A simple picture that shows a number of people sitting at a bus stop turns out to be much more than that once you learn about the painter. Frida Kahlo is one of the most famous Mexican artists ever, and she had a couple of memorable accidents. One of them, she says, is her lover Diego.
The other was when a streetcar (read: a bus) had an accident as she rode it. She suffered a huge number of injuries and was confined to her bed for three months – during which she began to paint. It’s all thanks to that unfortunate accident we have such amazing paintings.
Not Husband and Wife
You’re probably aware of this picture. It’s “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, and as we all know, it depicts a husband and wife on the Great Plains. Or does it? While Grant Wood himself went back and forth on the issue, the woman who posed for the picture, Grant’s sister Nan, said that she thought it was a father and daughter.
Perhaps it was because she didn’t like the idea of being married to someone twice her age even in a painting. The man is none other than Wood’s dentist, who agreed to sit for the painting since Wood had to make so many visits to the dentist’s chair.
Like Looking in a Mirror
If you're a famous painter, having a self-portrait is a great way to make sure people know who you are. And you see the image all the time, so you should be able to paint it, right? Right. Well, the problem is you can’t actually see yourself, so you have to do one of a couple of things.
For this self-portrait, Rembrandt inspected himself in a mirror in order to paint the picture, which, when you think of it, is a talent in its own right. This is why some people think he never painted his own hands – they would be on the wrong side.
The Letter Series
These two paintings are titled “Man Writing a Letter” and “Woman Reading a Letter,” both painted by Gabriel Metsu, and the two are a pair, representing the period of Metsu’s artistic climax. One cannot go without the other. They are companion pieces and have always been owned together.
They are an emotional set, with details in the paintings exploring the relationship between the two people. The globe we can see behind the man, and the picture revealed in the woman’s painting, tell us there may be quite some distance between these two – hence the focus both sides are giving to their letter.
The Struggle for Independence
What appears to be a simple portrait of a military man turns out to mean much more once you know the backstory. Dutch master Rembrandt painted this subject in 1630, during which the Netherlands was waging a struggle for independence from Spain.
The rich details show off a contrast of materials, such as the cloth, the feather, and the shiny metal gorget. There’s even more to this painting: underneath the aging military man is a picture of a young man wearing a green cloak, healthy and full of life in stark comparison to the aging warrior Rembrandt painted over him.