Eve’s Dream by Edson Campos: A Postromantic Pastiche of The Milkmaid and The Spinners

Eve's Dream by Edson Campos

Two celebrated paintings by two of the world’s best-known  artists–Vermeer‘s The Milkmaid (around 1657) and Velazquez‘s The Spinners (also 1657) intersect in Edson Campospostromantic pastiche, Eve’s Dream. The Renaissance masterpieces have in common is more than the (approximate) year they were finished and their fame: they share a common fascination with women, particularly working class women. Vermeer’s milkmaid, now housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, is considered one of the museum’s main attractions. It features a milkmaid pouring milk into an urn. Her features are calm and concentrated, perhaps on her daily task, perhaps on something else. Viewers are always led to speculate by Vermeer’s profound representations of women.

The Milkmaid by Vermeer

In the background, blending in seamlessly with the Vermeer painting in the foreground, Campos executes a flawless pastiche of Velazquez’s The Spinners, a painting commissioned by Don Pedro de Arce, the huntsman to King Philip IV. This piece also  features servant girls at work, making a tapestry. But the similarities of theme don’t overshadow the differences in portrayal. Influenced by the allegorical approach of Baroque art, Velazquez’s masterpiece is rich with allusions. Some art critics have read in it Ovid‘s Fable of Arachne : the hapless woman who dared challenge the goddess Athena and was turned into a spider as a punishment. Other art critics have identified in it Biblical tales; yet others have seen political and economic messages.

The Spinners by Velazquez

In Eve’s Dream, Edson Campos does justice to both artists and both masterpieces in turn, not only stylistically, in his flawless execution, but also thematically, by keeping true to the ambiguity that characterizes Vermeer’s mysterious portrayals women and Velazquez’s allegorical paintings in general. Going far beyond copying the great masters’ artwork or even creative interpretations and intermixture, Campos adds his postromantic touch in the foreground: a young woman, dressed in a manner that renders her contemporary yet timeless, stands to the side, assuming a posture that is at once contemplative and strong. We don’t know what she’s thinking, yet Campos’s portrait of her, like Vermeer’s representation of the milkmaid or Velazquez’s spinners, provokes viewers to admire and speculate.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Dante’s Dream by Edson Campos

Dante's Dream by Edson Campos

In his new charcoal drawing, Dante’s Dream, the postromantic painter Edson Campos continues his Great Masters series, which has included pastiches of paintings by Vermeer, David and Delacroix: only this time, of course, the artist branches into the literary rather than artistic tradition. (Although there is another painting called Dante’s Dream, painted in 1871 by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Campos’s drawing seems to combine elements of Dante‘s autobiography with allusions to his literary masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. The perfect, statuesque young woman in the center could very easily be a representation of Beatrice, Dante’s real-life true love–the idealized woman admired from afar–that set the example for the tradition of courtly love in both life and literature.

In fact, when Beatrice died, Dante sought refuge in writing, where his lost love plays a central role in the La Vita Nuova, which describes his youthful romance. In Edson Campos’s rendition, the young woman is facing away from the viewers, with extended arms shrouded by a shall and hands pointing upward, as if she–like her corporal perfection–is no longer of this world.

Yet as she’s oriented towards the other life, she steals a glance at the worldly group behind her, who seem to be characters from The Divine Comedy. Beatrice plays a central role in this work too, as she guides the narrator’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso). With subtlety and an incredible power of cohesion, Dante’s Dream combines elements of all three parts. Through the human figures represented in this drawing, Edson Campos manages to capture the different attitudes–despair, longing and redemption–that we find in Dante’s masterpiece.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Desire by Edson Campos

Edson Campos’ postromantic painting, Desire, holds up a mirror to both sides of desire: its beauty, sensuality and temptation and its potential dangers. The painting is enveloped in a crimson red, suggestive, of course, of overt sexuality. The soft gradations and shadows, however, add a softer, more sensual touch.

The figure of the beautiful woman is veiled in a transparent gauze that, paradoxically, draws attention to her serene face and to her breast. Rather than hiding desire, the veil only attracts it. Her hand gesture is in itself ambivalent, as if she wavers between repulsion and attraction. The waves of the transparent veil give the impression that she’s almost floating in a dream. However, the intensity of her gaze suggests lucidity and passion.

