The Most Famous Eyes in Art
A deep and engaging gaze into someone’s eyes stirs something inside of all of us. Some would call it excitement. Many claim it to be a signal of whether that person finds you interesting. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.”
Since the beginning of time, devotion to the look of a human eye has been portrayed in paintings, sculptures and prose. Standing face to face and looking into the eyes of a portrait of the Mona Lisa, or contemplating the complexity of Escher‘s precise sketch of the eye, reminds us that a glance, catching someone’s eye, or even a stare can be a momentous human experience. Through art, we marvel at the capacity of human beings to express themselves in such intentional, prolific and sometimes painful ways.
Works of art devoted to the human eye do often make us feel that we are viewing the souls and spirits embedded in the frame. In this post we are reminded by some of the most creative and unusual minds of artists, just how beautiful the human eye can be.
The Mona Lisa portrait painted by Leonardo da Vinci has survived for more than 500 years. Painted in 1503, it is interesting to note that, despite the fact that viewers claim her eyes follow you around the room, the Mona Lisa clearly has no visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Plucking these hairs by genteel women was a practice back in this time. Have you ever wondered why we even have eyebrows? Eyebrows, eyelashes and eyelids work together to protect the eye from external debris. The Mona Lisa painting hangs in the Louvre Museum of Paris, France today. Her portrait and her eyes are unquestionably one of the most popular subjects and most visited exhibits at the world’s favorite museum.
The Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher is perhaps best known for his haunting sketch of “The Eye”. Looking right back at its viewer, we see a frightening reflection of death. Throughout his career, Escher sketched numerous visual riddles, and had an amazing mathematical ability to create art that was a combination of visual and intuitive light and line
Vincent Van Gogh created many self-portraits during his career. Within all of them, the eyes seldom seem to gaze at the viewer. Even Van Gough’s fixed gaze, appears to look somewhere else in the room. Why did he paint so many portraits of himself? Van Gough is thought to have simply been practicing his painting skills, and capturing his own image avoided the cost of hiring a model. The self-portrait we see here was one of Van Hough’s last self-portraits; he presented it to his mother for a birthday gift.
Picasso’s Weeping Woman
One of the most famous cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso is his 1937 depiction of The Weeping Woman. Emotionally moved by the bombings of the Basque town of Guernica by Germany, Picasso responded by painting several paintings based on the sad event including a weeping woman holding her dead child. In this painting he is thought to have painted the eyes of his lover Dora.
Rembrandt’s portraits have an effect on our human emotions by attracting our eyes to the human face. Rembrandt painted exceptional detail in and around the eyes of his subject. Some of his subject’s eyes seduce, while others peer into our minds.
According to researcher Steve DiPaola of the University of British Columbia (UBC), viewers of Rembrandt paintings have physical reactions to the eye details. The study concluded that viewers spent longer periods of time looking at the eyes in Rembrandt’s portraits, and as a result, showed calmer responses to his work than the work of other artists.
All eyes are on a 30-foot eyeball sculpture, created by Tony Tasset at Pritzker Park in the Chicago Loop Area. Prior to the sculpture being erected in 2010, Pritzker Park was a lesser known park populated by mostly inner city pigeons. Today the sculpture keeps a watch over the downtown area of Chicago.
If you have ever visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in person, one of the first things to marvel at is the detail of the eyes that seem to twinkle from the stone faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. Mt. Rushmore is the World’s Largest Sculpture created by Gutzon Borglum. Borglum created realistic looking eyes by, cutting a P20-inch shaft of granite in each pupil. When the sun hits the shaft, a twinkling effect can be seen.
Blue Eyes by Henri Matisse
Could the magnetism of blue eyes that inspired Henri Matisse to create and name his 1934 painting “Blue Eyes”, actually be a genetic error? Research suggests a single mutation that occurred within one person that lived near the northwestern coast of the Black Sea about 8,000 years ago, was the common ancestor, presumably to all blue eyed babies in the world! “Originally, we all had brown eyes” noted Professor Hans Eiberg of the University of Copenhagen. Eiberg discovered and isolated a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes. This mutation apparently acted as a DNA ‘switch,’ that turned off the ability to produce brown eyes. Natural blue eyes are a recessive trait and must be inherited from both parents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the same effect from colored contacts like Focus Monthly Soft Colors.
There you have it, some of the most beautiful art in the world that was inspired by the human eye. Of course, this group of eye art was compiled subjectivity, so please feel free to write us back and let us know what eye-inspired masterpieces you think deserve to be on the list.