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Comparative Study by Sheyla Hernandez

Morbid Themes in Art

The disturbing and the obscure are nothing new to art. Quite the
opposite, they have been around for hundreds of years as can be
seen portrayed in the image on the right. The majority of my
work is influenced by morbid images and thoughts we may all
have at random times throughout the day. Dark and vile scenes
represent superficial sadness as well as hidden peace.This idea is
what I aim to show through my study by comparing two artists,
one local and one international, and three pieces of artwork. Both
artists create beautiful artwork that connects uncomfortable
images with meaningful messages. This is the concept I wanted
to focus and expand on to further apply to my own work.

The Death of Sardanapalus (1827), Eugene Delacroix.

Lubbock, Tom. "Great Works: The Death of Sardanapalus (1827),
Eugne Delacroix." The Independent. Independent Digital News and
Media, 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Fine Artist: Francis Bacon

A British painter from October 28th, 1909- April 28th 1992. Francis Bacon
experienced many hardships throughout his life. Being an openly gay man during a
time where homosexuality was treated with imprisonment, Bacon suffered from
abuse in part of his family and those around him. This was reflected in his artwork
as he often created pieces of large men making love or interacting with one another.
Bacon lived through the experiences of WWII and is considered one of the greatest
artist post-WWII.
His art style was influenced by Picasso and Cubism then turned more towards
Surrealism until he began drawing human figures. Most of his work was large in
size and depicted a single person in pain or dreary mood placed behind a cage or in
front of black backgrounds. He wanted to capture the despair and sadness of his
subjects. A majority of his portraits had disfigured or morphed faces and hanging
animal cascasses. His famous Screaming Pope paintings were inspired by a painting
made by Diego Velzquez of Pope Innocent X in 1650. A common theme
throughout his body of work was to show the suffering and alienation we all feel
while reflecting his rugged past.
As for the color scheme, black, blues white and yellow are rather prominent. His
paintings are up for sale for millions of dollars.

Francis Bacon News Archive. (n.d.). Retrieved

May 18, 2015, from http://www.alexalienart.
com/Bacon News Archive.htm

Art Style and Techniques

As for the color scheme, black, blue, white
and yellow are rather prominent. This
painting is called Figure With Meat painted
by Francis Bacon in 1954. When looking
closely at the work it can be seen that the
figure is made up of quick and thick
brushstrokes. The empty black
space left between lines gives the illusion of shadow and depth. An interesting
detail is that although the shapes arent clearly defined it is easy to make out
where all the features are located and how they form facial features. This
strategy can be seen in the meat as well. It seems as
though Bacon created images by adding light to them as
opposed to darkening shapes. His shadows were
already present in the black background, he used colors
only in areas where light would expose them. Another
observation is that no color is truly bright, even the white
such as in the collar of this painting is dulled with the use
of gray. His paintings also seem to create a sense of
confined space by adding slight lines to define where
walls begin and meet. Lack of surrounding details forces
all the focus on the subject intensifying the emotion of
darkness and isolation.

Figure With Meat by Francis Bacon

photograph taken at the Art Institute of Chicago

Regional Artist: Karl Jahnke

Karl Jahnke is a regional and local artist with
multiple gallery showings in Wisconsin, Illinois,
California and New Mexico. Jahnke works with both
painting and sculpture to create beautifully disturbing
portraits of humans and scenery. His paintings tend to
have smooth blending and use abnormal colors such
as blue, red and purples in place of skin tones. There
is a strong sense of Surrealism in a lot of his work as
well as disturbing or scary aspects such as adding
insects or creepy animals on cute/ innocent objects.
As an artist I often feel as though I am taking
the long way home. Every piece represents a different
journey, provoking questions and new lessons, each
fueling a desire to see what comes next. This
anticipation, this discovery, is what above all else
drives my art and produces works that are woven with
affection and passion. Each sculpture or painting is
more than a piece of art - it is an intimate reflection of
a newly discovered adventure. -Karl Jahnke
"Show Page Wis-Ill Cat Fanciers." Show Page Wis-Ill Cat
Fanciers. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Self portrait by Karl Jahnke

"Facebook Logo." Facebook. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.
pnref=lhc>. Karl Jahnke Photos

Style and Techniques

Jahnke uses a variety of
different mediums such as oil
paintings, ceramic, felt, wood
and so forth. It seems a large
portion, if not all, his work
portrays fictional characters
and images. His smooth
brushstrokes add realism to
his pieces and create soft
edges that seem to blend into
backgrounds range from a
simplistic mix of two dark
colors, to solid black then to
intricate settings. This can be
seen in the three examples
shows below to the right.

Molting Chicken
Karl Jahnke
Jahnke, Karl. "Paintings." Karl Jahnke. 2008.
Web. 26 Jan. 2016. <http://karljahnke.com/>.

