By Danielle Humphrey
Perhaps the ultimate goal of the human race is to find or do what makes us happy. Whether it is a rewarding career, starting a family, or even buying the latest gadget, we strive for contentment. This happiness is depicted as the defining feature of our e*istence. Life seems to be a constant celebration of our achievements. However, it is not often that light is shed on the darker side of life. The road to happiness is not as easy as we make it out to be. The struggles we must overcome on this journey are what define us as humans. Their negativity brings out the worst in us, encouraging us to give ** or admit defeat. These strains make happiness seem almost impossible to attain.
In this e*hibit, this darker side of humanity is displayed. These five pieces each depict a different struggle we encounter as human beings. From physical strains to troubles with our livelihood, each piece illustrates the difficulties we encounter in our daily lives. Some of these struggles may be limited to certain time periods or a specific gro** of people. In the end, though, this collection summarizes the strains of humanity as a whole, allowing us to relate to those who struggled before us, as well as those who are struggling ne*t to us.
Life is constantly throwing curveballs at us. We as humans struggle through the difficulties of our day-to-day lives, hoping that the end result will be this remarkable happiness we all hope to achieve. While this happiness may appear easy to attain, the struggles of humanity prove that the journey is not so simple. They show what life is really all about.
IMAGE #1 Lovis Corinth, Der geblendete Simson (The Blinded Samson), Atle Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany, 1912. Oil on canvas, 1050cm * 1300cm. <a href="http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen/details.php?objID=17&typeId=1">http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen/details.php?objID=17&typeId=1</a>
The first piece in this e*hibition is “The Blinded Samson” by Lovis Corinth. In this scene, Samson is breaking free of the Philistines’ captivity to destroy their temple and sacrifice his life to kill his enemies. He is the tragic hero, punished for falling in love with Delilah by having his eyesight stolen from him. In this sense, this painting is representative of humans’ physical struggles. Not only did the Philistines blind Samson, but his strength was also taken away by cutting off his hair, leaving his body weak. The audience is able to see the amount of physical difficulties Samson has endured through the bloody rag covering his eyes as well as the anguish on his face. The painting “The Blinded Samson” allows us to feel Samson’s physical pain that he had to endure to eventually reach his goal - defeating the Philistines.
IMAGE #2 Almeida Júnior, Saudade (Longing), Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil, 1899. Oil on canvas, 197*101. <a href="http://www.pinacoteca.org.br/pinacoteca-pt/default.asp*?mn=545&c=acervo&letra=A&cd=2335">http://www.pinacoteca.org.br/pinacoteca-pt/default.asp*?mn=545&c=acervo&letra=A&cd=2335</a>
The title of this piece is “Saudade”, a Portuguese word describing a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent someone or something. When Júnior painted this piece, Portugal’s men were leaving the country to e*plore the undiscovered world, unaware if they would ever return home and see their families again. In this scene, a woman is reading a letter most likely from a loved one out at sea. The realism of Júnior’s style shows the sorrow and loneliness in the woman’s face, allowing us to see the emptiness she feels without her loved one. Her internal struggle with this feeling of absence, this saudade, depicts the emotional strains we feel as humans. The solidarity of the woman in the frame reminds us of the times when we are so overcome with emotion that we allow our vulnerable side to come out. Once we recompose ourselves, we are stronger than before; we are one step closer to preventing life’s emotional struggles from overwhelming us.
IMAGE #3 Ma* Liebermann, Flachsscheuer in Laren (The Fla* Barn at Laren), Atle Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany, 1887. Oil on canvas, 2320cm * 1350 cm. <a href="http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightbo*View/result.t1.collection_lightbo*.%24TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbo*_3*4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=3">http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightbo*View/result.t1.collection_lightbo*.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbo*_3*4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=3</a>
This painting titled “The Fla* Barn at Laren” is a simple, straightforward piece. It depicts a gro** of women and children all spinning fla* simultaneously. However, it can be interpreted into two ways. On one hand, it illustrates the beauty of every day life of the bourgeoisie, or the middle-class. On a deeper level, though, this painting can be interpreted as a representation of the working life’s struggles. While the scene has a sense of rhythm with the repeating lines, it also displays the monotony of the work. The figures in this scene most likely perform the same task for several hours a day for very little pay. However, they desperately need the money so they endure the tediousness of the work. People of today can relate to these workers because not everyone has their dream career. Sometimes, we take whatever job we can find, no matter how boring, because we need to s**port ourselves. In addition, to advance ** in the working world, we must first undergo the bottom-level jobs. “The Fla* Barn at Laren” signifies our internal struggles with how we s**port ourselves financially.
IMAGE #4 Arnold Böcklin, Selbstbildnis mit fiedelndem Tod (Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle), Atle Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany, 1872. Oil on canvas, 610cm * 750cm. <a href="http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightbo*View/result.t1.collection_lightbo*.%24TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=2&sp=3&sp=Slightbo*_3*4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=0">http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightbo*View/result.t1.collection_lightbo*.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=2&sp=3&sp=Slightbo*_3*4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=0</a>
This piece in the e*hibition is a self-portrait of Arnold Böcklin. He is in the process of painting when he pauses to listen to Death, who is playing the lowest and only ****** on the fiddle. Originally, the piece was just of Böcklin himself, but his friends asked him what he was listening to. In response, Böcklin added Death and the fiddle to the background in rather close pro*imity to the artist. The overall painting signifies the struggle humans have with their own mortality. Every once in awhile, we question what our purpose in this world is. Sometimes, we even fear dying because the unknown frightens us. Böcklin illustrates in this painting that although death may be sooner than we think, we must not live in a constant fear. Rather, we should harness death as an inspiration for our e*istence, and prove to the world that our lives are not insignificant.
IMAGE #5 Vasily Pukirev, The Unequal Marriage, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia, 1862. Oil on canvas, 136cm * 173 cm. <a href="http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/collection/_show/image/_id/157">http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/collection/_show/image/_id/157</a>
The final piece in this e*hibition is titled “The Unequal Marriage”, displaying a marriage scene. It is quite obvious that the soon-to-be husband is much older than the girl, implying that this marriage is not occurring because of love. This is also shown through the girl’s saddened face as well as the young man’s stance behind her. The time period that this painting was completed in suggests that this marriage was occurring because of the older man’s power. His clothes indicate that he is wealthy, implying that the girl is marrying him because of his wealth. More than likely, her family wants social recognition and wealth from the older man, making this sort of an arranged marriage. While these sorts of weddings are less common today, the girl’s dissatisfied e*pression is representative of obligatory struggles. There are things in every day life that we must do even though we may not want to, such as paying ta*es or attending conference meetings. However, these things are necessary to live in our society, just as it was necessary to marry rich to move ** the social ladder in the 19th century. Although we may not like the task, we must do what is socially acceptable.