Rock On: The Beatles

7:00 AM

George Dureau, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Two Nuba Wrestlers, 1970-1
Rock On

Instantly eye-catching and even confusing, this painting asks many questions and does not give many answers. The composition alone—not considering who the subjects are—draws so much attention with Dureau’s effective use of washed out colors in the background and the ambiguous nude figures in the front, one on top of the other. But by either reading the title or noticing the easily recognizable Beatles in their “Sgt. Pepper’s” garb, a new meaning is inferred in the image. What is Dureau saying by illustrating perhaps the most famous band starring (or grimacing) at these two African wrestlers supporting each other?

Art critic D. Eric Bookhardt describes Dureau’s style as an “iconic mix of flamboyant elegance and earthy eccentricity,” which is evidently seen in this piece. The Beatles’ extravagant marching band outfits and white skin sharply contrast the bare dark-skinned models in the foreground, one of which seems to has a noose around his neck.

Victors of Nuba wrestling matches in Sudan are often carried on the shoulders of fans and other wrestlers becoming a town celebrity for the week until the next tournament. Perchance that is what is depicted here. Also it should be stated that traditional Nuba wrestling is done naked as clothes are not needed for the sport and can actually get in the way.

To me, this painting speaks about fame and questions what hard work is. From Liverpool, the Fab Four became a massive sensation across America and achieved great wealth and popularity within four years of forming. Meanwhile Nuba wrestlers sacrifice their bodies to the sport for very little money, if any, and only local recognition if they win a match. I feel that the bottom wrestler’s noose signifies that to attain fame, one must kill himself or die—a notion that the Beatles don’t agree with.

This series of blogs aims to discuss various paintings by or of famous classic rock musicians and inspect the correlation between the figures and the art involving them.

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