Karl Jahnke

Style and Techniques

Frog Cupcake Topper with Mouse
Karl Jahnke
It is clear how his tones change drastically from dark to light adding
depth to the work while still transitioning smoothly. His use of dark and
light colors creates a contrast and balance between objects and the
background. Not many of his paintings demonstrate the use of fore
and background but rather put emphasis on the subject in the center
of the canvas. The painting on the right is an oil painting by the name
of Frog Cupcake Topper with Mouse by Karl Jahnke and it accurately
demonstrates the observation I stated. The frog is seen in the middle
of the image and off to the left to create an asymmetrical composition.
The only object that is slightly in the foreground is the white mouse yet
it still blends in with the side and back of the cupcake. This strategy
makes the painting looks realistic and three dimensional all while
giving the illusion of being flat and lacking visual depth. Contrasting to
most of his other works, this particular painting is light in color scheme
and uses a lot of pastel colors like light blue and pink. The
brushstrokes are smooth and connected making the image almost
seem blurred or as if the colors were fusing into one another.

Jahnke, Karl. "Paintings." Karl Jahnke. 2008. Web. 26

Jan. 2016. <http://karljahnke.com/>.

Style Comparison
Francis Bacon

Karl Jahnke

Francis Bacon
uses colors that
blend in together
making the overall
painting look dull
and discolored.

Quick, thick
creating blurry
images like in the
screaming pope.

main focus
was on

Strong artistic style that depicts

emotion through color, texture and

placement. Color is extremely
important in any artwork, it helps interpret the
emotion and mood of a piece while giving insight as
to what the artists themselves felt whilst creating it.
Bacon and Jahnke use dark tones of blue and purple
while using black as a solid background color to bring
attention to the foreground where the main image is.
They also seem to have similar strategies when it
comes to laying down colors, shadows blend into the
background while other colors pop out as being hit by
light, despite being dark shades of normal colors.

Karl Jahnke will add in

bright colors like red
and yellows to create a
strong contrast
between objects.

dreamlike concepts taking

everyday objects or people
and twisting them into morbid

slow and careful

brushstrokes to
create smooth

explored more
mediums such as
sculpture and
found object

Shadows of Conflict
Shadows of Conflict is one of the art works I am choosing to focus
on and compare, done by Karl Jahnke in oil. By the looks of it the
painting is presumably about war and soldiers taking shelter in
what little space they have available to them.
The overall emotion emanating from this piece is fear, sorrow and
misery. I also get a sense of anxiety and hatred from the men
depicted in the painting. Anxiety of what is to come and the
uncertainty of their lives in that very moment. The man on the
lower left seems mad and even disappointed in the viewer. The
people's gaze goes beyond the canvas as to break the fourth wall
to look directly at the audience. There is a strong sense of
asymmetrical balance with all the soldiers sitting on one side and
then having a single soldier standing, as opposed to sitting like
the rest, on the other side of the frame. A sense of guilt floods into
my mind. I interpret this piece as a reality check of our comfort
while others are fighting in war just to maintain our freedom to be
comfortable. With all our comforts we still dont do anything
beneficial making me think their efforts are worthless, and they
know it. They want the viewer to feel it too.
Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Paintings. Retrieved May 18,
2015, from http://karljahnke.com/

Sculpture: Untitled Mixed Media

This untitled mixed media sculpture by Karl Jahnke is one of many of
what seems to be a series of blue-skinned human hybrids. These
sculptures are large and stand over six feet tall consisting of different
mediums and cast resin as well as wood. Ceramic work also seems
to be a strong skill Jahnke possesses as several of his art work
involves the use of ceramics.
This piece, along with others, show a confused facial expression and
discouraged body language and posture. The blue tint of the skin
makes the character feel cold and distant from present time. Truly an
odd choice in clothing, the red from the overalls nicely compliments
the blue skin. They first thing that popped into my mind about this
piece is how it has four arms, the rest of the body is normal except for
the missing lower half of his body. The overall material seems slick
and dirt proof which can mean the subject is involved in heavy work
where normally seen as a deformity, extra limbs may come in handy.
An entire story develops in my mind as to a mutant outcast forcefully
works rough jobs to fit in and make a living. The wooden frame is
cozy but not overwhelming, Jahnke creates pieces that can speak for

Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Sculpture. Retrieved May 18,

