Willem de Kooning and Sandro Botticelli Paint the Beauty and the Beast… but not really

The ‘Willem de Kooning and Sandro Botticelli paint the beauty and the beast but not really’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE IRIS ISSUE’ for the complete editorial and set of images.

 Both sides of art 

Art alone is a subject full of debate as its value is based on subjective truths and not on objective ones. Many times we talk about what art is, about classical illustration and surrealism, classical theater and performance, installation and the thousands of artists’ approaches. All these concern us proportionally more than we understand, as the creators are always the expression of our times. Thrones who dare to expose themselves through their work and describe life. Focusing on visual arts, focussing on the two artists as examples we bridge these aesthetics as the axis of the text.


Kooning was born in Rotterdam, Holland and became one of the most important representatives of the “ugly” American abstract expressionism. Different from European expressionism and an important point of modernism. Kooning’s expressionism, and that of other painters like him, comes from the subconscious, spontaneously and instinctively without striving for roundness and beauty as in other painting currents. Action painting, as we tend to describe it, escapes from molds and depicts its subject as if it were looking inside, and the inside is multifaceted and wild, full of fire and interest.

For example women. Bras like we’ve never seen them before, women painted with imagination and drive by an artist who was not at all afraid to give shape to the most intense aspects of femininity. With aggressive images for the western man, completely different from their image for the female, seen mainly through male eyes. Teeth, hanging breasts, angry eyes and points of explosion form a subversive harmony of female existence, synthesizing all the urges and fears of modern man. In his sculpture, the drive and authenticity are even more tangible and ‘in your face’. Ready and defiant, Kooning gives us a unique, wonderful work, it cleanses us and gives us space to exist in our nature without shame.


Sandro Botticelli, painter of the renaissance, in the 19th century gained the fame he still holds today through his work. He apprenticed with very important visual artists in Italy, a land of beauty and art. Finishing his studies, he acquired his own workshop, the orders and subcontracting of his work began. Not a reactionary element, with orders from the state structures and the church, it depicts the lives of the saints and not only.

His ‘attractive’ way of portrayals are dominated by the elements of sensuality and eroticism. He flourishes in a time where aesthetics is the core of art with the aim of beauty, becomimg the same integral piece of this puzzle. An important part of his own art is the woman, depicted certainly extremely beautiful, like a nymph, Venus and grace. White-skinned, round and calm, she is a model of the time and seduces even in the most religious paintings, with her body naked or wrapped in exquisite fabrics. Botticelli, in a time when artists paint for the church, he manages to create works that are still among the greatest of all times and stimulate our imagination and senses, many times forgetting the places where we admire them. He still creates scenes from the ten days of Vokakios, extremely challenging even for today.

Both of them

Exceptional and remote, unworldly romance, it caresses our eyes with all its insides. Observing these two great artists, we realize that the debate between beauty and ugliness in art is almost non-existent. Our eyes see our fears and desires, and the work of the artist is the projection of our soul, completely uncovered and exposed before the greatness of creation. Kooning openly invites us to become one with instinct and to fully realize that man is full of creatures, beautiful and ugly, good and wild, and man has to come to terms with all of them, because this is life. Botticelli in the Puritan environment, the religious and conservative Catholicism revolts and provokes the passions in the most realistic way by painting eroticism and the axis of human desire in these environments. Using beauty as the standard of his era, he challenges the system. Women with naked bodies, exquisite fine fabrics cause the opposite of sanctity.

On the Contrary- Neue Wilde and Art Nouveau 

Two other examples of artists who depicted beauty completely differently are Klimt and Lüpertz. The first one has been characterized as a decorative painter as all his paintings are as if they were created to beautify and embrace the places they are located and host them. Lüpertz, a German, of the new expressionism, paints aggressively, alive and today constantly gives us images taken from our darkest thoughts. An excellent sculptor more than a painter, with all his creations making the ugliness, among many entrances, look like absolute beauty. Full of contrasts, cruelty, his paintings and sculptures oppose Klimt absolutely.


So reactionary art, for the context of each era, is not the only artistic means to revolt. The debate of beauty and ugliness is quite superficial. The great artists over the centuries create in accordance with the aesthetic influences of the time. However, creation come with a background text. The cases reveal the philosophy behind their art concerns man on an existential level and has been present through history. Shine the light on the back drop and then might we unveil the true debate and revolution in art.  Always trying to identify our fears and desires, the beauty and ugliness in our lives, the juxtaposition between them, and our only way to survive in the end is acceptance.

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