We all say it from time to time… “They don’t make things like they used to”… Generally this is attributed to ”things’ like vacuums, remember that great lumping hoover that your grandmother used to have? It could suck up Lego bricks without breaking a sweat and never seemed to break, where as now I seem to need to buy a new vacuum ever few years. Well this phrase, I have often heard attributed to art as well. As you may have realised I frequent a lot of different types of galleries and in the more modern ones, you can quite often hear people mumble “I don’t get it” or “its just not like the classical art”. Well today I am looking at a perfect cross over from Dutch master turned in to beautiful street art.
“The Milkmaid” by Vermeer, is deemed one of the Dutch national treasures which now resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This depicts a kitchen maid, thought to be making bread pudding (from the broken bread around the bowl). Everything in this painting in still with exception of the pouring milk. Vermeer has captured the essence of the maid, with the basic surrounding and simple dress, but there are symbolic elements around the original painting which alludes to the promiscuity which was associated with maids at the time. There is a foot warmer on the floor of the kitchen, and the tiles behind have Cupid and men holding poles, indicating the sexual element of this simple life style. Vermeer also removed items from this painting. Originally there was a painting on the wall of the kitchen, but this was removed as the painting gave an indication of luxury which gave the wrong impression. A wash basket was also removed. This picture is regarded in many different ways, which the maid sometimes elevated to almost heroic in the way in which she goes about her work, truly dedicated to what she is doing, to the view of a basic life still which is struck with austerity.
The maid works with her head down, concentrating on what she is doing and her background is fairly bare in contrast to the bright colours on her dress and the tablecloth. No matter how you see the maid in her work, there is no doubt that this painting has captured something remarkable.
So when it comes to revamping a masterpiece, this can really be a tricky undertaking, as you tread the line between wanting to do the original justice but also wanting to bring the work up to modern times and print your own stamp on the style and overall aesthetics.
This is exactly what Danny Recal aka Daniel Oosterman and El Pez achieved. With the basic concept thought up under project “Glory” which was conceived by Anna Stolyarova, this work evolved from a basic concept to something magical.
I have been really lucky to be able to speak to Danny Recal about this work, and he explained to me how it was created and the starting concept through to completion.
Recal is from Amsterdam, and El Pez is from Barcelona, each have their own individual style which has come together so well in this amazing piece of street art.
Recal explained to me that Anna Stolyarova came up with the original concept of revamping “The Milkmaid” and sent over original thoughts on the piece. Artistic temperaments can have a tendency to clash and Recal is very open about how he and Stolyarova did not see eye to eye about the revamp, but ultimately I think the artist creating the work needs to be happy with what they are painting, otherwise it loses its heart and soul.
Recal created the central piece of this work, with the milkmaid now with no bread and an empty jug, baring her leg to the audience, yet still with her eyes down cast. Recal says “The naked leg does suggest something, but that was my point, her milk is gone she has to have something to offer. It’s a more modern and just ‘crude’ reality thing”. I personally really like how this has enhanced the sexuality of the tiny wall tiles which were in the original, enhancing and elevating the maids sexuality and promiscuity.
The maid was completed in 3 days with just the the assistance of 3 help lines (no projectors as some people may have suspected) and all completed in spray paint medium.
El Pez then created the motif frame, the repetitive parrot/smiling fish, which definitely throws the milkmaid into our street art world. The motif is replicated in the small picture which has been given back to the maid on the wall of her kitchen, as the street art is now available for all to see, so why shouldn’t she also have art available to her.
Recal then finished the detail and the piece was complete. This large scale work completed by two fantastic artists in just seven days.
I think that this is a wonderful homage to Vermeer’s work and a gem in the Dutch street art circuit. The detail and style mixing our old classics and new visuals to create a perfect union.
You can see a video of the work being completed here
You can find more of El Pez’s work here
You can find more of Recal’s work on Facebook.
You can also find more out about the street art of Amsterdam here
What do you think of the revamp of “The Milkmaid”? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?