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Art Through Time: A Global View

Death Compare: Can Art Uncover a Lighter Side of Death?

La Calavera de la Catrina

La Calavera de la Catrina
Artist / Origin: José Guadalupe Posada (Mexican, 1852–1913)
Region: Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Caribbean
Date: 1913
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Zinc etching
Medium: Prints, Drawings, and Photography
Dimensions: H: 12 in. (30.5 cm.), W: 16 in. (40.7 cm.)
Location: Private Collection
Credit: Courtesy of Giraudon/ Bridgeman Art Library

My Love Sings When the Flower is Near (The Philosopher and the Woman)

My Love Sings When the Flower is Near (The Philosopher and the Woman)
Region: Europe
Date: 2007
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Embroidery on silk shantung stretched over linen with crystals
Medium: Textiles and Fiber Arts
Dimensions: H: 155 in. (393.7 cm.), W: 90.2 in. (229.1 cm.)
Location: Galerie Lelong, New York, NY
Credit: © Galerie Lelong and the artist

Can art uncover a lighter side of death?

The ubiquitous skulls and skeletons that appear in art across time and place are, more often than not, symbols of decay, disease, and corruption, warnings of danger, or prognostications of death’s ultimate victory over the flesh. However, in more recent times especially, as the arsenal of weapons against death has become stronger and lifespans have lengthened, some artists have found occasion to bring out a lighter side in these traditional symbols of mortality.

Questions to Consider

  • Both Posada and Filomeno present their skeletons with a degree of playfulness. To what extent are their goals in doing so the same or different?
  • Think about the materials used to create each work of art. How does the difference in media change the significance of each piece?
  • Posada’s Catrina would most likely be seen on the street in the context of Day of the Dead festivities. Filomeno’s piece, in contrast, would likely be confronted in a museum, gallery, or personal collection. How might setting influence your reaction to the work in each case?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


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