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Tag: Who’s the greatest artist

W.T.G.A.: Michelangelo Vs Cézanne

michelangelo vs cezanneWhen the young Michelangelo approached his father with the news that he was planning on becoming an artist he was greeted with fists; his father was going to beat this preposterous notion out of him. Michelangelo took some time to reflect and then returned with the news that not only was he going to be an artist, but a sculptor no less. This time his uncle had the job of knocking some sense into the wayward youth. Michelangelo picked himself up, licked his wounds and went on to become one of the greatest artists of all time. Paul Cézanne didn’t fare much better than Michelangelo when it came to the patriarch of the family. Cézanne‘s father controlled the purse strings and his son with them. When Paul was implored to come to Paris by his childhood friend Émile Zola to experience the cultural revolution that was taking place, he was rebuffed three times by his father who refused to fund such frivolous endeavors. Cézanne eventually made it to the city of lights and found a surrogate father-figure in one of the founding members of Impressionism: Camille Pissaro. Cézanne would later go on and dismiss Impressionism as “silly” but Pissaro was instrumental in lifting Cézanne’s painting out the dark muck of his early work and setting him on the course to becoming the ‘father of modern art’. Both Michelangelo and Cézanne were strongly discouraged in pursuing a life in art, but both persevered and went on to make art history. Cézanne flattened space and changed painting forever and Michelangelo brought stone to life with a skill that hasn’t really been challenged in half a millennium, but who is the greater artist?

Madonna of the Stairs 1491

Madonna of the Stairs 1491

Michelangelo’s genius was evident from very early on. At the mere age of 16 he completed Madonna of the Stairs and never looked back. Many of the hallmarks of his later work are already present: dynamic figuration, the uncanny ability of transforming stone into flesh, the pursuit of ‘ the beautiful’ and his knack for creating a narrative that infuses spirituality with an underlining sense of humanity. Michelangelo’s figures seemingly interact with one another revealing histories and relationships that are easily relate-able. We’re initially drawn in by his skill but remain for his insight.

Girl at the Piano 1868

Girl at the Piano 1868

Cézanne‘s genius on the other hand took a while to develop. His early works were slathered with paint done in a very heavy handed manner with an extremely dark palette. Early in his career, he applied to have his work shown at the Paris Salon but was rejected. He was later publicly ridiculed by a Parisian newspaper of the time for what they perceived to be his lack of skill. This wouldn’t be the last time the public mocked and misunderstood his work. With some advise and guidance from Pissaro he slowly introduced brighter colours and the landscape into his paintings. He eventually showed with the Impressionists but even there he didn’t feel like he fit in. Over the course of his life Cézanne withdrew more and more from society preferring solitariness to interacting with other people: including his family. Near the end of his life a retrospective of his work was staged in Paris and hailed as a triumph. Cézanne viewed this event as too little too late, and didn’t bother showing up for the exhibition. Cézanne was a difficult man who valued art over all else.

Tomb of Lorenzo de Medici 1520-1534

Tomb of Lorenzo de Medici 1520-1534

Michelangelo was also a notoriously difficult individual. His artistic vision had him dueling with Popes and head’s of states alike. He had one way of doing things – his way. Sometimes his ambition outweighed what was physically possible. His original plan for the Medici chapel was to include 6 tombs. Only two were completed and he personally didn’t see to their installation. Michelangelo‘s skills were in constant demand so his time was never his own. His patrons were always asking him to perform feats that were beyond his experience. They assumed that because he was such a gifted sculptor he could naturally paint or design architecture. Michelangelo would rage and refuse but eventually concede to their wishes and then  go on to create something extraordinary.

Apples, Peaches, Pears and Grapes 1879-80

Apples, Peaches, Pears and Grapes 1879-80

Extraordinary would also be the word to describe Cézanne‘s still-lifes. As great as his Card Players, landscapes and to a lesser degree his bathers and portraits are; it’s his still-lifes that steal the show. What at first appear to be loose spontaneous flourishes are actually meticulous set pieces that in some cases took months to execute. Fruit would notoriously rot in place while Cézanne slowly brought them back to life with exquisite colour and confident brushstrokes. Long gone are the thick swabs of paint, sometimes he would even leave areas untouched allowing the bare canvas to show through. He played with perspective tilting objects towards the viewer so they could get a better look. Those innovations opened up the flood gates of experimentation and artistic freedom for every artist that came after him. Without Cézanne we wouldn’t have Picasso.

detail of Sistine Chapel 1508-1512

detail of Sistine Chapel 1508-1512

But how can bowls of fruit compete with the Sistine Chapel? Both demonstrate artist as innovator. Both redefined working methods and creative solutions. Cézanne had come so far from his early paintings and his growth as an artist is astonishing. To stand in front of a Cézanne still-life is not unlike a religious experience, but Michelangelo‘s genius presented itself early and never faltered. I believe Cézanne himself would concede to the Renaissance man. Early in his career, during his first trip to Paris; Cézanne would visit the Louvre on a daily basis where he would sketch from the collection. He was enamored with Delacroix Courbet and unsurprisingly Michelangelo.

Winner: Michelangelo

Related: Michelangelo vs Matisse

Cezanne vs Kandinsky

Who’s the greatest artist?

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W.T.G.A.: Da Vinci vs Goya

da vinci vs goya

One of them painted the most recognizable image on the planet, while the other painted images once seen you will never forget. Leonardo Da Vinci and Francisco Goya were both artists ages ahead of their times. They were both forward thinkers whose explorations and innovations preceded and anticipated the movements that came after them. In the case of Da Vinci; some of his theories were centuries away from being realized. At this time, Goya is being reassessed by art historians and scholars as the first truly Modern artist. Da Vinci used art as a tool to help unravel the mysteries of the universe while Goya used it in part to explore the darkest recesses of humanity. Leonardo Da Vinci is a household name and Goya is revered by all who know of him. Art was transformed by their hands, but who is the greater artist?

