How Art Works: Week 2 What is Art made of?


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Art history, Formal analysis

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How Art Works: Week 2 What is Art made of?

  1. 1. How Art Works What is Art made of? Week 2
  2. 2. Connoisseurship: an art historical method that relies on the recognition of elements of an artist's personal style Traditional art history: Traditionally the study of art history involved a formal approach New Art History: a revisionist approach to art history that emerged during the 1970s that questions earlier methodologies or approaches to art history Canon: those works of art considered to be most important, usually those studied in art history survey classes Recap of key terms
  3. 3. Art History’s methods • Introduce methodological debates within art history • Provides a sense of art history’s own history as a discipline from its emergence in the late-eighteenth century • Introduce the underlying philosophical and political assumptions behind each method • Improve your ability to write about visual things • I will explain the most common types of analysis used by art historians and a little bit about how these methods developed What is distinctive about art objects as opposed to ordinary objects?
  4. 4. Paul Gauguin. (Tahitian Women [On the Beach]) 1891; Oil on canvas, 69 x 91 cm (27 1/8 x 35 7/8 in); Musee d'Orsay, Paris Formal Analysis Formal analysis is the fundamental form of writing about art In a strict formal analysis, no other information is required besides that which you can see, and while some knowledge of the subject matter helps, your focus should be on the visual elements of a work.
  5. 5. • What does the artwork depict? (landscape, image, design and so on) • What materials does the artist use? • Is there a significance to using paint rather than sculpture? • Does this work fit a certain style? • Does the artist use symbolism in the work? Is there anything in the work that makes you think of something else or means something more abstract? Formal Analysis
  6. 6. Formal Analysis Formal analysis is a specific type of visual description. It is an explanation of visual structure, of the ways in which certain visual elements have been arranged and function within a composition. Strictly speaking, subject is not considered and neither is historical or cultural context.
  7. 7. The Knowing Gaze: The shifting role of the connoisseur and connoisseurship in art and its histories Art-historical connoisseurship: the endeavour to identify artworks by time, culture and authorship. The essential goal of art-historical connoisseurship is to establish so far as possible the work-identifying facts of production (who? when? where?). Aesthetic connoisseurship: commonly designates the cultivation of discriminating appreciation of works (and other things) in general, quite apart from the specifically art-historical authentication enterprise. Its essential target is the aesthetically good, not the art-historically authentic.
  8. 8. Formal analysis and connoisseurship William Hogarth The Dance / The Happy Marriage VI: The Country Dance (c.1745). This scene was used to illustrate The Analysis of Beauty.
  9. 9. Artist’s identity
  10. 10. New Art History Essentially new art history takes into account other perspectives and broaden discussions of art to involve other social or psychological or personal factors which might influence the production of art, it does not focus specifically on beauty and identity.
  11. 11. The Canon As art historians recognise that society is becoming increasingly global the art history canon has grown to include works from non-Western cultures for example Chinese art, African tribal art, South Eastern Asian art, Native American art and so on.
  12. 12. • Do works of art provide us with knowledge that is significantly different from that offered elsewhere? • What kinds of knowledge could be provided by constructing a history of such phenomena? • What would a history of such objects consist of? • What significance would it have?
  13. 13. Works or art and media rarely “speak” to everyone universally Millais, Ophelia (1851-52, Tate London Oil on canvas) Meanings are produced through a complex social relationship that involves at least two elements besides the image itself and its producer: • how the viewers interpret or experience the image • the context in which an image is seen.
  14. 14. Aesthetics and Taste Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with art, or more generally with "taste, or of the perception of the beautiful". Johannes Vermeer The Pearl Earring (1666-67, The Hague, oil on canvas)
  15. 15. Art History and its methods The history of image production in Western culture can be viewed in four periods: • ancient art produced prior to the development of perspective in 1425 • the age of perspective until the era of the mechanical, including the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Romantic periods • the modern era of technical developments with the rise of mechanization and the Industrial Revolution • the postmodern era of electronic technology
  16. 16. From Antiquity to the Renaissance Art has not always been what we think it is today. An object regarded as art today may not have been perceived as such when it was first made, nor was the person who made it necessarily regarded as an artist. Both the terms art and artist are relatively modern terms.
  17. 17. Art History of the Renaissance Jan Van Eyke, The Arnolfini Wedding, (1434, oil on wood panel, National Gallery London) Vitruvian Man, Leonardo Da Vinci, (c.1485-90, pen and ink with wash over metal point on paper, Venice, Italy) With the Renaissance art becomes a subject in its own right. There emerged a more elevated perception of art, and at the same time the rise in the social status of the artist. Giotto, The Deposition, (c1304, fresco, Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy)
  18. 18. 16th and 17th c The changing role of the artist  Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, 1568.  He believed that the artist was no longer just a member of a crafts guild.  The artist was an equal in the courts of Europe with scholars, poets, and humanists. Therefore, the artist should be recognized and rewarded for his unique artistic technique Pontormo, Deposition from the Cross, (c.1526-8,oil on panel, Church of Santa Felicita, Florence)
  19. 19. Apollo Belvedere Beauty: order, proportion, harmony and grace The concept of beauty has probably been written about more than any other aspect of the visual arts. In the 16th, 17th and 18th c the term was used to describe characteristic in nature which singled out the parts of the some individuals (whether plants, animals or humans) as more striking and perfect than those of others. Since no individuals are perfect in every aspect of the form, it was open to the artists to select the most beautiful parts from a number of individuals and combine them into a single one, thus producing an image of ideal as opposed to natural beauty. Because of this art was considered to be superior to nature.
  20. 20. 18th c Ekphrasis: the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art Francois Boucher Diane Bathing (1742, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris)
  21. 21. 19th c The study of history in the 19c was characterised by two very different approaches of empiricism and idealism. Empiricism is the view that all knowledge derives from experiment. It is also used as a synonym for scientific method, that is induction, starting with the facts as opposed to deduction, starting with an idea or principle.
  22. 22. The opposite of this approach was idealism, that ideas underlie all of reality Van Gogh, Starry Night, (1889, MOMA New York, oil on canvas)
  23. 23. 20th c The character of the period of modern art marks a fundamental break with the past. With modernism, art historians were confronted with a movement which was not the result of a slow rise to prominence over centuries, new art could no longer be seen as the next stage in a broader development.
  24. 24. Tools of the Trade Formal Analysis • Translating something from a visual language to a textual language is one of the most vital tasks of the art historian • Most art historians at some point describe at some point describe fully and accurately their objects of study in order to communicate their ideas about them • Think of the object as a series of decisions that an artist made • Your job is to figure out and describe, explain, and interpret those decisions and why the artist may have made them.
  25. 25. Formal Analysis Summarize the overall appearance, then describe the details of the object • describe the composition and then move on to a description of the materials used (acrylic, watercolor, plaster) • begin discussing one side of the work and then move across the object to the other side • describe things in the order in which they draw your eye around the object, starting with the first thing you notice and moving to the next • Begin your formal analysis with pure description, describe your object and explain how these formal elements contribute to the work as a whole. Then go further and comment on the significance of what you have observed.