Iconographic Analysis

Every good painter paints what he is.  Jackson Pollock

When we analyze a painting for its symbolism we call it Iconographic Analysis.

Sometimes symbols just “float up” when an artist works:

MGP Andersen, Untitled, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe, Grey Line

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit, 1930

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Iris, 1926

John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward D. Boit, 1882

And sometimes it’s done deliberately:

Jan Van Eyck, Arnolfini Wedding, 1434

Caravaggio, Boy Being Bitten by a Lizard, 1600

Agnolo Bronzino, An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, 1545

Pieter Claesz, A Vanitas Still Life, 1645

A vanitas painting is a kind of still life designed to remind us of the vanity, or frivolous quality of human existence.

A memento mori is a reminder that life is fleeting.  In Latin it means “remember you must die.”

Let’s try to analyze some of our own.  Be mindful of two things:

  • Symbols change with time and culture.
  • We  bring ourselves to the work.

Rene Magritte, Personal Values, 1952

Robert Bechtel, Pontiac

Wayne Thiebaud, Delicatessen

Giorgio De Chirico, Melancholy and Mystery of a Street

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Goya (?) Colossus

Arnold Bocklin, The Isle of the Dead

Giorgio de Chirico, The Uncertainty of the Poet

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Future Science Versus Man

Norman Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With, 1964

Juan de Valdes Leal, Allegory of Death

Jasper Johns, Target with Four Faces, 1955

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