Un-knowing the internet. Dead Leaves by Remedios Varo

By Farfalle | The Noodle | 7 Nov 2021


If the internet were to contain all the information in the world, could we reliably access it?

The brief: I saw two - very different - music pieces use the same artwork. I tried to reverse image search and struggled to uncover the artist. The internet, Google in this case, was accidentally over-writing the original artist with the more popular result.

The first time I saw the work was listening to Queen of Golden Dogs by Vessel. For the record, I love this album and bought it. You can hear it free on bandcamp. The album cover is striking, but I thought little about it until later. I saw the image again on a listicle and thinking Vessel had been included, I clicked to see. My assumption was wrong: the piece was Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. Also very good: here it is. This is the puzzle, a century old classical composition and a contemporary experimental album had identical visual language that had come from some mystery person.

An aside - I don't know or care if the image was licensed properly. I assume so and this isn't an article about property rights.

I wanted to solve this puzzle. My curiosity was properly peaked. The obvious tac was to copy the image url and do a reverse image search. Only, the results were surprising. Page upon page of results all... ALL linked to reviews, sales, and news of Vessel's album. I nearly stopped there assuming the Camille video had just taken the image from Vessel. 

Instead I persisted, downloading the image, removing any meta data, saving as a different file type and trying the search again. Google insisted I was looking for Queen of Golden Dogs. I tried changing the search settings, but that too accomplished nothing. I dug my heels in and just trudged through pages of links. Finally, on the last page of results, I saw an un-cropped version, it was the real deal.

The actual artist of the work is a French Surrealist named Remedios Varo. She made Dead Leaves in 1956 and was a major part of the surrealist movement. The extra sad part is that the surrealist movement was notoriously misogynistic. So her talent was rarely acknowledged at the time. Never-the-less, her work show talent and it's shameful that it she's being pushed to the background again by an algorithm instead of a few egotistical painters.

I'm including the image here in the hopes that the next person to search for it may find this easier than I did. I recommend following the link to see many of here other works. She experimented with an array of techniques and styles making it a compelling brows.

Dead Leaves cropped for AlbumDead Leaves original by Remedios Varo

P.S. TinEye image search did bring up the artist's name via a sponsored result by a vendor on Society 6 who sells infringing merchandise: mixed feelings about that one.

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