Art World Cup 2014: Semi-finals

  • 16 July 2014

It's down to the final four – Frida Kahlo's campaign faces its biggest challenge yet in Claude Monet, and Picasso takes on Klee as Turner crashes out in the quarter-finals.

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Frida Kahlo (Mexico) vs Claude Monet (France)

In her lifetime, Frida Kahlo was barely acknowledged as an artist – too far ahead of her time for the critics, and too much in the shadow of her successful husband, the painter Diego Rivera. But in the decades following her tragic death aged only 47, the self-taught artist's reputation has soared to eclipse her husband's, inspiring jazz musicians, novelists and composers, among others. Kahlo's progress through the Art World Cup has shown just how highly regarded she has become, overcoming Rembrandt and Hokusai en route to the semi-finals. Now, only Monet stands between Kahlo and the Art World Cup final – but will the arch-Impressionist be a challenge too far?

For many art lovers, Claude Monet's garden is more familiar than their own. Weeping willows and rose arches, Japanese bridges and water lilies – every corner of the garden in Giverny was immortalised in Monet's bold impressionist canvases. As Monet's status as an artist increased, his garden grew to reflect his fortunes, and by the end of his life the garden was a masterpiece in itself: a sprawling paradise staffed by seven gardeners, with Monet as the architect. The lilies on the pond would occupy Monet for two decades, as the artist returned to the subject again and again to capture the variations of colour, light and shade. His commitment to exploring the different impressions made by a subject in changeable lighting led critics to describe Monet as the 'driving force behind Impressionism' – but is it enough to drive France to the final?

Pablo Picasso (Spain) vs Paul Klee (Switzerland)

In 2013, the Courtauld Gallery held an exhibition of 18 works by Pablo Picasso, praised as an 'unmissable' show filled with 'first-class works of art'. But this wasn't a career survey – every work on display was painted in 1901, when the artist was only 19 years old. The show captured in miniature two of the Spanish master's defining traits: his dizzying natural talent, and the exceptional abundance of works he produced. Picasso is estimated to have produced 50,000 works, from paintings and sculptures to tapestries and rugs, spanning several distinctive styles: the Blue Period, the Rose Period, the African Period, Cubism. He is often quoted as saying that 'good artists copy but great artists steal' – yet Picasso's greatness stemmed from his startling originality, from his teenage years to the day of his death.

Paul Klee's career has numerous parallels with the Spanish master's. They were both born in Europe within two years of each other; they both produced abundant works of art, numbering into the tens of thousands; they both looked outside of Western art for inspiration; and both artists created works that tended towards expressionism without ever consciously adopting the style. Yet while Picasso stretched representational art to its limits, Klee stepped outside of representation entirely to embrace 'pure painting', which would later become known as abstract art. While Klee was born and died in Switzerland, his art was considered so revolutionary by the Swiss authorities that he wasn't granted citizenship until after his death. Can Klee win the Art World Cup for the Swiss, more than 70 years after he was posthumously granted his nationality?

Tags: competitions