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The Lebowski Cycle – The Oath of the Horatii

Oath of the Horatii • Joe Forkan 2006-2010 Oil on Linen 72" x 40"

David’s Oath of the Horatii was the painting that initially inspired the Lebowski Cycle, for reasons I explained in my first post on the series. It was also the first one I started painting after I planned the series and stretched all the canvases, so it has undergone a lot of changes in the four years it’s been on and off the easel.

Oath of the Horatii Jacques-Louis David 1784 Oil on canvas 326 cm × 420 cm (128" × 165") Louvre, Paris

I’ll post more about the process soon, but wanted to get this up on the blog.

Below is an early sketch playing with the rhythms of the compostion, and the overall palette of the painting.

Oath of the Horatii • Joe Forkan 2007 pastel on paper 24 x 18

Congratulations to Jeff Bridges

Oath of the Horatii - detail (in progress) • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on canvas 72" x 40

It was great to see Jeff Bridges win the Best Actor Oscar last night for his performance in Crazy Heart, 38 years after his first nomination. I’ve always enjoyed his performances, but my appreciation for his acting has certainly grown since watching The Big Lebowski innumerable times while working on The Lebowski Cycle.

The image above is a detail from The Oath of the Horatii, based on the Jacques-Louis David painting of the same name. The full painting is almost complete and I’ll be posting it soon.

The Lebowski Cycle – Process: The Death of Marat

The Death of Marat (After David) • Joe Forkan 2008, oil on linen, 96" x 58"

I tried to come at this painting from many different directions. I had been thinking about the tension between figuration and abstraction in painting method and painting movements, particularly the many different directions in painting since the Neoclassical period, when David was working.

Sketch for Death of Marat • Joe Forkan 2008 oil on paper

Sketch for Death of Marat • Joe Forkan 2008 oil on paper

Death of Marat David 250

Death of Marat Jacques-Louis David 1793 Oil on canvas 162 cm × 128 cm (64 in × 50 in) Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

David used his paintings to extol the virtue’s of the state. The Death of Marat was essentially a political document from the French revolution. “David was active in numerous agencies of the reign of terror, and historians have identified more than 300 victims for whom David signed execution orders” (source). The idea of a contemporary artist signing execution orders for the state fortunately seems quite odd and extremely unlikely.

Abstract and minimalist works are a departure from the depiction of reality by way of representational imagery and are often considered apolitical.

I was thinking very much about the collision of those styles and ideologies as I painted this, and was drawn to de Kooning’s Excavation and the work of Brice Marden.

A recurring joke in The Big Lebowski is that Uli (the man floating in the pool) is a nihilist. -”He doesn’t care about anything”.

“That must be exhausting,” Lebowski replies.

Excavation • Willem De Kooning 1950 Oil on canvas 80 in x 100 in Art Institute of Chicago

Excavation • Willem De Kooning 1950 Oil on canvas 80 in x 100 in Art Institute of Chicago

Vine • Brice Marden 1991-93. Oil on linen, 96 x 102 1/2" Museum of Modern Art, New York

Vine • Brice Marden 1991-93 Oil on linen, 96 x 102 1/2" Museum of Modern Art, New York

Detail - The Death of Marat (After David) • Joe Forkan 2008