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20TH CENTURY VARIATIONS: ICONOGRAPHY

During the second half of the 20th century the considerable increase in variations after Velázquez’s Las Meninas was furthered by the return to realism and figuration in art, as well as by the growing influence of Pop Art in the late 1950s and 60s. Pop’s repudiation of Abstract Expressionism’s cult of the creative genius led a new generation of artists to turn away from the concept of originality and individual expression as a guiding principle of art, and engendered an unprecedented interest in ‘appropriation art’; art that is based on copies, quotations, and adaptations of the work of earlier masters.

The variations after Las Meninas appear in a variety of forms, ranging from outright copy to the loose adaptation of excerpts from the original painting, or even just as the vaguest reference to its underlying artistic, theoretical, philosophical, and/or political themes.

While all of the exhibited artists acknowledge the deepest admiration for and even obsession with Velázquez’s masterpiece, most used Las Meninas as a model for the exploration of their own artistic aims, be it in works that concentrate on the figure of the Infanta herself, or in compositions that reproduce the entire scene. For some artists the adaptation of Las Meninas served as a testing ground for personal stylistic and painterly elaboration (Fermín Aguayo, Manolo Valdés, Josep Roca-Sastre, Louis Cane), while for others the engagement with Las Meninas clearly transcends questions of style (Witkin, Equipo Crònica, Saura).

For many artists the dialogue with the art and traditions of earlier times, Velázquez in this case, is to be understood as a commentary on the artistic and socio-political conditions of their own time. The work of Joel-Peter Witkin, with its concentration on the maimed and disabled, strives to emulate the darkness of Goya’s oeuvre as a reflection on our times. For Spanish artists of the 1960s and 70s the confrontation with Las Meninas became a tool for articulating their critique of Franco’s regime. Antonio Saura’s Infantas , for example, belong to what he called his ‘Denunciation Paintings’; Equipo Crònica’s El recinte from the series Policía y cultura is a biting satire of the conditions of modern art under fascism, and in Cristóbal Toral’s D’après Las Meninas the space filled with discarded suitcases speaks of exile gone awry.

 

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Dalí
Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita with the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory
       
Equip Crònica
      El recinte [The Precinct]
       
Witkin
      Las Meninas. New Mexico

Reinas e Infantas Velázquez: un referente para Picasso Variaciones s.XX: iconografia Variaciones s.XX: el espacio Variaciones s.XX: el reflejo