Gin Lane 1743 by Hogarth William Hogarth was an English painter who is known for the social and political commentary in his paintings. He was critical of any person or group he felt was deserving of rebuking, but it was the aristocratic class that was most often the target of his biting criticism. Not that he would hesitate to go after the poor peasants if he thought they needed attention. In this illustration from a periodical, peasants are seen in various stages of inebriation, acting foolishly and even recklessly. The man seated on the step at the lower right appears emaciated, as if he hasn’t eaten in weeks. He holds a grocery basket and a shopping list spills over the edge. But the irresponsible man hasn’t been to the grocery store. Instead, he went to the liquor store and is now drunk on the cheap whiskey he bought. If he is such a sorry state, his family is likely no better off since he is neglecting everyone. The woman at the top of the steps drops her baby over the railing in her drunken stupor. Beyond her we see a man and woman selling the tools of their respective trades in order to buy liquor. They are selling their future to drown their misery.
During the 1730s and 1740s William Hogarth did a series of paintings he called Marriage á la Mode . These paintings followed the life of an aristocratic young gentleman as he receives his inheritance (title but no money), marries a bourgeois girl for the dowry offered by her father, and ultimately dies alone in an insane asylum from untreated syphilis. Some context is required here. Up until now there have been two social classes in European society. The aristocrats and the peasants. As the Industrial Revolution swings into action, a new social class emerges. These are peasants who become entrepreneurial and start their own businesses. Many failed, of course, but many others prospered and became wealthy. Unlike the aristocrats who became rich the old fashioned way (they inherited it) these “business class” people, also known by the French word “bourgeois” (meaning newly rich) earned their wealth through their own labors. They were not readily accepted by the aristocratic class which viewed them as little more than “uppity” peasants. The bourgeoisie, seeking increased social standing (although they had money they lacked the family names and prestige of an aristocratic birth), would willingly link their family to the aristocracy through marriage. For a young aristocratic gentleman whose family fortunes were depleted by increasing taxes or business losses, marrying a wealthy bourgeois girl (resulting in a huge dowry from her father) would save him from actually working for a living. In Shortly After the Marriage (next slide) the house is in a state of disarray following a party that lasted until sunrise. The weary servants are frustrated by the couple’s inattention to important matters (like the unpaid bills held by the man on the left). The wife hosted the party enjoying her new status (when she married the count she instantly became the countess) and looks quite satisfied with herself. In the back room one of the paintings has a curtain over it. But the curtain is partially withdrawn and we can see it’s a nude portrait and it’s probably the image of the wife. The artist suggests that she was showing off this intimate portrait to her party guests indicating that she lacks modesty. The rake (a term that meant a swinging bachelor) has just come home from his night’s entertainment. The dog is agitated (indicating a lack of loyalty) and sniffs at the man’s coat pocket which contains some frilly undergarment as a souvenir of his adventures. The man’s sword lays discarded on the floor. The artist is noting how the aristocrats had all the power but did nothing constructive with it.
Shortly After the Marriage 1730s William Hogarth
Tavern Scene (next slide) shows us where the rake spent last evening. He his seen in a drunken state consorting with prostitutes. He thinks that he is quite the ladies’ man, not realizing that the woman lavishing attention on him has actually stolen his pocket watch and is passing it to an accomplice behind him. Examine the faces of the women around the table. They all bear black spots on their skin. This is evidence of syphilis. It spread throughout Europe after English ships returned from Tahiti where local people were carriers of the sexually transmitted disease had engaged in sex with the visiting sailors. Contracting this ailment was a death sentence as antibiotics would not be developed until the very late 19 th century. First causing insanity, then death, syphilis was a scourge that swept across Europe in the 18 th century. To the left we see two household servants, fairly shocked at the behavior they are witnessing. The candle and serving platter that reminds us of a convex mirror suggest that God and Jesus are also watching. Tavern Scene 1730s by Hogarth
Visit to a Quack 1730s by Hogarth A quack is an unethical or unskilled physician. This doctor doesn’t look too competent with his unshaven face and a skull…the symbol for death…sitting on his desk. Behind the patients we see an open closet door revealing skeletons inside. Skeletons in the closet is an old term meaning bad secrets. This quack seems to have many bad secrets. The little girl in the scene is most likely the daughter of the prostitute dressed in black (the same woman the rake was consorting with in the Tavern Scene ). Back then prostitutes had children who were raised in the brothels. Often the daughters would start working in the brothels when they were very young. Perhaps this girl has been brought to the quack to obtain birth control so she can start working. More likely she is already working and has contracted Syphilis. Note that she holds a handkerchief to her chin, probably concealing an open sore that is symptomatic of being infected with syphilis. Since antibiotics were 150 years removed, what “cure” would a quack sell a desperate patient? Many times they were given mercury to drink. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to exist so drinking it probably did prevent death by syphilis as the mercury would kill you must faster. Notice that the rake has a large black spot on his neck. He has been infected.
