Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Art Appreciation I

Art Appreciation

Chapter 1

A Human Phenomenon

Quote from text:
“Art is a primarily visual media that is used to express ideas about our human experience and the world around us.”

Visual Form
Content: Content is the mass of ideas associated with a work of art.
Aesthetics: Aesthetics is the branch of Western philosophy that deals with art, its creative sources, its various forms, and its effects on individuals and cultures.

Théodore Géricault - The Raft of Medusa, 1819  

Gericault was a leader in the “French Realistic School
he painted in a very “realistic” way (naturalistic/representational).          
The Raft of Medusa  wasn’t well received in 1819 because it was too realistic, too much like life and not enough like “art”.


  • Line
  • Light and value
  • Color
  • Texture and pattern
  • Shape and Volume
  • Space
  • Time and motion
  • Chance, improvisation, and spontaneity
  • Engaging all the senses

The Color Wheel
A color circle, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the field of art. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept.

Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, color, or even an ice cream sundae.

Hue, value and intensity are properties of color.

Colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, such as orange, yellowish-orange, and yellow are referred to as analogous.

Analogous are colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, such as orange, yellowish-orange, and yellow

Intaglio is not a type of perspective system

Etching and engraving is not considered to be a principle of composition

Red and green are example of complementary colors

Notre Dame, Paris

Some of basic designs of a gothic cathedral are: Towers, arches, buttresses, and arcades create vertical lines that continue from ground to roof.  The plan of the cathedral is symmetrical, while its shape is a cross, symbolizing Jesus’ crucifixion.

Flying buttresses at the Washington National Cathedral

Flying buttress at Lincoln Cathedral, England

Examining Time and Motion

Consider how time and motion may be incorporated in visual art, usually understood as static, by examining issues of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

Marcel Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), 1912

Color Harmony
Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, color, or even an ice cream sundae.


Media can be defined as the material substances used to create an artwork
Disciplines are the various branches of art making activity, like painting or video

Media in Two-Dimensional Art

Supports and grounds
Dry Media
Wet Media

 Leonardo Da Vinci, Study for Head of Angel in “Virgin of the Rocks,”

Hatching and cross-hatching lines to create areas of light and shadow

Single hatch: all the lines in the drawing go in the same direction.

This simple sketch was the basis for the angel’s face in “Virgin of the Rocks.” Preliminary drawings like this allowed da Vinci to work out problems of shading and modelling prior to attempting a painting. It also shows the extent of his preparation prior to translating his visions into oil paints.

In this drawing, da Vinci again demonstrated his mastery of chiaroscuro. Value changes from light to dark were accomplished by closely spaced hatching and cross-hatching lines to create areas of light and shadow. These value changes define the features of the face and give it a three-dimensional quality.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Study of Hands

This drawing shows two alternative positions for the hands: da Vinci places them togeth- er in a lap, and also shows the right arm and hand raised toward the breast, as if holding a sprig of blossoms.

This drawing demonstrates da Vinci’s mastery of chiaroscuro. The hands are given their three-dimensional quality by the changes of value, from light to dark, using only hatch- ing and cross-hatching pen lines. Highlights of white chalk also reflect the effects of light upon the hands.

Single hatch
Named because all the lines in the drawing go in the same direction.


Andy Warhol - Green Marilyn, 1962

“I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time.”
Andy Warhol.

David Hockney - A Bigger Splash, 1967    

Tempera, Gouache, and Watercolor
Oil, Acrylic and Sprayed paint

Leonardo DaVinci, Mona Lisa c. 1503–1519

Leonardo DaVinci The Mona Lisa - Documentary

Pablo Picasso, Demoiselles d’Avignon

Jacques Louis David, Oath of the horatii-1784

Marcel Duchamp - Fountain, 1917

Marcel Duchamp created ready made art.
Ready made are ordinary manufactured objects that the artist selected and modified
Methods and Media in Three-Dimensional Art

  • Carving
  • Modeling
  • Assembling
  • Ready-mades, Assemblage, and Fabrication
  • Installation
  • Performance
  • Technology based media
  • Crafts

Van Gogh - The Starry Night, June 1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Van Gogh’s style of painting is unique from other artists of his time
Van Gogh became obsessed by the symbolic and expressive values of colors and began to use them for this purpose rather than, as did the Impressionists, for the reproduction of visual appearances, atmosphere, and light.

`Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes,' he wrote, `I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself more forcibly'.

Writings about Art

Formal Analysis
Content: is an artwork’s theme or message.
Content is conveyed through the artworks’s subject matter, iconography, and the written materials related to the cultural background.
Iconography: iconography is the symbolism or ‘hidden’ meaning behind what is seen
Personal interpretation.
Context: interrelated social and political conditions that surround a work of art. Context includes a host of factors, such as historical events, economical trends, contemporary cultural developments religious attitudes, other art works of the time, and so on.

