Friday, June 28, 2019

Butterflies & How They Influenced Art



Last week, I went to Thanksgiving Point's Butterfly Biosphere with my sister and my nephew. I had never been to a butterfly biosphere and it was a super unique experience!

When I was young, my sister Donna got to go to Toronto with my mom and they went to a butterfly museum. She came back from the trip with a picture of her sitting next to the world's biggest butterfly and it looked so cool. I remember being so jealous that she got to do it! But in the end, I am super happy that I got to experience it for the first time with my sister, Donna, and my nephew, Theo. 

It was so fun going with Theo because he was so vocal about everything, even though he is only two years old. He was a little scared, but he also kept saying they looked so beautiful (queue heart melting). 


Before going, I did a bit of research on what colors butterflies are attracted to. It isn't hard to guess the colors, but I wanted to be sure. The colors are yellow, white, pink, purple, red, & orange. Blue and green are actually their least favorite! Which makes sense since they are usually collecting nectar from flowers of in those color options! Once I figured out a good color, I planned my outfit accordingly (of course!). 

So I chose yellow, which was super convenient since I am on the color yellow for my Instagram feed! I definitely created this expectation in my mind of butterflies landing all over me, LOL. While one can dream, it was much calmer in there than I anticipated! There was less of the butterflies landing on me & more of me trying to get landed butterflies to walk on my hand (which actually worked & is totally safe for the butterflies). 

After my little trip to the Butterfly Biosphere, I wanted to learn more & was also thinking about how beautiful and inspiring the butterfly is! 


While I could share many facts about butterflies, I thought it would be more fun to show butterflies in art! :) I won't go into much detail, because this post has already gotten a bit long, but I do want to share so fun things that I like!
First off, Butterflies showed up in art artifacts over 4,000 years ago but really took form in art in later years. For centuries, butterflies were a symbol of sunshine, beauty, freedom, & even the cycle of life. We start to seem more strong butterfly use in the artwork of the 16th century, like this Pieter Bruegel painting that I just saw when I was in Brussels: 

Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel (1562): you can see butterfly wings on a rebel angel - the swallowtail butterfly species in particular. It is very interesting that a rebel angel would have butterfly wings! 
Even though butterflies were considered a symbol of great things like freedom, certain butterfly species were considered a bad omen. Such as the Red Admiral Butterfly, which was considered a symbol for "evil" and since red was considered a dangerous color in nature. So it is not surprising that Bruegel gave a rebel angel butterfly wings. 

Another beautiful painting with butterflies is this painting by Italian artist Dossi Dossi called Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue (1522-24). 

Here you can see Jupiter painting the butterflies on the canvas. Because he is a God, the butterflies fly off the canvas as he brings them to life using his paintbrush. 

During the 18th century, Butterflies became a big symbol for the cycle of life & was thought to be a reassurance of an afterlife. Like the caterpillar, we are trapped on this earth. We live a short life and eventually die. When we die, we are put into a coffin, or chrysalis, when it comes to the butterfly. Just like the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and is reborn, we too can be reborn in heaven. 

During the 19th century, especially for impressionists & post-impressionists, butterflies remained a symbol of beauty. Vincent Van Gogh did a few paintings with butterflies and I find them all to be captivating. 

Two White Butterflies (1889)

Grass and Butterflies (1889)

Butterflies & Poppies (1889)

These three are fun depictions of the innocence of butterflies & I love the simplicity in the way that Van Gogh portrayed them. I also think the last painting might be a new Van Gogh favorite! 

I also love the colors in this Salvador Dali painting: 

Landscape with Butterflies (1956). There isn't much known about this painting, but it does have Dali's surrealist style with the glowing butterflies and this dream-like setting. 
Lastly, Damien Hirst created this extravagant artwork called I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds (2006), in which he comments on the brevity of life (a concept that has been around in art for a very long time), and does so by creating his art using thousands of dead butterflies. From the website: 
“I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid" - Damien Hirst.  
"The ‘Kaleidoscope’ paintings reference the spiritual symbolism of the butterfly, used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery to signify the resurrection. The works are reminiscent of, and even sometimes directly copy stained glass windows "
This interesting reference shows the depth of the butterfly, and the long history of interpretations through the years.



Lastly, I want to share one of my favorite custom designs from the past. I always think of this when I think of butterflies in art and it was just in the Hunger Games movie! 



I hope you enjoyed my random post about butterflies! I have been so behind on all my blog posts, so I hope this makes up for lost time! :) 

xoxo

Caroline

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