Classical Art Meets Politics In Bernardo Eisen's Work

Great art has been made through time in many different ways and with diverse purposes. It has been created as protest and as propaganda, to disturb and calm, to question and express.

Henri Matisse said that he dreamed with a kind of art “free of problematic or depressing themes… that exerts on the mind a soothing effect; something like a good couch”. His close friend Picasso, who often took pleasure in the darkest aspects of human emotions, wasn’t particularly political in his art either. However, in the mid-1930s, during a creativity fever, Picasso painted a dramatic protest against the bombing of Guernica in the same black and white hues of a newspaper, probably inspired by his revolutionary Mexican friend Diego Rivera, or by the political series “The disasters of the war” by his countryman Francisco Goya.

Nowadays there are many contemporary artists who address and deal with the hottest issues of our political era in their art. One of them is Bernardo Eisen, a Filipino artist living in Vietnam, whose collage series All Art Is Political explores how the interaction of media, art and history influences our social and political condition.

In a careful and thoughtful way, the artist combines magazine covers and classical art paintings to create a strongly dialectical collection that certainly offers much food for thought.

Eisen has stated that through this series he found a way of expressing and releasing his own feelings of frustration over the constant flow of depressing news that portray the current state of the world.

By juxtaposing magazine covers and classical artworks, I was able to express the way I feel about various political and social issues without being overly biased.

Bernardo Eisen
Martin Luther King Jr, Time Magazine August 2013 on "Triple Profile Portrait", attributed to Lucas de Heere (1570)
Hillary Clinton, Studio (Italy) 2013 on "Madonna della rosa" by Raphael (1520)
Rodrigo Duterte, Esquire Philippines March 2015 on "St. Louis prisoner" by Gustave Dore (1877)
Prince Harry, Tatler Magazine November 2012 on "Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria" by Eugen Felix (19th century)
Fidel Castro, Esquire Ukraine October 2012 on "Burgher of delft and his daughter" by Jan Steen (1655)
Michelle Obama, Time Magazine June 2009 on "Salome bearing the head of John the Baptist" by Guido Reni (16ht century)
Barack Obama, Bloomberg Businessweek March-April 2012 on "Portrait of Pope Julius II" by Raphael (1511)
Hillary Clinton, New York Magazine September 2013 on "Der Tote am Meer" (The Dead Man by the Sea) by Oskar Zwintscher (1913)
The Great Hemline Hassle, Life Magazine March 1970 on "Icarus and Daedalus" by Lord Frederic Leighton (1869)
Flight MH17, The Sunday Times Magazine December 2014 on "Christina’s World" by Andrew Wyeth (1948)
Malala Yousafzai, Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People 2013 on "Treats for the Birds" by Emile Auguste Hublin (19th century)
Time Magazine (Asia Edition) September 2016 on "The Spoliarium" by Juan Luna (1884)
Donald Trump, TIME Magazine Person of the Year 2016 on "The Peacemakers" by George P. A. Healy (1868)
Never Offline, Time Magazine September 2014 on "St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness" by Guido Reni (1636)
Donald Trump, New York Magazine September/October 2015 on "Charles James Fox" by Joshua Reynolds (1782)
Churchill V-Sign, Time Out November 1974 on "Portrait of George Washington" by Gilbert Stuart (1797)
Donald Trump, Time Magazine January 1989 on "The Holy Family with a Palm Tree" by Raphael (16th century)