Should We Celebrate Controversial Art?

Art is a raw form of expression of the things that surround us and can be interpreted in multiple ways. While most art is gawked at with mystery and awe, some art pieces are shunned for being ahead of its times.

The art industry is filled with some works which were too avant-garde to be comprehended. These artworks explore unconventional and cultural themes that were either taboo or weren’t openly accepted in the society of that time. 

But, isn’t that what art is supposed to do? To start a conversation or dialogue and further, widen the gaze of the population. In the spirit of that, let’s have a look at some trailblazing art pieces which were a tad controversial for the public.

Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe by Edouard Manet  

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (The Picnic)  1863. The painting by Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet doesn’t need an introduction. While he was the man who introduced modern art to the world, he was also shamed the most. As delicately wonderful as Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe is, it was rejected by the Paris Salons and became quite the scandal. Manet was berated for captivating his figures in an unabashed beauty that’s unfiltered which got him laurels only posthumously. 

The aesthetic of the painting encompasses a nude woman whose billowing dress seems to be strewn away. She’s surrounded by fully clothed men dressed in classic suits and they seem to be chatting. In the wilderness of nature, the figures are seen as having “luncheon on the grass”, sitting on a sheet and enveloped by food items. 

He was borrowing from 16th-century Italian artists and attempted to modernize the notion of nude women in only mythological art pieces. It was seen as unacceptable but Manet was merely trying to renew art by being his own man and digressing from existing from the set norms of the art industry. He was unfettered in his works which landed him the crown of the first modernist artist. 

Guernica, 1936 by Pablo Picasso  

Picasso’s brushstrokes and artistic techniques that created a mystic aura remain inimitable to date. Picasso is renowned for his innumerable masterpieces marked by the brilliant contrast of colors, brimming with symbolism which was a result of his utmost creativity. Guernica is the politically loaded artwork that was crafted by Picasso which fired up the critics too much and created a huge controversy. 

It was something that was churned out as an instant reaction to the bombing on the Basque town of Guernica done callously by the Nazis during the Spanish Civil War. The graphics painted figurines show the repercussions or the spoils of war and how the commoners are scarred in the course of it. The bold statement it endorsed denied its entry in Spain until 1967.

This masterpiece by Picasso is bereft of any popping colors, signifying the loss of life and the anguished expressions of the figurines communicate the message of excruciating grief. However, it remains a perennial remembrance of the redundancy of war as an anti-war symbol of sorts. Moreover, later it became an imperative historic artifact to document the Spanish Civil War and bring it into the limelight. 

Two Tahiti Women by Paul Gauguin 

Two Tahitian Women. The painting by Paul Gauguin

The artist known for his impeccable use of colors, Paul Gauguin was originally a Parisian but moved to Tahiti for some years. His fascination towards the culture of the Tahiti people, especially the dainty women there, turned into a muse for him which led to the birth of this beautifully depicted masterpiece. 

Two Tahiti Women is not just an artwork but an untold story, a narrative in itself of the Polynesian culture which he successfully brought to the mainstream. The women in the painting have a beautiful dusky complexion and seem to be standing casually. Even though they’re topless, they seem nonchalant, depicting ease with their sexuality which was a radical concept for that time. 

The women seem to be carrying fruits and flowers which are paralleled with their breasts which are also as natural as what they’re carrying. The beauty and femininity of the women are accurately captured by Paul, a result of a delicate playing around with the element of light. 

The painting which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has still been attacked multiple times for different reasons. A woman tried to rip off the painting due to its bare depiction of the female anatomy. On the other hand, art critics accuse Paul of exoticizing the Polynesian culture to impress Parisian artists. 

The Bottom Line

Art has always been created with an intention as an eye-opener and is supposed to bring people face to face with the ugly realities of life. For centuries, artists have depicted just that in their own magnificently elegant way. Often, art like this wasn’t accepted at first but being ahead of the times, it is destined to be celebrated with great gusto.