Ways we encounter art
We encounter art in all kinds of ways. in newspaper, in museums, out on the street, at religious sites, in public park, in government or corporate buildings in school, at festivals, art fair, art gallery and so on.

Art critics describe works of art and evaluate their significance.
Current approaches to writing about art  are:  formalist criticism, ideological criticism, structuralist based criticism, psychoanalyst and feminist criticism, writings on visual culture and personal interpretation. 

Criticism:  formalist criticism, ideological criticism, structuralist-based criticism, psychoanalytic and feminist criticism.  

Formalist Criticism

Examines the formal qualities of the art
Line, shape, space, color are all formal qualities
The design principles are also formal qualities
Media, ground, materials are also considered

Ideological Criticism

Rooted in writings of Karl Marx
All art supports particular political agenda, cultural structure, or economic/class hierarchy

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. La Grande Odalisque, 1814

Guerrilla Girls.  Do Women Have to be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum? 1986.  Street Poster.  

Structuralist-Based Criticism

Structuralism & Semiotics
Social and cultural structures influence the meaning of art
As study of language, Structuralism was called Semiotics
The study of signs in verbal or written communication
Late 20th Century Semiotics came to be applied to all forms of communication, including art
Seeks to undermine or reveal myths, clichés, and stereotypes embedded in Western systems of signs.
Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #35

Psychoanalytic & Feminist Criticism

Psychoanalytic criticism is most appropriate when applied to works dealing with strong emotional content, dream imagery, or fantasy
Assigns meaning to imagery
Feminist Criticism
Representation of gender in art
Can support male-dominated social structures
Borrows from structuralism, deconstruction, and psychoanalytic approaches to criticism
The Guerilla Girls use artwork as feminist criticism

Robert Smithson - The Spiral Jetty, 1970

Smithson's provocative and seminal works, made in the mid-sixties to early seventies, redefined the language of sculpture. He was one of the founders of the art form known as earthworks or land art. The Spiral Jetty embodied one of his goals which was to place work in the land rather than situated on the land. Smithson's earthworks defined an entirely original notion of landscape.

Who Makes Art?

Art Production as a social activity
Artists operate within the framework of their own culture
Teachers and manufacturers supply materials
Various people provide support
Leaders in society set standards
About artists
The role of artists in various cultures
Support for art making

community art making
fabricators, assistants, and technicians
the artist as object-maker

Difference between fine artists and a medical illustrator or a graphic artists

Fine artists typically display their work in museums, commercial art galleries, corporate collections, and private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned (done on request from clients), but most is sold by the artist or through private art galleries or dealers.

Medical and scientific illustrators combine drawing skills with knowledge of biology or other sciences. Medical illustrators must have both a demonstrated artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of living organisms, surgical and medical procedures, and human and animal anatomy.

a recurring attribute of "style" cuold be 
  • formal elements
  • medium and manner of execution
  • content or function

The "content" of art refers to meaning or mass of ideas.

Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy.

The standards and concepts of beauty are different in all cultures

Sandro Botticelli, Birth venus. 1484


What one finds true beauty someone else might find outrageous, weird or even ugly. There is no such thing as ultimate true beauty because you cannot compare beauty. We do not live all following the same standards or principles; we do not have the same ideals. We are different, so is beauty.

In Asia for example the standards for beauty differ from country to country, from culture to culture.

In the Far East, in Japan, a century old tradition offers an original beauty recipe treatment: nightingale droppings. These are transformed into a powder, mixed with soap and used as a face wash. The facial is supposed to make the face look young.

The female members of the Kayan tribe (situated on the border between Burma and Thailand) have another ideal of beauty. Also known as “long necks”, they measure a woman’s beauty according to the brass rings wore around the neck. As they grow older they increase the number of rings, which gives them an elongated neck appearance. They start this ritual as early as the age of 5 and their neck is absolutely transformed by the heavy rings. The elongated neck is a result of the pressure the rings put on their shoulders, clavicles and chest. The shoulders are being pushed down, that’s how the elongated neck appearance is achieved.

In India the long hair, the jewellery worn excessively especially at weddings, the colored saris and the home made remedies take beauty to another level.

In Africa the idea of beauty varies from one side of the continent to the other. In Ethiopia, the women of the Karo tribe wear scars on their stomachs meant to attract a husband. The scarring process starts in childhood and once finished it means that the woman can get married and have children.

In Mauritania being skinny is definitely not a sign of beauty. Here a beautiful woman is a woman with curves…big curves. Nowadays forbidden, the gavage is in many cases the way of achieving a true, Mauritanian beauty. Through gavage young girls are being force fed in order to fatten them up. A “heavy” lady is more likely to be desirable and get a husband.

In the Middle East beauty is sometimes not connected with what ones sees, but with one does not see, or with what one smells or catches a glimpse of. From the head to toe black covers women wear (called abaya) that sometimes reveal only the eyes, to the dark eye kohl pencil, henna tattoos and colored fabrics, scarves and jewellery.