Da Vinci Vitruvian Man 1490

Da Vinci Vitruvian Man 1490

Leonardo Da Vinci was a man that had so much to do during his lifetime that it ultimately divided his energies; resulting in only a precious few of his 1000’s of ideas being fully realized. His genius was a constant distraction. He had a hard time devoting all his focus to only one thing, especially when there was still so much stuff to explore. I believe this explains why we have so few of his finished paintings. Who has a 100 hours to slave over some canvas when you have helicopters to invent? By all accounts Leonardo was a master painter who loved his craft, but found no time to do it. We are left with a scant 15-16 paintings with a few more whose provenance is uncertain. It’s in Da Vinci’s drawings that we really see the breath of his work. Inventions, explorations into human anatomy, architecture and the pursuit of beauty are all represented in his sketches. His eye was honed and his technique was impeccable. Leonardo dared not only to depict the surface of his subject but also what’s at its core. He wanted to pull back the physics and take a look at the gears.

Goya The Dog 1819-23

Goya  The Dog 1819-23

Goya on the other hand didn’t have much use for helicopters. His figures could effortlessly levitate into the air whenever he wanted them to. Goya wasn’t confined to the rules of the natural world that Leonardo so tirelessly tried to document. Goya’s scalpel was meant for the psyche rather than the body. Goya penetrated our fears and insecurities like no other artist has before or after him. Both Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali could evoke vivid nightmares filled with monsters but I argue that neither of them created a picture with as much helpless dread as Goya’s The Dog. Painted as part of his Black Paintings we see a powerless dog slowly being pulled down into what we can interpret as quicksand while his eyes scan the heavens for some sort of salvation that will never come. This painting is devastating in both its modern approach to painting along with its universal theme of feeling overwhelmed by your circumstances. Goya has a way of knocking the wind out of you.

Da Vinci Lady with Ermine 1489-90

Da Vinci  Lady with an Ermine 1489-90

The Mona Lisa may get all the suitors, but for me, Lady with an Ermine makes my heart skip a beat. Painted in his trademark sfumato style using newly adopted oil paints; Da Vinci depicts 15 year old Cecilia Gallerani  (the mistress of the duke of Milan) holding a stoat in her arms. Not satisfied with her simply sitting straight forward, Da Vinci twists her body into a dynamic pose with her gaze travelling to something outside the picture plane. Like the Mona Lisa her expression is both complex and mysterious. Da Vinci places her in an inky black background then picks the shade up again with her hair tie and necklace. The over-sized hand stroking the fur of the weasel draws you in by its pronounced gesture. The stoat is a symbol of fertility or pregnancy which adds another layer of intrigue to the painting. Lady with an Ermine demonstrates Leonardo’s mastery of paint and portraiture revealing the beauty of his sitter but eluding to a larger history.

Goya Third of May 1814

Goya  Third of May 1814

Goya depicts actual events with unflinching drama and gruesome detail in The Third of May.  In the painting:  faceless Napoleonic soldiers are executing the Spaniards who participated in an uprising the day previous and the bodies are piling up sparing no one not even a friar. Even though the central figure would be far too tall if he stood from his kneeling position we can forgive Goya’s artistic licence to cement his allegory. His martyrdom is complete in gesture and illumination. The painting hangs in the Prado beside its companion The Second of May. We are left stunned by their reality and horrified by our misdeeds. Goya famously depicted The Disasters of War in a series of horrific etchings that serve as a cautionary tale that reminds us that war can bring out the worst in mankind. It is that ugly mirror that Goya can reveal to us all that cements not only his greatness but his importance as an artist.

Da Vinci The Last Supper 1495-98

Da Vinci The Last Supper 1495-98

By all accounts we shouldn’t still have Leonardo’s Last Supper with us. You can find it at the Convent of  Santa Maria della Grazie in MilanThe painting began to deteriorate in his own lifetime. Da Vinci tried an experimental method of painting oil paint and tempera directly on the dry wall as opposed to the common fresco method that was used at the time. The wall itself can be found in a dining hall where the monks ate their meals directly on the other side of the kitchen. The moisture and fluctuating temperatures caused by the kitchen started to play havoc on the painting immediately after its completion. The condition was so bad that by 1692 no one thought twice about cutting a doorway through the wall removing Christ’s feet amongst other things. If the natural deterioration wasn’t bad enough, the convent was hit by a bomb during World War II destroying the other walls of the dining hall exposing the painting to the outside elements. It remained vulnerable to the weather for months. Disastrous attempts at restoration over the centuries also added to its appalling appearance. Finally in 1978 a team was committed to bringing it back to its former glory. The project took 21 years and many of the lost details have now been filled in using watercolours. The Last Supper is one of the most iconic images in human history. Da Vinci’s composition utilizes the linear perspective of the room in which it is painted creating a vanishing point behind Christ’s head accentuated by a window that forms a halo. Along with the use of perspective, Da Vinci directs our eye using all the body language and hand gestures motioning toward the focal point of Christ. Da Vinci also broke from tradition by placing Judas on the same side of the table as the rest of the apostles to complete his composition proving again his innovation.

Since I started this series of posts I would have to say this one has been the hardest to call. The artist in me leans more towards Goya, but the art historian in me can’t deny the contributions of Leonardo. Goya leaves me gob-smacked every time but then I look at the expression of miss Gallerani and am drawn into her visage. Ultimately, the scarcity of Da Vinci’s works only make them more desirable. The fact he could do so much with so little to show, just reconfirms his genius.

Winner: Da Vinci

related: W.T.G.A.: Duchamp vs Da Vinci

W.T.G.A.: Rothko vs Goya

W.T.G.A.: Bacon vs Van Gogh

bacon vs van gogh

Only a scant number of photographs of Vincent Van Gogh exist. Early in his adult life, he made a conscious decision to avoid the gaze of the camera, choosing rather to render his own likeness in paint.  He believed photography was totally inadequate in truly capturing its sitter. Only the expressive qualities of paint, colour and the artist’s hand had a chance of revealing a person’s true self.  Over his short life, he sat for himself a total of 38 times, all in an attempt to reveal a glimpse of who he really was. Francis Bacon also shared this revealing approach to portraiture. Bacon splayed his subjects open, spilling them all over the canvas in an attempt to scratch behind the surface. Photography doesn’t stand a chance in this regard at the feet of these two titans of painting. Both men handled paint in new and exciting ways that pushed technique to the forefront only to profoundly step aside to allow their subject’s voices be heard loud and clear. They both dealt with darkness and light in equal measures, translating their personal struggles into masterpieces but behind all the Sunflowers and Triptychs who is the greater artist?