2015, from http://karljahnke.com/sculpture1/

Comparing Works: Karl Jahnke


smooth brushstrokes
oil paintings with added
multicolor scheme
painting subjects tend to be
old style victorian or gothic
dressed women
multi people portraits in a
single room
faces are often faded,
distorted or changed in
sometimes the mouths are
entirely covered by black


tend to focus on same

colors throughout body of
work with use of light on
light colors such as pink
and yellow then
transitioning to black, blue
and purple
intensive use of foreground
in pieces
share a sense of grossness
and darkness through his
mood of dread and
discomfort clearly shows
through facial expressions


rough brush strokes

ceramic sculpture (medium)
simple three color scheme
sculptures revolve around
blue skin and repetitive
human like beings in
primitive clothing
single subject portraits
faces are often shown
clearly in the sculptures

Study for portrait II

This study portrait by Francis Bacon is only one of his many
observational artworks. Bacons signature black
background is demonstrated in this art work along with his
use of yellow, white and purple. As prior stated brighter
colors are used to drag attention to the main subject of
paintings or drawing, in this case the pope.
Bacon completed other pope paintings aside from this one.
The man in this image has a somber facial expression and
clear identity or distinguishable facial features. Black
creates the illusion of eye sockets but no pupil or iris is
shown. Almost as if to be applied artwork that can only be
appreciated if looked at closely. The edges on this piece
are very soft and light unlike others he had done. There is a
vague chair outline in yellow which he usually uses to
represent chairs or room corners. This particular piece has
no room boundaries giving it an eerie never ending plane of
Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for $27.5M ArtNews. (2007, February 10). Retrieved May 18, 2015, from

In both of these artwork pieces there
is excellent use of dark colors to see
the gloomy mood. Black is a
signature trademark for both of
these artists, although more so of
Francis Bacon, to start off a solid
background. Yellow and white are
used as highlights and make smaller
details pop out. These light colors
give the visual of being further away
from the background although they
lay flat on a painting.

Shadows of Conflict
Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Paintings. Retrieved
May 18, 2015, from http://karljahnke.com/

Both have similar body positions

(sitting) as to seem relaxed or
weary. The lack of eyes makes the
images even creepier as their
identity is hidden which can make
some viewers uncomfortable.

Study for Portrait II

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells
for $27.5M - ArtNews. (2007, February 10).
Retrieved May 18, 2015


Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Paintings. Retrieved May 18, 2015,

from http://karljahnke.com/

Jahnke explores more

detailed backgrounds unlike
Bacon. Bacon focuses on a
single subject for his paintings
while Jahnke can but is not
limited to one person. The
image on the left shows how
many people he is willing to
Much more detail is present in
Jahnkes paintings compared
to Bacons simple
composition. Not all of Jahnke
s paintings show this level of
detail but for the one I chose
to compare there is a
significant difference. Bacon's
work still has a sort of
effortless look, not overdone
or over complicated.

Close ups of Shadows of Conflict-Karl

Jahnke (left) and Study of Portrait IIFrancis Bacon(right).

Somber facial expressions are
common and are shown in both
of these pieces of work. Although
they show different emotions the
main idea of solitude and
confinement is present. There is
no secondary character in their
pieces, just the main subject
experiencing their environment
and contemplating.
The use or light clashing with
dark colors is also prominent and
can clearly be seen in the
clothing of both works. It is also
peculiar that neither of their
heads are showing, they both are
covered with a hat and it is
unsure as to why they have them
since they couldve easily been
done without them.
Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Sculpture. Retrieved May 18,
2015, from http://karljahnke.com/sculpture1/

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for $27.5M - ArtNews. (2007,
February 10). Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.sgallery.

The main difference from the
beginning is the use of different
mediums. I thought it would be
interesting to compare two
pieces that are made of entirely
different materials. Jahnke demonstrates
spectacular construction of facial features in a
three-dimensional plane. His background is no
longer black but consists of wood and is better
lit, therefore he uses brighter colors like light
blue and deep red.
Francis Bacon also uses blue for skin tones but
does not go in depth with facial features. Slight
shading or lack thereof gives the viewers mind
just enough information to make out a face. The
expression is vividly devastated compared to
that of Jahnkes sculpture that show more of a
confused and concerned feeling.
Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Sculpture. Retrieved May 18,
2015, from http://karljahnke.com/sculpture1/

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for

$27.5M - ArtNews. (2007, February 10).
Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.

Connections to Personal Art

Both Francis Bacon and Karl Jahnke have influenced my artwork
and have inspired me to further experiment with different techniques. The
main concepts I attempted to integrate into my work were brushstroke
technique, color usage and composition. Of all my body of work I have
chosen to compare a self-portrait made during the summer as a part of
12 self-portraits. This piece is emphasized around self awareness and
the process of becoming more comfortable with myself in varying
situations. As stated earlier in the comparative study, I am fond of morbid
themes and experimenting with them in different ways. The use of morbid
concepts highlight an inner interpretation of humans in my opinion. I feel
like it shows a literal aspect of human anatomy by demonstrating the
organs and skeletons inside that make up our bodies. I also see it as how
our personalities can be distant from our human bodies, in a way taking
away the importance of the human vessel.
Focusing on this idea I painted a self-portrait that would depict me
internally, physically and mentally. The goal was to show how I can no
comfortably step away from the idea of physical appearance in order to
paint myself in normally uncomfortable ways. At the time I was also
struggling with a family issue that was tearing me apart. As a result this
painting embodied my frustration and how I felt distant from who I thought
I was. This then led to me growing as an individual leaving behind an old
version on myself.