In The Rake in Bedlam we see the gentleman chained to the floor in the asylum, his mind ravaged by syphilis. The barred windows symbolize his entrapment. There is no escape from his situation. His family doesn’t come to see him. Nor his wife or his friends. Only two servants from the house are compassionate enough to visit him. Stinging commentary on the rich by the artist. We do see two wealthy women in the background but they aren’t here to visit the rake. Back then rich people would bribe the guards in these facilities to let them tour the asylum as they found it entertaining to watch the crazy people. The Rake in Bedlam 1730s by Hogarth
Sometimes Hogarth defended the rich. The next slide depicts a courtroom where an unmarried woman is naming the father of her unborn child. Since no paternity tests were available, the woman’s testimony was all that was needed for a judge to order the man to begin paying child support. Since the amount of the payment was based partly on his ability to pay, many women falsely named wealthy men they had never met as the father to get a bigger support payment. In the painting we see the pregnant woman giving the court clerk the name as the rich man waves his arms at the injustice. Meanwhile, the real daddy slinks behind the woman whispering in her ear, likely giving advice on how to soak the wealthy man for money. The people who made this law weren’t stupid and had to know that there would be abuses and that the system was inherently unfair. The purpose was to ensure that there was money given for the child’s benefit and they really didn’t care what the source was for the funding. This was sort of direct tax to support child welfare programs. The artist tells us this system was all about the child by showing the little girl in a throne-like chair at the judge’s right hand. The dog does tricks for her and focuses his attention on her to tell us it was all about the children. Do it for the children… The Denunciation by Hogarth 1730s
One of the many themes Hogarth focused on in his criticism was infidelity. In the following painting the story goes that the earl came home and found his wife in the arms of another man. Morally outraged and personally insulted he drew his sword and challenged the intruder who promptly stabbed him. As the villain escapes out the window, the repente4nt wife begs her husband’s forgiveness. But it is too late. The wrong has been done and the earl will die. The message is to avoid extramarital affairs… and to be in better practice with your sword.
As the adulterer/killer is hanged in the yard outside the open window, the widow takes her own life. Does she lack the will to go on due to grief for the dead husband, or for her executed lover? Perhaps the shame of the entire situation drove her to this end. Pretty heavy stuff, dude.
The next two slide illustrate the difference in the way marriage arrangements were handled by aristocrats and peasants. In the first painting (from the Marriage ala Mode series) we see the prospective bride and groom in a meeting between their respective families and the lawyers each side has retained. The marriage contract would be extremely detailed and would put any modern “prenuptial” agreement to shame by comparison. The would-be bride and groom ignore each other during the negotiations. They are here out of duty, much like their marriage will be. On the other hand, the poor peasant couple hold hands, actually expressing interest in one another, as the young man approaches his beloved’s father seeking his permission to marry the man’s daughter.
Of course Hogarth ridiculed politicians and elected officials. He often chided those involved with the electoral process, portraying it as flawed. Can you peruse the painting and identify some of the symbolism used to illustrate the folly of the electoral process and those running it?
This is a portrait of a wealthy couple (Robert Andrews and his wife, Frances) on their huge tract of land. The portrait is designed to highlight their wealth and prestige. The firearm the man carries over his arm replaces the sword as the power symbol. Much like swords, European nations restricted the ownership of firearms to the socially elite so they become a badge of rank and a symbol of power. Gainsborough was known for making all of his female subjects look essentially the same. Indeed, Robert Andrews and his wife, Frances, bear a striking resemblance to one another suggesting that the artist was limited in his ability to do realistic portraits, relying on a formula that made everyone look similar. Indeed, the Andrews look very much like the artist himself (see next slide). One customer complained that the portrait of his wife didn’t look like her at all. Gainsborough simply replied “Two hundred years from now nobody will know the difference.” It has been suggested that the painting is actually unfinished, with the area in the woman’s lap intended to depict her plucking a game bird. The theory goes that this was a symbol for a domineering woman mistreating her husband and when Frances Andrews realized what the artist was doing she confiscated the unfinished painting and so it remains to this day. The instructor has never seen the original painting in person and must rely on photos. So far he is undecided as to whether the object in the woman’s lap is an unfinished area or is a sheet of paper with her holding a pen, symbolizing the fact that she was literate. This practice of holding objects to say something about the sitter is common in portraits and many women, even wealthy aristocratic women, were illiterate back then so one who could read and write might want to announce that fact in her portrait. What do you think, paper or unfinished area? Robert Andrews and his Wife Frances c. 1750 by William Gainsborough
Robert Andrews and his Wife Frances c. 1750 by William Gainsborough
Self Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough Note the resemblance to Mr. and Mrs. Andrews?
Many artists will use a formula for their paintings. This could refer to the faces of the subjects, in which case they look similar to one another (recall our recent discussion of William Gainsborough) or it could refer to favorite pose the artist will position his portrait subjects in. Examine the next four paintings by Francois Boucher between 1745 and 1753. The supine posture of all four models is nearly identical. The setting is so similar that surely all the woman were posed in the same studio stage with the same props. Paintings A and B are so alike it’s difficult to tell them apart. It’s possible that the women commissioned the paintings for husbands or lovers and wanted to look seductive and “sexy” but not really have them appear too revealing. We can only guess at what their reaction would have been had they known their intimate and personalized paintings were actually being mass produced.
The Swing 1768 by Jean-Honore Fragonard The Rococo style often appears rather whimsical with subject matter that is less than serious. Although not everyone would agree that some of the concepts addressed by the French painter Fragonard are all that frivolous in nature. As the young woman swings on the swing, the young man lays on the ground so that he may look up her skirt. They are married…although not to each other. The man in the background pushing the woman to facilitate the swinging is the local priest. It’s highly unlikely that the clergyman ever saw this painting. The joke was at expense and the gentleman patron would have reserved viewing for his closest friends.
