Friday, November 23, 2012

The Art of Alexandre Cabanel

angel, study for the painting the lost paradise - Alexandre Cabanel

This is such a beautiful image. It is enhanced by the limited colors and the eye is drawn in to the hand, due to the extreme use of light and shade, in contrast to the rest of the drawing. This piece is only a study, although it is a masterpiece as it stands. I struggle to see how it can be improved. I know it is within the skill of a great artist, to see future possibilities within a work that is already magnificent. It is glimpse of an amazing process, where the work is so beautiful I find myself asking the artist to cease because nothing further is needed. The piece was a study for the painting below, and if you look to the left of the image you can see how this angel was depicted in the final piece. Although the painting below is wonderful I feel a greater connection to the preliminary drawing. I feel that it contains something magical that becomes lost within The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise. There is so much drama within the finished piece, I find the storytelling overpowers some of the details. I can see emotion within the drawing that has been subdued within the final image.  

 The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise - Alexandre Cabanel

Adam, study for the Lost Paradise - Alexandre Cabanel

Within the study above I can see emotional discomfort and torment, yet when Adam appears in the painting he becomes less human, less emotional. He becomes overpowered by his small role in a biblical epic and because of this he becomes harder to relate to. We cease to consider his emotions and begin to view him in relation to cultural or religious symbolism. He ceases to speak to our emotions and begins to speak to any religious beliefs we may, or may not hold.

 God, Study for the Lost Paradise - Alexandre Cabanel

Cabanel's study for god is a combination of physical strength and age. There is a long tradition of the christian god being depicted in such a manner. However as an image of the figure it doesn't work, his body is youthful and muscular and then his face and hair reveal age. There is inconsistency within the image and because of this, it is hard to see the humanity within the figure. Cabanel seems to recognize this problem, because the position of the arm slightly obscures the white beard, and in The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise he has darkened God's hair so it is consistent with the body. Painting a christian God must have been a very daunting task, balancing depictions of wisdom, strength, power. Any outcome isn't going to be fully satisfactory, when you are working within the confines of traditional depictions. When all these figures are placed next to God, they become harder to relate to. Struggling to see God's humanity, we also struggle to see it within the other figures. Whether God should be depicted as human is a large question. The concept of God is so large, a figurative depiction does not necessarily make it easier to relate to. Within the drawings I can imagine what each person is feeling, except for God. So the finished painting loses the emotional content that is within the drawings of the angel and Adam. Although The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise is still a stunning and dramatic scene.