Comparisons of the Painters

Our intent in this section is not to create detailed semiotic distinctions amongst the artists we have presented on this site. Rather, we aim to provide visitors with brief comparisons to help reflect upon the pictorial technique and personalities of the great artists of our time.  

This section contains anecdotes and very short, subjective analyses derived from our research, in the hope of providing you with some interesting material. Enjoy!

 

Overview

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Artist Sandro Botticelli Léonard De Vinci Raphaël Vélasquez Adolf Von Menzel
Edouard Manet
Paul Gauguin
Henri Matisse Pablo Picasso
Georges Yatridès
Dates 1444 - 1510  1452 - 1519  1483 - 1520  1599 - 1660  1815 - 1905  1832 - 1883  1848 - 1903  1869 - 1954 1881 - 1973  1931 - ... 
Nationality Italian Italian Italian Spanish German French French French Spanish French-American
Current Renaissance Renaissance Renaissance Baroque Realism, Pre-impressionnism
Impressionism
Impressionnisme then Fauvism
Fauvism Cubism

Contemporary

Picasso : The Young Ladies of Avignon

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By the age of 16 he has absorbed the basic techniques of traditional painting. At 19, Picasso produces admirable pastiches of the works of the leading lights of Montmartre. After the scandal provoked by the Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon), he imperturbably alternates his oddly-shaped women with beautiful haughty creatures, an arrangement of triangles with a sprinkling of pointillism dubbed La jeune fille devant la cheminée (Young Girl in front of the chimney), and a wonderful Spanish beauty, also given a touch of pointillism La Salchichona (The Salami Seller).

After years of sentimental aesthetics, after his blue and rose periods, he suddenly abandons his pensive fairground entertainers, his melancholy nudes and his dreamy harlequins to play a truly dirty trick on Art, on an art that has remained within bounds despite all the previous daring innovations, a dirty trick from which he has not yet recovered. It is, of course, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

There was one taboo that no painter either wished to nor could infringe: that of the female body. Female nudity has always been an object of worship, or rather that of a tacit convention between the painter who reveals and the aesthete who regards. Does there exist an aesthetic object of contemplation more rich in signification and connotation than a woman's body?

Picasso, lives amidst scandal and provocation, does not wish to prostitute himself (seek the easy path), considers that the painter is greater than the painting, discredits traditional techniques to dispel the public's illusions, rejects all theorizing, scorns those who must research, dissects and appropriates other painters' work, claims that art is a lie which enables one to arrive at the truth, kills desire through nightmare, amuses, excites, but disappoints through the incompleteness of his work.

 

Vélasquez and Picasso : las Meninas

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Picasso uses various elements from Velasquez's celebrated painting "Las Meninas" (Young Ladies of the Court) in fifty-eight "studies". This could constitute a fascinating analysis of Velasquez's work and would lend itself well to such an undertaking. Let us refer to the first chapter "Les Suivantes" (The Ladies' Maids) of Michel Foucault 's work, "Les mots et les choses" (Words and Things). The author sets great store by examining the relationships established between the individuals inside and outside of the painting : between the Portrait of Velasquez and the painter Velasquez, the couple, Philippe IV and his spouse reflected in the mirror in the background of the painting, and the individuals presented in the foreground, between the spectators and the canvas turned to the wall, etc... The complexity of these relationships allows him to give prominence to the function of classical representation as being pure representation.

M. Alpotov, a Soviet critic specifies: "It seems that we are acceding to an ever higher degree of reality, but we never attain the absolute".

Yatridès-Kubrick : Yatrides's slabs came first

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It is evident that Yatrides slabs came first.

Did these Interstellar Icons have a direct influence on the work of the film-maker and the novelist? It hardly matters. The comparison between the different approaches: pictorial, literary, and cinematic shall, I hope, allow devotees of Yatridès' works a better understanding of the slabs' importance and of their significance in the painter's very creative process. A painter whose constant ambition is to push back the boundaries of his art.

