A comparison of 4 artists and their representation of the female form

I have chosen to compare and contrast the different representations of the female form by researching artists Andy Warhol who is known for his pop art, Brett Whitley who is known to be more romantic, Gyula Hasz Brassai who was a photographer and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec who was a painter. One focal point which links all these artist together is there different perspective on women and the female form, also the way they express it. I plan to compare the different eras, from the 1800s to the 1980s, also the different ways they express their lives and surroundings.

Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec was a famous painter of parison nightlife. He stayed in the Montmartre section of Paris, the centre of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life. Another similar artist around the same era is Gyula Hasz more famously known as Brassai a photographer. Brassai photographed prostitutes, opium addicts, lovers, street hoodlums and performers, similar to Lautrec. Brett Whitley is an Australian born artist recognised for his paintings of his wife and the female figure. Andy Warhol raised in America is best known for his pop art.

Brett Whitley is an Australian artist that is well known for his bathroom seris, he is a contempary artist. The painting I chose of his is ‘wendy drunk’, this painting is of his wife many of Whitleys paintings are of his wife. The reason I chose this painting is because its unusual composition. It’s made up of plain black and dark brown brush strokes that make up his wifes arms, face and hair while she is leaning over the back of a chair. Unlike many of his other ‘wendy’ paintings it is very plain, it captures the relationship between him and his wife. Whitleys influence from japanese brush work is clearly evident in this spontainious composition. It is not precsise, this is what makes the painting unique, he captures and encloses his wife in time in this paticular painting. Henry de Toulouse Lautrec, much like Whitley painted women and the female body. The painting ‘naked in front of a mirror’ of a naked prostitute standing in front of a mirror wearing nothing but knee high black boots. Lautrec is known for his paintings of the Parisan ‘moulin rouge’ night life. Lautrec shows his appreciation of the woman as a human being not just as a prostitute, he is very compassionate on his veiw of this prostitute. Lautecs painting was not to degrade the woman but to capture her in an everyday scene. These paintings reming me of each other in the sypmathetic way in which the artists portray women. Both compositions capture the relationship the artist has with the woman.

Andy Warhol is well known for his pop art imagery, ‘18 multi-colored marilyns’ is a copy of a previous Marilyn Monroe print that he did but it is reversed, and the colors have changed to a mix of yellow, green and mostly red. I believe his work is intentionally repetitive and superficial. ‘18 multi-colored marilyns’can be seen as an unemotional representation of a sex symbol celebrity. Most people looked at the celebriy not the real marilyn, it can be argued that warhol intentionally made the piece boring and repititious to force people to look at the girl behind the mask that was Marilyn Monroe. The colors used are almost sinister, compared to the original print that had bright fluro lively colors, the copy ‘18 multi-colored marilyns’ may be seen to symbolise her death as the colors are dark red and black. Brassai was a Parisan photographer in the 1900’s, he captured some of the most famous images of his time. His image is one of a prostitute on an illuminated street corner in Paris, this photo is in black and white and a high contrast image. I beileve Brassai’s aim may have been to capture the romantic yet sad truth of the way of life of his time, a prostitute in Paris in the 1900’s. Brassais ‘prostitute’ was a victim of the circumstances that reduced her to sex work, it can be said that both women in these compostions are victims. Marilyn was a victim of fame that reduced her to overdose while the circumstances of the women and brassais photo reduced her to sex work.

Brassai captures the romantic nightlife and mysterious poverty surrounding himself and his subjects. In Brassai’s ‘prostitute’ photo he captures the sadness and reality of the time unlike Lautrec whose painting ambiguously captures the comfort and glamour of life in a brothel. Brassai’s photograph of a prostitute may be seen as depressing, it shows the prostitute vulnerable and out of her comfort zone where as Lautrec’s painting of a prostitute is the opposite of this, she looks like she is comfortable and content with a bed and blankets, as if nothing can hurt her. Toulouse was very much a part of all this activity. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing and drinking, and at the same time he would make swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into bright-colored paintings Toulouse told the story of the Parisian streets and nightlife as a part of the life, he was obsessed and in love with it, he told the tale as one of the fantastical people of the underworld. Brassai on the other hand photographed what he saw because it haunted him, he was merely an onlooker, an outsider to the reality of living on the street. That is the main difference of these artists, being a part of something and observing something is completely different.

Whitleys painting compared to Warhols is very different; I see Whitleys painting as very personal and emotionally driven where as Warhols as unemotional and superficial. This is a huge difference between these two artworks, considering both these art works are of a woman’s face, one is so much more informal than the other. Warhol took a print of a well-known sex symbol of the 60’s and 70’s and forced people to at Marilyn in a different way. Warhol wanted people to look past the celebrity and see the real girl behind the mask. Whitely saw something beautiful in his wife and fearlessly captured her intoxicated state. Both women in these paintings are significant in each artist’s life. These art works give an insight into the life and time of these women; they also explore the diverse ways in which these artists express their view of the women in their lives.

The only painting in my choice of art works that is strategically designed and carefully proportioned is the Andy Warhol painting of ‘Eighteen multi-colored Marilyns’. This is typical of Warhols work unlike the Brett Whitley painting which is clearly impulsive and sketchy as was the concept of Lautrec’s painting. I believe Brassai’s photograph was taken unexpectedly as it captures something a staged photo could not, but no one really knows whether any design or staging was put into it. Whitleys painting was not typical of his other works; most of his other works are brightly colored and fairly detailed unlike ‘Wendy drunk’. Warhols painting is very typical in colouring and duplication of the same face, this is representative of his other work; he has clearly carried on using the same design elements and colouring. Lautrec’s painting is toned down from his other work; he uses different shades of browns and reds unlike Warhol who uses over printing with a black broken colour technique that shows glimpses of the original image. Lautrec is also distinct from Whitely who uses no colour but black and brown in this particular painting. Brassai’s black and white photo is obviously consistent with the rest of his work and relies on shadow for atmosphere; he uses the light and silhouette to create an intriguing effect.

It is clear that there are many similarities and differences between the artist and their work. Each artist has made an individual statement in the representation of the female form. It still amazes me how diverse the four pieces are, emotionally and artistically, its interesting that one artist can paint something with so much emotion and personal expression while another can make his work so informal and superficial yet still retain sympathy for the subject. Art only reminds and reinforces the fact that we are living in a diverse world with different views and opinions varying from person to person. The one main link between these artists and their pieces is that even though set in different eras, using different materials and living very different lives they still manage to express their view of women as timeless. When you look at an artwork you see the different influences, emotions and talents that lie within that artist and that is bought to life in what they produce. The common theme is the humanity they show for their subject, which overrides all other concerns.

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