Young Woman Playing with a Dog 1772 by Fragonard Another offering from Fragonard shows a mostly naked young woman lying in an unkempt bed. This image is about as sexually suggestive as it can be and the fact that she is toying with a dog, the symbol of faithfulness, tells us what she thinks about the value of that particular concept. She is a party-girl and it’s likely that she commissioned this painting as a gift for one of her many boyfriends. In all likelihood, a married boyfriend.
The Neoclassical period is generally accepted as the beginning of “Modern Art.” The Oath of the Horatii (slide 3) is often cited as the first painting of the new age. Neoclassicism uses the stories and legends of ancient Rome to symbolize contemporary issues. Most of the best known Neoclassical artists were French and many of the paintings refer in some way to the French Revolution (1789–1799). Jacques Louis David (pronounced Da-veed rather than like the common first name) is perhaps the most prominent of the Neoclassical painters. He survived the revolution and the terrible years that followed but became the court painter to Emperor Napoleon and wound up exiled as a result when the emperor was overthrown. The Oath of the Horatii was actually painted five years prior to the revolution but certainly at this time discontent was evident amongst the people. This painting is based on a Roman story where Rome got into an argument with another city-state named Alba. Rather than full-scale warfare, it was agreed that each city to send three champions to meet on the field of battle and the winning team would earn victory for its city. These three brother are swearing to their father to fight and die for Rome. The mother and sisters look anguished on the right. One sister has a real problem. She is secretly married to one of the Alban champions. No matter who wins, she loses somebody. The Horatii were victorious but upon their triumphant return the sister goes berserk at the news of her husband’s death and sharply rebukes her brothers and the city of Rome. Of course, the family couldn’t tolerate such an outrage so the brothers killed her too. The story, and thus the painting, is a powerful patriotic message demanding the citizens kill and die if they must for their city (country). The king wanted this painting to remind the French people that they should be loyal to him and support France.
Oath of the Horatii 1784 by Jacques Louis David
Death of Marat 1793 by David The French Revolution started in earnest on July 14, 1789 and led to a period of anarchy and bloodshed of monumental proportions. The first 10 years were the worst but France suffered through several decades of dictatorial leaders, violence, and warfare. Jean-Paul Marat, a physician, was one of the instigators of the revolution. He wrote and spoke of having a dream where all French people would be equal. He was a socialist who hated the aristocracy and advocated their downfall. On July 13, 1793 (one day short of the revolution’s anniversary) a political enemy named Charlotte Corday stabbed him to death as he sat in medicinal tub to ease the discomfort of a serious skin condition. She went to the guillotine four days later for the murder. This painting symbolizes the death of the dream held by the revolutionaries. They wanted a better France but what the revolution wrought was violence and suffering. It could even symbolize the death of the nation if something wasn’t done to stem the anarchy and violence tearing the country apart.
The Sabine Women 1799 by David David’s The Sabine Women is also based on a Roman legend. When Rome was new, there were only men living there. Realizing this would not work for long, these men of action solved the problem by going to the city of Sabine and kidnapping a large number of unmarried women who they brought back to Rome and treated like queens to entice them into marrying Roman men and making their homes there. It worked, and the women did marry and start having families. Meanwhile the Sabine fathers and brothers prepared for war. After several years they marched on Rome to recover their stolen women and exact vengeance on the Romans. But as the two armies drew near, the women ran out between the Romans and the Sabines, calling for an end to hostilities. In the center a woman in white holds her arms out to stop the advancing soldiers. One can almost hear her screaming “STOP!” One woman can be seen holding her infant child aloft as she scans the crowd of Sabine warriors, seeking her father to show him his grandchild. Another sits on the ground with her breasts exposed in an obvious attempt to symbolize nurturing, home and family. When the Sabine men realized that the women were not mistreated, but were happy in their new lives, the war was canceled and as a result Rome and Sabine became friends and allies, with both cities prospering as an added benefit. Of course, David is speaking to France with this painting. He is calling on the people of France to stop fighting with each other before the country was utterly ruined. The concept of women as the peacemakers is one that recurs in art.
Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces 1824 by David Here we have one last example of David’s commentaries on the state of affairs in post-rebellion France. Using the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus, along with the Roman god of war, Mars, he pleads with France to set aside the violence and warfare that had marred the nation since 1789. Mars was making ready for war, with his bow, spear, sword, helmet, and shield. But Venus sits with him and attempts to seduce him into more peaceful and less bellicose activities. She offers wine, with one of her helpers (the Three Graces) running forward with a jug and goblet. Meanwhile, the other two women have managed to relieve Mars of many of his weapons and armor. He seems to be giving in to Venus’ wiles, and we see her son, Cupid, untying the war god’s sandal as if to say “Take your shoes off and relax a while.” There was a popular slogan on bumper stickers and posters during the days of the Vietnam War, “Make love not war.” This painting seems to be saying just that. Mars is given the choice of going out to fight or relaxing and drinking wine with four naked women. He looks thirsty. The audience for the painting was French people and the message is “We are French, for God’s sake. We should not be fighting. We should be drinking wine and making love.”
Romanticism Romantic art displays emotion, and illustrates pain and suffering as well as assigning great grandeur in portraits. In some way Romanticism was a departure from the Neoclassical which paid homage to the ancient ideals and sought a more contemporary set of values.