Van Gogh Landscape at Dusk 1885

Van Gogh Landscape at Dusk 1885

Vincent Van Gogh taught himself how to paint through trial and error. During the roughly ten years he devoted to becoming an artist he produced an astounding number of works. Along the way his style evolved and blossomed. For an artist renown for his use of colour he started in the mud. In his early works, his palette consisted of umbers and blacks. Following in the tradition of Millet; an artist Van Gogh greatly admired he wanted to capture the dignity and culture of the humble working class. The paintings of this time are somber yet compelling but it’s in his drawings of this same era where the seeds of his true genius can be found. The expressive line that was still missing at the time in his paintings can be found in charcoal.

Bacon Study for a Running Dog 1954

Bacon Study for a Running Dog 1954

Bacon’s early work  before his mature style was also dark and shadowy. Works like Study for a Running Dog and even his Popes  function more as ghost like drawings on black and blue backgrounds than paintings. He uses a conservation of brushstrokes to knock in the details and accentuate the highlights. The blueprint for further explorations are evident but there is definitely a learning curve present. He has radically stripped away the colour and detail of the earlier successes of Painting and  Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.  Many elements are slowly being worked out to arrive at something genuinely new.

Van Gogh Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, 1888

Van Gogh Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, 1888

A short time after his journey began to become an artist Van Gogh discovered the Impressionists.  It proved to be the perfect storm; his drawing could come to the forefront, as well he now had a licence to explore light and colour. At the end of the 19th century Paris was the center of the Art World and Vincent knew he wanted to be part of it. Van Gogh wanted Paris but Paris didn’t want Van Gogh. In the end, Vincent wanted to follow the sun anyway, and left for the south of France where his genius would grow along with his madness.

Bacon Portrait of George Dyer Talking 1966

Bacon Portrait of George Dyer Talking 1966

Bacon replaced his black voids with bright pinks and mauves, warm orange and yellow spaces that tricked the viewer into a false sense of safety and security. The palette had changed but the subject matter remained the same. The vivisections  were now being performed in a children’s playroom.  Two parts beauty plus two parts horror; Francis Bacon had come home. He had created genuine visual friction. He would explore this marriage for the rest of his career.

Van Gogh The Church at Auvers 1890

Van Gogh The Church at Auvers 1890

Van Gogh discovered colour with a vengeance. Yellow was transformed into pure light. The heat of the noonday sun still radiates from his canvases. Impressionism let him loose but Expressionism transformed him. The sky became a living thing, landscapes breathed and people spoke their minds. Van Gogh captured his own personal artistic awakenings and discoveries right onto the canvas. We get to share in these breakthroughs in what feels like real time. His paintings seem to be alive with expressive force.

Bacon Triptych (Flying Figures) 1970

Bacon Triptych (Flying Figures) 1970

Expressionism was a tag Bacon had no taste for. He didn’t like being labelled and delegated  to specific corners of Art history. His style is truly his own and everyone who attempts what he accomplished will always be compared to him. Aside from fellow Brit Lucian Freud and a handful of others; Bacon had very little respect for the art of his own time. Even the art of the past held no special appeal for him with the exceptions of Velazquez and Van Gogh.

Bacon Study For A Portrait of Van Gogh 1957

Bacon Study For A Portrait of Van Gogh 1957

Bacon completed a series of paintings depicting the Dutch artist in 1957 based on Van Gogh’s work Painter on the Road to Tarascon 1888. He shows Van Gogh on his way to work melding with the landscape cast in shadow. The series was completed in a hurry to meet a gallery deadline. In this way Bacon is channeling Van Gogh’s working process in both subject and technique. Vincent liked to work fast, out in the open; instilling his paintings with both energy and emotion. Bacon struggles with this and is obviously more comfortable with the confines of the studio and utilizing photographic source material. In the end this reveals more about Van Gogh’s genius than Bacon’s.

Van Gogh Irises 1890

Van Gogh Irises 1890

Francis Bacon produced some of the most arresting images of the 20th century. He had a knack for making the ugly beautiful, but Van Gogh had that special gift of transcending beauty all together and capturing the sublime.

Winner: Van Gogh

 

W.T.G.A.: Warhol vs Picasso

picasso vs warholThink what you will of their work; these two could arguably be considered the most influential artists that have ever lived. The art they produced was like an atom bomb whose fall-out we are still feeling the effects of to this very day. Picasso owned the first half of the 20th Century and Warhol the last. After them nothing was the same again. They may have not been the sole inventors of the movements they are most renowned for, but they sure perfected them. They both launched a million imitators, with very mixed results. In the 21st century; some of our biggest names: Koons, Hirst and Murakami (to name a few) all follow the Warhol formula. In the arena of painting, Picasso’s shadow still looms large. Their output was astounding and they both worked right up until their deaths. Long after the soup cans and the three musicians they continued their respective artistic journeys, but was it still genius? If we set aside all the masterpieces and focus on the later work when the shock of the new had faded and try to divorce the art from their reputations, who’s the greater artist?

Pablo Picasso  Tomato Plant 1944

Pablo Picasso Tomato Plant 1944

Throughout his career Picasso reinvented himself countless times from blue to rose to cubist to neoclassical  and so on and on. Along the way he relaxed into a bold hybrid of cubism with expressionistic overtones. He relied on black to outline his ideas and the immediate world to be found only an arm’s length away to inform his subject matter, but because it is Picasso the simple isn’t all that simple. If we look at the Tomato Plant painted in 1944 during WWII we see a moment of change. The fruit is ripening on the vine and the outlook feels promising. Picasso leaves the background flat accentuating the plant. It feels like a simple study in colour and composition but it reflects his deeply entrenched approach to exploration.

Andy Warhol Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982

Andy Warhol Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982

Warhol as well constantly changed his game from Pop to film to portraiture to social commentary and so on. Later in his career he collaborated with other artists including Clemente and Basquait. His portraits became more about business than art but he still messed with the formula. Although every portrait he ever did was roughly the same dimensions (22.2 x 22.2 -his intent was to have a huge show of them displayed in a grid at the Met after his death) he did constantly experiment with colour and line. He even famously played with copper oxidization (piss paintings) that poke fun at both abstract expressionism and the art market itself.  In the above portrait Jean-Michel was in on the joke and aware of his own critics. Warhol was also hyper aware of his own reputation and even if he didn’t show it on the surface wanted more than anything to be remembered as an important artist and not just a  showy personality.

