Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coldplay's Viva la Vida

Frida Kahlo
Viva la Vida
59 x 50.7 cm. oil on masonite 1954
Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico.

Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin, was inspired by the life and art of the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, while recording Coldplay's latest album: Viva la Vida. Martin was struck by the appeal to life gouged into the watermelon in the foreground of Frida's Viva la Vida which he viewed on a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City,

Both Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera were involved in revolutionary politics in the Americas. Both artists felt it was their responsibility to point out and help change the injustices in society. But the band has used another painter's work to stand in for their inspiration. Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People graces the cover of Coldplay's new album.

Though, the painting has been tagged by Frida, Chris, Banksy or perhaps Ricky Martin in white paint with the phrase "Long Live Life!"

The undamaged painting is seen below:

Eugène Delacroix
July 28. Liberty Leading the People
Louvre, Paris, France

The Louvre describes the painting in some detail in materials from their self guided tour:

"This work is unlike others by Delacroix, who was especially drawn to exotic subjects. His compositions inspired by contemporary events were rare.
In July 1830, three days of riots known as “Les Trois Glorieuses” led to the downfall of Charles X and the enthronement of Louis-Philip, despite a vain attempt by the people of Paris to re-establish the Republic on 28 July, the day celebrated here. The belltowers of Notre-Dame situate the scene behind the huge barricade, already piled with corpses. Striding over the top, Phrygian bonnet on her head and rifle in hand, the allegorical figure of the Republic waves the tricolor flag and urges the people to follow her. The different classes of society can be recognized from the clothes in which they are dressed. Political awareness is epitomized by the boy, the emblematic Parisian street urchin and forerunner of Victor Hugo’s character Gavroche, who takes his destiny into his own hands despite his young age.
This powerful, innovative painting caused an uproar at the Salon of 1831. The freedom of the artist’s brushwork depicted the Republic not as a symbolic image but as a real woman — dirty, half-naked, and hirsute. Only smooth-skinned, allegorical nudity was acceptable! This forceful work also heralded the critical function of contemporary art. Louis-Philip grasped the message only too well: he purchased the painting to commemorate his accession to the throne, then hid it away so that its subversiveness could not turn against him."

By using Liberty Leading the People , Coldplay seems to be suggesting that artists need to storm the barricades with the forces of change. Isn't that the painter Delacroix in a tophat and armed with a musket?
Perhaps joining a mob led by a topless French woman isn't a bad idea after all? What would Gwyneth say?

(The first single, Violet Hill, is available for the next week as a free download from the Coldplay's site:
Violet Hill Download)


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