For Georges Bataille, art was a sovereign action that broke the current reasoning of putting together creation and practical use. Art does not require a particular reason for its existence. Its focus lies in loss, of both material resources and time; it’s an unproductive waste. The artist’s work produces no value, for the manual labor applied does not fulfill a socially vital purpose. Its completion does not provide a necessity for the path to progress and modernity in contemporary society. Here’s where its sovereign relevance comes face to face with productive activity.
There are cases when art attempts to capture a plethora of feelings that surpass reason. There are emotions that cannot seem to find another medium to appear in other than artistic creation. Whether it’s a broken heart, a love that seems to burst at the seams, the hopelessness of only finding decay and despair in humanity, or the passion that surges through the body and guides it to climax, these feelings find a desperate and necessary relief in art.
Any human representation capable of erecting a genuine monument of love, death, or sadness can be considered part of artistic expression. What goes through our minds during our most tired and low points? And what happened during the times of sublime happiness and fulfillment?
Dive into these eight paintings that will mirror your mood with each brushstroke, color, and shape.
Boredom: Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878) – Mary Cassatt
The large windows capture the light of another day gone by; a young girl sits in a blue armchair, bearing the boredom of days filled with no other concern but finding something fun to do, in company of the pet beside her, which adopts the same attitude. Sleep or a brilliant idea seem to be the only two escape routes to end the endless scenario that could go on until nightfall.
Uncertainty: Young Man at His Window (1875) – Gustave Caillebotte
A well-dressed man stares out the window, deep in thought. Everything around him is in movement, yet completely calm. People walk down the street; the wind makes the tree leaves and curtains shake; the buildings’ shadows reinforce the sense of an overwhelming routine. The protagonist stays suspended in his overactive mind, unbalanced by the inevitable passing of time.
Longing: Automat (1927) – Edward Hopper
A woman sits in a café, sipping her drink little by little and recalling recent occurrences. Her gaze drifts into her reflection in the tea, as she desperately searches for an explanation to a puzzling turn of events. The cold, lonely, and dark backdrop contrasts with this moment of reflection, the calm after the storm.
Joy: Dance at the Moulin de la Galette (1876) – Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Hundreds share a dance at the Moulin de la Galette. It’s a wonderful afternoon; the sun shines through the branches of the trees; pleasant and casual conversations fill the space, while the spirit of splendor reaches the worry-free souls that enjoy the moment.
Desire: Impulsive – Ron Hicks
Two lovers give in to their pleasure on an autumn afternoon, allowing their desire-filled instincts to guide and consume them. They are in a public place, yet the impulse blocks any social norms and brings forth the obscene search for pleasure at all cost. Both bodies burn with matching gasps as their imagination and the contact of their skin leads them to a state of arousal that becomes greater and uncontrollable.
Hopelessness: Fishermen on Skagen Beach (1883) – Peder Severin Kroyer
A group of fishermen rest on the beach with their wounded spirits. Hope seems to dissolve into the sand, just like the water from the waves filters into the grainy surface. The barely visible horizon only brings clouds of confusion, emptiness, and despair that force the eyes to look down, searching for comfort and the strength to go on.
Sadness: At Eternity’s Gate (1890) – Vincent van Gogh
An old man breaks down in tears, bearing the weight of loneliness and the warmth of the nearby fire. The warm salty tears run down the cheeks as a constant feeling of disapproval forces the brows to furrow and the lips to twist as a sign of sadness. Comfort seems far away, and it’s only a matter of time for resignation or death to put an end to these hard times.
Falling in Love: In Bed: The Kiss (1892) – Henri Tolouse-Lautrec
A couple shares the first rays of sunlight in their bed, where the heat of their bodies and the passion of a few hours earlier have created a hypnotic trance that ends as they come together for a kiss. Ripped from all traces of the past, standing in front of the honesty of two naked souls, they show their emotions and sink into the sincerity of an overbearing emotion.
Translated by María Suárez