In this striking painting, Edson Campos captures so many nuances–and the inherent ambivalence–of desire: the overwhelming attraction and its potential dangers; the red heat of the passions as well as its association with blood, crime and death; the hidden and unconscious sensual needs it provokes as well as the flagrant sexuality. Passionate, contradictory, multi-dimensional and complex, Desire (quite literally) paints a compelling picture of human sexuality and sensuality.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Edson Campos’ And What About The Truth: A Pastiche of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci‘s The Last Supper (1498) is one of the most famous paintings in the history of art. Ambitious in both scope and theme, Da Vinci created this mural for his patrons, Duke Ludovico Sforta and Duchess Beatrice D’Este. The artist painted The Last Supper on a dry wall  (a layer of pitch, gesso and mastic) covered over with tempera. The mural began to deteriorate only a few years after completion. Fortunately, two copies of the painting, almost the same size as the original, have survived in decent shape.

The scene captures the moment when Jesus announces to his twelve apostles that one of them will betray him.  Da Vinci depicts Barrtholomew, James and Andrew looking surprised. Judas, wearing green and blue, hides in the shadow, taken aback that Jesus is aware of his secret plot. One of the younger apostles, John, seems to faint when he hears the news. Another, Philip, is asking a question. Da Vinci’s masterpiece captures in the expressions of the apostles each of their roles and personalities as well as eloquently addressing the religious and metaphysical problem of good versus evil.

Edson Campos’ pastiche of The Last Supper, called, appropriately enough, And What About The Truth? appears painted in a Neoclassical style, more reminiscent of Jacques-Louis David than of Leonardo Da Vinci. In his introduction to his pastiche, the artist alludes to this mixture of styles. Campos explains, “In my version, I am bringing different paintings together to add a complete sense of action and a different point of view.” The focus of Campos’ version is not only each apostle’s reaction to Jesus’ revelation, as in Da Vinci’s original, but also on the dramatic, bellicose gestures of the figures surrounding the table.

The accusatory soldier on the left, a figure straight out of Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii (1785), seen below, represents the war cry for human justice. It’s quite literally a call to arms against Judas’ betrayal. The pining female figures on the right underscore our helplessness when faced with evil disguised as good; with heartless betrayal; with supposed friends who are, in truth, our worst enemies. The woman in the middle, painted in Eugène Delacroix‘s Romantic style, seems to be pleading for justice with grace: not only a Romantic theme, but also (perhaps) the best attitude we have at our disposal when confronted with the existence of absolute evil.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Auto-Retrato by Edson Campos: A Pastiche of Velázquez’s Las Meninas

On November 22-28, 2010 the postromantic artist Edson Campos had a show at the prestigious French Salon in Paris. The exhibit took place in the spectacular Grand Palais. Campos presented his new pastiche of Diego Velázquez‘s Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor, 1656). This work is Velázquez’s most famous painting. It’s also one of the most discussed paintings in the history of Western Art, provoking numerous debates about the interplay between reality and illusion.

Las Meninas, featured above, is set in the Madrid palace of King Philip IV of Spain. The figures in it–members of the royal court–are captured in action, as it were, with unforgiving realism, flaws and all. They don’t look staged, dignified or beautiful, as was customary in most royal paintings and portraits at the time. Some seem to pose for the painter; others, like the little boy bothering the dog, are caught off-guard.   This painting is also a self-portrait, since Velázquez makes a cameo appearance in the background,  standing by a canvas. The king and the queen, rather than being at the center of their court, appear outside the picture, inexplicably marginal. Because of its masterful technique and because it violates pictorial conventions, this famous painting  has been described as “Velázquez’s supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting.”

It’s not easy to fill Velázquez’s shoes, but I believe that Edson Campos did an amazing job in his pastiche of Las Meninas, called Auto-Retrato, pasted above. His representation of Las Meninas is so close a copy of the real painting as to look like a masterful forgery. But forgery it is not, since Campos openly acknowledges his debt to the Renaissance master. He also shifts the perspective to place his own large self-portrait in the foreground. Campos does not represent himself as a painter in action, the way  Velázquez did, but as a contemplative viewer, as if he’s just admired the masterpiece and is taking a few moments to process the thoughts and feelings it provoked in him. Auto-Retrato is not only a postromantic masterpiece in the art of imitation-with-a-difference, or pastiche. It’s also a powerful representation of the contemporary artist: contemplative, at the center of the world of art, cognizant and respectful of art history, both viewer and creator, both imitative and original in style.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Atelier by Edson Campos

