In this fascinating series of works, Hungarian new media artist Bence Hajdu has removed the figures from a series of Old Master paintings with such precision that it’s almost hard to believe. While some compositions, like Jacques-Louis David’s “Oath of the Horatii” (1784) seem perfectly suited to such background reconstruction (see its clean, minimal lines and crisp shadows), others like Claude Lorrain’s “Seaport with the Embarkation of St. Ursula” (1641) seem like a more difficult selection, because of the picky details — in this case, waves and small scattered figures.
Hajdu’s works, which I’ve converted into GIFs (apologies to the artist) to make it clear what a fantastic visual feat the artist has achieved, also highlight the theatricality of the scenes. The pieces, which he has previously exhibited accompanied by smaller versions of the original images (a set up pictured below), have a silence that the original images lack. It is as if the characters have wandered off the stage and we’re left to ponder the world where such drama occurs.
In some cases, his erasures give a new life to the works, like Leonardo’s “Last Supper,” which seems a natural fit for the process as we’re all familiar with the table clutter of a meal. Somehow it makes the scene appear more human when the frozen figures disappear. I can’t say I had ever pondered the meal Jesus and his disciples shared in Leonardo’s masterpiece but it’s a curious revelation — is it just me or do the disciples on either end appear to be hoarding most of the food? #LOL
Others, like Botticelli’s “The Annunciation” don’t benefit much from the editing, as the sparse interior and idyllic view through the window tell us little if anything about the original scene.
In the case of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Hajdu has taken the liberty to leave a scarf behind for where the Virgin Mary was sitting. In this one scene, we’re left to feel that the angel has just left and the Madonna gone inside. And even if the floor shadows are a little bizarre in Hajdu’s rendering, it only helps us to see that the geometric arrangement of the scene in general is quite peculiar in and of itself.
One of the things I keep thinking about as I look at these scenes is how much I’d love to play a video game that wanders through familiar scenes like this. It’s like visiting a childhood home that you see anew after all these many years. The Old Masters don’t disappear, they’re just constantly reinvented.
h/t hypenotice via Zach Alan
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
I like these as GIFs!
fascinating, only in the juxtaposition of presence and absence with a sustaining backdrop make the drawn figures truly come to life.
Garfield Without Garfield applied to masterpieces. Interesting.
Hi. I don’t mind the GIFs. They are pretty cool 🙂 This is one of the best shares of my work so far. Thanks and keep up the good work.
In the meantime I have uploaded the pics on behance as well.
This reminds me of a series of paintings Yue Mingjun (better known for his hysterically laughing pink men) did where he also removed protagonists from well-known paintings. The repertoire extends, naturally, to renowned political images in China. Two sets of comparisons are uploaded below, one taken from a painting commemorating the Founding Ceremony, the other showing the young Mao Zedong on his way to Anyuan. But instead of working directly with digital images, he simply paints the backgrounds. Sometimes he abstracts it a little, as is the case with Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition (http://artobserved.com/artimages/2011/07/Yue-Minjun-The-Deposition-from-the-Cross.jpg). There’s even one overlap with Bence — the Annunciation (first attached image).
the yue minjun-rosso fiorentino image link in my last post was malfunct, this one should work: http://artobserved.com/artimages/2011/07/Yue-Minjun-The-Deposition-from-the-Cross.jpg
Unlike you, I like Botticelli’s ‘Annunciation’ best.
To each their own, but I’d love to hear why you like it best.
We enjoyed your article and we’re glad you introduced us to the work of Bence Hadju! We’ve linked your post to Slow Art Day’s blog remind our readers to look at art slowly and really take in the details.
Here’s a link to our post:
– Naomi Kuo, Slow Art Day Blogger/Intern
I did a series like this in the late 1990’s.
(scroll down to the bottom of the linked page)
I’m an even bigger believer in collective unconscious now…
Comments are closed.