George Washington c. 1840 by Horatio Greenough When this sculpture was unveiled it was not an immediate success. It depicts Washington as a Greek hero and nobody was prepared to accept that. Some of the people viewing the piece had actually known Washington and they complained that he never dressed in a Greek toga. Of course, they were missing the symbolism. Washington wears the toga to symbolize his wisdom in surrendering power and turning the army over to the Continental Congress when the British commander gave up the fight and the Revolutionary War ended. Washington spared the nation the usual period of violence and anarchy following a violent overthrow of the government by placing the military firmly in the hands of the civil leaders. Indeed, the artist tells us about his handing over his military power by the way the figure of Washington seems to offer his sword, the symbol of power.
In this view Washington clearly is seen pointing towards heaven. As a man of faith who believed in God he would give thanks and credit for good things to the Almighty and ask for His blessings on the new nation. George Washington c. 1840 by Horatio Greenough
For many years the government didn’t know what to do with the unpopular sculpture. It was moved from one location to another for around 150 years. George Washington c. 1840 by Horatio Greenough
George Washington c. 1840 by Horatio Greenough The statue was finally moved into the Smithsonian Institution around 1990. Now, so much time has passed that there is nobody left alive who knew Washington, but he has mostly stopped being a man and has assumed the role of historical figure. Audiences are much more willing now to accept him as he appears in this piece and the statue has enjoyed increased popularity.
The Third of May, 1808 c. 1815 by Francisco Goya During a period of civil unrest in Spain, France sent troops to occupy some areas in the northern part of the country (France borders Spain to the north). Some Spanish citizens resisted causing the French commander to order the execution of civilians suspected of complicity in the violence. Goya witnessed much violence in his life and this is often reflected in his art, such as the painting in the next slide. Most authors simply describe the quality of light and other such meaningless drivel when discussing this painting. What they are missing is the powerful symbolism Goya incorporated into the work. The Third of May, 1808 is an anti-war statement. The soldiers and most of the civilians are faceless, meaning we cannot assign specific identities to them. By remaining faceless they represent others, larger groups of people, rather than simply being individuals.
The Third of May, 1808 c. 1815 by Francisco Goya
In 1989 the Soviet Union collapsed. In China, the remaining large Marxist regime, a protest occurred at a place called Tiananmen Square . Young people gathered to express their desire for social changes allowing more freedom in that oppressive country. After a number of days a column of tanks entered the square and crushed several thousand people to death beneath the tracks as they drove through the crowd to disperse the protestors. International film crews caught images of the tanks approaching the square, including the dramatic moment when a young man wearing a white shirt, his jacket in his hand, walked into the street and blocked the lead tank (see next slide). In slide following the next it can be seen that the tank’s hatch is open and the commander is likely telling the young man to move. The officer is probably being ordered via radio to run down the protestor but he is refusing. If the military disobeys orders, the government (any government) loses the only resource it has to enforce its will. This moment could have led to a successful revolution in China if the soldiers refused to kill civilians at the order of government officials seeking to stay in power. Seconds later, the man’s friends pulled him from the street and the tanks continued on their deadly mission. The man was arrested a few hours later and his family has not heard from him since. The Chinese government maintains to this day that there were no casualties when the tanks dispersed the crowd. Witnesses claim 3,000 people were killed. There is a striking similarity between the young man in his white shirt confronting the tanks and the man in the previous Goya painting facing the French soldiers in the firing squad.
Saturn Devouring his Children c. 1820 by Goya The Roman god Saturn was foretold that one of his children would usurp him (depose him from power and take his place). Saturn’s reaction to this forecast was to murder all of his children. Of course the story and painting is symbolic for any nation willing to murder its own children to stay in power. See the previous two slides for an example of this concept.
Funeral of Atala 1808 by Anna-Louis Girodet-Trioson The Catholic Church now seems to feel that any sin is unacceptable. Back in earlier times it would excuse sin if committed for a greater good. Atala was a Vestal Virgin. Teenaged girls would be appointed to serve the Roman goddess Vesta, a deity of the hearth, home, and homeland (city of Rome). They served for 20 years after which they retired on a pension. It was a nice job but the title of the position describes the major drawback. The girls were to remain virginal until retirement, which would the mid to late 30s in age. Atala fell in love with a young man referred to in the story as “The Savage.” He probably symbolizes lust, or the wildness of youth. Rather than risk weakening and breaking her vow of chastity, she kills herself. The Church would now denounce this as the sin of suicide. But when this painting was done the Church used it to express the concept of self-sacrifice for a greater good. Sex is the major sin to established religion so better to die by one’s own hand then to succumb to temptation. The artist has Atala being interred in a cave (next slide) reminding us of the sacrifice of Jesus. A monk helps bury her and the artist tells us that the Church approves of her actions by placing the cross on the hill looking down on the scene. The king would see this painting as a patriotic message, urging the people to die for their country should it be needed.
