Great Paintings: Las Tentaciones de San Antonio by Rafael Trelles
Puerto Rican artists have a long and proud tradition of excellence in modernist art. However, the work of painter Rafael Trelles stands alone when it comes to creativity and originality.
Trelles, who studied in both Mexico and Spain as well as in Puerto Rico was inspired by the Surrealist movement as well as by mythology and world literature. These fantastical influences are on full display in his painting Las Tentaciones de San Antonio (which translates to The Temptation of Saint Anthony).
The piece depicts an incident from the life of Saint Anthony the Great, a Christian hermit who lived in the wilderness in Egypt. He was best known by European Christians for the many temptations he endured. As the story goes, during his journey into the desert, the devil confronted the saint with many temptations (including, among other things, boredom, laziness, and naked women) in an attempt to break his faith. Naturally, Saint Anthony is eventually able to overcome them. Trelles painting depicts the saint battling these temptations through the power of prayer.
The fantastical nature of the saint’s torments made the temptation of Saint Anthony a popular subject for artists throughout Western history. However, Trelles’ approach to the theme is unique. He refreshes the classic scene with wild, Surrealist demons contrasted with a realistic image of Saint Anthony swathed in blue light. Modernist artists often attempt to make the familiar unfamiliar by othering the subject matter. Trelles does this by turning the scene of Saint Anthony facing temptation on its head. His interpretation of the piece turns it into a psychological scene, rather than a spiritual one. It is a fantastical scene of a man confronting his own inner demons rather than a religious image.
Originally published at https://artisthesolution.blogspot.com on August 4, 2020.