Adele recently divorced her husband, and we all know what that means – a new album is coming. Music has long served as an effective outlet for artists’ “goodbyes,” with some of the most famous examples being “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, and “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé. For years, performing artists have found comfort in their music to bring closure to a part of their lives. But goodbyes can be just as profound- and often just as messy- in the world of visual art. The following four pieces highlight some of the most historically significant goodbyes that have been delivered through a visual medium.
The Broken Heart, Maria Pizzuti (1907)
A looming metal structure depicting half a heart sits in the center of Limerick, Ireland. It was designed in 1907, a memorial to the thousands of people who fled the streets of their homeland to escape the Potato Famine. The “potato blight” that gripped the country between 1845-1852 killed around three-fourths of all potato crops and set off a period of mass starvation and disease. It is estimated that the famine claimed around one million Irish lives and forced another million to flee to Great Britain and North America. In just seven years, the population of Ireland fell by about 20-25%. Many who left never returned back, leaving half of their heart in a land they would never again see. The Broken Heart Memorial stands as a tribute to these lives.
Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor, Cy Twombly (1994)
While Twombly’s Say Goodbye concerns the art of letting go, it betrays his own reluctance to do so- the piece took 22 years to complete. Started in 1972, the 157.5” x 624” piece hung on the walls of Twombly’s studio in Rome for over two decades before he could call it finished. “It’s a passage through everything,” Twombly said of his own piece. Accordingly, the piece moves from wispy graphite markings in the lower left corner to large, heavy clouds of yellow, red, and black towards the right. The piece serves as an allegory for Orpheus’s trip to the underworld
The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo (1939)
This painting was created the same year that Frida Kahlo divorced Diego Rivera, with whom she had a turbulent yet passionate marriage. It depicts Frida Kahlo’s two different personalities, one in a traditional Tehuana costume and the other in modern, freer clothing. The two are holding hands. The heart of the traditional Frida is cut open and exposed, with the artery cut off and blood dripping onto her white dress. The sky behind both of them is tempestuous and thundering, representing the inner turmoil that Kahlo was experiencing at the time. Kahlo wrote in later years that the piece was an expression of her isolation and desperation after her separation from Diego Rivera.
Albert Memorial, Sir George Gilbert Scott (1872)
Some goodbyes are not just of personal significance, but of national significance. Such was the passing of Prince Albert of Great Britain, who died of typhoid in 1861. Following this tragic loss, Queen Victoria commissioned the creation of a physical monument to honor his life in Kensington Gardens. Architect Sir George Gilbert Scott designed the monument in the Victorian Gothic style of architecture and included many elements that reflected Prince Albert’s accomplishments and interests. For instance, the statue of Prince Albert holds the catalogue for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, which he inspired and helped execute. Additionally, the base of the memorial features 187 famous contemporary painters, poets, sculptors, musicians, and architects in a tribute to Prince Albert’s appreciation for the arts. In 1914 the monument was blackened, supposedly to avoid falling target to German bombing raids, but it has since been restored to its original glory within Kensington Garden.
With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that us seniors, rapidly approaching our own “goodbyes,” are not alone. Throughout history, artists have faced countless situations where they’ve had to leave behind a part of their identity. Some of the greatest art has been produced as a result of this passing from one stage of life to another. So as a lesson to current seniors (including myself), maybe instead of lazing around and counting down the days to the end of the year, we can say a proper goodbye to our hometown by making art.
editor in chief
Graphic: Evie Cullen