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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The art of shoes and symbolism




Something that is enjoying a great popularity just now is shoes which incorporate works of art on their uppers. A company in the US called Icon Shoessell these delicate artifacts to the rich and famous as if there were no tomorrow and at price tags which are quite staggering. Most of their sales come via their website. The fancy footwear is designed by artists, designers and stylists and incorporates many novel features which are not always seen in high street fashion.



For several years now Sneaker Freakers have been decorating their sneakers with colourful artworks. Canvas topped shoes provide a perfect medium for painting and colour fast paints mean the shoe painter is only limited by their imagination. Truly personalised shoes are the ultimate desire of all shoe enthusiasts.



Shoes in art have long held a fascination for artists from Van Goch to Alan Jones, the shoe holds its own as an icon and inspiration. The obscure French painter, Arthur Chaplin assembled a personal collection of vintage shoes in his apartment on the IIe Saint-Louis and used them to inspire his works. Another artist and painter, Jannis Kounellis always wore multi-soled shoes but no-one was ever sure, why. 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 a contemporary shoe style that was eventually banned because of their sexual overtones. As a painter Carpaccio was influenced by Giovanni Bellini and painted with rich colour and a wealth of detail.



Jean-Antoine Watteau, (1684–1721 - Rococco style) was another Flemish painter who studied in the studio of Claude Gillot. Some of Watteau's finest paintings, were based on theatrical life e.g. Love in the French Theatre. A great colourist, he executed sensuous scenes in shimmering pastel tones which influenced both fashion and garden design in the 18th cent. In his painting Indifference, he paints little satin slippers.



Edouard Manet (1832–83), is often credited as being the father of modern art. His influences were Velázquez (pronounced, Valaskiss) and Goya, then later by Japanese, printmakers. In 1863 he painted Luncheon on the Grass, which when it was displayed was violently attacked. The painting depicts a nude woman enjoying a picnic in the woods with two fully clothed men. Subsequently the picnic became a common theme in modern painting. Manet's true masterpiece was entitled Olympia (1863), and was an arresting portrait of a naked courtesan reclining on a chaise longue. The theme by itself, reclining nude, had been popular for centuries but what Manet did, which subsequently outraged the critics and public, was to introduce the shoe to its role of erotic synecdoche (pronounced syn ekto key) or symbol.



Eventual acceptance of the shoe as a representation of the female vulva was considered by many experts to be pivotal to the development of western modern art. Contemporary development of psychoanalysis (Freud) made the eventual connection between contents and container to the point of singling out the specific sexual and fetishistic aspects of the foot and shoe. The deductive logic or syllogism was if the foot represented the phallus then the shoe must be the vagina.



René Magritte (1898–1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter who developed a style of surrealism in which misleading realism was combined with mocking irony. Based on Freudianism, the artist in his works the Red Model (Le Modele Rouge) elaborated fantasies constructed around common situations and metamorphosed the shoe into the foot. This unisex image many argue was destined to trouble our dreams, ever since.



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 the emblems of the movement because they represented status and consumerism. It is probably no accident Andy Warhol started off as a commercial artist drawing shoes. Today’s artistic work painted on shoes is a commercial extension of the same abstract movement.

Reviewed 10/09/16

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