"2001, a space odyssee" is not merely a particularly evocative title, the very stuff of dreams for millions of human being sat the dawn of a space age that promised so much in the way oftechnical achievements and scientific discoveries. The creativeadventure that Arthur C. CLARKE and Stanley KUBRICK, novelist and film-maker respectively, lived through together, working on a common script,is also most instructive in so far as, starting with an original idea ,two such contrasting modes of writing as printed text and audio-visualmontage compete with each other.

Together, for in 1968, two works were simultaneouslyproposed to the public, which were respectively neither the film version of a novel, nor a novel inspired by a successful film.

In Kubrick's and Clarke's famous "2001: a space Odyssee" (1968), Yatrides's Slab monolith was the argument, driving force of the movie. We found again the Slab in Peter Hyams's and Clarke's "2010: Odyssee Two" (1985). With Spielberg's and Kubrick's "A.I" Artificial Intelligence (2001- anniversary, "birthday" of "2001: a space Odyssee"!), appear Yatrides's Slabs towards the end : they compose, without to be in contact, the cube-like space-craft which carries the translucent electronic humanoïds. The free Slabs collected together to form this cube-shaped space-craft, break up and move away to liberate the humanoïds who discovered and met David, Spielberg's Hero.

Yatrides's Slabs, star argument of "2001 and 2010 : space Odyssees", becomes in "A.I. Atificial Intelligence" an object endowed with "cooperative autonomy". Anyway, with these three movies, even the first and third have traces of genius, they don't reach the capabilities of the metaphysical dimensions of Yatrides's Slabs, as he gave to them from 1957. Nevertheless, one is forced to the conclusion that Yatrides's work shows and demonstrates the quality and weakness of Kubrick's sources.

Raphael - Sistine Madonna

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In 1796, during their stay in Dresden, Wackenroder and Tieck gaze upon the Sistine Madonna and decide to paint the "Fantaisies sur l'Art" . Two years later, the picture gallery is taken over by the brothers Schlegel who hold their meetings there, in company with Novalis, Schelling and others. This results in the composition of the Dialogue sur la Peinture (Dialogue on Painting) (Gemälde Gesprächt). The study of the "Sistine Madonna" has an important place therein.

The cult of Raphael's Madonna then spreads throughout the whole of cultivated Europe. Dresden becomes an obligatory stopping place. The visitor comes neither to judge the painting in accordance with aesthetic criteria, contested since classical rules have been challenged, nor to study it from a "technical" point of view. He approaches it with feeling and respect. He will have to observe himself, analyse his own impressions, measure the intensity of the rapport between his own self and the canvas of the divine Raphael.

This painting is in no way a static revelation of the "mystery of the heavens". It tells of the moment when the Madonna, carrying the God made man, crosses the boundary between the two universes, an impassable gulf for the mortal being. She crosses it with the lightness of a celestial being, but her expression is infinitely grave, conscious of the fearsome future that awaits her son. In her eyes one reads her terror in the face of the inescapable, her sadness, her fears for her child, and yet, she does not pause at the threshold of the Earth. She offers to humankind what she holds most dear, her son: "Receive him, he is ready to accept mortal sufferings for you".

Naturalistic reality

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There are various ways of reacting to a new reality like the industrial revolution. One can accept it and glorify it as a testimony to human effort. This is what the naturalistic painter Adolf von MENZEL does with his Laminoir (Rolling mill). This is what the official artists will do in response to the social orders of a Power anxious to raise a Hymn in praise of Work. One can be sublimely unaware of it, or flee from it, as did the impressionist painters. In Edouard MANET's "La Gare de St Lazare" (The St Lazare Railway Station), the train is missing like "l'Arlésienne" (The Woman from Arles) in BIZET 's opera. It is replaced in derisory manner by the elation of a middle-class escapist dream seen through the steam of a locomotive hidden in the wings.

Matisse - Color as light

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Matisse's famous painting, "Grand Intérieur Rouge", can serve as an illustration. It is no longer a matter of light being treated in a traditional way, but of an interior of a uniformly red colour. If an inattentive reader can confuse the terms colour and light the viewer must respond to the evidence: a crimson colour spread uniformly over a white or yellow background covers four fifths of the canvas. only a black stroke (one cannot call it a shadow here, for there is nothing to shadow) allows one to make out a wall, a floor, a table sketched in perspective, within this sea of red. To speak of light in this case constitutes an abuse of language. Would one speak of light with regard to a red background laid flatly on an Egyptian funeral fresco ?

