Exploring Art:A Global,
A Human Phenomenon
“Art is a primarily visual media that is used to
express ideas about our human experience and the
world around us.”
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.
Visual form includes:
Formal elements—line, shape, color, texture,
mass, volume, space etc.
Overall composition—arrangement of the
formal elemenst—size, balance etc.
Olowe of Ise. Veranda Post: Female Caryatid and
Equestrian Figure, Yoruba, Before 1938. Wood. Pigment;
H. 71 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. See a
different view in the textbook.
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, ca.
175 CE. Bronze, approx. 11’6” high.
Musei Capitolini, Rome.
The original function of both works of art is the same -- to reinforce or
assert authority. In museums today, their function is to educate the public
about other cultures, to provide visual pleasure, and to entertain.
Notice the differences in visual form -- the materials, the formal elements
and the overall compositions.
Content—mass of associated ideas
Surroundings where it is used/displayed
Customs, beliefs, values of the culture that
Writings that help explain the work
Sandro Botticelli. Birth of Venus, ca.1482. Tempera on
canvas. Appx. 5’8” X 9’1”. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Pablo Picasso. Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. Oil
on canvas. 8’ X 7’8”. The Museum of Modern Art,
Content multiple figures—female nudity
Both—balanced side to side with figure in the middle
However, much content is not readily apparent and requires deeper study
Aesthetics—a branch of philosophy that deals with art, its
sources, its forms and its effects on individuals and
CREATING ART. Creating art involves the
processes of visual perception, human
response, and creativity and expression.
Artist’s response to the world
Artistic expression and creativity
Zen Stone Garden. Kamakura Period. Daitokuji Temple, Kyoto.
Meaning—to aid quiet meditation, which Buddhists believe is essential for spiritual growth.
White rocks—cosmic boid—emptiness of mind—flow of water—a journey, etc.
Dark rocks—material substances and worldly events
The Zen Stone Garden represents the artist’s response to the
spiritual and natural world.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Genesis, 1993 mixed media 5x 8 1/3’
Artistic creativity—preserving old forms (native American
creation myths), glorifying the buffalo. Blending traditional
native imagery and mythology into 20th
C. art style.
CATEGORIES OF VISUAL ARTS
Placing visual images in categories helps to analyze
and understand them. While not all societies and
cultures think about art the same, it is useful to
think about art as
popular art, kitsch,
and craft art.
Theodore Gericault. The Raft of the Medusa, 1819. Oil on canvas, 16’1” X 24”1’. Louvre, Paris.
Since 1800, Fine Art included painting, sculpture and architecture—
influenced by Greek, Roman and Italian Renaissance art. This painting
horrified the public because it was too realistic, too lifelike…not
Major shift in
Cezanne, Landscape at Aix, Mount Sainte-Victoire, 1905
C. Fine Art broke conventions in the way that space and
form are depicted—fractured, disjointed.
Popular culture—magazines, comics, TV, Ads, folk art, tattoos,
customized cars, graffiti, video games, posters, websites,
calendars, cards, dolls, …
Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo, 2001
Murakami’s work is a blend of U.S. and Japanese fine art,
popular culture, and anime and always reflects a self-
Tim Hawkinson. Bear. 2005. 20 feet tall,
370,000 lbs. Stuart Collection. University
of California at San Diego.
Cross between teddy bear and
Stonehenge—there is and interesting
association between the surfaces of a toy
bear and ancient stones.
Kitsch (subcategory of popular culture)—display and
emotional appeal that is generalized, superficial and
sentimental—not original experience, uniquely felt emotion
or thoughtful, introspective moment.
Art can also be categorized
according to its “style.”
INSERT BREUGEL’S LITTLE
BOUQUET, IMAGE NO. 1-11 IN
LAZZARI 2e; FIGURE NO. 15-
Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, 1897
Naturalistic—recognizable imagery depicted as seen in nature
Representational—contains entities from the world in
Equestrian statue of Marcus
Aurelius, ca. 175 CE. Bronze,
approx. 11’6” high.
His large size and dignified
gestures are ingredients for an
Idealized—natural imagery modified to obtain perfection within
the bounds of the values and aesthetics of a particular
In African figurative
sculpture it is common to see
oversized heads in idealized
imagery (often divided into
thirds: 1/3 head, 2/3 body
Kandinsky, Last Judgment, 1912
Expressive (expressionist)—heightened emotions, sense of
urgency/spontaneity—often appear bold and immediate (rather
than carefully considered)
Classical—orderly, balanced, clear, well proportioned
vertically and horizontally (opposite of expressive)
Classical also describes a point in the evolution of styles:
classical works represent the full development of a certain
style, in contrast to its early formative stage.
Meret Oppenheim. Object 1936. Fur-lined cup, saucer and spoon. The Museum of Modern Art, NY
Surreal…bizarre/fantastic arrangement of images—tapping
into the unconscious mind.
The title in French means Luncheon in Fur which could
refer to luxury or sexuality, and yet humor is also a
prominent part of the piece.
Frank Stella, Abra III, 1698
Nonobjective (nonrepresentational) art contains imagery that
is completely generated by the artist. Stella focuses on the
interrelation between colors and shapes—nothing else beyond
what a person sees while looking at the painting.
Abstracted imagery man or may not be recognizable—but it has
been derived from reality by distorting, enlarging and/or
dissecting objects/figures from nature.
Cultural styles are distinctive features of art
that emanate from a particular place and era.
Similarities among art works are found in
Cultural styles evolve over time and with
changes in circumstances such as religion,
historical events, trade and so on.
Grand Mosque. 1906-1907.
Both of these structures are Mosques. The differences in architectural
style can be described as cultural style.
Badshahi Mosque, main
entrance. 1672-1674. Lahore,
The artists’ style is the distinguishing
characteristic of one artist’s work.
Individual artists’ styles are strongly
influenced by their culture and environment.
Some artists seek to develop their own
Van Gogh’s personal style
Thick paint with broad areas of strong colors
Using a palette knife, he applied paint quickly
Defined forms with bold lines around and through them
Although a unique style—he shares attributes with other
artists of his time including Paul Gauguin. Many artists at
this time applied paint in a direct, bold manner. They
often chose subjects from everyday life. The usually
painted in oil and used bright-colored thick paint
Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Mme. Ginoux
Paul Gauguin. Woman in a cofeehouse. Madame Ginoux in the
Café de la Gare in Arles. 1888.
Compare the individual artist styles of van Gogh and Gauguin.