Read an Excerpt
A Heart for Art
By Sue Jones
Partridge PublishingCopyright © 2014 Sue Jones
All rights reserved.
How Should We Study Art?
Liking art means understanding art. For example, how can you appreciate books if you don't know the alphabet? You need tools. You have to know some basic facts and ask some very simple questions if you want to further your understanding. Scholars classify art as architecture, sculpture, the picture arts (which can be painted or done in other media), and the craft arts. They don't rank these in any particular order because scholars appreciate all of them. How are scholars able to recognize the significance of each? They ask five questions.
1. Who made it?
Many people judge art by the artist. Indeed, that is the only criterion for them. They say that any work by a famous artist is worthy of interest. A Leonardo is a Leonardo is a Leonardo. Unfortunately, not every work by a famous artist is remarkable. Sometimes, sketches by a famous artist sell for considerable amounts yet don't really merit any acclaim. On the other hand, for many pieces of art, the artist is unknown. For example, the sculptor of the famous Venus de Milo is unknown. People have attempted to give credit to Antioch on the Maeander River or Alexandros, but no one really knows.
2. When was it created?
Dating art is also known as chronology. Many people consider age when purchasing or studying art. Chronology is the dating of art objects, such as paintings, sculptures, and buildings.
There are several ways art historians establish the date of art. First, they focus on physical evidence, such as the chemical content of paint. Second, they also look for documentary evidence, such as a bill of sale or mention of the art in a written document. Art historians also consider visual evidence, which is simply the appearance of the art. Another way to date art is stylistic evidence, which refers to elements of the design, such as the use of color and light, clothing, events, etc.
3. What is its subject?
When an artist depicts people, places, or events, viewers need to identify these characteristics to achieve complete understanding of the work. Understanding the subject frees you to understand the art. Famous people can be portrayed, which gives further information. Fashion and hairstyles also help date the work. Historical events can be depicted. Landscapes and scenery are more timeless.
4. Why did the artist create the art?
Some artists create for the sake of creativity. However, most require a patron to continue their passion. It is sad to think that many great artists never painted, sculpted, or created because they lacked a patron.. Once an artist has a patron then he or she is able to express his art. Without backing, art is seldom created. Work is needed for the necessities of life. So many great artists probably melted into the background because they simply had to work to provide the basics in order to live.
Who is a patron? A patron is an individual who pays an artist to make an original work or employs an artist on a continuing basis. The patron plays a dominant role. Also, in the past, the patron could change the representation of the subject. Many artists modified faces and bodies to more pleasing features to satisfy their patrons. In ancient Rome, not all senators had six-pack abs!
5. What is its style?
All artists have representative styles.
A. Period Style
An artist may use the typical manner of the day in which he or she lives. The concept of period style first appeared in the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Period style is how the artist bases his or her art on the characteristics of the period in which he or she lives. Below are examples.
These are some of the artistic periods in the West. I apologize for any I may have omitted in my research. Remember that art was also evolving in other regions, such as China and Japan.
B. Regional Style
An artist may create his or her work based on the place where he or she lives. As far as regional style, geographical locations also influence art. Can you imagine a Canadian artist like Tom Thomson producing a desert scene? Of course not! He painted the vivid greens and golds and reds of the Canadian wilderness. The art of a region can be unique based on the scenery or materials or even the pigments used in the art. No Inuit ever produced an ebony sculpture because ebony was not available to them. Impossible!
C. Individual Style
The artist may have his or her own entirely unique or personal style, which is such an individual expression.
How Do We Categorize Art?
Art history is the academic study of art. This relates to historical connotation and stylistic composition (i.e. genre, design, format, and style). Art historians study painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as ceramics, jewelry, fashion, and other decorative objects, which I will call crafts.
Three distinct groups determine art history:
I. The enthusiasts are those who are keen about art and judge it positively.
II. The critics are those who judge and criticize art.
III. The art historians are those who study art history but do not criticize or enthuse because they understand it and thus appreciate art. It is my wish that everyone who reads this book becomes part of this group.
Any of these viewpoints can change the perception of an artwork. An enthusiast sees the glass as half full, the critic sees the glass as half empty. The art historian measures the exact amount of water.
Also the time frame can change the perception of art. Religious paintings were always admired in the past, but now they're not as popular. Impressionism would not have been acceptable during the Inquisition. African art is not the genre of Europe. Even more exciting is that modern art now includes many women and native artists. Modern art is global and not restricted to a small region. That's so refreshing!
In the next chapters, I will endeavor to give a very eclectic introduction to the four principal categories of art: pictorial arts, sculpture, architecture, and crafts. Come explore some of the greatest art ever produced.CHAPTER 2
In this chapter, I want to introduce you to ten pictures that significantly represent a wide range of periods, regions, and styles.
Originally, Van Gogh was not an impressionist. Paul Gauguin, another famous artist planned to visit Van Gogh, who had just moved to Arles. Van Gogh wanted to decorate the bedroom where his friend would stay, so he quickly sketched and painted Sunflowers. The original flowers were strewn about and not in a vase. Van Gogh made several different versions of Sunflowers.
Why is the Mona Lisa so famous? There are so many questions and legends surrounding this painting. Why did Leonardo not present the Mona Lisa to del Giacondo, his patron? Who exactly was the woman? Was she even a woman? Poems were written about her. The canvas was stolen by an Italian employee of the Louvre who hid it for two years and tried to repatriate it to the Uffizi Gallery in Italy. He thought it was objectionable that the Mona Lisa wasn't in Italy.
