December 8, 2010

Herbert James Draper's "Mourning for Icarus"

I really like the figure in the lower right, her hands in particular, but I think the figure of Icarus here is kind of awkward. For instance, I think his upper torso has been artificially widened. Still a powerful painting. Also, the lighting here is spectacular and incredibly subtle.

I think it's a shame that most modernists/post-modernists/contemporary artists would immediately dismiss this painting as bad simply because of the subject matter. I admit that the subject here doesn't do much for me, but if I immediately dismissed the whole work for that reason I would be confessing my ignorance of this paintings' other virtues. When I debated these issues with other artists who automatically dismissed representational paintings like this one I did not ask them questions like, "what is wrong with this painting?" Instead I asked them, "what is good about this painting?" and instead of hearing some re-hashed aesthetic theory about why representation was bad I couldn't get an answer. Their lack of an answer would reveal to both of us the lack of understanding they had about their own positions.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like his upper torso was widened because he had to use that part of his body to power the wings -- check out the arm straps.

    Why is representation considered bad? That sounds preposterous. Or does the art world have a more specific sense of the word "representation"?