This month we're celebrating the birthdays of two famous artists, Damian Hirst and Paul Gauguin. These two artists have given so much to art as we now know it today, from the creativity behind a concept to a renewed appreciation of bright colours.
Hirst in a still from the movie The Future of Art
There are few Brits who have not heard of Damien Hirst. As one of the most influential thinkers and artists of the modern scene, Damien Hirst has inspired many, split opinion, and created his own legacy.
Now one of the wealthiest British artists, with a net worth estimated to be £200,000,000, Hirst's creative path began when he took A-level art – only to be graded E. After applying more than once to the two art colleges he attended, (Jacob Kramer School of Art and later Goldsmiths, University of London) Hirst began to make a lasting impression on agents and curators that came to graduate exhibitions – namely Charles Saatchi.
Saatchi was so taken with Hirst's work that he offered to fund absolutely anything Hirst wanted to make for the showcase of the first ever Young British Artists (YBA) exhibition in 1992.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living "Death Denied"
This exhibition saw the birth of the formaldehyde series – some of Hirst's most famous (or infamous) work. This piece was a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. It also saw him nominated that year for the Turner Prize.
Since his YBA debut, Hirst's work has continued to sell out at auctions and galleries and he has designed charity CD album covers and even an image for a space probe to calibrate its onboard camera.
"Damien Hirst at the exihibition Damien Hirst The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, Gagosian Gallery, NYC."
Although he has been widely received as a pioneer in modern art, there are also critics to Hirst's particular style. Some have described his paintings to be produced in a 'factory' setting. The famous spot series are largely painted by someone else, as Hirst has always believed that the creativity and art is in the concept of his work, rather than the production. He is even known to have said, "The best person who ever painted spots for me was Rachel. She's brilliant."
"Paul Gauguin, photography, ca. 1891"
Paul Gauguin was a French post-impressionist who was largely undervalued by critics until long after he died. In his lifetime he did however make a profound impact on Vincent van Gogh.
Inspired by his mother's Peruvian heritage and the bright colours of their culture, Gauguin incorporated bold, bright lines and backgrounds in his work that woke European art up from what he believed was a dullness in creativity.
"Parahi te maras, 1892, Meyer de Schauensee collection"
Initially a stockbroker, Gauguin began to paint in the late 1870s when Impression was the popular art style. Gauguin decided to paint with the colours he wanted to give life and vibrancy to his art, which was not in keeping with the style at the time. This lead to many bad reviews from critics and dealers alike, apart from one in particular…
Theo van Gogh was a big fan of Gauguin's work and bought three of his paintings. At the same time, Gauguin became close friends with Vincent – so much so they spent nine weeks painting together in Arles, France.
"Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower), 1891, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek"
It was Gauguin who can be said to have had the biggest influence on van Gogh's progression and style as a painter. Sadly, their friendship ended after their nine weeks of painting, resulting in van Gogh allegedly threatening Gauguin with a razor blade before cutting off the lower lobe of his own ear. Van Gogh was subsequently admitted to hospital and Gauguin returned home.
Today, Gauguin's work is admired for its colours. The inspiration for these was African and Asian art – not to mention the Peruvian pottery and art that his mother collected whilst he was growing up. Gauguin tried to add a passion and depth to Western art that he thought impressionism lacked, creating the Symbolist movement.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living "Death Denied" by Agent001 licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
"Damien Hirst at the exihibition Damien Hirst The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, Gagosian Gallery, NYC." by Andrew Russeth licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
"Parahi te maras, 1892, Meyer de Schauensee collection" by The Yorck Project licensed by Public Domain
"Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower), 1891, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek" by The Yorck Project licensed by Public Domain