Times were difficult during the Great Depression. Grant Wood painted this for an art competition to earn a little cash. Wood actually used his sister and his dentist as models for American Gothic. Most of the judges were offended by the realism, but one judge found the portrayal of life refreshing and honest. He persuaded the others to give Wood second place. What happened to the first-place picture? No one knows or cares.
I chose this picture because it was begun the same year as the Mona Lisa, and yet the elements are so completely different. The subject matter, use of color, and brush techniques differ in every respect. Chinese art was so unlike European art. When I visited China, the brushstrokes were so delicate, and the colors were muted, unlike Renaissance art in Europe.
Delaunay was at times applauded by his fellow cubists and at times condemned by them. His life reflected this seesaw condition because he was forced to flee his comfortable life in France during World War 1. Also his wife Sonia's family lost their wealth in the Russian Revolution completely changing his financial condition.
Georges Seurat did not paint. He pointed. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte took two years to complete. It measures approximately 200 centimeters by 300 centimeters. He simply dipped his brush into the paint and used the tip to make points of color. The result is amazing when you realize the patience and dexterity required to complete this huge canvas.
African art is so diverse that it is difficult to choose one artist. So many tribes produce such different art forms from sculptures in Central Africa to textiles in places like Zanzibar to mosaic vases in northwest Africa. I was fascinated with Nicholas Nana Yow Kowalski's painting "Women" however after nine months of waiting for copyright permission, I have decided to publish without this amazing picture. It somehow represents a culmination of African art: the colors and the simplification of the human form. Feel free to check it out at pictify.com/176002/nicholas-nana-yaw-kowalski-ghana.
Monet is famous for creating a series of paintings similar in subject matter, like the Valley of the Creuse and haystack series. Water Lilies, or Nymphéas, is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings of Monet's flower garden at Giverny. He devoted the last thirty years of his life to painting water lilies. Many artists repeated similar subjects, like Van Gogh and Rodin.
Michelangelo was the extraordinary artist responsible for the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome. He spent four years lying on scaffolding to complete the frescos that illustrate passages from the Bible. Can you imagine how much paint dripped on him? Yet he persevered. Amazing! His attention to details, such as body proportions, was incredible. This fresco represents the prophet Joel. Michelangelo was also an architect and sculptor who created many famous statues.
Emily Carr was unique. She grew up in a genteel age but refused to conform. She wore pants, smoked cigars, and lived in a caravan in the Canadian wilderness. Suffragettes admired her spirit. She refused to paint in the accustomed style and instead developed a unique approach to native British Columbian scenes. In Ontario, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven invited her to join their ranks, recognizing her contribution to the national pool of emerging Canadian art.CHAPTER 3
Sculpture Now, I would like to share eleven sculptures that I think significantly represent a wide range of periods and regions and styles.
This statue resides at the British Museum in London. What is really cool is that no one knew who the artist was until a Greek visitor at the museum looked at the statue and announced that the artist had engraved his name in Greek on the statue. Language certainly helped discover the artist.
When the Aphrodite of Milos was discovered in 1820 by a Greek peasant, a French officer realized its importance and arranged its sale to a French diplomat. In 1815, the French returned the Medici Venus to Italy after Napoleon stole it, so France decided to campaign for the Venus de Milo as a finer statue.
This totem was carved from a single Western Red Cedar and weighs 12,272 kilos. It was cut from a six-hundred-year-old tree from the Queen Charlotte Islands, eight hundred kilometers north of Vancouver. It was a gift to Queen Elizabeth to mark the hundredth anniversary of the colony of British Columbia.
WatPho is named after a monastery in India where Siddhartha probably lived. It is fifteen meters high and forty-three meters in length. It is encrusted with jewels and engraved with birds and animals. Pictures are virtually impossible due the enclosed space and length of the statue. I have a photo of myself with only the head of the Buddha because of the sheer size of the statue.
Cristo Redentor is thought to be the largest art deco statue in the world. It is thirty-eight meters tall and twenty-eight meters wide. First proposed in the mid-1850s and later in the 1920s, the statue was finally erected in the twentieth century through efforts of the Roman Catholic citizens of Rio. It is truly a symbol of Rio de Janeiro.
For most immigrants to the United States, the statue was the first thing they saw when they landed in America. It came to symbolize freedom. I saw it for the first time in New York, so when I saw a smaller replica in Paris in 2007, it seemed very odd and out of place, although it was created by a Frenchman.
This statue is based on mythology and fairy tales and beloved by many, but she has been defaced many times. She has been a target of protest. The Little Mermaid has been decapitated, spray-painted, draped in a burka, and even dressed as a Muslim, yet she continues to endear herself to tourists.
Easter Island statues are gargantuan. The average height of the Moai is about four meters high. These massive statues usually weigh around 12.5 tons. Most of their backs face the ocean. Their function and construction are just conjecture, although there are many theories such as sacred or ancestral symbols.
The original is at Merlion Park and spouts water into the Singapore River near the Fullerton, but there is a huge thirty-seven-meter replica on Sentosa Island. It is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The statue personifies Singapore, but copies are everywhere.
Ramses ruled for sixty-six years. His statues were eight times larger than the other pharaohs' statues in order to demonstrate his importance. Pepi II ruled for 94 years but he left few artifacts. Ramses' tomb was robbed like so many of the other pharaohs, despite the fact that his temple was hidden in southern Egypt. Only a young and relatively unknown pharaoh, Tutankhamen, did not have his grave robbed, because everyone had forgotten his existence.
Excerpted from A Heart for Art by Sue Jones. Copyright © 2014 Sue Jones. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Publishing.
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