Cucumber-time: Five Easy to Digest Artworks

As it befits summer, the news becomes rather boring (especially when you’re tired of reading about another case of riots and rebellion in some country far away or close by). Easy topics of low social significance fill the newspaper and you have to admit that these topics make you smile and might even sound more interesting to you than the next big event on the other side of the world. Summer is the time to take just a bit more time than usual to read your morning paper and to catch up on some non-relevant but still amusing things to know.

Personally, I love this feeling and I’ve always been interested in seemingly irrelevant stuff (like Art). The more (seemingly) socially irrelevant, the more I love the topic. Of course, it sounds a bit disrespectful of an art historian to call her own field of expertise ‘socially irrelevant’, but I’m just reflecting the (I think, feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong) current leading public opinion. Why show interest in art or invest in art in these times of financial crisis (because that’s what it is people, it’s a real crisis)? And because the Dutch are infamous for their miserliness, they tend to turn away from all luxury in times of economic downturn even more than others.

This is why I want to rejoice you with five of my personal favourite artworks that are just fun to look at, nothing more and nothing less. No great social significance, no breaking news, no record prices, just a few artworks that are easy on the eye and that will hopefully make you smile, just like cucumber-time news. To add some more excitement to this joyful experience, I’ve invented the word ‘cucumberness’ to indicate the ‘cucumber-time level’ on a scale from *  (no cucumberness at all) to ***** (very cucumber-time like) in each painting. So sit back, relax and enjoy!

1. Dick Pieters, Swimmers (1993)

Dick Pieters - Swimmers (1993)

Let’s start with a rather serious painting, chosen for a serious reason. Why is this painting still cucumber-time proof? This whole painting consists out of tiny little dots.  The artist thus passes his time making paintings with dots, which sounds like the perfect cucumber-time pastime. Moreover, the painting is interesting enough to watch for a while and to ask yourself questions, but in the same time it doesn’t seem too difficult: “it’s just a bunch of people in the water near a boat”.

Cucumberness level: **** (the guy makes large paintings with dots. Need I say more?)


2. Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night (1889)


 Van Gogh couldn’t be lacking from this list. This Dutch artist with one ear missing is people’s favourite artist all over the world. This particular painting is very well-known and undoubtedly decorates many walls around the world (like mine, when I was a kid). What can I say? It’s blue, is has a swirl in the middle, it has stars and the moon. Enjoy!

Cucumberness level: ** (only because it’s easy to watch)


3. Theo van Doesburg, Final colour design for ceiling for the Ciné-Dancing of the Aubette. (1927)


Does this painting make you think of anything? Like: I thought there was a different Dutch artist who made this kind of paintings? What’s his name again? Mondriaan, indeed! He has become most famous with his square paintings in white, black, blue, yellow and red. However, Theo van Doesburg, Mondriaan’s contemporary, made similar paintings for a while. Do you feel like tilting your head slightly to the right when looking at this painting? That’s because you’re probably used to Mondriaan’s vertical and horizontal lines. He experimented with diagonal lines for a short period, but he concluded that diagonal lines are too restless to achieve the perfect balance in composition that Mondriaan was looking for. Van Doesburg obviously disagreed with him. To taunt Mondriaan even more: he added a green square in this painting (the horror!).

Cucumberness level: *** (every loves to read about a good old quarrel between artists (or other people), but Van Doesburg’s pretentiousness makes him loose one star)


4. Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow) (1993)

Jeff Koons - balloondog

Is it Dutch? No. Is it fun to look at? Yes! That’s why this Balloon Dog is in this list. I just love Jeff Koons’ work: the perfect representation of post-modern art. This over-sized, super shiny balloon dog represents the opposite of the pessimistic ‘crisis-mood’ and therefor makes me smile. But still, this representation does not get to ‘deep’ in a conceptual art kind of way.

Cucumberness level: ***** (I love unpretentious art, especially when it makes me smile)


5. Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Netherlandish Proverbs (1559)

source: Wikimedia Commons

Well well, is this a fun picture to look at! Last year, I saw a picture of this painting in the art history book of a high school student. The picture was accompanied by the assignment to find all proverbs that are depicted on this artwork. It kept the student busy for quite some time. That’s why I included this painting in this list: if the Dutch summer lets you down once more (read: if it’s raining again), turn to this painting and try to find all the Dutch proverbs. This way, you’ll extend your knowledge on Dutch proverbs and you pass your time in a more useful way then watching TV or scratching your balls (or as we Dutch like to say: ‘twee vliegen in één klap’)! When you get tired of searching or you’re just lazy, visit this awesome picture and move your mouse over the picture to reveal all the proverbs hidden in the painting.

Cucumberness level: **** (playing games during cucumber-time is great, but it can also become frustrating and tiring (hence the link))


Did my little list wake your enthusiasm? Don’t hesitate to comment below if you know artworks that have a good level of cucumberness or artworks that are not fit to look at during cucumber time at all.


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