Picasso Les Meninas after Velasquez 1957

Picasso Les Meninas after Velasquez 1957

Picasso’s reputation remained intact throughout his lifetime but as the post war world found new delights in action painting, conceptual and pop art his voice was being pushed to the sides. The demand for his work was still high  but newer artists weren’t following his lead any longer, so Picasso started looking to the past. In the fifties he decided to tackle one of the heavy weights of Spanish painting -Velasquez. He did 58 variations on Les Meninas,  many which can be found in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Standing in front of them you get a sense that Picasso is trying to work out the demons of cubism that he is now eternally chained to. Most of the studies feel unresolved and repetitious. Picasso tries to best Velasquez at his own game but constantly comes up short. The strongest of the suite is the large black and white version that feels like many paintings all rolled into one and has to rely on a reference to one of his own masterpieces – Guernica to compete with original Les Meninas. There will always be something compelling in his attempts but the end result is neither good Velasquez nor good Picasso.

Warhol Last Supper 1986

Warhol Last Supper 1986

Warhol also tackled the greats throughout his career. The Last Supper painted in 1986 based on a kitschy reproduction of the Da Vinci original works for that very same reason. The fact Warhol used a reproduction as the source material comments more on his own output than the original subject matter. It reflects any version other than the original will always fall short. This is the lesson Picasso had to learn the hard way.

Warhol Basquait Last Supper Punching Bags 1986

Warhol Basquait Last Supper Punching Bags 1986

One of the strongest collaboration pieces done with Basquait would be their Punching Bags . Warhol who was a devout Catholic and attended church every Sunday places religion firmly in the ring with public opinion. Like all good Warhols, it satisfies both aesthetically and conceptually.

Picasso Woman Flower 1964

Picasso Woman Flower 1964

In the last few decades of Picasso’s life he started to paint against the clock. It would not be uncommon for him to do a painting in the morning, break for lunch and do another one in the afternoon. These works have been considered a side note on a long distinguished career and not taken very seriously due to their fevered execution. Although they seem pale shades of past triumphs,they are still very much Picassos.

Picasso Man with Pipe 1968

Picasso Man with Pipe 1968

As distinct as his style is, and along with the sheer number of paintings he completed, it is mind boggling that there is always something innovative to look at in every one of Picasso’s works. He was always surprising from his first painting to his last. Every brushstroke is applied with a confidence and assuredness that is both intoxicating and humbling.

Warhol Marilyn (4) 1979

Warhol Marilyn (4) 1979

Repetition was a cornerstone of Warhol’s ethos but sometimes too much of a good thing can take its toll. Near the end of his life new ideas were too often being replaced with recycled ones. Warhol made endless Warhols but if you strip away all the helpers and the mystique of the factory, he was still a brilliant draftsman and colourist. Picasso could have learned a thing or two about colour from Andy and Andy could have benefited from being a more solitary artist like Pablo. In the end, the entirety of Warhol’s career qualifies him as a true artistic genius whose  influence will be felt for a long time to come, but ultimately he can never escape from the long shadow of the Spaniard.

Winner: Pablo Picasso

Related    Who’s the Greatest Artist?

W.T.G.A: Picasso vs Rembrandt

W.T.G.A: Warhol vs Dali

W.T.G.A.: Michelangelo vs Matisse

michelangelo vs matisse

One was a master of stone, the other a master of colour. Both lived well into their eighties and both were  considered to be the greatest living artist in their lifetimes. Their chief rivals were Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso respectively.  Michelangelo Buonarroti was asked by the pope to put down his chisel and pick up a paint brush (against his will) and Henri Matisse was forced (by illness) to put down his paint brush and pick up a pair of scissors. They both rose to the new challenge and  left behind some of the greatest artwork the world has ever known. Their masterpieces are nothing short of iconic, but who is the greater artist?

 Matisse  The Red Studio 1911

Matisse The Red Studio 1911

For me, Matisse’s Red Studio is one of the greatest paintings painted by anybody everIt hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art beside another one of his great works The Piano Lesson.  It simultaneously shows space and negates it at the same time. It is mischievously simple and all together complex. The drawing is sumptuous and the use of colour totally avant garde. The abstract expressionist Mark Rothko was completely put under its spell, influencing countless of his own works. It draws you in with its joyous objects, sculptures and paintings scattered around the room, but it also keeps you out by its flat use of red reminding us that this is a place of serious work. Matisse rewrote the book on painting.

Michelangelo Doni Tondo 1504-1506

Michelangelo  Doni Tondo 1504-1506

It is hard to believe after looking at a picture like Doni Tondo or The Holy Family by Michelangelo, that he didn’t consider himself a painter. His handling of value and composition are nothing short of masterful. His figures feel as though they could take a breath, (although somehow the female form completely alluded him). He is a grand storyteller conveying deep emotions with a simple tilt of the head or the direction of the gaze. We follow those eyes because we believe those eyes. These figures seem real but at the same time other worldly. Michelangelo tests our faith and asks to believe.

Doni Tondo detail

Doni Tondo detail

Matisse also asks us to believe. We can see the reflection of a goldfish on the surface of water with a single orange brushstroke. He has condensed our senses to a dash of pure colour and nudged our perception to a flawless execution. We are rendered children in their presence.

Matisse The Goldfish 1910

Matisse The Goldfish 1910

Matisse is renown for his use of colour. He liked to use large swatches of pure colour. He believed in the axiom  ‘a kilogram of green is greener than half kilogram of green’. He also offsets his colours with both black and white, which creates great contrast as well as balances the palette. In Goldfish Matisse applies the paint loose and transparent with no real consideration for actual space preferring rhythm and pattern.

Michelangelo unfinished slave 1505

Michelangelo unfinished slave 1505

Michelangelo believed every piece of stone contained a sculpture waiting to be freed. You can see this process in his series of unfinished slaves. 5 centuries later we are fortunate that timing and dwindling funds forced Michelangelo to abandon his plans and work for the tomb of Pope Julius. The original plan called for 30 slaves in total with only two ever being completed and another 4 partially started. They illustrate the act of creation and serve as a masterclass for sculptors everywhere.

Matisse The Knife Thrower 1947

Matisse The Knife Thrower 1947

Throughout his career Matisse slowly reduced his figures to shape and flat colour. He eliminated the detail and emphasized the gesture. His cut-outs were the perfect culmination of this and for me some of his strongest work. Many artists peak  young and spend the rest of their lives imitating themselves, never again being able to recapture that younger vitality. Matisse is one of those rare individuals who was prolific throughout his career. Made near the end of his life with scissors and sheets of painted paper, the cut-outs are simply exquisite.

