A surreal excursion to an art history and a homage to the Easter bunny.
Many artists have drawn upon the motive of the Easter bunny in their work. Some in an individual manner, others inspired by famous painters of their time. Some works were never published, other works are known by every child and some treasures are only appreciated by a few art experts.
Keith Haring attracted public attention for the first time with his chalk drawings in the New York metro. The image of the “Radiant Baby” became his symbol. The picture of “Radiant Rabbit” (Hare with Aureole) originated about the same time and could easily have become his best known image.
In 1983 Haring met Andrej Warhola alias Andy Warhol. At the beginning of the 1950s Warhol had developed a technology of „drop and dripping“ in which he copied ink-drawn motives of angels, butterflies, cats or Easter bunnies with a sheet of blotting paper and transferred them onto a new sheet. Together with friends he coloured these images at “Colouring parties“. He looked for new ideas and focussed on trivial elements of pop culture like Hollywood stars or cartoon and comic figures like Superman and Micky Maus. His “Colourful Bunnies” are the epitome of Pop Art.
Soon enough however Warhol discovered that fellow artists like Robert Rauschenberg or Roy Lichtenstein were painting similar motives. When Roy Lichtenstein turned to Pop Art after dabbling in expressionism and surrealism, he achieved his breakthrough with the picture “Look Mickey” in 1961. He developed the industrial style of printed comic strips, easily recognised today by the “uniform colour dots”. Nevertheless, Lichtenstein was also a master of lines, as depicted in his impressive picture “Easter Bunny in the Meadow”.
Today the painting technique “Benday Dots” (named after the American artist Benjamin Day), which was further developed by Roy Lichtenstein, is also used by Damien Hirst. He was a foundation member of the London artist’s movement Young British Artists in 1988 and is known above all for a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, a preserved sheep, a human skull adorned with diamonds as well as the work “Rabbit for the Love of Dots”.
In contrast to Hirst’s colour dots and Lichtenstein’s lines the Swiss painter and graphic artist Richard Paul Lohse used laminar planes of interacting colour elements, whose horizontal-vertical arrangement creates a structural order. However in his creation “This Way Bunny” this order is deliberately broken, resulting in a revolutionary and enthusiastic outburst of anticpation.
Another representative of non-representative colour fields, Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, goes even further with his famous “Bunny=free”. It is not the bunnies that generate a visual opposition against the surface, but the Easter bunny itself becomes the colouring agent, deliberately contrasted by the bunny’s silhouette. It is unproven whether the custom of painting Easter eggs originates in Mondrian’s oeuvre.
Yet another artist known for his distinctive sense of colour and form was Vassily Kandinsky. He assigned meanings to colours and even tried to prove the affiliation of certain colours with certain forms like circles, triangles and squares. As his pictures increased in abstraction Kandinsky developed forms of improvisation, for example in his work “Colour Tone with Bunny”.
In contrast to Kandinsky’s improvisations Joan Miró used symbols for the moon, the stars, a bird, an eye, a woman and a bunny. A representative of Classical Modernism, he has become one of the most popular artists of the 20th century through his highly imaginative motives. Miró’s huge oeuvre consists of more than 2000 oil pictures and 3500 graphics. According to an entry in his notebook, “Conejito de Pascua” originated in Majorca when once again he saw an apparition on the ceiling while falling asleep.
While his pictures are not classified as Pop Art, Jasper Johns is nevertheless considered one of its pioneers. By transferring everyday motives into art Johns anticipates Lichtenstein’s or Warhol’s later concepts. Thus it is hardly surprising that early on Jasper Johns integrated other elements like an Easter bunny in different variations of “Flag” or “Three Flags”.
All information in this post scratches along a surreal history of art at best. If you’d like to find out more about Pop Art and its artists, you should defintitely consult other sources. In real life and in any case we wish you and your families a happy and colourful Easter.