Epic Aspirations?


Well-known member
When I speak of an "Epic" work of Art I am not thinking solely in terms of scale... although certainly that might be part of it. For this discussion, I am thinking of an Epic work of Art as a work of such scale and complexity that it requires that an artist remains focused on the goal of this single work for an extensive period of time.

By way of example, I think of the Late Gothic/Early Renaissance illuminated manuscript, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers as an Epic Masterpiece. Not only is this book and the paintings within rather large... but there are literally 100s of exquisite paintings of such quality that the book has been called the Sistine of the North:




Obviously, the Sistine Frescos by Michelangelo are one of the most famous examples of an Epic Masterpiece of Art:





Epic Masterpieces continue into the 20th century and beyond. One example that immediately leaps to mind is the cycle of Murals by Diego Rivera:


I have the utmost admiration for the single less "pretentious" work of art whether it be the exquisite paintings of Vermeer...


... or the pastels of Degas...


Yet my question remains... have you ever aspired to the creation of what be deemed an Epic Work of Art? How would you set about realizing such?

I ask because for some time I have pondered over the possibility of creating an Epic Work... expanding a single painting already finished into a triptych or even a four-painting suite all interrelated or based upon a single theme. To achieve such would certainly demand an extended period of focus upon this single theme and a good deal of time and effort.

Yet my question remains... have you ever aspired to the creation of what be deemed an Epic Work of Art? How would you set about realizing such?

Nope, can't do it at all. I struggle to complete even largish paintings, and after decades at it, I have yet to "find my style" or indeed even favorite subject matter. I remain stuck at the "daily painting" stage, which is great for building technical facility and confidence, but not an easy thing on which to build an actual career. :)
wonderful examples, nice post and question.

I'm not an artist, so I'm not capable of making a small work, so I can't make an epic one, but if I had the ability, I would make a mural.
the murals perhaps with a super realistic face or fairy tales. maybe a portrait of someone I really admire, a hero.
my parents' house is falling apart, the plaster is now detached, it is damaged, so I don't think it is in conditions for murals. the facade should be redone but cost, years ago there was a bonus to adjust by adapting, with some of the things required for the houses. the requirements are now mandatory but the bonus, useful aids are no longer there, they removed it immediately and then the real companies were immediately employed and many took the money and then fled.

anyway if by magic the house was fixed. and if I had an artist capable of creating beautiful murals, on one of the facades of the house, the hyper-realistic face of Che Guevara or Batistuta, or for each facade a fairy tale, or one of your favorite Disney cartoons or manga.
or hyper realistic skulls, or animals.
or maybe just studies of the masters, but the studies of the Florentine masters the giant copies on the house not of the paintings but of the preparatory drawings by Michelangelo, Raffaello and Leonardo, I like their drawings even more than the paintings. I also like their paintings and their figures drawn in houses or palaces would be epic in my opinion.

or I like the French artists DEgas and Touluse la Trec
I have "epic" ideas, and maybe I think I've tried to make epic-ish pieces in the past, but they have never turned out the way I'd imagined them to be. Even with pieces I have taken my careful time with and finished, I look back and realize how much more time I could have taken and how much better I could have done if I just applied myself more. I often beat myself up afterward and wonder if I'm just lazy or lacking, not as great as others, compare myself to others too much, just not good enough, not as ambitious as I should be/need to be, or just a hack. Maybe one day I will make an epic piece, but then I will have to "out-do" that one. Maybe in the back of my mind, I know that and am scared to try. Who knows?
No, nothing epic has come from me, nor will it ever. I am WAAAYYYY too lazy and then I’d be thinking as I’m doing it, “Who cares? Who cares? Who cares?” By the way, does epic mean it has to be big?? (Because I’ll bet the answer is yes. And probably tied up with the genius myth).

So I guess the most “epic” thing was my Wrestling painting which consisted of (3) 30x30 “continuous” panels, forming a triptych. Each panel is kind of simple so it wasn’t tedious to paint…it’s just 90” long. And for me, that’s too much. This was very hard to photograph, and too difficult to attach the panels. I only managed to get two together and so the other has to be hung separately, but still aligned with the others. I’m sure there’s some construction doohickey thing that would have easily made it all one piece, but again…I didn’t care enough to investigate.

