Morgan Gray’s Venus

I have another gorgeous find from TikTok that I want to share with you today! As a lover of abstract art and of re-imagining famous artworks, the algorithm worked wonderfully to show me the perfect combination of the two. You may be familiar with Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus made in 1845-46, and the video showcased the process of an artist painting a uniquely imagined portrait of Botticelli’s Venus.

Morgan Gray, @Morganpaintsstuff, is an artist who works in a self-described “abstract pattern-y” way. Her art consists of lots of colorful brushstrokes that make up faces and other line drawings. She is currently working on a new series of portraits (available on her website on May 28th) that combines her abstract style with more realistic and figural portraiture. This blend of styles makes these works super fascinating, as some parts come across as very realistic while other areas of the painting are completely ambiguous.

Morgan Gray, The Birth of Venus, 2021
Morgan Gray, The Birth of Venus, 2021

Her Birth of Venus portrait is a 30 by 24″ cropped version of Botticelli’s that showcases just Venus’ head and neck. Morgan accurately captures the head tilt, texture of her hair, and facial features/expression of Botticelli’s work. She explained in the video that it was difficult to paint directly from a painting rather than from a picture of someone, but considering her work is immediately recognizable as an interpretation of The Birth of Venus, she is absolutely successful. Though it is very clearly Venus’ face from the original painting by Botticelli, she makes it entirely her own by adding in her unique style.

Morgan Gray, The Birth of Venus (close up of face), 2021

There is some abstraction in the actual form of Venus, but it doesn’t make her face look less figural. The abstraction comes in emphasizing certain facial features using line and color, such as the shading of green and red around her nose and the dashed lines underneath her eyes. In the screenshot on the right we can see that the eyes are highly realistic but are surrounded by abstract colors and designs. Morgan retains the realistic features of Botticelli’s Venus while emphasizing them to add a layer of abstraction. This interplay between realism and abstraction makes it really fun to look closely at this work! I personally love the different colors and lines that make up Venus’ neck. This is where I feel Morgan takes the most liberty with her reimagination of Botticelli’s work. In his painting, Venus’ neck is wholly realistic with shading and a color palette that matches the rest of her body. Morgan adds in reds, blues, pinks, and yellows in varying shapes and designs. These decorative motifs give us more to look at in Venus’ neck, though the same can be said for this entire piece!

I love the visible brushstrokes that make up these fun pops of abstract design. Morgan’s work is amazing and can be found on her website, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks for joining me to look at this one! It’s always a lovely experience finding cool art and art history videos when scrolling on social media — I expect, given it’s summer, there will be more posts like this one. Have a great week!

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