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  • Russ Ramsey

The Art of Covers

Springsteen covers Dylan. Coldplay covers Simon. James Taylor covers Joni Mitchell. It’s one artist saying to another, your work shaped mine. This Art Wednesday is devoted to artists covering the work of other artists.

Dali, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, 1955

Van Gogh, The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), 1890. Van Gogh’s cover of Delacroix. Only 41 years separate the two. In a letter, Vincent wrote, “artists perpetuate themselves, passing on the torch, Delacroix to the Impressionists, etc.”

Van Gogh, The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), 1890

Eugene Delacroix, The Good Samaritan, 1849. Delacroix was a contemporary legend to many impressionists, as Lennon is to musicians today. Often imitated. Van Gogh mimicked this one 41 years later. Perspective: 41 years from today was 1982.

Eugene Delacroix, The Good Samaritan, 1849

One of Norman Rockwell’s heroes was just a few years older— J.C. Leyendecker, the premiere cover artist for the Saturday Evening Post in the 1920’s and 30’s. This is Leyendecker’s 1933 Saturday Evening Post cover “Yuletide.”

J.C. Leyendecker, Yuletide, 1933

Here is Rockwell imitating Leyendecker just 3 years later, with Merrie Christmas, in 1936. Though Leyendecker was not as well known, Rockwell longed to stand in the foothills of his greatness. Rockwell even imitated how he walked.

Rockwell, Merrie Christmas, 1936

Millet, First Steps, 1858. Jean-François Millet was a founder of the Barbizon school in rural France, which pushed for realistic composition over Romanticism, which emphasized wealth, individualism, and idealized bygone eras.

Millet, First Steps, 1858

Van Gogh, First Steps (after Millet), 1890. Millet inspired Vincent. This is one of 21 Millets van Gogh “translated.” He did all 21 while in an asylum only months before his death. Did Vincent want for himself what this scene shows?

Van Gogh, First Steps, After Millet, 1890

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, 1642. A masterpiece. A key distinctive of Rembrandt’s work is his “chiaroscuro,” the dramatic contrast between light and dark. It focuses the eye and leads it through the painting in a certain sequence.

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, 1642

Rembrandt was inspired by Caravaggio, who came a generation earlier. Caravaggio was a master of “chiaroscuro,” seen in his masterwork “The Calling of St. Matthew,” 1600. Mastering chiaroscuro must have led to many false starts for both artists.

Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew, 1600

That’s it for this Art Wednesday. Is anyone without influence? There are no original ideas. None of today’s artists merely copied others. When we stand in the foothills of others’ greatness, we learn and find our own voice. Borrow freely. Attribute always.

Classic works of art modernized, Madonna and Child on the Metro




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