Matisse's use of simplification constitutes as ingenious a brainwave as Columbus's egg: it consists in eliminating a problem rather than solving it.

The "flats" introduced by the Fauvists and the Cubists in the " synthetic" period doubtless avoid having to resort to figurative illusion, but they eliminate the very notion of light and consequently that of its counterpart - shadow. In the heady delight that marked their freedom from the conventions of traditional style, the avant-garde successively rejected perspective, composition, representation, colour and graphics, in short, the inspiration of the work. In the wake of this process of stripping away, painting had to rediscover its path, disengaged from all outside and superfluous support, and acknowledge only that which reflected its own reality.

 

Da Vinci : Realism and quest

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Leonardo Da Vinci, an intellect of universal breadth, had sensed better than any other in his era, the possibilities afforded to painting by scientific discoveries. Once the ways in which the human eye perceives had been recognized, it had been the generator of science and painting and had shown him where his objective lay: to set down on the surface of a canvas or other medium, that which the eye sees by means of the play of light and shade, the coloration of the skies, the movement within the landscape, etc... which would already allow the reproduction of the exterior appearance of physical nature or of human nature, to reconstruct in short this simple "reflection" to which the human eye is accustomed.

But as it is a question of an artificial operation, a fiction controlled by pictorial technique, it becomes possible to use this "reflection" as a carrier, and go still further. The pictorial work was thus becoming a privileged material filled with signs that the viewer had to perceive himself in order to go beyond the mere façade of an artificially reconstructed reality. The mission that Leonardo Da Vinci assigned to painting could not be carried to its conclusion by the master himself, but it was left open to his successors.

Venus' birth

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Visible reality? Invisible reality? Surrounding these notions conflicts are brought into play that go far beyond the particular fate of a painting, if one gives the full strength of its meaning to the word visible; that which can be seen, which is allowed to be seen. The history of painting abounds in illustrious examples. I shall only comment upon one of them : BOTTICELLI' s "La Naissance de Vénus" (The Birth of Venus). The age still demands Madonnas and devotional paintings. Antique religious inspiration needed powerful patrons in order to express itself. In this contradictory context, the painter offers us a spectacle which is in no way allegorical.

VENUS offers herself up to our gaze in an attitude that evokes neither lascivious abandon nor outraged modesty. She conceals her nudity without seeking to hide it, with the majestic simplicity of a goddess of antiquity. She has, however, the face of a Madonna, with serene and dreamy expression. Around this living paradox a conflict operates that abolishes Time. On the left, a couple of zephyrs, amorously entwined, blow towards her. On the right, a young woman, clothed in sober attire, strives in vain to unfurl a red veil in front of the wonderful apparition.

Is the puff of wind blown by the zephyrs intended to push the frail barque on which Venus sails towards the shore? Not in the least, it aims to counteract the prudish efforts of the lady to make invisible a visible reality, the nudity of Venus. Left, the transparent wave, the radiance of an ancient Mediterranean. Right, the garden, Eden, the mediaeval paradise. In the clash between these two universes, Venus's nudity is at stake. Shall she be clothed, as the Catholic missionaries will clothe the natives of the New World? Or does she allow herself to be unrobed by this breath of pagan inspiration that heralds the Renaissance?

Venus' nudity was a disturbing factor in its time.

Gauguin's Vahines

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Gauguin's Vahines are seduced. They are mortal beings whose flesh is humiliated, for it rots away. It is useless to seek a natural purity in them, a secret of life, of eternal youth. They are bearers of death, they are the death of Gauguin himself. Gauguin came to seek truth and justice in the islands, he found only physical and moral destitution, and venereal diseases. His canvases bear witness to the tragedy he experienced there. Gauguin turned away from our world, our civilisation: he turned away from his own self.

 

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