In his painting Atelier, Edson Campos performs a postromantic pastiche of two of Jan Vermeer’s most famous paintings: Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Art of Painting. Vermeer  (1632- 1675) is of course well known for being a painter of women, of domestic scenes and, more generally, of psychological intimacy. In Girl with a Pearl Earring, the gaze of the young woman is both transparent and mysterious, provoking curiosity, wonderment and speculation. Even the girl’s position—she turns to look over her shoulder at her viewer in a move that seems spontaneous and her lips are slightly parted as if she were about to speak—convey not only external verisimilitude, but also a psychological depth and agency that are characteristic of Vermeer’s paintings. The dark background against which the girl is set highlights the realism and three-dimensional quality of the young girl.

Campos undermines the naturalist effect of the famous Vermeer painting. The dark background that rendered Girl with a Pearl Earring all the more realistic serves the opposite function in Campos’s pastiche: namely, that of underscoring that the world which appears real is only a reproduction, a representation. In Campos’ pastiche, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring appears small, framed and visually overwhelmed by the dark background. No illusion of reality is fostered by Atelier. Yet the painting is nonetheless represented faithfully, in minute detail and free hand by the artist. Once we observe the luminous and much larger image of the beautiful young woman who forms the fulcrum of Campos’ painting, we realize that this postromantic pastiche is an homage to  Girl with a Pearl Earring. The depiction of the  beautiful young woman with auburn ringlets, a frank, powerful and penetrating gaze and luminous hair and lips that glimmer with the same light play and life-like quality that we find in Vermeer’s portrait modernizes the beauty of the Renaissance painting. The dark background blends into the richness of a dark brown silk curtain whose texture is as palpable as in Vermeer’s masterpiece.

Then Atelier smoothly transitions to its second reproduction, Vermeer’s The Art of Painting. In this allegorical picture, Vermeer represented Clio, the Muse of History, holding a trumpet in her right hand that represents Fame and a book in her left hand that represents History. The rich texture of the curtain to the left not only gives a sense of realism to the work but at the same time a theatrical feel. Campos does not convey a modern interpretation of this painting, the way he did with Girl with a Pearl Earring. Instead, his pastiche plays upon the contrast between the works it portrays. By coherently juxtaposing these two very different Vermeer paintings—one which shows realism, human psychology, contemplation; the other which is overtly theatrical and allegorical—Campos illustrates that both elements remain essential to contemporary art. The reproduction of The Art of Painting underscores the fact that an image is only an image, as modern art critics tell us.  No matter how much it tries it cannot fully reproduce reality, it will always remain on the level of representation, of stories within stories which stimulate the imagination without prescribing set interpretations.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Nightfall by Edson Campos

Edson Campos is a master of representational art that looks palpably real. He’s also a very subtle and engaging story teller. His paintings can tell a whole life story just from a pose, a gaze, a garmet. This talent is unmistakably displayed in Edson’s new painting, Nightfall. The gorgeous female figure has a timelessness and indeterminacy about her. She could be a young woman dressed for a 21st century prom or a 19th century aristocratic lady preparing to meet her lover.

Her pose expresses a clear nobility and strength, but also some hesitation, contemplation, doubt. The viewer is left to fill in all the blanks of this spectacular pictorial narrative: from who the young woman is, to whom she might be waiting for, to when she lived, to what she may have lived for. The only thing that’s absolutely clear is her elegance and poise, emphasized by her long silky blue gown, which transfixes our gaze as much as the entire scene–luminous yet mysterious, contemporary yet timeless–captures our imagination.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

The Cover of The Seducer: Timeless by Edson Campos

I have just finished my second novel, The Seducer, and had to choose a cover for it. I selected Edson Campos’ postromantic painting, Timeless(pictured above). Indeed, there’s a trace of timeless, romantic longing in this picture, rendered all the more moving by the ruins which surround the pensive woman dressed in blue. This fits perfectly with the mood and theme of my novel.

