A. This famous painting was influenced by the Spanish Civil War. German and Italian war planes bombed and devastated the village of Guernica and Picasso, Spanish himself, used the tragedy to make a powerful statement about the nature of war. The impact of the bombing inspired Picasso to create both an angered cry against war and a bleak view of humanity in general.
B. The Cubist style allows Picasso to express a nightmare of atrocities. The scene suggests slaughter and mindless destruction, but there are also dreamlike images conveying mankind’s awareness of the brutality. Symbolism works with literal images to express loss and savagery. In a broader sense, the painting conveys insanity and a dark vision of how humanity functions. This is a landscape of madness, and consequently a strong condemnation of the madness of humanity.
A. No event seems to have inspired this painting. Instead, the inspiration is a part of Currin’s explorations of gender roles in American culture. It is social commentary, rather than any reaction to a specific occurrence. It is also possible to argue that it exists only to capture a moment in American life, and has no real point to make.
B. The above disclaimer aside, it very much seems that Currin is making a social statement about idleness and American senses of entitlement. The background indicates an upper class life, as does the carefully chosen, “sloppy” clothing. The man smokes a pipe and the woman’s smile reveals lipstick; his gloves are very white, and she seems to be wearing sandals. This is certainly not work in any real sense of the word, so Currin is wryly mocking the upper class idea of “getting back to the soil.”
Boomtown, Thomas Hart Benton, 1928.
A. Boomtown was inspired by the 1926 discovery of oil in a small Texas town. More exactly, the painting’s inspiration was the sudden and enormous rise in the town’s population. Within a month, 30,000 people were in place where virtually no town existed before. Benton perceived this as both ugly and beautiful, and with an energy similar to natural forces erupting.
B. It seems that Benton views the oil boom as a means of revealing human drives and behaviors. Suddenly, there is the immense gusher, and human beings gather to live near it and take full advantage of its opportunities, like ants covering a dropped piece of food. It is a representation of human industry in the basic sense of the phrase, and there is an organic and natural quality to the stylized, dimensional landscape. It is not “pretty,” but it is filled with life and ambition.