Friday, August 08, 2008

The simple art of murder

(Sidney Nolan, Death of Constable Scanlon, 1946, National Gallery of Australia)

A comment about the Carnival of the Criminal Minds' current stop in Australia got me thinking about Ned Kelly. That, in turn, cast my mind back to some memorable crime art I saw a few years ago: Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly paintings, chilling and whimsical at the same time.

What examples can you think of? What other fine crime art ornaments the world's museums, galleries, churches and public squares?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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15 Comments:

Blogger Barbara said...

I'm afraid I didn't make a note of the provenance, but this detail of a painting in Chicago's Art Institute caught my eye.

Love those Ned Kelly paintings!

August 08, 2008  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Hello Peter, Loving art, I recently exchanged with an artist who primarily paints graffiti which in its original form was to express rebellion against the establishment and in itself, a crime. But he pointed out an artist who I thought was amazing! Ron English is his name? Am sure the covers of most crime novels are works of art.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Oh, Peter, btw, have posted a mini entitled "Canine Talk." Since the poll about deceased actors, have included a few, and have also used voiceovers for the dogs. I hope you enjoy! Have a wonderful weekend! Petra

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Barbara, your label is accurate. That's a gory medieval beheading, all right. Many paintings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance would qualify for this post for two reasons. First, many depict savage acts of punishment. Second, especially in religious paintings, the punishment is often unjust.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It appears that Ron English calls his Web site "The Art and Crime of Ron English" and also that he has exhibied at a show called "Pop Surrealism -- Crime on Canvas." This leads me to suspect that his work may indeed have crime connections.

August 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judith and Holofernes?
This one is from Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Cristofano_Allori_002.jpg

Cain and Abel and Samson and Delilah are two other crime stories from the Bible which inspired many painters and sculptors.

Marco

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

The Death of Marat comes to mind.

Then there's Picasso's Guernica.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, it's interesting how crime in great art takes on political dimensions, isn't it? David may be the greatest artist who worked specifically in the pay of a political cause. And "Guernica" lives up fully to what one expects of it -- graceful, beautiful and also chilling in the way Picasso no doubt intended.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, my two favorite crime stories in art are Raphael’s fresco of The Liberation of Peter in the Stanza d’Eliodoro at the Vatican and Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at her Bath in the Louvre. Both, the Rembrandt especially, depict moments of high drama from crime stories, but neither depicts a crime.

The Raphael shows a jailbreak, and the stunning Rembrandt show Bathsheba full of tragic foreboding, and we know what is to come: adultery, a cold-blooded plot to kill the husband, and a haunted killer. It’s a perfect noir story, probably the most perfect in all the Bible.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I dunno, and I'm willing to be shown otherwise, but it seems to me that without the political dimension a specific crime wouldn't be immortalized in paint. We've seen numerous photographs of the aftermath of violent crime, but how many of those rise to the level of art?

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

There's something to what you say. Perhaps it is the greatness of the painters involved that raises the works above mere melodrama or polemic. The scene of a worried Bathsheba reading the letter is not in the biblical story, for instance, and I'm not sure what precedents in art Rembrandt had available to him.

Here, by the way, is an earlier discussion sparked by this stunning painting.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Titian's Cain and Abel comes to mind. Kicked to death if I recall correctly. Nasty.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, here’s Titian’s Cain stomping the beejezus out of Abel in a fashion that would not be out of place in the most violent Celtic or Italian neo-noir. This may have been one of his last pictures before his eyesight got really bad, and he started painting those dream-like pictures in his last years. Mind you, this one has some soft outlines, too.

August 08, 2008  
Blogger Kerrie said...

Very interesting thread Peter

August 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. There's more to fictional crime than just crime fiction.

This is a good excuse to look at and think about some of my favorite art, and a nice reminder, too, that great art and crime fiction often deal with similar themes.

August 09, 2008  

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