The Polynesian women are considered to be beautiful if they wear traditional tattoos on their lips and on their chins.

Orlan, The Draped-the Baroque. 1983

In the Western World the standards are different; the means of achieving beauty are sometimes extreme as well. From plastic surgery, implants, hair extensions, hair color to fitness, diet and cosmetics, the beauty has a different meaning. Whatever nature has not given, the knife can solve. The Western ideal of beauty is a skinny, tall, good-looking lady (90-60-90 if possible) with perfect teeth, perfect hair and perfect fashion. A 24 hour working lady if possible, who never complaints, who is up to date with the latest fashion trends, is a fighter, considers herself a “Superwoman” because she can achieve whatever she desires, all by herself.

Orlan, Triptych Opera Operation. 1993

kitsch is a term used to classify some visual culture that is often described as shallow, pretentious and lacking in originality

When tax dollars are used to support art, whose “taste” in art should be funded?

Robert Mapplethorpe - Ken, Lydia and Tyler, 1985

Van Gogh and Gauguin

The individual artist styles of van Gogh and Gauguin.

Paul Gauguin. Woman in a coffeehouse. Madame Ginoux in the Café de la Gare in Arles. 1888. 

Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Mme. Ginoux (L’Arlesienne). 1889.

Van Gogh and Gauguin left Paris in early 1888, both in search of destinations that would inspire creative impulses, crystallize their emerging artistic identities, and help them to realize their aims for a "new art." Gauguin moved to Brittany, where the rugged landscape and peasant life appealed to his desire for a simpler, more "primitive" existence far removed from urban Paris. Van Gogh left Paris’s cold, gray weather and followed the sun to the south of France, where the light and warmth offered an opportunity to explore his interest in color.

Once settled in the town of Arles, van Gogh embarked upon a project to establish a community of artists: he rented a home he called the "Yellow House," which would serve as a "Studio of the South" and invited Gauguin to join him there. In the months preceding Gauguin’s arrival, the two artists both exchanged letters outlining their creative strategies and painted prolifically, producing works such as van Gogh’s The Poet’s Garden and Gauguin’s The Vision of the Sermon. Both artists began to experiment with compositional techniques derived from Japanese art as well as the symbolic language of color, emphasizing subjective feelings and ideas over naturalistic representation. In the unfolding dialogue between them, each artist allowed his identity to emerge, their relationship developed, and a budding creative competition was born. Van Gogh viewed himself as a monk or disciple, spreading the word about a "new art," and looking to the older artist for leadership, while Gauguin perceived himself as a rebellious bohemian, a victim of society.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin (Bonze), 1888
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass.

In October 1888, van Gogh and Gauguin exchanged self-portraits that revealed a great deal about how they perceived themselves and wished to be seen by others. In van Gogh’s austere portrait, his gaunt face, short hair, and beard allude to his belief in a monastic lifestyle and refer to his role as a monk (bonze) or humble disciple to Gauguin. The contrast of blue and yellow in the portrait echoes the colors in van Gogh’s painting of the yellow house and "the symphony in blue and yellow" in his sunflowers series.

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh (Les Misérables), 1888
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Gauguin presented himself as an "outlaw" in his self-portrait, which specifically alludes to the noble character of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. The bold lines of the figure and the vivid colors of the flowered wallpaper manifest Gauguin’s interest in "an abstract, symbolic style." Van Gogh, however, was disappointed when he received Gauguin’s Self-Portrait, believing that it expressed torment while failing to offer any hope or consolation. He even suggested to his brother Theo that the troubled Gauguin would benefit from a stay in the reinvigorating environment of Arles.


Paul Gauguin, The Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

Gauguin moved away from Impressionism in this breakthrough painting from his Brittany period, a work that marks a high point in the development of his mature style. In the foreground, a group of pious local women and a priest experience an imaginary vision—the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, depicted in the upper right. The bold color, dramatic compositional devices (such as the diagonal tree trunk and tilted ground), and the exaggerated shapes of the women’s bonnets reveal Gauguin’s interest in abstraction, inspired by sources as varied as medieval stained glass and the art of Japan.

Vincent van Gogh, The Poet’s Garden, 1888
The Art Institute of Chicago: Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection

One of several paintings intended for Gauguin’s bedroom in Arles, The Poet’s Garden displays van Gogh’s brilliant use of color and texture to express the character of Provence—the southern province in which Arles is located. The thick, repetitive brush strokes that comprise the lemon-yellow sky and the lush, green foliage infuse this view of the garden across from the yellow house with great vitality. Van Gogh also hoped to imbue this picture with allusions to the 14th century, the golden age of Provence, and specifically to the famed Renaissance poet Petrarch (1304-1374), and the new "poet" of Provence, Gauguin.

Van Gogh and Gauguin
Exhibition organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, 2001. 

No comments:

Post a Comment