Last June we looked at a few scenes and subjects that have been created several times over the years, in an artsy version of “Who Wore it Best?” It was so fun and there are so many popular scenes artists have painted, it seems like a shame not to check out a few more. Kourtney Kardashian and Brittany Spears, move over! We have some new (old) matchers to compare!
Helen of Troy was the most beautiful of beauties in Greek mythology. An absolute icon. All the men wanted to marry her and the women wanted to be her. And artists? They wanted to paint her. And so they did. Tons of painters depicted scenes featuring Helen: Gavin Hamilton, Peter Paul Rubens, Renoir, and about a million others. It wasn’t uncommon to paint her abduction, but that’s not cheery. Instead, let’s look at two portraits.
The portrait on the left was done by Frederick Sandys, circa 1867. He actually wasn’t a popular painter. If memes were around in his day I think he would have found his niche. This Helen could have been an internet sensation of Grumpy Cat proportions, right?! On the right, we have a much happier Helen (what a little sunshine can do for a person!) painted by Evelyn De Morgan in 1898. That’s right- a woman painted this. Female artists didn’t get much credit in the 1800s, so I think we should note her! Plus? I mean, she clearly wins right? Her Helen is way better?
Below are two paintings of the infamous beheading of Holofernes. Caravaggio’s painting is on the left. He loved a dark, depressing project, didn’t he? Some would argue this is his most famous painting. It certainly is one of the most disturbing, in my opinion. But nobody does disturbing as well as Caravaggio. It looks like it could be a scene from a Broadway performance- the background is dark, the faces alight. It gives me shivers. On the right is… another painting by a woman! Artemisia Gentileschi did this portrayal roughly a dozen years after Caravaggio did his. It seems clear she was influenced by his work, but her female perspective comes into play. For example, in her painting Holofernes is struggling more, her Judith enlisted help holding him down. Delightful, I know. What do you think? Who painted it better?
Just for fun let’s pit Paul Cezanne against… Paul Cezanne! This is Mont Sainte-Victoire on the left and the right. He painted it a bunch of times in between too. I always have mixed feelings when artists paint the same thing over and over. I mean there are so many great landscapes, models, and beheadings they could paint instead! But I’m probably just making a mountain out of a molehill. What do you think? Does 1895 Cezanne paint it better, or turn of the century Cezanne?
That wraps up this episode of “Who Painted it Better?” Hit me with your votes!