Funeral of Atala 1808 by Anna-Louis Girodet-Trioson
Raft of the Medusa 1819 by Theodore Gericault This painting (next slide) is based on a true story involving a passenger ship called the Medusa which sank in a storm. At this time French sea captains were appointed by the king rather than being graduates of sea captain school. There was no guarantee of competence on their part as such appointments were made for any number of reasons not related to the ability of the prospective captain. In this case the captain was a coward who grabbed a lifeboat and abandoned ship at the first sign of trouble. The crew quickly followed leaving the passengers to their fate. This ship went down leaving a small number of survivors clinging to wreckage as a raft. The captain and crew were soon rescued by a passing ship but they claimed that they were the only ones to get off the ship alive. They didn’t want the story of their cowardice and dereliction of duty to be discovered so they left anyone floating on the ocean to die in their cover-up. Several days later the survivors were spotted. When they returned to France they told a different story than the captain and crew did. The revelations about the captain reflected badly on the king who had appointed him. Soldiers confiscated the painting and imprisoned the artist for a time trying to intimidate him.
Massacre at Chios c. 1824 by Eugene Delacroix During the years when Greece was under Turkey’s control and part of the Ottoman Empire, most Europeans felt closer to the Greeks than they did to the Turks and tended to side with the Greeks when they demanded their independence. Not all historians agree that the massacre at Chios where (supposedly) Greek men, women, and children were abused and murdered by Turkish soldiers after a failed uprising, even occurred. But European artists treated the subject as factual. The purpose of such art was to inflame European passion for a free Greece. Something very similar has been happening in Hollywood recently as the people in the entertainment industry have adopted a free Tibet (which has been under the control of Communist China for many years) as their “cause du jour.” Maybe this painting had the desired effect as very shortly after it was exhibited a unified Europe demanded that Turkey free Greece.
Realism As the name implies, realist artists sought realism in their work, insisting on rendering human figure from live models and eschewing* the use of Gods and heroic figures in favor of depicting real people. * The instructor likes using this word.
The Bathers 1853 by Gustave Courbet Courbet was among what are known as “Realist painters.” The title is self-explanatory. These artists wanted to capture the real world. They insisted on working from live models to more perfectly duplicate the human form and they weren’t interested in painting gods and goddesses, they wanted to paint real people doing real things. The problem is that many people become uncomfortable when art becomes too real. Most people prefer fantasy to reality and feel threatened by too much reality. Of course in the 19 th century the patrons of the galleries were the wealthy, and they wouldn’t appreciate this painting of two working-class women bathing in a stream.
The Stone Breakers 1849 by Courbet Another aspect of Realist painting is that it allows for social commentary. In the painting shown in the next slide, two men are working at breaking stones for concrete and gravel use. Certainly low-paying and back-breaking work. The young man, seemingly a teenager, and the older man may in fact be meant as the same individual. This would illustrate how in the classed society of Europe where one was born was exactly where one would be at the time of one’s death. There was no upward mobility in European culture. Most likely the vast majority of rich people had no idea such people even existed. As they were working by the side of the road the wealthy folks riding by in the carriages kept their shades drawn specifically so that they wouldn’t have to see these workers. Courbet is shouting at the wealthy aristocracy who patronized the art galleries, “Hey! You need to take a look at these people and maybe do something to improve their situation.” This painting was lost during World War II. In February of 1945 British and American bombers dropped thousands of tons of explosives and incendiary bombs on the city of Dresden, Germany. The Stone Breakers was in a Dresden museum that was burned to the ground as a result of the attack.
Woman with a Parrot 1866 by Courbet Woman with a Parrot caused a stir when it was exhibited. It wasn’t nudity of the figure, or the bird, or the seductive pose. What viewers found too shocking for public consumption was the woman’s hair. Hair is a sexual signal. Body hair is nature’s way for us to tell others that we have reached physical maturity and are now available for marriage and reproduction. The hair on our heads is often used to signify our status, as with the Amish men who are clean-shaven until they marry at which time they grow a beard. Body language experts tell us that when woman plays with her hair during interaction with a man it’s a signal that she is sexually interested in him. The woman in the painting’s hair is all wild and free, spread out over the bedding. A proper woman would have her hair covered with a scarf or tied up. So while the nudity was fine with art patrons, the unrestrained hair was not.
Indigent Family 1865 William by Adolphe Bouguereau Indigent Family (next slide) shows a woman with three children who are apparently homeless and in dire straights. The man of the family may be dead, in jail, or perhaps pressed into military service leaving his family to fend for themselves. They sit against a large building that the artists has left ambiguous as to what type of structure it may be. It could be a church, a government building, or even a bank. Those three possibilities would reflect the three groups buying art; the Church, the state, and the wealthy. This painting must be seen as social commentary, highlighting the plight of the indigent poor. The artist is calling on all three of the afore mentioned groups to do something to help them. At this time the Church did quite a lot to help poor people, using donations from the wealthy. The government offered little if any assistance. Of course, when government does get involved in programs for poor it’s funded with tax dollars taken from the rich so they always wind up paying.
Indigent Family 1865 by William Adolphe Bouguereau
Nymphs and Satyr 1873 by Bouguereau At first it may seem odd that the same artist who did Indigent Family with its strong social commentary could also produce a piece such as this, which uses mythological themes as an excuse to portray nude women for the enjoyment of male art patrons. But its not hard to understand that the paintings with a social conscience didn’t sell very well. Who would buy art that was often critical of their social group? This painting would sell quickly, allowing the artist to survive and do the other paintings to satisfy himself. Note the classic image of the satyr from Greek mythology, with small horns and goat’s legs. He has stumbled into “nymph central” with four of them (rendered to look more human than mythical) wrestling with him. On gestures for help from an even larger group of nymphs close by. Their aim is to have sex with him but note how the satyr struggles to get away. He knows that if they have their way with him, he will not survive the encounter. In the days before racy magazines and movies on late-night cable channels, paintings such as this were intended to satisfy the desire for images of attractive, naked women.
