Armando Reverón (1889 – 1954)

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Though best known for his haunting & enigmatic muñecas (dolls), Armando Reverón’s mercurial painting style is equally worthy of mention. His canvas work as delicate and subdued as the aforementioned constructions are twisted. Amid the Venezuelan’s brush we are given a world half-seen, one built from flittering glimpses.

‘Naked Woman Reading’ – 1932

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Upon first glance it is the title of this painting, rather than what usually would be self-evident within its display, that helps us realise that there is indeed a woman present at all – let alone one not only reading, but nude. When noticed however, she is difficult to shake. This impact both down to the captivating simplicity of  ‘Naked Woman Reading’, as well as through the distinct washed technique Reverón employs to evoke the eponymous model; a style that unites all elements of the image to capture something more akin to hazed memory rather than voyeuristic viewpoint.

The female’s exposed thigh for example takes on the same ethereal fullness as the pillows underneath. Her open book too holds more presence and elegant detail than the weightless hand holding it down. This then is not a showcase of beauty or celebration of self-betterment; it is a self appointed challenge. One in which the ever experimental Reverón plays with the idea of absence to display something of worth and meaning.

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Robbed through its monochrome style of any sensuality or sexuality, Reverón transports a traditional painting idea, the nude woman as prize, to a piece that just about remains within the tangible. Very similar to the ways in which a great Impressionistic painter (such as the previously explored Alfred Sisley) can connote such vibrancy from a distance only for it to amass to mere frantic brushstrokes on inspection; the engrossed woman from afar equivocates to barely anything when encountered up close. What is given then is a masterclass in economy. An image that through its reverential, secretive aspects creates a multitude of feelings through a limited yet freeing technique.

‘Fiesta en Carballeda’ – 1924

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There’s a wonderful effect in this work that sees the amassed congregation growing more interchangeable as they near their place of worship. A perhaps not exactly subtle inference perhaps on the nature of religion, but one that is realised exceptionally well as Reverón blends the attendees’ own colours to a translucent, celebratory mass prior to their entry to the only real solid shape of this work, the church’s entrance.

This strive towards establishing a sense of realistic movement and energy was one of the central tenets of Impressionism, and though living at the time of painting far far away from its Parisian origins, Reverón succeeds as he draws your eye against and across the filing crowd, allowing it to stop every now and then to marvel at the delicate details of dress, of relation, that emerge and move on. And though the crowd is a majestic thing in of it self, it it is the upper regions of ‘Fiesta en Carballeda’ that really excite me. Their rippling drifts of arching leaves dealt with in a fantastic merge of chalky, sweaty colours that frame the scene effortlessly. Almost as if the flock are being heralded by higher up toward the cool closed mouth gloom of the building.

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