In the art world, some of the most highly prized paintings are nudes. For thousands of years, the human figure has remained one of the most challenging subjects for artists to depict on canvas. Whether it is Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus“ or Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” when a painter both captures form and elicits emotion, it is a remarkable achievement.
In The Michael Aaron Gallagher Collection, a couple of nude oil paintings in particular stand out. Despite their simplicity, they achieve a tasteful balance between the provacative and the sublime.
When Michael first came across “Figura y Ombú VI” by the Argentinian artist Anna Rank from Uruguay, it was struggling to find a buyer. On the surface, it appeared to be an oversimplified study for a larger, more complex work. But Michael was immediately drawn to the genius of its minimalism and kept returning to it as he considered adding a modern nude figurative painting to his collection. Much like Jorge Imana Garron’s piece “Girl with Bird,” he particularly liked how the trees were painted with an almost geometric abstraction. It also shared a rudimentary construction and minimal color palette similar to Pablo Picasso’s “Nu couché.”
Some artists fail to engage the viewer’s attention, when the subject is not, as they say in photography, “facing the camera” or looking into the lens. What makes Anna Rank’s work so magnificent is that even though the subject’s face is obscure and she is otherwise occupied with the view stretching out before her, she is still the central focus. In her tranquility she conveys that sense of peaceful rest, and the observer cannot help but be drawn in to witness her solitude. Our experience becomes one with hers, without ever having to see the marvelous view that has transfixed her gaze.
Recognizing the profoundness of the piece, Michael decided to acquire it. It was only later that he learned that the artist herself was a well-respected painter and art teacher in New York City, whose impressive body of work has been exhibited around the world.
But not all art is meant to be taken so seriously. When Michael saw the oil painting of four female bathers by M.E.S., it immediately reminded him of “The Five Nudes of Cairo” from one of his favorite episodes of the classic television series Remington Steele called “Thou Shalt Not Steele.” Reminiscent of Paul Cézanne’s “Seven Bathers,” the piece has a light and airy texture that draws from the masters of expressionism. Now a part of his collection, he jokingly refers to the painting as “The Four Nudes of Cairo.”
For more information about artist Anna Rank and her extraordinary work, visit www.annarank.info.
To view more original works of art in The Michael Aaron Gallagher Collection click here.