Contemporary American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas’s fifteen-foot high fiberglass sculptures are inspired by the series, The Seasons, by Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593). This unusual series represents each season through the depiction of a portrait rendered in botanical materials such as flowers, fruits, vegetables, and branches. Haas’s re-creations transform these intriguing works, enlarging the scale, altering the materials, and adding dimensionality to shed a contemporary perspective on the popular paintings.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s The Seasons
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a Renassiance painter, born in Milan, who likely studied the works of Leonardo Da Vinci before he left Italy to paint for the imperial courts of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna and Prague. During the reign of Austria’s Emperor Maximilian II, Arcimboldo created the series The Seasons,comprising Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The portraits, painted in 1563, depict faces composed of plants associated with each season. Rosebuds form the lips of Spring, while a ripe peach stands in for a plump cheek on Summer. The portraits also represent the ages that are often linked with each season of the year. Spring is a youthful face crafted from flower blossoms and lush greenery. A wizened old man’s face, constructed out of twisted tree branches, is the subject of Winter. The strange series was greatly appreciated for its humor as much as for the artist’s technical skill, and the paintings became quite popular in the Habsburg court.
Philip Haas’s Four Seasons
Unveiled in 2012, Haas’s sculpture series offers a new perspective on Arcimboldo’s The Seasons and is an intriguing work of art in its own right. Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter stand fifteen-feet tall with giant fruit, vegetables, and flowers forming their massive features. The smile on Summer is constructed of two pea pods several feet long, and grapes larger than basketballs hang in bunches from Autumn’s head in lieu of hair. The towering figures feature Arcimboldo’s blend of the natural and the fantastical on a remarkably grand scale.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.