Michelangelo Moses 1513 - 1515

Michelangelo   Moses 1513 – 1515

As the story goes:  after Michelangelo completed Moses, he slapped him on the knee and commanded him to speak. It is true that stone was transformed by his chisel into something more. We are so humbled by their presence, that it is almost unfathomable that a person could actually create them. We are in such awe of his talent, we have trouble taking in the work. Embarrassing as this is; it was years before I noticed the horns on top of Moses‘s head. I was too busy marveling at his hands, his feet, his expression, the drapery and so on.

Matisse The Beasts of the Sea 1950

Matisse The Beasts of the Sea 1950

As much as I love Matisse and I love Matisse, he’s no match for the Italian. The work of Michelangelo is so impressive,  you can’t do anything but stop and take notice of it. I didn’t even mention David or The Sistine Chapel, but don’t worry their time will come.

Winner: Michelangelo

We have now come to the end of the first 8 match-ups and the winners are poised to face off in the next round. So far, the bracket looks like this:

artist

W.T.G.A.: Velázquez vs Van Gogh

Velazquez vs Van Goght

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez is often sited as the greatest European painter to have ever picked up a brush. His technical skill is nothing less than superb (putting it mildly), but technique alone does not an artist make. What separates Velázquez from the rest, is that he is one of those special painters who doesn’t just deal in light and flesh, but in truth.   Vincent Van Gogh  sought truth in every brushstroke he ever laid to canvas. Art for him became the only truth in a world that constantly fed him terrible lies. The greatest lie of all was that his truth was worthless and misdirected. When the avalanche of lies turned into doubt; it became too much for him to bear and he ended his brief and tenuous life. Both Van Gogh and Velázquez are painters of the highest order and unrivaled merchants of truth, but who is the greater artist?

Velázquez Waterseller of Seville 1619

Velázquez   Waterseller of Seville 1619

Velázquez announced his arrival with a single painting Waterseller of Seville. He was barely in his twenties, and the most powerful family in Europe at the time, gave him an opportunity to prove himself. Velázquez rose to the occasion and entered the court of the king and then never left. His first real job was to be the official painter for King Philip IV of Spain. Not bad for someone who was discouraged by his family from pursuing the lowly profession of artist.  Velázquez was the educated son of a lawyer and art was viewed as a pedestrian pursuit unworthy of his station. Velázquez’s talent couldn’t be suppressed and in no time flat he found himself not only working in the  palace of the king, but living there as well.

Van Gogh Shoes 1886

Van Gogh Shoes 1886

It is probably safe to say, Van Gogh never set foot in anything remotely close to a palace.  The closet Van Gogh got was a little four room house in Arles in the south of France. He lived in poverty his entire adult life, having to be supported by his art dealer brother Theo. After being rejected by the church he turned his focus towards painting and spent a frantic ten years seeking the truth in paint. He completed 1000 paintings in that time and near the end of his life completed 70 works in 70 days. He worked like a man possessed. It was in his ‘Studio of the South’ where he totally abandoned his dark somber palette and embraced the vibrant colours of the sun.

velazquez-venus

Velázquez Venus 1651

Velázquez’s talent for colour is that he can do so much with so little. Reds and blacks sing with minimal brushstrokes and expert handling. His Venus is an excellent example of this, certain areas are built up into subtle variations of tone where others are barely knocked in at all. Velázquez directs our gaze and always keeps the viewer in mind. He peaks our interest by not revealing all and situating us in relation to the subject as she stares directly out at us. We become part of the painting. The Rokeby Venus (as it is now called) was originally solely meant for the male gaze, intended to be displayed in the 17th century version of a man-cave. It eventually made its way to England where another King (can be bookmarked in the story of Velázquez) helped to purchase it for the National Gallery at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1914, a suffragette named Mary Richardson attacked the painting in a protest that women couldn’t have the vote. She ended up slashing the painting five times with a small axe. The media of the day portrayed the incident like it was an attempted murder.

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Van Gogh Chair 1888

Over the years, many sensational stories have been told of Vincent’s breakdown, self mutilation and manic behaviour. This is part of the legend that is Van Gogh. No matter how little interest people may have in art, they’ve heard that story, and no matter how many times you hear it, it is still disquieting. This was an extreme act that defies reason, the act of a mad man, but Van Gogh was not mad. A mad man couldn’t control paint like that. An unhealthy combination of drink, depression, passion and rejection can produce huge lapses in judgement but a delusional mind can’t produce a painting like the Chair. The absolute harmony of colour is nothing short of breathtaking. It literally blazes from the gallery wall. Van Gogh suffered horribly from his inner demons but it’s impossible to look at one of his paintings and not feel a sense of joy. There’s a pleasure in challenging the gods, even if you know you can never win.

Velázquez The Spinners 1657

Velázquez The Spinners 1657

Arachne was turned into a spider for her crime of challenging the gods to a weaving contest. This is the theme of Velázquez’s The Spinners; painted near the end of his life. By this time, Velázquez had enjoyed a long and illustrious career; having been promoted to run the King’s household and not only produce artwork for the palace, but to go on buying trips to acquire it as well. He filled rooms with Titans and Tintorettos alongside his own works. Velázquez placed himself in the canon of art history long before the rest of the world caught up.

Van Gogh Starry Night 1889

Van Gogh Starry Night 1889

It took some time for the rest of the world to realize the mistake it had made with Vincent. The world rejected Van Gogh’s work when he was alive and only embraced it after his death. It took a while for the rest of us to catch up to him and understand his genius. The story of Van Gogh resounds so deeply because it is the story of vindication. He was right and the world was wrong. Everyone needs to believe  that truth, to know that the world isn’t always right in its treatment of you and that anyone can prevail against insurmountable odds. Unfortunately for Vincent it came far too late and the tragedy of his life helped fuel the pathos of his genius. It is almost impossible to divorce the man from the work but the work speaks for itself and we are left with masterpiece after masterpiece.