It’s now on my studio wall…and that was pretty epic too…the hanging. (But hey, that’s what handymen are for!) Also, it’s not for sale because I can’t even THINK of the annoyance of the packing/wrapping/shipping part. So there she hangs until somebody has to take it down and get it out of the house. Not my problem though, cuz I’ll be dead…along with my epic genius-ness.
After a good number of years working in a large industrial warehouse studio, I found myself surrounded by a body of individual paintings of shared dimensions with a common theme and common elements. One of my studio partners joked that it was like being in one of those cathedrals or chapels surrounded by an epic suite of fresco paintings. But for all the similarities of the works they most certainly did not amount to a unified epic whole.


The closest I got to an epic work can be found in a couple of earlier pieces. Some 15 or 20 years ago I created a large number of collages. A number of these I grouped together as trios or quartets…

141- Winter Trio (Ghost Trio)sm.JPG

139-A Convergence of Poets (second presentation).JPG

... however, one large group (60+ collages) was entitled “Lamentations” and was framed as a triptych.

76Lamentations Framedsm.jpg

Not long after I returned to figurative paintings/pastels I turned out a triptych of three figures. But I’d be hard-pressed to think of this as an epic work. As Olive spoke of her triptych, mine also was rather simple… each panel a single figure isolated against a plain background.

3 Muses.small.JPG

Yet over the years, after producing a body of figurative paintings based on common themes and sharing common formal elements, I began to ponder the possibility of creating a grandiose, multi-paneled, multi-figure work on a single unified theme. I thought especially of Max Beckmann’s triptychs...


...as well as Botticelli’s Primavera


... but for whatever reason… the ability to remain focused on a single work for a truly extended period of time?… I never could seem to pull such a unified epic together.

I put forth this question because I am once again pondering the possibility of a unified epic work based on a single theme building off the painting I completed last year entitled Lenore, after Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Raven”...


Since that work was halfway complete, I began to toy with the idea of a multi-paneled suite based on the works of Poe. This idea continues to percolate in the back of my mind while working on other works.

While working on a single painting… such as my last painting… my ideas jump about and change from day to day. Is the painting on the theme of Psyche & Amor? Is it Poison Ivy? Will the plants in the background all be deadly plants? Or not? Is it Eve? Snow White? Flora? Obviously, if one is to complete an epic work on a unified theme one cannot jump about so much changing ideas from one day to the next.

But still, the aspiration exists.
You know David…looking at all your work together (as in #6), makes me wonder what you do with them when they’re finished? Are they rolled up? Have you mounted any on a big flat panel, or are they under glass in a frame?

I know this probably isn’t what you’d categorize as epic but…I can imagine each figure mounted on its own panel, which could be decorated or raised or something, and folded like an accordion, and placed all around a room, maybe end to end, in a kind of meandering circle. All the coordinating colors and patterns would be cohesive, and they would tower above us, as we weaved in and around them, like wandering around in a sea of naked women. Wouldn’t that make for a pretty good “epic” eyeball experience (or, EEE as we busybodies like to say).

Please do that.
Thank You.
And you’re welcome.
Olive... right now the majority of the paintings are rolled up. While I was in the large studio in the old industrial warehouse I had the majority hanging around the space. After spending a long day painting we would turn off the overhead florescent lights and the room was lit solely by the spotlights aimed at the paintings. We'd sit around the room drinking a beer or two and listen to music. I remember one instance when we were listening to Russian Orthodox Chant and joked that such would be the perfect installation for the works. :LOL:

I found I needed to be careful with the juxtaposition of the various paintings. For some time I had this pairing on the wall without noticing anything "questionable" until it was pointed out by an outside visitor. 😜

Fallen Snow-Elvis and Snow.650.jpg
By the way Olive... in case you hadn't noticed, I actually haven't done a single nude painting in 4 years!