This collection is derived from a computer file entitled "Why I Do This." All of the artists present were considered at the height of an existential crisis while completing my MA in Art History. It is this list and the works by those artists on it that helped me remember why I began the journey.
Although each image is linked temporally, geographically, and stylistically as Postwar European Figurative Abstraction, their grouping in this setting is as personal reminders of the meaning of life, the quest for beauty, and the willingness to seek it in distorted realities.
This subjective collection is certainly missing several important contributors to my existential relief. Limited by the digital collections of the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, this collection would be best served by the collections of another Modern Art Collection such as the MoMa or the Pompidou. These artists are conspicuously absent in this list: Lucien Freud, Patrick Swift, Jean Fautrier, Francis Gruber, Germaine Richier, and Zoran Mušič.
Despite these absences, the collection adequately reflects central point of the list: to visualize the personal impetus for the struggle in academia and life.
I first encountered this work in person in 2009 at the Francis Bacon Centennial Retrospective and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although it is only one work in Bacon’s enormous pope series, it stands in for each of them by being a part of that series. With its characteristic minimal strokes, the simple lines express a suffering within that remind the viewer of the ubiquity and universality of pain and the struggle of life.
Like the previous Bacon image, this painting underlines singularity and ambiguity of the human experience. Although it emphasizes the unimportance of the unidentified figure’s individuality, it uses that existential component to create a shared human experience. In this way the painting mobilizes the effect it wishes to remedy.
Although Auerbach himself did not engage as directly with issues of Existentialism, the mood present in postwar Europe and in his paintings encite the same concerns. The work features the quickness of near carelessness and a lack of concern for accuracy. This quickness and disproportionateness produces an image of a nude woman which features an undesirable, otherwise abject beauty, but beauty no less.
One of Giacometti’s most frequent models was his brother Diego. Each sculpture features distinct variations in appearance despite the repetition of the model. These transformations are thought to reflect the artist’s subjective ideas of how his mood and feelings affected his perception.
The Dutch expatriate De Kooning’s work for this series was tied in with concerns of female archetypes and sexuality. It is this blatant sexuality and abstracted-beyond-identification of anatomy that allows the beauty of the image to resonate beyond the reality of the subject. This image, like Auerbach’s, seeks to understand and experience beauty regardless of traditions and popular expectations.