is ritualistic and always extreme. Here are seven times he proved it.

Five Day Locker Piece, 1971 Did your thesis require five days spent stuffed in an art school locker with only five gallons of water? Probably not. He better have gotten an A.

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Images via Frederick Sanchez

Trans-fixed, 1974 Nailed to a Volkswagen Beetle like a Christian martyr, Burden rolled out of a Los Angeles garage, revved the engine for two minutes and rolled back in. Self-given stigmata are now the signs of a bad-ass.

Image via NXT

Velvet Water, 1974 “Burden relentlessly dunked his head in a filled-up sink, trying to inhale the oxygen-rich water. We sat stupefied, paralyzed, until he seemed to pass out, and the monitor went dark, and that was it.” – Jerry Saltz, 2013. Oh.

Doomed, 1975 Burden lay in complete stillness under a sheet of tilted glass for 45 hours on the floor of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Only when a museum employee, fearing his harm, set a pitcher of water next to him did he smash a ticking clock and end the performance.

His reaction: “I thought, ‘My God, are they going to leave me here to die?’”

That’s dedication.

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Image via Wikipedia Commons

Beam Drop, 2008 (original performance 1984) Sixty I-beams dropped into a trench of wet concrete will definitely make an impact. Dangerous and visceral, this Burden artwork evokes bodily pain in the scraping sound of steel against steel and the splash of unset cement.

Image via Flickr Commons

The Flying Steamroller, 1996 A typical day in Burden’s art may include flying through the air on a counterbalanced steamroller. Art, machine and human transcend all those physical limitations that come with standing on the ground.

For more extreme measures by Chris Burden, click here: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/burden-chris/

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Dangerous Art: The Weapons of Performance Artist Chris Burden

Performance artist Chris Burden has taken art, and his body, to the extreme. In the 1970s, Burden made a controversial series that focused on endangering himself with the help of everyday props. His weapons of choice? Guns, cars, fire and glass shards.

Trans-Fixed, 1974.

A Volkswagen Beetle: In a 1974 performance Burden literally transfixed himself to the rear bumper of a Volkswagen Bug with nails through the palms of his hands. Burden, in all his Christ-like glory, was rolled out of a garage and presented to a group of spectators in Venice, California. The engine revved at full throttle for two minutes, symbolizing the sound of screaming pain, and then Burden disappeared back into the garage like an apparition.

Shoot, 1971

 A .22 Rifle: In 1971 Chris Burden got shot. Don’t worry, it was part of his art piece, Shoot. Standing 13 feet away from each other, surrounded by bare white walls, a friend shot Burden with a .22 rifle. He explained his motives as thus: “I had an intuitive sense that being shot is as American as apple pie. We see people being shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it’s like. So I did it.”

Burden later admitted that it was only supposed to be a graze wound, but his friend missed and actually shot him in the arm. Oops. Wonder if they’re still friends?

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Match Piece, 1972. Photo: R. Boss

Fire: Using the heat generated from two transistorized TV sets, Burden lit aluminum foil-wrapped matches and launched them with two paper clips toward a naked woman on the floor. Although not harming himself, the danger of Burden’s previous pieces is still very much present here. The woman is said to have flinched when burning matches grazed her while Burden kept his focus only on the small TVs.

Fire Roll, 1973.

More Fire: In another flame-related performance a few years later, Burden set himself on fire. Burden explained his process simply: “I placed the pants on the floor and saturated them in lighter fluid. I lit the pants on fire and extinguished the flames with my body. I turned on the lights and returned to watching television.” So he used his body to extinguish the burning pants that he was wearing.

Chris Burden, Through The Night Softly, 1973.

Broken Glass: In his ironically titled 1973 piece, Through the Night Softly, Burden slithered across broken glass in his underwear with his hands bound behind his back. An audience uncomfortably watched Burden’s agonizing pain as shards of glass shredded the front of his body. As if this wasn’t enough, Burden went on to purchase late night commercial spots on a local TV station, running a ten second clip of the piece so that the discomfort of pain could be felt within the comfort of homes around California.

What was the point of these acts and how can this abuse of your own body be called “art”?!?

Find out on The Art Story website: https://www.theartstory.org/movement/performance-art/

Read more about Burden’s life and career here: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/burden-chris/

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