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Large pieces of artwork are difficult to create. They can take years to make and properly assemble a meaning within. One of these large works My World and Yours (1954), by Irving Norman is an oil on canvas which represents a utopian view on the creation of the human race. It was made soon after the discovery of the double helix. Strikingly similar is the The Garden of Earthly Delights (1505-1510) which is an oil on oak panel made by Hieronymous Bosch of the Netherlands. The art style that each of these 2 works presented to us is quite similar. Each artwork strongly stresses human form with nearly everyone in the nude. The utopian society that each work resides in is also strongly emphasized with a wide color palette and exaggerated colors. These works are similar in meaning but differentiate in their use of the visual elements.
My World and Yours is able to convey a sense of both wonderment and horror with its design of the incredibly tall and slender humanoids. The main focus begins near the center of the bottom half of this painting where a large group of these beings sit together. This iconography used here is to say that these beings are our creators and they have elaborately planned our designs out into their own image. The massive statues of each gender directly behind them lend themselves to being evidence of this with each statue prominently in the nude. The context surrounding the creation of this painting (double helix discovery) is also a strong factor. The leading lines used from the outside walls and the rectangular floor in the middle of the picture all draw your eyes to the center of the picture where these statues reside. Above them, you can see rows of connected tables where these people reside in leisure conversing together. On the left side of the painting you see a large mass of these humanoids in what appears to be a movie-theater like setting. On the screen is the bottom half of a woman with a short skirt and heels. This section of the mausoleum is representational for our feelings of sexual desire and lust. The parallel right side has fighting and the struggle for dominance on display in a similar setting. Both of these display some of our inborn traits that are part of what makes us human. On the bottom of the painting faces and body parts are littered in a large calm water surface. These are all of the failed experiments that these beings tried to create. The cool colors used on these people and the smooth texture of the water do a great job at making this scene appear eerie and otherworldly.
Due to the immense size and scope of My World and Yours, it’s on 2 canvases. The actual dimensions of the entire painting is 159 x 56 inches. When in person, this towers over you and gives a massive sense of scale. Your eyes begin at the bottom and draw themselves up with the leading lines that exist spiraling up to the top. The balance that exists with the winding pipes and buildings on the side of the upper canvas make it symmetric. The statuette figurines at the top differentiate from the recurrent theme of the tall and slender shape of these humanoids. The middle figure especially is far larger than any other in the painting. The gold and bronze shade used is a complementary color of the purple tint used on the alcoves where they are situated in. This prominently draws your eyes to them in the center of the canvas. The vertical narrow buildings on the side of these statues display a gloomy futuristic world with a massive amount of smoke hovering over. The smoke leads you to 2 gold coins on opposing sides. These coins are incomplete and have faces upon them which may represent the blueprint for humanity. Grinding these coins against the large gear mechanism brings us into existence sliding down the spiraling slide. These slides are also in the shape of a double helix which is a large part of the artist’s inspiration to create this work. The amount of hidden detail at work here is impressive. You can spot something new everytime you gaze upon the canvas and analyze its workings. It’s clear that Irving intended to paint something that leaves lots of room open for interpretation.
Similarly, The Garden of Earthly Delights contains a number of individual stories taking place within. This piece originally was a triptych with iterations of heaven and hell on the ends. The center panel is supposed to represent the place in between (our world). While not a Baroque piece, the meaning here is highly religious and attempts to show the consequences of a careless life. On the first left panel, you can see the creation of all that exists. Adam and Eve are pictured with God standing next to them. His right hand is raised to try and display his power to the viewer while Eve’s hand is in the other. Bosch tried to make this scene one where God originally presents Eve to Adam for the first time. The foreground and background contains other creations from God all interacting. However, Adam and Eve are the focus here as to show that this is the greatest thing that God has been able to achieve. Their majestic positioning atop the sloping hill gives them a royalistic sense. The open palette used in the background shows the pureness and majesticness of God’s powers. Creatures from all over the world reside here including a fabled unicorn. As you finish gazing over the left panel your eyes are drawn to the massive and crowded center panel. This idealizes careless living without repercussions. In this portrait, you can see all kinds of human practices that give us sheer joy and happiness. It is a representation of God’s greatest creation interacting with all of his other creations in this widespread landscape. Bosch’s use of depth in this painting allows the viewer to get a realistic perception of all the figures in this painting. One shape that is recurrent in this painting is the circle. The watering hole in the center of the painting is surrounded by a large circle of rounding humans atop an assortment of animals. Across the painting you can see a large amount of sphere shaped objects that are being used by humans. This shape has represented life and eternity in many cultures throughout the world. In this context it likely represents liveliness and constant recurring forces that always occur in life. All of the humans in this picture are displayed in the nude to show God’s greatest creation in all its purity. Combining this with the beautiful and vibrant landscape in the background gives us a grand manifestation of his power. Whereas you can see humans engaging in many acts that may be discouraged in the center frame, on the right and final frame you see the consequence. Illustrated here is Bosch’s vision to what hell looks like. This panel is illustrated with dark colors to give a sense of despair and dreariness. Pictured here are horrific images that would frighten nearly any who saw this type of imagery. The man with trunks for arms serves as the focal point for this work. These 3 images come together to display a strong message of our earth being the center of these 2 places.
Both My World and Yours and The Garden of Earthly Delights are packaged together with loads of content. Each work uses complimentary colors to make portions of the work stand out above others. Another similarity is that both works repeat the use of shapes. Irving’s spirals and straight vertical lines are a common theme in the painting; particularly on the upper canvas. Bosch however focuses on the use of circles. These foundations help shape the meaning of each work and help to create balance. Both of these paintings span more than just one canvas and are quite large in size. Because of the size and the fine details that each artist embedded in their work, you can spend lengths of time analyzing each finding something new every time. Another great characteristic these both share is their impressive depth. The background in each is littered with detail and draws your eyes up the canvas to the horizon line. In terms of meaning these paintings are both similar. Each has to do with the beginning stages of man. While one takes a utopian approach, the other focuses more on religious teachings. Lastly, both use imagery of common everyday objects with a twist to it. In My World and Yours, you can see an incredibly large butchers knife and axe which appear to be used to acquire skin to make humans with. Also, in the background you can see towering buildings with smoke blowing out of their tops to aid in the mass production of humans. In The Garden of Earthly Delights, you can spot an assortment of tools being used in a horrifying manner on the right panel. The hourglass is being used as a throne by a large bird devouring a human, a lute is being used to hold a man like a cross, and a pig wearing a nun’s hood. These similarities strongly correlate with one another and are large parts of the meaning that each painting contains. Both paintings are quite hard to decipher. Many layers of content can make each work overwhelming to look at upon first glance. However, after looking upon each long enough to gather some sense of meaning you begin to appreciate each work far more for their brilliance. The ability by each to weave in so many worldly references is as astonishing as it is brilliant. The work done by these 2 artists is able to convey humanity from each artists own view.
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