Rembrandt’s Danaë as Perceived by Russian Postmodern Artists
This article considers works of contemporary artists inspired by Rembrandt’s Danaë (1636). The article’s purpose is to reveal the authors’ approaches to the perception of Rembrandt’s masterpiece and the representation of the well-known image in modern art. Paintings found at the exhibition In Memory of a Masterpiece (Chelyabinsk, 2006) are studied in the context of postmodern tendencies. Temporal, spatial, stylistic, cultural, and symbolic layers in works devoted to Danaë not only coexist and interact but are also presented with maximum irony, which is studied in the article through the prism of J. Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra and that of “double copying” by R. Barthes. Artists get actively involved in the game, which is realised by decanonising and fragmenting the original and creating unexpected extravagant combinations. Their dialogue with Rembrandt involves borrowings from the original through direct citation and other forms, i. e. allusions, reminiscences, and the grotesque. The article’s authors classify works according to how the artists use different citation formulas containing explicit and implicit references to the original painting. In their interpretations, contemporary artists present the “memory of Danaë” in nostalgic and ironic ways, also using play, parody, and protest. Together with this, the play on 20th-century styles is easy to notice and ranges from naïve art, primitivism, and minimalism to expressionism, symbolism, cubism, abstractionism, surrealism, suprematism, etc. As a result, what emerges is a mega-text where canon and tradition interact with the unique form chosen by the author of a particular painting. Even though all the works are united by a single theme and scale, the artists demonstrate a high degree of freedom, a spirit of contest, and play in the context of the postmodernist perception of the heritage of Rembrandt. They start a dialogue with the great Dutch painter, each of them being a mature and recognised master, which adds to the project’s artistic importance. The variations on the theme of Danaë by Rembrandt dramatically differ from each other from the point of view of composition, technique, colour, and style. The artists make it possible for the well-known plot to be prolonged and actualised, making it a sign of contemporary culture and convincing the viewer of the vast possibilities of modern art.
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