Prof. Thomas Eakins Thomas Eakins was not only a successful painter, he was also an art professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia. He was a controversial educator who admitted minority students (starting just a few years after the end of the Civil War when prejudice was rampant) and women to his classes. It was the latter who finally did him in as many people were horrified at the notion of virginal (assumed in that Victorian Age) young women gazing at nude male models in painting classes. Forced to resign in disgrace, Eakins suffered because of the notoriety and didn’t achieve the fame he deserved until after his death.
The Gross Clinic 1875 by Eakins This is Eakins’ most famous piece. It depicts Dr. Gross, a professor of surgery at the medical school in Philadelphia, instructing students. A dedicated realist, Eakins has captured the horror and emotion of 19 th century surgery. Note the lack of gowns, masks, and hair coverings on the surgeons. They didn’t even know they should wash their hands. Medical science at this time was unaware of bacteria and the need for cleanliness. The image is brutal in its realism and most people were uncomfortable with it. It hung for decades at the medical school until being sold to a museum being built in Bentonville, Arkansas for $68,000,000. The people of Philadelphia were outraged at the painting leaving that city (and going to… ARKANSAS!) that the school reneged on the deal and sold it instead to a consortium of PA buyers.
Before the Operation 1887 by Henri Gervex While the subject matter is similar to Eakins’ painting, the treatment and execution are vastly different. Whereas Eakins’ painting was stark in its realism, this one is really little more than an excuse for depicting a nude woman. Notice the “patient’s” hair. See the similarity to the woman seen in Courbet’s Woman with a Parrot ? In this case the hair was clearly meant to be sexually suggestive as that was the purpose for the painting.
Henry Rush Carving his Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River by Eakins 1877 Realist artists like Courbet and Eakins would insist on working from models for realistic human figures. However, the idea of naked models offends many people and some wish to stop the practice. Even today, some parts of the United States are dominated by religious beliefs that drive people to strenuously oppose artists working from nude models. It was no different in the late 19 th century. Thomas Eakins did this painting showing the sculptor Henry Rush working in his studio to address the concerns raised by some regarding the use of models in art. In the scene the artist works while the model poses. Nothing inappropriate is occurring. The older woman seated near the model is either the artist’s wife or the model’s mother (most likely the latter) and she becomes the chaperone in the image, guaranteeing that nothing inappropriate happens. One question. Why is the model nude when the sculptural figure Rush is working on is clothed?
Henry Rush Carving his Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River by Eakins 1877
Impressionism If I wanted an exact reproduction I’d buy a camera and take a photo of it. Don’t draw what you see… draw what you feel. -Anonymous drawing instructor who favored the Impressionist style.
Pointillism is the technique of making painted image with countless dots rather than with brush strokes. Georges Seurat was the leading proponent of this style of painting and Sunday on Le Grande Jatte is his most recognized work. However, there is another painting done at the same time that is really meant to go with this one and they should be seen as a set to understand the social commentary contained in the works. A Bathing Place shows a scene from the same river as viewed in Sunday on Le Grande Jatte . Sunday on Le Grande Jatte depicts wealthy people recreating by the riverbank. They are recognizable as aristocratic by their fine dress as well as their rigid posture and measured behavior. The most deplorable thing to the aristocracy was wild or uncouth behavior in public. Indeed, the woman on the right holds a small monkey on a leash. The monkey symbolizes wild and rash behavior but she controls these urges and keeps them in check as represented by the leash. A Bathing Place shows the more casual and relaxed working class. They are a couple miles downstream from where the previous scene was based. In the background can be a seen a factory built along the river. It was common before the introduction of environmental protection laws for factories to dump waste into rivers. Since the working class people are downstream, they are swimming in toxic waste while the wealthy folks remain safely upstream from the pollutants. The poor suffered much higher rates of cancer and perhaps Seurat was suggesting why with this painting.
Sunday on Le Grande Jatte 1884 by Georges Seurat
Paul Gauguin was a Parisian stockbroker who dreamed of being a painter. One year after moving with his wife and five children to Copenhagen, Denmark to work in a brokerage house, he abandoned his family there and returned to Paris to pursue his painting career. He became known as a leading painter in the Post-Impressionist style. Over the next several years he painted scenes such as seen in the next slide. But he found the current style and subject matter of European art to be uninspiring so he went to Tahiti. Apparently he enjoyed the more relaxed and sexually casual attitude in this island paradise (remember that this is where syphilis originated due to the sexual permissiveness of the culture) and he is most famous for his paintings of island girls like the one in the slide following the next slide. Gauguin dumped his family and fled the morally uptight society of Europe for the sexually liberated women in Tahiti but there’s an old saying about “pay-backs.” Gauguin died of syphilis at the age of 54. At the time of his death Gauguin was under prison sentence for sedition against the colonial government. Apparently the numerous underage sex partners Gauguin had in Tahiti (two of his three known illegitimate children were born to Tahitian mothers, the third to a German woman he had an affair with before leaving France) didn’t concern the government but speaking out against its rule did draw the attention of the authorities.