Velázquez Les Meninas 1756

Velázquez Les Meninas 1756

A masterpiece to rival all others would have to be Les Meninas by Velázquez. It is the crown jewel in the painter’s oeuvre. It is the ultimate court painting, again bringing the viewer into the action. We are standing in essence where the King and Queen are standing indicated by their reflection at the back of the room. We are frozen in time as the morning sun illuminates the maids of honour. Velázquez himself stares out at us from this palatial room. It is both intimate and distancing at the same time. Royalty is the domain for the few and the elite and tends to keep its distance. Velázquez spent a lifetime preserving that distance by depicting the cultural divide of the more fortunate. He was tremendously gifted at flattering an extremely awkward looking man but they are not among his best works. Where Velázquez truly shows his genius are in his portraits of the attendants and commoners that peppered the King’s court. This is where his truth shines brightest.

Everything Vincent attempted sings true; he distilled painting to its purest form.  Van Gogh’s truth is that of colour and movement and the nobility of a worn out pair of shoes or simple chair in the corner. Life was hard for him but his pictures don’t get bogged down by his hardships. Van Gogh’s paintings are the essence of art and lucky for us, a gift to the world.

Winner: Van Gogh

W.T.G.A.: Cézanne vs Kandinsky

cezanne vs kandinskyYou would be hard-pressed to find two more pivotal individuals in the evolution of painting than Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky. Both of their artistic explorations forged new paths in art that countless artists have followed since. One is considered to be the grand provocateur of pure abstraction and the other, the godfather of modernism itself.  If painting is a language; than their works could be akin to the Rosetta Stone, offering countless insights into the possibilities of things to come. Both men left us with a rich legacy of stunning masterpieces and innovative approach, but who is the greater artist?

Paul Cezanne Still-Life with Bottle of Liqueur 1880-1890

Paul Cézanne  Still-Life with Bottle of Liqueur 1880-1890

When we think of Cézanne, we think of greens and oranges, we think of countless variations of  a solitary theme whether it be a distant mountain or still-life brimming with fruit, we think of bathers by a stream or men immersed in a game of cards and then we stop thinking altogether and let the pictures take over. We are helpless to their beauty. A painting by Cézanne is an experience, it starts to work on you the minute you step into its realm; all other paintings seem to fade away in its presence.  At first it may appear to be a pure exercise in painting, marrying colour with technique, but the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts. In the hands of Cézanne, an apple can take on transcendental qualities. The abstract expressionist Barnett Newman famously called them ‘canon balls’ eluding to their dynamic power.

Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation No. 30 1913

Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation No. 30 1913

Similarly, Kandinsky breathes with explosive flurries of  colour and harmony. We become charged by their energy and swept up in their movements. Throughout his career, he explored the correlation between music and paint and helped to visually interpret the sweeping momentum of symphonies and other musical compositions. When standing in front of one of his paintings in a museum, it sings to you. One composition leads to another and you want more. Kandinsky constantly thrills and surprises you with his choices and you are left amazed by the endlessness of his creativity.

Cézanne  Morning in Provence 1900-06

Cézanne Morning in Provence 1900-06

Early on in Cézanne’s evolution as a painter his palette was dark and dense and his hand was heavy and unsure. As time went on the colours became lighter and the hand more confident. Near the end of his career, thin paint and raw canvas spoke volumes and every brushstroke became a delight. Over his lifetime he stripped away all things unnecessary in his painting and distilled the essential. A seemingly unfinished Cézanne is still a deeply satisfying experience.

Kandinsky Composition No 9 1936

Kandinsky Composition No 9 1936

Kandinsky started out in a fauvist vein attacking the canvas with brilliant colour and a wild technique. Over the years, the landscapes and imagery of his early works slowly were reduced to impressions and eventually disappeared all together into a sea of lines, colours and gestures. Shapes soon took over creating a language all to themselves. The chaos of early works was replaced with order and echos of geometry and biology. The song evolved over the decades but retained its tune.

Cézanne Still-Life with a Peach and two Green Pears 1883-87

Cézanne Still-Life with a Peach and two Green Pears 1883-87

Cézanne’s contribution to the history of art is no small feat. He turned painting on its end by playing with the picture plain. By tilting the perspectives of multiple objects we see the seeds of cubism and usher in Modernism. Braque and Picasso were immensely influenced by Cézanne’s explorations. The rules of painting were being rewritten by these innovations. What should not work or be misconstrued as wrong, resounds true and leads the way.

Kandinsky Painting with Green Center 1913

Kandinsky Painting with Green Center 1913

Throughout his career Kandinsky forged new ground for all those who followed him. He was a founding member of the Blue Rider group, taught at the Bauhaus and  left an astonishing body of work. He wrote extensively about the theory of abstraction and taught many who were willing to learn. He is considered one of the greats, but for a long time his contribution went unacknowledged; even in his homeland of Russia, his paintings were hidden away in institutions like the Hermitage not to be viewed by the public. Time has erased these wrongs and now Kandinsky rises high in the Pantheon of art but can he topple Cézanne?

In the end Kandinsky may have had the canons but Cézanne supplied the ammunition.   

Winner: Cézanne

W.T.G.A.: Bacon vs Basquiat

bacon vs basquiatThe art world has never seen anything like them, before or since. Both of their work exposes a nerve and breathes with raw vitality. What on the surface appears to be slapdashery actually on further investigation reveals a surgeon’s precision. For two artists who received no formal training they are in complete control of their materials. One was born from the ashes of World War II and the other from the urban street art scene of NYC. In their lifetimes, both men wrestled with addiction and sometimes could be swept under by its weight. They never pulled their punches, they embraced their outsider status and could somehow wring the beauty from the ugliness of the world. Both their legacies have changed the face of art forever, but who is the greater artist?

francis-bacon-three-studies-for-figures-at-the-base-of-a-crucifixion

Francis Bacon Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion 1944

They say that if you have a dream that all your teeth fall out; that you are worried about an issue in your life that is out of your control. According to dream logic; teeth represent power. No one knew this better than Francis Bacon, he was fascinated by teeth; actually the whole mouth in general. The mouth is the gateway into our insides. We can greet people with a smile or ward them off with a snarl. We can laugh or scream. In the paintings of Francis Bacon, it is that silent scream that we hear above all others.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown) 1983

The sound we hear from Basquiat is that of a myriad of words all spoken at once; poetry applied to the canvas, scrawled on and then crossed out. It is stream of conscience word association that acts as the mouth of the artist. It lets us in then spits us out again. Basquiat began his career with words as the graffiti artist SAMO. He reacted to the city he lived in by writing social commentary onto its walls. Text became a visual element that he carried with him throughout his career.

