I’m having a bad week at work. And normally, when I’m not feeling my usual, upbeat, energetic self, I can do a darn good job at hiding my emotions from everyone. But this week has been Hellish and I don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, coming into sight any time soon. But rather than this post be a mopey and emo depressive, I’m instead going for the artistic way out. Instead, I am bringing you some of my favorite pieces of art that I feel can attest to my recent sour mood.
This first piece is seriously one of my favorite pieces of art of all time. I know it’s gruesome, but it makes me oddly happy whenever I look at it. I think the face of the main character is really interesting to look at. His raw emotions grab you. It’s a mix of his expression of, “ohmygawd what am I eating” with his wide-eyed, gaping mouth that creates such an intensity. (I also think his expression portrayed by his eyebrows and eyes shows you pain and confusion in a somewhat humorous way.) The piece is called, Saturn Devouring His Son, painted by Goya sometime between 1819 and 1823. Below is the story that the painting represents…
“With the deposing of his father, Saturn became the ruler of the Universe for untold ages and he reigned with his sister, Ops, who also became his wife.
It was prophesied that one day Saturn would lose power when one of his children would depose him. To prevent this from happening, each time Ops delivered a child Saturn would immediately devour it. When her sixth child, Jupiter, was born, Ops had him spirited away to the island of Crete. She then wrapped a stone in his swaddling clothes. Her deception was complete when Saturn devoured it, thinking it was the child. When Jupiter was grown, he secured the job of cup-bearer to his father. With the help of Terra, his grandmother, Jupiter fed his father a potion that caused him to vomit up Jupiter’s five immortal siblings, Vesta (Hestia), Ceres (Demeter), Juno (Hera), Pluto (Hades), and Neptune (Poseidon), who were still alive in their father’s stomach.” (Wikipedia)
The second piece is a painting by John Singleton Copley, called Watson and the Shark, and was completed in 1778. The piece is part of the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection, so not only does that mean that I grew up visiting this piece, but it means that it lives near me too. (Scary? Probably. Awesome? Definitely.) My favorite part of this piece is the shark at the bottom right of the composition. Very much like Saturn in the first painting, the shark’s expression is that of hunger and insanity. The agony and desperation of this piece is really powerful. Not only do you see the people’s anxiety and concern which contributes to the emotions present; but the storm in the background and the raucous sea in the foreground also add much drama to the piece.
The third and final painting I am bringing you today in this virtual mini gallery of sorts is a painting I actually did a project on back in my college days as an Art History minor. The piece entitled, The Raft of the Medusa was done by Théodore Géricault in 1819, when the artist was just 27 years old. This piece is very similar to the last, because it shows desperation out at sea, however the stories behind each piece are different. In the piece below, there is (thankfully) no shark. The people instead, have their own miseries to deal with, such as starvation, weakness, and depression, as they try to stay alive on a raft, shipwrecked out at sea. But what’s that? A tiny speck of a ship rests on the horizon and you can see that a few members aboard are waving frantically to try to get that ship’s attention. The thing that’s wonderful about this composition is that your eye takes you from the deep, despair of the bottom left where you see lifeless people falling overboard, to the top right where there is hope and willfulness and life. So, while this emotional ride of a piece is full of melancholy, you are still left with an overwhelming wish of faith. The anticipation is what this piece is all about, whether it be of the inevitable death for some, or the possibility of survival.
So I feel that this a good piece to end with. Maybe it will inspire a bout of endurance and confidence. Hopefully I can get through this Hell Week. I mean, it’s already Thursday afternoon. At least I have it better than the people in any of these paintings.