Animals appear in art in every culture, in forms both real and imagined.
Animals were likely the subjects of human’s first drawings.
Humans have recorded animal likeness and have invented bizarre creatures from parts of other living beings.
They are the product of human imagination, fear, and desire.
These creatures still feed popular imagination today, as mermaids, giant insects, and werewolves thrive in film and popular fiction.
The limestone “Relief”, dated sixth century BCE, comes from the Olmec culture of ancient Mexico, which produced many instances of animal imagery that combine natural and fantastic elements.
Here, a warrior or priest is seated and wearing an elaborate jaguar-serpent helmet with the extended jaw of the creature forming the chinstrap. Towering over him is a large serpent with heavy brows and a crest like some sort of imaginary bird.
The animal attributes projects the man as well as combine with him to create heightened powers
“ Relief”, la venta (Mexico), 6 th century BCE
Another fantastic creature that was very well known during the medieval times in literature was the unicorn.
“ The unicorn in captivity”, shows the unicorn as a brilliant white horse captured in a paradise garden, surrounded by an abundance of decorative flowers and plants. It is also surrounded by an fence, wears a jeweled collar, and is chained to a tree.
The unicorn represents at least two different sets of meanings. One is that Jesus, believed to be the source of spiritual life, who was hunted by man, brutally killed, and then rose back to life. The second represents true love in the age of chivalry, with the unicorn (Man) induring terrible ordeals to win his beloved for which the collar is represented as a chain of love. Mentioned in medieval allegories as a sign that a gentleman submits to his lady’s will.
A landscape image is different from actually outdoors.
Landscape images are composed translations of reality that often have deeper social or religious meaning.
In China and Japan, landscape paintings were really popular among the upper- and middle-class urban populations, especially in noisy polluted areas.
Landscape paintings were particularly common in the United States and Europe in the nineteenth century.
Landscapes tended to have a nationalistic look. Ex: German landscapes sometimes were marked by melancholy or morbidity. English landscapes however, tended to emphasize the open-air expansiveness of farm scenes.
“ The Haywain”, England, 1821
Claude Monet is especially well known for his paintings of nature. He painted almost exclusively outdoors to capture the subtle qualities of light and reflection, and even planted his own water garden at his home in France which he then painted in “Water Lily Pool”.
In his later career, his paintings approached abstraction, as brush strokes became more important than imagery.
Flowers and Gardens
Art gives us framed, composed, distilled, and transcendent images of flowers.
Gardens are living sculptures, exotic refuges arranged for human enjoyment.
Water is frequently a central motif in a garden of any size.
Flowers are sources of beauty and vehicles for greater understanding.
In Japan, flower arranging is considered an important art form, on the level of painting calligraphy, and pottery.
Flower painting were particularly popular in China, Japan And also in the west.
Left: “Apricot Blossoms” By Ma Yuan
Right: “Little Bouquet in a Clay
Jar” By Jan Bruegel
Gardens were very popular among the ruling classes of Persia, central Asia, and Mughal India, all areas under Islamic rulers.
In Japan there are different traditions for gardens. One kind is planned around a pond of lake, and features rocks, winding paths, and bridges to delight the views with ever changing vistas.
Earthworks and site pieces
The earth itself is sculptural material. Hundreds of years ago, native peoples of North America used dirt to construct large ceremonial mounds.
Contemporary earthworks are large-scale environmental pieces in which the earth itself is an important component. Earthwork artists not only use natural materials but also are responsive to their sites.
The monumental scale of their work is an attribute of both ancient and modern art.
Artist who deal with the land and with landscape often have ecological concerns as part of their motivation to make art.
Left: “Serpent Mound”
Center: “The Lightning Field”
Right: “Spiral Jetty”
Humans systematically study and examine the world in an attempt to understand its course.
There are numerous examples of art that illustrate a specific body of knowledge.
In 1543, Andres Vesalius published “ De Humani Corporis Fabirca” a study of bones, muscles, and internal organs based on the dissection of human bodies, which is considered the beginning of modern science.
Drawings in the service of science continue to be made. Even though photography might seem to be an adequate substitute for them, artist drawings can emphasize details that either do not stand out in photographs or become lost in the wealth of detail.
Medical books are still enhanced with drawings, and medical illustrations are essential aids for study. Drawings also are sued in studies of plants and insects and for very small items.
Art and Intuited Knowledge
for humans, the “world” consists not only of the external environmental but also of the internal realm of the mind and the metaphysical world.
Art also deals with knowledge that humans can intuitively grasp without necessarily being able to articulate it. This kind of knowing is the product of dreams, visions, and speculative guessing. It is not systematic, organized, or scientific.
Surrealism was an early-twentieth-century art movement in Europe and the U.S. that explored the unconscious, especially through dream imagery. Surrealism developed in part as a reaction to increased industrialization.
Surrealism posited that this unconscious or dream world is at least as, or probably more important than, the ordered and regimented external world in which humans function.
Ex: Watches are devices of knowing and a means of maintaining external order, however in Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, he presents watches that are limp and useless. The landscape streches out, vast and empty. Nothing really makes “Sense”. Yet he painted it with rigorous detail and convincing realism.
The Critique of learning
“ Gods of the modern world (Shown below) is a strong critique of sterile knowledge. It is a warning against the academic who is completely occupied with research or learning that has no value outside academia.
Orozco believes that sterile education passes for knowledge, but it actually keeps the young busy without giving them any real wisdom or understanding.
When we consider technology today, we most likely think of the world since the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century and more recent developments in transportation, manufacturing, and communication.
Technology advanced rapidly in the early twentieth century, causing cities to expand and producing structures in shapes and sizes never seen before. This inspired many artist.
Among them was Fernand Leger. His painting “The City” was a tribute to geometric industrial structures and the efficiency and precision of machines. All which stuck him as forms of beauty.
David Smith’s “Cubi XXVI” is abstract art imitating some qualities of machines. Smith used industrial fabrication to create this stainless steel sculpture and others in the series. He learned all this technology as a factory worker.
Evaluating the constructed world
These are some artists who presented technology to us in a way that makes clear its mixed impact.
“ The fighting Temeraire tugged to “Homage in New York” By Jean Tinguely
her last breath to be broken up” By Joseph Malord William Turner
“ Megatron” By Nam June Paik
This piece and others by Paik are about the act of perception, how reality is presented, and how we as viewers reintegrate the random images. Paik sees his piece as a creative way of thinking about the reshaping of our lives and becoming engaged in the diversity and variety in contemporary culture.