Portrait with Bandaged Ear 1889 by Vincent van Gogh Certainly one of the most interesting stories in art has to be that of van Gogh. He never realized success in his lifetime, selling only one painting and relying on financial help from his family to survive, he would become one of the most famous and celebrated artists in history…after his death. Not having any more luck in love than he did in art, van Gogh’s most notorious act, that of severing his own ear, was done to impress a woman for whom he had unrequited feelings. When he was invited to a dinner party where a woman he longed for was in attendance with her date, van Gogh shot himself at the dinner table. He wasn’t very good at suicide either shooting himself in the stomach. He did eventually die from the wound, after suffering in agony for three days. The artist had a relationship with a local prostitute. Lacking cash, she accepted drawings and paintings in payment for her services. After van Gogh’s death, when his work became popular and valuable, she sold the pieces for a fortune.
Three Sunflowers in a Vase 1888 by van Gogh Van Gogh is famous for his paintings of sunflowers, with a large number of very similar looking images being done. One of these sunflower paintings held the record for the highest price ever paid for a single artwork when it sold at auction for nearly $50,000,000.
Vase With Five Sunflowers 1888 Van Gogh I think this is the painting that sold for the huge sum of money. But I am not 100% certain, and really, since they are all so similar does it really matter which one it was?
Portrait of Dr. Gachet 1890 by van Gogh The madness continued in 1990 when a Japanese businessman paid $82,000,000 for this painting. The great irony is that an artist who struggled financially, never achieved fame and success during his lifetime, and lived and died in abject poverty should be one to have his paintings fetch such astronomical prices. It should be noted that when paintings begin fetching these astronomical prices, the cease being put on public display since they are far to valuable to risk. They are kept in protective containers locked in bank vaults until they are taken out to be sold again. Except when being offered at auction these paintings never see the light of day.
The Banjo Lesson 1893 by Henry O. Tanner Tanner was the first black American artist to achieve success. Most of his paintings are of familial scenes such as this one and the one seen in the following slide. This painting slightly reminiscent of the Louis Le Naine piece we saw earlier called Peasant Family . Perhaps Tanner intended a similar message, that poor people are not dangerous or suspect. Tanner was a student of Eakins.
The Cry (Scream) 1893 by Edvard Munch As we get closer to the turn of the 20 th century, art tends to become more and more about the artists. They frequently express their own feelings, fears, and opinions in their art. Munch (pronounced monk) is a case in point. He was a rather odd man with numerous idiosyncrasies not the least of which was his disturbing view of women. Nobody doubts that it is he in this famous painting screaming in fear and frustration. The next four slides are other examples of Munch’s psychosis in regards to women. In Dance of Life we see the young, attractive woman on the left wearing white, then the same woman in the middle all in red dancing with a partner, then she appears on the right looking older and dressed in black. The white is for youth, freshness, and newness. The black is for despair and impending death. But what of the red in the middle? And what’s wrong with her dance partner? He looks like a zombie. Much is offering the concept of women as vampires, draining men of their life energy.
Woman in Three Stages 1894 Munch Showing the same person multiple times in the same image to symbolize change, such as aging, is an old trick in art. Here Munch uses it to illustrate his vision of women. On the left the woman is young and pretty; innocent and benign. Then she becomes a sexual creature; alluring and ready to use sex to destroy men. At the right she is old and hollow looking. Meanwhile, a man enters the room who looks like a walking zombie, likely a victim of the woman’s evil actions. This is not the product of a healthy mind.
Death of Marat 1897 Munch The neoclassical painter David painted the death of Marat as a symbol of the death of the ideals that spawned the French Revolution. Here, Munch uses a similar composition to decry the power that women hold over men. This guy needed some serious couch time.
Under the Yoke 1896 by Munch One final example from Munch. Being “under the yoke” implies that one is under the control of someone else. In this case it’s Munch being controlled and it’s a woman who has him imprisoned. Her nudity suggests that she uses sex to manipulate him and get him to do her bidding. A man who has healthy relationships with women doesn’t produce something like this.
View from his Window 1826 Joseph Niepce This photograph is grainy and not very interesting. The reason it’s included in so many art books is due to its age. It is the oldest known surviving photograph and age is one consideration in determining the value of art.
Camera Obscura Cameras have existed for a long time. Someone discovered that when light passes through an aperture (a small opening) it projects an image onto the rear of the box or room. Painters used this phenomenon to paint portraits. The model would be in the light and the artist would be in the dark with the camera obscura. The model’s image would be projected onto the canvas or paper placed in the box and the painting became a “paint by the numbers” affair. When film was invented in the early 19 th century photography was born.
Nadar Elevating Photography to Art 1862 Honore Daumier Immediately following the invention of photography the argument started over whether it could properly be called art. Opinions remain divided on this issue and one’s stance largely depends on one’s definition of art. If a liberal definition is applied, such as the instructor’s definition that “art is creative communication” then photography can certainly be considered art. Others disagree, noting that “anyone can take a picture.” This is true, but such a position implies a certain amount of elitism, holding that only a select few may be artists. This satirical cartoon presents the photographer known as Nadar (pseudonym for Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) as looking like a buffoon as he floats above Paris (Nadar actually was a balloonist). In the city below it seems that every building is home for a photography studio, reinforcing the notion that “anyone can take a picture.”