Bacon Study for a Bullfight #1 1969

Francis Bacon   Study for a Bullfight #1 1969

As Basquiat fragments words, Bacon fragments visual space. Often times in his paintings, two objects can occupy the same space combining to create a symbiotic entity. People and things seem to penetrate one another leaving them altered. Bacon sets his narratives into a world that is both flat and has depth all at the same time. There is a dramatic quality to his players that seem to find themselves performing for the viewer in an unforgiving arena. His subject matter can seem very harsh, but then he baths his paintings in vibrant flat fields of brilliant colour that radiate beauty. He entices and repulses in equal measures.

Advantage: Bacon

Jean Michel Basquiat Trumpet 1984

Jean-Michel Basquiat Trumpet 1984

Unfortunately throughout  their careers, both artists experienced the ugly sting of bigotry. It is hard to fathom that even as late as the eighties that some people had a hard time accepting a black contemporary artist. Throughout his career, Basquiat experienced many obstacles in being recognized by the art community as a serious painter. His radical style was too extreme for many and misinterpreted as naive. His freshness and freedom eventually prevailed but the pressure he felt throughout his career may have contributed to his short time with us. In the end, Basquiat refused to be marginalized as a novelty act and wore his much deserved crown with pride.

Francis Bacon  Triptych Studies from the Human Body 1970

Francis Bacon Triptych Studies from the Human Body 1970

Considering the idiotic resurgence of homophobia the world is now experiencing we are reminded that prejudice is still alive and well. Francis Bacon didn’t hide his homosexuality in real life or his work in a time  when that was not the norm. He helped to break down barriers and provide a much needed voice . His life was laid bare on the canvas. A few years ago while touring the Vatican  I walked around a corner and came face to face with Bacon’s Study for Pope II from 1961. Considering Bacon’s sexual orientation flies directly in the face of the Catholic Church along with the fact that the majority of his Pope pictures show the pontiff in less than a flattering light, I find it an odd choice for inclusion in their holdings. I guess art trumps all.

Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol Arm and Hammer II 1985

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol   Arm and Hammer II 1985

Basquait’s star burned brightly and attracted the attention of many in the New York art scene including Andy Warhol.  What tragically turns out to be the end of Andy’s career, the two artists did a series of collaborative paintings together sharing the same canvases.  Although none of their combined pieces ever rose to the height of their individual works, the juxtaposition of Andy’s mechanical process with Basquiat’s expressive touch was quite complimentary. They developed a strong friendship through their partnership. The two would speak daily on the phone to one another and Andy was concerned with Jean’s drug abuse and health. In 1987 Andy’s untimely death due to complications from a routine surgery really hit Basquiat hard.  Less than two years later, he too would die suddenly, this time of an overdose at the age of 27.

Francis Bacon Study for a Head of George Dyer 1967

Francis Bacon  Study for a Head of George Dyer 1967

Basquiat’s career was ended before it really got started. He accomplished an incredible amount in a very short  time. His painting instincts were always immaculate. You can witness the act of painting on his canvases and relish in his choices. All his paintings are masterfully executed but I would be hard pressed to find a definitive masterpiece among them. We never got a chance to experience him at the full height of his powers. Bacon has the advantage here by default. He had the opportunity to develop. One look at a painting like Study for a Head of George Dyer and you can see an extraordinary  technique and touch that has been cultivated and honed over decades. Bacon’s legacy is impressive, as is Basquiat’s. But in the end, we are left with only one question: poor Jean-Michel, what might have been?

Winner: Bacon

W.T.G.A.: Da Vinci vs Duchamp

Da Vinci vs DuchampBoth Leonardo and Marcel could be considered the elder statesmen of art. They are a thinking person’s artist. Their ideas transcended their products. As it turns out, the world has a scarce amount of products from the both of them to ogle at in our cultural institutions. In the case of Leonardo he only completed 15-16 paintings over the course of his life. I find it funny that not even art historians can agree on the exact number, as well it seems  lost Da Vincis keep resurfacing all the time.  Duchamp’s output  was minimal as well because he divided his time between art production and chess. He famously turned the game into  performance art on a lecture circuit with his friend Man Ray. We are only left with a handful of pieces, but oh what a handful. They both had too much to think about, rather than spending all their time fabricating. When they did make things, their touch was masterful. Both of them changed art forever; not just the process of making art but nothing short of the idea of art all together. But who is the greater artist?

da Vinci  The Virigin of the Rocks (detail) 1486

Leonardo da Vinci  The Virigin of the Rocks (detail) 1486

He was born out of wedlock, as a young man he was arrested for sodomy and as an old man died in the arms of a king: Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most recognized artist in the history of mankind. He is definitely the author of its most famous painting. But why that painting? A more appropriate question might be: why not that painting? Of the 15-16 paintings he completed over the course of his lifetime is it even his best? Does the most famous painting in history have to be the best painting in history? Is there any way to actually quantify that or who the greatest artist of all time is for that matter? (Probably not… but let’s crack on shall we.)

Duchamp Fountain 1917

Duchamp Fountain 1917

If Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is the world’s most famous piece of art than Marcel’s  Fountain would be the world’s most infamous. Almost a hundred years old and it can still offend and infuriate. So called art lovers will throw their hands up in disgust. This is the ultimate ready-made: a urinal tipped on its side signed by the fictitious R. Mutt. Duchamp didn’t even make it, he didn’t have to, but his power as an artist made it art. The role of the artist was irrevocably changed . He had turned lead into gold.

Advantage: Draw

Da Vinci  skull drawing 1489

Da Vinci skull drawing 1489

Leonardo on the other hand had no desire to dabble in the alchemy of the natural world. He believed man could not replicate nature but rather should observe it and possibly create inventions and understandings to better navigate it. His explorations into medical science and aerodynamics among others are centuries ahead of their time. It was his thirst for knowledge and excellence that helped to define the Renaissance. A favourite story I can neither confirm nor deny is:  Leonardo was a workaholic and knew he had too much to do and discover and found sleep just got in the way of this. To prevent himself from sleeping too long he devised a special bed.  The bed was hooked up to large weights on one end that would slowly be filled with water. When the weights were heavy enough they would tip the bed forcing the occupant up and out of it. An ancient alarm clock that delves into the realm of mythology but is aligned with the larger than life persona that is Da Vinci.