The Seducer tells a tale of dangerous, forbidden love and the devastation caused by psychopathic seduction. I wanted the cover artwork to capture the dreamy mood of longing and pain of the heroine. I also wanted a picture that was, in some ways, timeless and could take readers back to the tradition of nineteenth century fiction–particularly Tolstoy’s classic, Anna Karenina. You can preview my new novel, The Seducer, on the following links:

Please find below a more detailed description of The Seducer:

My native country, Romania, is best known for a fictional character, Dracula, which is only loosely based on a historical fact: the infamous legend of Vlad Tepes. Novels that draw upon this legend—ranging from Anne Rice’s genre fiction, to the popular Twilight series, to Elizabeth Kostova’s erudite The Historian–continue to be best sellers. Yet, ultimately, no matter how much they may thrill us, the “undead” vampires we encounter in novels are harmless fictional characters that play upon our fascination with evil. However, real-life vampires, or individuals who relish destroying the lives of others, do exist. We see them constantly featured in the news and, if we don’t know how to recognize them, sometimes we even welcome them into our lives.

What do O. J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Neil Entwistle and the timeless seducers of literature epitomized by the figures of Don Juan and Casanova have in common? They are charming, charismatic, glib and seductive men who also embody some of the most dangerous human qualities: a breathtaking callousness, shallowness of emotion and the fundamental incapacity to love. To such men, other people, including their own family members, friends and lovers, are mere objects or pawns to be used for their own gratification and sometimes quite literally discarded when no longer useful and exciting. In other words, these men are psychopaths.

My novel, The Seducer, shows both the hypnotic appeal and the deadly danger of psychopathic seduction. It traces the downfall of a married woman, Ana, who, feeling alienated from her husband and trapped in a lackluster marriage, has a torrid affair with Michael, a man who initially seems to be caring, passionate and charismatic; her soul mate and her dream come true. Although initially torn between love for her family and her passion for Michael, Ana eventually gives in to her lover’s pressure and asks her husband for divorce. That’s when Michael’s “mask of sanity” unpeels to reveal the monstrously selfish psychopath underneath, transforming what seemed to be the perfect love story into a psychological nightmare. Ana discovers that whatever seemed good about her lover was only a facade intended to attract her, win her trust and foster her dependency. His love was nothing more than lust for power, fueled by an incurable sex addiction. His declarations of love were nothing but a fraud; a string of empty phrases borrowed from the genuine feelings of others. Fidelity turned out to be a one-way street, as Michael secretly prowled around for innumerable other sexual conquests.

To her dismay, Ana finds that building a romantic relationship with a psychopathic partner is like building a house on a foundation of quicksand. Everything shifts and sinks in a relatively short period of time. Seemingly caring, and often flattering, attention gradually turns into jealousy, domination and control. Enjoying time together becomes isolation from others. Romantic gifts are replaced with requests, then with demands. Apparent selflessness and other-regarding gestures turn into the most brutal selfishness one can possibly imagine. Confidential exchanges and apparent honesty turn out to be filled with lies about everything: the past, the present, as well as the invariably hollow promises for the future. The niceness that initially seemed to be a part of the seducer’s character is exposed as strategic and manipulative, conditional upon acts of submission to his will. Tenderness diminishes and is eventually displaced by perversion that hints at an underlying, and menacing, sadism. Mutuality, equality and respect—everything she thought the relationship was founded upon—become gradually replaced with hierarchies and double standards in his favor. As the relationship with the psychopath unfolds, Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde.

The Seducer relies upon the insights of modern psychology and sensational media stories to demystify the theme of seduction we find in classic literary fiction. In its plot and structure, my novel deliberately echoes elements of the nineteenth-century classic, Anna Karenina. In its style and content, it fits in with contemporary mainstream psychological fiction such as Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue and Wally Lamb’s I know this much is true. As much a cautionary tale as a story about the value of real caring, forgiveness and redemption, The Seducer shows that true love can be found in our ordinary lives and relationships rather than in flimsy fantasies masquerading as great passions.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

Opera by Edson Campos

Edson Campos’s spectacular new painting, Opera, puts a postromantic twist on Eugene Delacroix’s famous Romantic masterpiece, “Death of Sardanapalus” (1827), which is, in turn, inspired by one of Lord Byron’s plays. Delacroix is widely known as the leader of the Romantic movement in art.  Yet his brand of Romanticism never gave way to sentimentality: it was distinct, bold and individualist. The poet Charles Baudelaire captured the painter’s style best when he said: “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”

In the Death of Sardanapalus, Delacroix depicts the last moments of the Assyrian king Sardanapalus, his harem and his servants, before the inevitable defeat. The color scheme is warm—vibrant reds, yellows, browns and shades of shimmering gold. It captures the tragic energy of the events as well as the exotic setting. The king, however, remains expressionless as he orders the guards to kill his servants, concubines and animals, whom he regards as his rightful property. If he must fall defeated to the enemy, he refuses to leave behind for his enemies any of his belongings. Most shocking—and yet also most moving—is the scene which is entirely absent from Byron’s play: the sacrifice of a beautiful nude woman, perhaps the king’s favorite concubine, who is being stabbed from behind by one of the guards.   The fierce, merciless concentration of her assailant sharply contrasts with her passive, defenseless pose and quiet suffering.  In this Romantic allegory, the women are property and victims. There is  striking beauty in the composition and color scheme of the painting, but sheer brutality in its message.