Galloping Horse 1878 Eadweard Muybridge Photographer Muybridge was approached by two men who wanted him to settle a bet. They disagreed over whether a horse leaves the ground when running but were unable to decide the issue based on observations with the naked eye. The horse’s legs simply moved too fast to determine if it completely left the ground during its stride. Mubridge agreed to use the camera to freeze the horse in action and decide the winner of the bet. Using single-frame cameras, Muybridge set up multiple cameras along the race track. His ground-breaking technique revealed that a horse does indeed “fly” as it runs and his innovative technique would influence modern motion pictures, as well. Muybridge eventually devised a means of running the individuals photos at speed, creating a very crude motion picture. His concept of multiple cameras is a technique still used in Hollywood filmmaking and he had a profound effect on that art form and revolutionized motion photography.
Horse Race c. 1810 Theodore Gericault The debate about photography being art continues, but there is no question that photography affected art and artists. Prior to Muybridge’s photos of animals in motion, painters routinely depicted horses as seen in this painting, with all four legs simultaneously outstretched (called the “rocking horse pose”). The problem is, a horse never looks like this as it runs and the painters realized it when they saw Muybridge’s photos. The practice of depicting horses in this fashion was abandoned as a result
Animals in Motion Series Muybridge After settling the running horse question, Muybridge became fascinated with motion photography using multiple cameras. He photographed many different animals walking, running and jumping and he also enlisted the aid of friends willing to pose for him. He published numerous books of his work and some are still being printed to this day. This series of photos show a woman doing a mundane motion which was photographed from three sides using a total of 36 cameras. This technique inspired the Hollywood filmmakers to use multiple cameras to create the stop-action effect seen in many action films.
Pole Vaulter 1884 Thomas Eakins Some painters became photographers after using cameras to improve their painting. Photos can be used to stop the action and allow an artist to render scenes that would be impossible for a model to pose. Painter Eakins used the multiple exposure technique to create the photo at right. The athlete made his leap in a darkened room as Eakins fired nine flashbulbs in quick succession. Each time a flash fired, an image was made on a single piece of film.
Sometimes photographers must be willing to go to great lengths, or even put themselves in harm’s way to get the desired shot. Here we see famous photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White perched on one of the gargoyle-like eagles projecting from the Chrysler Building in New York City. She is about 700 feet above the ground in this photo.
There are essentially two types of photography. The first is journalistic, in which people, things and events are recorded and presented as they were observed by the photographer. Journalistic photos should not be edited, altered or arranged to create something that did not actually exist. Art photography is a different situation and anything may be done to or with the image to achieve the desired effect. Events can be staged, scenes can be altered, the lighting can be manipulated and any of countless other aspects of the photo may be affected. The film or the print may be manipulated or processed to attain a specific look. In effect, anything goes with art photos. Not so with journalistic shots which are expected to accurately represent the subject. Alexander Gardner’s famous photo from the Gettysburg Battle Site (next slide) was offered by the photographer as a journalistic shot accurately depicting a scene following the battle. But it’s not. The shot was staged by Gardner who liked the rocky location but wanted visual evidence that it was the site of fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. He had Union Soldiers carry the body of a fallen Confederate trooper to the location. When Gardner realized he needed the dead soldier’s weapon in the shot to enhance the effect, a Union soldier leaned his rile on the rock as the Rebel’s gun was not located. People familiar with firearms recognized the rifle as a Northern weapon and Gardner’s deception was exposed. The photo remains a powerful and dramatic commentary on the terrible waste of war, but it is an art photo and not journalistic as he first claimed. Although earlier conflicts were photographed, the American Civil War was the first war to be extensively photographed. Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter 1863 Alexander Gardner
Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter 1863 Alexander Gardner
The power of the photograph is to make people, places and events visual. Humans are visually oriented, and we rely on our vision more than we do on our other senses. Actually seeing something makes it more real, more tangible than merely hearing or reading about it. This power is well known to advertisers and news reporters. The next photo on depicts the aftermath of a tragic fire at a clothing manufacturing company in New York City that occurred in 1911. Employees were trapped in the burning building because managers had locked escape doors to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and 146 people, mostly immigrant women, died as a result. Most of the victims died after jumping from high windows as the smoke and flames reached them. The image of the street strewn with bodies shocked New Yorkers as they read their morning papers the next day. If the photo hadn’t been available, the story would not have carried nearly as much weight as it did. It would be surprising if this shocking photograph didn’t cause the city to enact worker safety and protection laws. Triangle Shirtwaist Co. 1911
LBJ sworn in on board Air Force One 11/22/63 On November 22, 1963, president John Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas. Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn as president within hours of the assassination with Mrs. Kennedy standing beside him. The ceremony was unnecessary as the vice president assumes the office at the moment of the president’s death. But Johnson wanted the photos of the ceremony broadcast around the world to show that he was now in charge and that the government was functioning. He wanted Mrs. Kennedy at his side because during the Kennedy Administration Americans were accustomed to seeing her standing next to the president. Now she stood next to the new one. She still wears clothing splattered with her late husband’s blood.
The Steerage 1907 Alfred Stieglitz This photo is hailed by art critics and art historians as one of the greatest photographs ever made. The instructor admits to not really understanding this as it doesn’t do much for him and he actually finds it rather mundane.
Interior by Jerry Uelsmann Uelsmann manipulates the image in the darkroom, often by combining two different negatives to achieve strange looking, somewhat surreal results.
Dogs Are… William Wegman Wegman discovered that his dog enjoyed being photographed and he has made a career of taking photos of her and descendents. These images also border on the surreal but are at the same time humorous rather than threatening as surrealism can sometimes become.