Brushstrokes: Personal v. Francis Bacon

Acrylic on Canvas

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon

Sells for $27.5M - ArtNews. (2007,
February 10). Retrieved May 18, 2015,
from http://www.sgallery.

A difference between my work and Bacons is

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for
that I tried to further define facial features so it
$27.5M - ArtNews. (2007, February 10). Retrieved
May 18, 2015, from http://www.sgallery.
would be easier to tell who the subject of the
net/artnews/2007/02/10/study-for-portrait-ii-bypainting is. Although the similarity is that the
eyes are kept closed and the face has patchy
and short brushstrokes using blue as a shadow
It was difficult to go against my judgment and paint very freely to imitate Bacons quick brushstrokes. Bacons lines create figures
with minimal detail but still clearly outline important characteristic such as arms and heads. I tried to recreate this effect in the
images in the middle of the page that were part ot the arm, shoulder and side torso of my painting. I tried to show where the
shoulder joint began while not using hard lines to outline the body part making it look flat and two dimensional. I compared this to
the image in the upper right because it relates to the popes purple coat that is made of short, choppy brushstrokes of different
colors to add depth and texture.

Brushstrokes: Personal v Karl Jahnke

Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Paintings. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http:


Karl Jahnke often uses intense blending to establish a

feeling of colors bleeding into each other. This effects makes
the painting look blurry and mysterious because it lacks clear
characteristics that provide identity. The faces are blurred out
into black that seem to just disappear into the shadows of the
military jackets. This connects to the title of the piece, Shadows
on Conflict, because the figures indeed give off a sense of being
shadows that fade into darkness.

I approached this technique by thoroughly

creating a gradient from black to a rust color red.
I wanted to develop visual depth in my piece
even with a single subject, unlike Jahnkes oil
painting that has multiple subjects and has a
clear sense of depth. With the use of foreground
and background that are enhanced by subject
placement within the frame.
As for the organs, they were also meant
to be blended together with a slight outline in the
same color just to slightly set them apart from
each other. It was more challenging to create
depth even with such intense blending, this is
where I think my piece was different from that of
Jahnkes as it doesnt demonstrate the same
amount of mystery and unknown identity as
Shadows of Conflict.

Color: Personal v Francis

Bacon v Karl Jahnke

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for $27.5M - ArtNews.

(2007, February 10). Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.

Both my work and Jahnkes contain a lot

of red and brown in alternating shades.
I found that red is an intense color that
nicely contrasts with the black
background, or brown wooden
background in Jahnkes case.
My decision for skin tone remained
normal as opposed to blue skin because I
wasnt aiming to precisely copy Jahnkes
or Bacons artistic choices. I still wanted
the self-portrait to be realistic and true to
who I am.
The color yellow was also used in my
piece that didnt show up much in Jahnke
s work but is a common color in the work
of Francis Bacon.
Plentiful amounts of white paint were
used in my painting as rough color bases
and how subtle highlighting of stretched
skin being pulled by yellow strings.

Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Sculpture. Retrieved May

18, 2015, from http://karljahnke.

Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Paintings. Retrieved May 18,

2015, from http://karljahnke.com/


Self-portrait. Sheyla Hernandez 2015.

Jahnke, K. (n.d.). Sculpture. Retrieved May

18, 2015, from http://karljahnke.

Study for Portrait II by Francis Bacon Sells for

$27.5M - ArtNews. (2007, February 10).
Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.sgallery.

All explored artworks focus on a single subject except for the oil painting done by Jahnke that depicts multiple unidentified
soldiers. I chose to keep the focus on the main subject without drawing attention to any intricate backgrounds.
Another similarity is that no eyes are shown facing forward, the yes always seem to be closed or avoiding direct eye
contact with the viewer. This was intentional to disconnect the viewer from the piece as if they were only spectators and
could not influence the subjects in each piece.
Shadows of Conflict provides more movement in the work of art than the other two works I chose to compare.
My painting is focused on the face and abdomen, in turn lacking arms and legs as they do not stay within frame. This can
also be seen in Francis Bacons study portrait II where the arms and legs are hardly interpreted. As opposed ot Jahnke
who even included extra appendages to the large sculpture piece.