In Campos’ postromantic pastiche of Delacroix’s painting, the violent central scene of the concubine being stabbed has been removed. Campos still recreates, however, with a stunning likeness, some of the elements of Delacroix’s original. He depicts the king’s unemotional expression, as he supervises the murder of his harem, servants and horses. He also shows a seminude concubine, a helpless victim that has already been murdered. The most compelling scene, which captures movement and emotion, is represented by a horse. We see it rearing its body to escape death, its eyes opened wide with fear.  However, instead of the brutal murder scene of the nude concubine, a beautiful young woman with long, flowing hair, enveloped in a satin red gown, forms the focus of Campos’ rendition of Delacroix’s masterpiece. Her expression still reflects the resignation of Delacroix’s female victims. Yet Campos attenuates the brutal violence of the scene.   Her stance may be passive and resigned, but she’s still very much alive. The transposition of this new representation of femininity—which replaces the central scene of sacrifice and violence of Delacroix’s “Death of Sardanapalus”—endows Campos’s “Opera” with a sense of promise, hope and a languid, almost sensual, spirituality that are glaringly absent from the original. Under Campos’ creative touch, Delacroix’s Romantic nightmare vision turns into a more ambivalent postromantic image that sharply contrasts brutal violence with possible hope and redemption.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

The Postromantic Paintings of Edson Campos

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Edson Campos has enjoyed sketching and painting since childhood. He is a completely self-taught artist. He moved to the United States in 1978 and exhibited his lifelike, passionate paintings and drawings in major cities throughout the country, winning several awards. Not surprisingly, Campos’ sophisticated artwork also has great popular appeal: it has been commissioned to be exhibited in the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, California and the Tuscany-style Veranda Park of Florida. Recently, Campos participated in the Art Expo New York, where his work was highly praised by critics. The November 1999 issue of The Artist’s Magazine featured his work in a special section on painting techniques.

Pablo Picasso once complained: “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them?” In voicing this objection, Picasso was not, of course, saying that we don’t try to understand the biology of life. He was instead claiming that we don’t try to grasp its mysteries; to understand the whys not just the hows of life in the same way that we try to understand everything about art. Life and art, he implies, are irreducibly mysterious. No science or analysis will fully explain them.

Keeping Picasso’s objection in mind, perhaps the best we can do is try to understand some of their components in order to better appreciate the whole. Which is precisely how the painting of Edson Campos should be approached. In alluding to numerous artistic styles and periods, Campos’ works invite the examination of their parts. But we can’t ignore their overall effect, which creates an entirely new image of representational art. As Picasso reminds us, in art, as in life, the whole is always greater, more interesting and more mysterious than the sum of its parts.

Consider the painting “Paradise.” In the foreground we see a young woman who dazzles with her beauty. Her flesh tones; her slightly ironic but unmistakably sensual pose; her bright red hair all make her radiate with life before our eyes. In her pose, in her look, she’s recognizably contemporary. Nonetheless, the garment folds that ripple around her body evoke the stylization and refinement of neoclassical and romantic art. The background, a Japanese landscape, seems a perfect way to foreground the young woman’s beauty, while also taking us to a third, even more distant, tradition in art—the Japanese prints that, incidentally, marked so strongly the works of the Impressionists. Campos unites and juxtaposes the most distant traditions in art. He has a gift for painterly allusion, for pastiche.

The contrapposto and beauty of classical sculptures; the sfumato, three-dimensionality and mystery captured by Renaissance artists; the conceptuality of modern art; the playfulness, atemporality, subversion of boundaries and mixture of styles of postmodernism; the timeless appeal of beautiful women; the reverence for feminine sensuality, innocence and grace—all these are respectfully saluted, preserved and transformed for our times by Edson Campos’ postromantic art.

You can view Edson’s postromantic paintings on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com