The oeuvre of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) emerges from her conscious sense of belonging to Mexico and the self-awareness of her own mestizaje, the union of different cultures: White man and indigenous. Contrary to her fellow Mexican Muralists, her paintings are small but provocative, and she places herself in the protagonist role. Throughout her artwork she expands the thematic of her depictions, providing equal space to Western religious symbols, Eastern elements and Aztec deities. Her personal experiences and the knowledge she acquired play an important role in her imagination which results in an apparent lack of structure. Yet, the artist provides a surprising link that conjugates the elements of the paintings.
Art historians, scholars, art critics, and museum curators often present multiple narratives within a time and framework in order to convey a message; even the viewer’s personal background and knowledge are determinant while looking at the painting. Overall, Olympia is considered the modern painting due to its aesthetic, subject matter, and technique. The technical experimentation provides the shapes and forms a certain air of liquidity and uncertainty. This optical experience makes it the first Impressionist painting. Edouard Manet created it with sincerity and frankness as Michael Fried says. However, the painting itself hides and reveals multiple cultural and artistic codes that can be discussed repeatedly. This paper will consider how authors and critics responded to the painting and how that contextualizes both its period and our interpretations of it today.
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