The baffling world of modern art may look puzzling since the artists’ main ideas are not obvious in each masterpiece. But you’ll be definitely interested to know what the artists were trying to say while creating their works of art, because collectors pay huge sums of money for the works of modern artists and millions of tourists are ready to spend hours in lines to be able to have a look at these masterpieces.
Enlighten has attempted to “decrypt” the hidden meanings of the most famous paintings. And they’re not that clear or obvious, by the way. So keep that in mind.
Lactulose, Damien Hirst, 2017
Damien Hirst, from Great Britain, is the wealthiest artist in the world. He’s been experimenting with colored circles for 25 years — it’s his brand. He uses them to talk about death.
The thing is, these are not just spots, but homeopathic pills. The artist is preoccupied with health in our modern society. The titles for his paintings created in his Spot painting technique were taken from the Sigma-Aldrich Catalog of Chemical Compounds.
The titles are grouped according to the type of medicine. The largest group are pharmaceutical products. Spot colors correspond to the letters in the formulas of psychoactive substances.
The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo, 1939
The Two Fridas is kind of an autobiography of the most famous Mexican artist. By the way, all of her paintings are self-portraits.
According to the most common interpretation, this particular painting depicts a tragic event in Frida’s life — the breakup with her husband, artist Diego Rivera. The painting was finished in 1939, soon after their divorce. There are 2 Fridas, 2 different images, depicted. On the right, there is the Frida Diego used to love, on the left, there’s the Frida he betrayed. She’s trying to show the difference between her love and their close ties that remain, even after the divorce, and her deep loneliness and broken heart.
Walk, Marc Chagall, 1917–1918
Walk is one of the most famous of Chagall’s works. The artist’s paintings are also autobiographical, so the man and woman depicted in Walk are the artist himself and his wife Bella. He’s standing on the ground, she’s floating in the sky, but they’re together. Despite the distance, they’re holding hands, and overcoming the laws of gravity.
Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement, Joan Miró, 1935
This painting is one of 12 works created by the Catalan artist Joan Miró during civil disorder in Spain. At first glance, it’s completely unclear who these scary dancing beasts are. But we immediately notice the bright colors that contrast with the black apocalyptic background.
In fact, the artist wanted to show the horror of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939.) The pile of excrement in the bright yellow color are fascist ambitions, the dark orange area represents the victims of the war, and the red hands are blood.
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, Paul Gauguin, 1897–1898
From the beginning of his career, Paul Gauguin had wanted to depict his thoughts about life and death. In 1897, he started working on Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, and by the end of December, the work was finished.
The painting should be read from right to left, as if it were an ancient sacred scroll. There are 3 major figure groups. Young women with a sleeping baby illustrate the beginning of life. Another group symbolizes the daily existence of young adulthood. In the final group, an old lady approaching death is the symbol of impending doom.
Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol, 1962
Andy Warhol is an American artist and an iconic person in the history of pop art. His works are minimalistic: he used to create objects in the simplest and most easily recognizable forms. Let’s have a look at his popular Campbell’s Soup Cans.
In 1949, Warhol got his bachelor’s degree and started looking for a source of inspiration, trying to create something that had never existed before. The artist used to experiment a lot before he got a tip from interior decorator Muriel Latow, “Paint something you see every day and something that everybody would recognize. Something like a can of Campbell’s Soup.” So this is how the story of the painting began.
Birkenau, Gerhard Richter, 2014