Advantage: Leonardo

Duchamp The Large Glass 1923

Duchamp The Large Glass 1923

The illustrations on the The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even (The Large Glass) evoke Leonardo’s diagrams for future machines. Duchamp’s machine painted on glass, that runs on love gasoline is planted more in the arena of satire than science. He painted it on glass so it would constantly change depending on what’s on the other side. The glass was broken during transportation in 1927. Instead of discarding the broken piece, Duchamp famously glued it back together claiming the accident had vastly improved it.

Da Vinci The Battle of Anghiari 1505

Da Vinci The Battle of Anghiari 1505

A piece we have lost to time is Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari. The mural may in fact lie behind another fresco by Giorgio Vasari in the hall of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. This is a testimony to Leonardo’s power. Art historians were willing to remove and damage a centuries old masterpiece in the off chance that a Da Vinci lies behind it. The original plan for the hall was to have facing frescoes, one by Leonardo and the other by Michelangelo. That would have been some room, but alas it did not come to pass.

Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q. 1919

Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q. 1919

With no more than a postcard and a pen Duchamp delved into the iconoclastic. By subverting Leonardo he only gave him more power. Dada exclaimed that the artist only need to recognize something as art in order for it to be art. So in this little contest Duchamp himself tips his hat to the victor. Marcel Duchamp’s contribution to art changed the game completely and injected a much needed sense of mirth and play. Marcel elevated art to the heights of what it is capable of being and Leonardo shone a light on what mankind is capable of achieving.

Winner: Leonardo da Vinci

W.T.G.A.: Dali vs Warhol

dali vs warholTwo more theatrical artists you’ll never find. Both achieved international super stardom in their lifetimes. They became that very rare species: artist celebrity. Today your average person would be hard pressed to name a living artist. Not even our so called art celebrities like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst or Matthew Barney pull that much weight in a world of Justin Biebers and Lady Gagas.  Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol were and are to this day household names. Pretty good for guys who painted melting clocks and Campbell‘s soup cans, but who is the greater artist?

Dali The Basket of Bread 1926

Dali The Basket of Bread 1926

Before the ants, crutches and barren landscapes of the subconscious shifted everyone’s perceptions of reality; there was a young Spanish art student born in 1904 in the North Western corner of Spain named Salvador. Dali exhibited a master’s talent from an early age and as a youth he attended a prestigious art academy in Madrid, but dropped out (or was expelled) before completion; citing he was better than all his instructors. A controversial move but a correct one. From an early age Dali understood his place in the universe and wouldn’t be satisfied unless he was the center of it.

Warhol Shoe 50's

Warhol Shoe 50’s

Andrew Warhola was born in Pittsburgh in 1928. Andy Warhol was born in New York city in  1949. By the fifties, the once shy and frail bed ridden boy had reinvented himself as the most sought after illustrator in New York. His inkblot drawing style was both elegant and whimsical and proved irresistible to magazine editors. Although Andy was at the top of his field he yearned to be considered a real artist.

Dali The Persistence of Memory 1931

Dali The Persistence of Memory 1931

Introduced to Surrealism in the late 1920’s Dali soon became its most visible proponent. Although he would later reject its staunch confides, it is the movement most associated with him. An early work and probably one of the most recognizable artworks on the planet The Persistence of Memory does exactly what its title connotates. The dream world of the subconscious rocks the viewer into a whole new way of seeing. In my opinion this is Dali’s crowing achievement and possibly one of the act of painting’s crowning achievements.

Advantage: Dali

Warhol Campbells Soup Cans 1962

Warhol Campbells Soup Cans 1962

Andy may have never painted anything as seminal as The Persistence of Memory but he had a gift of transforming everything he painted. He elevated the banal to the iconic. The greatest example of this would be his soup cans. 32 hand painted still-lifes arranged in a pattern (originally shown as a long row, now a grid). The power of subtle change and repetition is undeniable. When first exhibited in California only one sold to the actor Dennis Hopper. Later it was returned to maintain all 32 as a single work. The effect they had was stupefying. They questioned what could be considered  art and flew directly in the face of the godfathers of American art the Abstract Expressionists. Materialism and Pop culture were meant to be condemned  not exonerated in the halls of fine art but Andy could see the future, and not only recognized the power of Pop but helped push it over the edge.

Advantage: Warhol

Dali Premonition of War 1936

Dali Premonition of War 1936

As interesting as Surrealism is, it can’t compete with the juggernaut that is Pop, but Pop too has its limitations. Pop’s subject matter will always be itself, it’s like a snake swallowing its tail. Dali could use Surrealism to its full advantage and utilized its storytelling ability to comment on the political unrest of his beloved Spain. The late great art critic Robert Hughes said that Dali’s Premonition of War was one of the greatest comments on war ever depicted, even eclipsing Picasso’s Guernica. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but the anguish and tension is palatable.

Warhol Electric Chair 1963

Warhol Electric Chair 1963

At his best, Warhol transcended Pop and even appropriated his own working methods to delve deeper into the human condition than celebrities or cow wallpaper. By the 60’s Warhol had set up his Factory and adopted silk-screening as his number one working method. It provided him an easy way to repeat an image as  opposed to the tedious and laborious method of hand painting he used for his soup cans. Utilizing a bevy of assistants and quick working methods, Warhol’s production went into high gear. He later expanded his art into the movies, publishing and sculpture. Not all of it was stellar but it demonstrated his endless creativity, proving he didn’t like to stay in the same place for very long.

Advantage; Warhol

Dali Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937

Dali Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937

Dali at his best, transformed the way we see the world and at his worst, his paintings became cheap parlor tricks that turned into optical illusions that are better suited for the walls of a dormitory rather than a museum. Unfortunately near the end of his career Dali became a caricature of his former self. He notoriously signed a stack of blank paper that became countless forgeries. The art market was awash with fake Dalis with real signatures.

Warhol Marilyn 1964

Warhol Marilyn 1964

Warhol himself didn’t even sign half his work, he got his mom to do it for him. His portraits became a formula, starting with a simple Polaroid passed to assistants then silk-screened with Andy doing as little as collecting the fee which was $50 thousand a pop. The commercialization of his art is both his worst failure and his greatest accomplishment. His example has been followed by countless others that came after him. His influence is immense, but it would be dismissive to underestimate his contribution to the canon of art history. Andy Warhol changed the way we perceive process, culture and ultimately art and that is no small accomplishment.

Winner: Warhol