Monday, 11 July 2011

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

Thomas Hart Benton was a serious painter whose allegorical pictures of slow country life showed skill and intellect:

Thomas Hart Benton. Persephone

So what in the world was he thinking when he tried to paint a rock n' roll party, with people dancing to "the Twist" by Chubby Checker?

The Twist (1964)

Check out those bongo drums.  Benton was so clueless, you have to laugh. 

N.C. Wyeth was an immensely talented artist.  The range and depth of his illustrations are awe-inspiring: 


But despite all his talent, he couldn't design a decent Coca-Cola ad to save his life:


Robert Fawcett was a fiercely talented draftsman who chiseled his subjects with an aggressive line.   His powerful black inkwork often overwhelmed his colors:

Robert Fawcett, detail from Big Business

So who in their right mind would select Fawcett to paint a dainty watercolor advertising women's cosmetics?

Fawcett, Palmolive ad, 1935

What on earth were these artists thinking?  Were they on drugs?  Desperate for money?   Deliberately stretching to expand their range? 

Sometimes you can tell in advance that, no matter how talented or how hard they work, an artist is just not the right person to handle a particular subject.  So when someone tells you an artist is "great," it doesn't hurt to ask yourself, "at what?"