By Sohila El Saadany
Every brush stroke and each drop of color used is a word written on the canvas. And each painting has a story to tell. Sometimes the stories turn out to be even more interesting than the actual painting itself. Read on to know what lies behind some of these famous paintings.
1. Whistler’s Mother
Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 aka Whistler’s Mother has not only been displayed in museums, but also in the “Bean” movie in 1997. The portrait is of James Whistler’s mother. His original model was unavailable and he decided to paint his mother instead. Even though he originally wanted her to be standing, it proved to be too tiresome for her, so she sat instead.
2. American Gothic
Grant Wood was in awe by a cottage in Eldon, southern Iowa. It’s gothic revival style and its medieval pointed tip inspired the painting and it’s title. The cottage is in the background of his painting behind an old man and a middle-aged woman. The people featured in the painting complement the painting’s gothic and mysterious style. One would think they carry some scary story, but that is not the case. The man is Wood’s dentist, and the woman is the artist’s sister. He asked them to pose as a farmer and his daughter with this solemn look on their face. Well, nothing “gothic” there.
Picasso’s Guernica was painted as a political statement. He was commissioned to paint something for the 1937 World Fair. He chose to depict the horrors of the Nazi bombings on the town of Guernica in Basque town of Spain. The town had been bombed on Market Day and had burned for three days. The Guernica encompasses humans, animals and plants to show how all creatures are affected by war. The painting is in shades of grey, black and white making it more melancholic.
4. Starry Night
Probably one of the most majestic paintings to have been produced, Van Gogh’s Starry Night was done just 13 months before his death. He was staying in an asylum in Saint-Remy, France. The painting is the view from his room. Even though the painting shows the view at night, it was drawn in the morning and from the artist’s memory. Gogh had sent his brother a letter telling him about the painting, but not revealing too much about it. Another Gogh painting with a “starry night” is Starry Night over the Rhone.
5. The Mona Lisa
For a painting that is globally famous with probably the world’s most recognized face, the Mona Lisa sure has a lot of unsolved mysteries. Historians have not pin pointed who the woman portrayed is. Choices include da Vinci’s mother Caterina, Princess Isabella of Naples, and Spanish Costanza d’Avalos. The most probable choice of all however, is Lisa dl Gicondo, a rich silk merchant’s wife. It was said to be her after historians discovered a 500 year note in 2005. The note revealed that the painter was working on the portrait for her husband who wanted it as a celebration of an upcoming birth. But the painting was never given to the Giocondo family. Reasons for which remain a mystery.