Monday, July 16, 2018

Shoes the artist's muse

Throughout history many artist have been inspired by shoes. Arthur Chaplin (1869 - 1935) assembled a collection of vintage shoes in his apartment on the IIe Saint-Louis and although he never painted them he was certainly conscious of their presence. The avant-garde artist, Jannis Kounellis (1936–2017) was a major contributor to Arte Povera and featured shies in many of his works, including multi-soled shoes. Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522) was a Venetian painter and depicted shoes as turreted instruments of torture designed to seduce. He probably was not all that far wrong for long toed poulaines were eventually banned because of their sexual overtones. As a painter Vittore was influenced by Giovanni Bellini and painted with rich colour and a wealth of detail. In his painting Two Venetian Ladies circa 1490 there is a pair of chopines or platform shoes to the left.

Watteau, Jean-Antoine (1684–1721) was a French painter of Flemish descent. He studied in the studio of Claude Gillot. Theatrical life became the subject of some of Watteau's finest paintings, e.g., Love in the French Theatre. One of the great colourists of all time, Watteau executed gay and sensuous scenes in shimmering pastel tones, influencing fashion and garden design in the 18th cent. The Embarkation for Cythera (1717; Louvre) is a characteristic work. He paints little satin slippers in Indifferent Man and Pierrot.

Edouard Manet (1832–83), was a French painter. He was influenced by Velázquez and Goya, and later by Japanese printmakers. In 1861 the Salon accepted his Guitarist. Two years later, with the exhibition of Luncheon on the Grass, he was violently attacked; the painting depicts a nude woman enjoying a picnic in the woods with two fully clothed men. Manet's masterpiece, Olympia (1863), an arresting portrait of a courtesan, elicited outrage and abuse from critics and public. This hostility from the art establishment attended his work throughout his life. His subject matter and technical innovations were considered heresy, but he profoundly influenced Impressionism. Although often called an impressionist, he did not employ broken colour, or sketchy brush strokes. All his work was a successful attempt to describe the natural immediacy of the eye's perception, and he worked in broad, flat areas of colour. His major works include The Balcony (1869) and The Fife Player (1866). In his scandalous painting Olympia, he restored the shoe to its role of erotic synecdoche. Eventual acceptance of this metonymic representation was considered by many experts to be pivotal to the history of modern art.

The contemporary development of psychoanalysis made the eventual connection between contents and container to the point of singling out their specific sexual and fetishistic aspects. The syllogism is proper and if the foot is a phallus then the shoe must be considered as feminine or certainly female. René Magritte (1898–1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter. Influenced by Chirico, he developed a style of surrealism in which misleading realism is combined with mocking irony. Based on Freudianism, in the Red Model or Le modèle rouge he elaborates fantasies constructed around common situations and metamorphoses the shoe into the foot thus inventing the unisex image destined to trouble our dreams.

The Pop Art movement emerged at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of its emblems because they represented status and consumerism. In was no surprise Andy Warhol began as commercial artist selling shoes.

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