Introduction to Art History

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Provides overview of principles of art, sculpture, and architecture, methods of analysis, and basics of composition.

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Introduction to Art History

  1. 1. Art and Its History Why Study the Subject?
  2. 2. Art in Context: The Humanities <ul><li>Art belongs to the field </li></ul><ul><li>It provides the context for the other humanities from a visual perspective </li></ul><ul><li>We may know the about the Iliad from Homer’s epic poems </li></ul><ul><li>But we can’t identify with the Battle of Troy without images (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Or their heroes like Achilles (lower left) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Humanities <ul><li>The Study of the Human Condition </li></ul><ul><li>What is the human condition? </li></ul><ul><li>We remember the past </li></ul><ul><li>We imagine the future </li></ul><ul><li>We have emotions </li></ul><ul><li>We can reason </li></ul><ul><li>We know we will die </li></ul>
  4. 4. Taxonomy: We are Homo sapiens <ul><li>We are the only human species worldwide </li></ul><ul><li>We can think </li></ul><ul><li>We can communicate using language </li></ul><ul><li>We can make and manipulate object </li></ul><ul><li>So we can paint, write, perform </li></ul><ul><li>We are bipedal </li></ul>
  5. 5. What Goes into Humanities? Language <ul><li>Language is the backbone of the humanities </li></ul><ul><li>Cuneiform (left) was invented in the Near East. </li></ul><ul><li>Classical Languages are key to understanding the Greeks and the Romans </li></ul><ul><li>Latin was used by medieval churchmen </li></ul><ul><li>Written language (poetry, novels, drama) </li></ul><ul><li>No language, no humanities </li></ul>
  6. 6. What Goes Into Humanities: History <ul><li>Humanities appeals to the past </li></ul><ul><li>Traditionally, scholars have to know their classical history </li></ul><ul><li>Systematic study of the families, societies and the great men (sometimes women) </li></ul><ul><li>Today, history is more of a social science with a dimension of time </li></ul><ul><li>Santayana: “Who ignores the past is doomed to repeat it.” </li></ul><ul><li>Faulkner: “The past is never dead: it isn’t even past.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. What Goes Into Humanities: Classics <ul><li>Western Societies: The Greeks and the Romans </li></ul><ul><li>The philosophers: Plato (the ideal form) and Aristotle (empirical observation) </li></ul><ul><li>The Playwrights: Sophocles, Virgil, Horace the satirist. </li></ul><ul><li>Homer, the epic poet </li></ul><ul><li>Mesopotamia: the epic of Gilgamesh, killing the Bull of Heaven </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt: The Book of the Dead (Last Judgment) </li></ul><ul><li>China: Confucius; Lao Tzu on the Tao </li></ul><ul><li>Tibet: Its own Book of the Dead (karma) </li></ul>
  8. 8. What Goes Into Humanities: Law <ul><li>Law comprise rules the govern human behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Found where there are states: </li></ul><ul><li>The power holders make them; </li></ul><ul><li>The police and army enforce them </li></ul><ul><li>Law is also based on philosophy; </li></ul><ul><li>Values generate law </li></ul><ul><li>This relief embodies law: </li></ul><ul><li>Hammurabi the Lawgiver on the U.S. Supreme Court </li></ul>
  9. 9. What Goes into Humanities: Religion I <ul><li>Concerns the supernatural: </li></ul><ul><li>Things and events beyond the five senses </li></ul><ul><li>Goes back to the Neolithic and beyond to animism </li></ul><ul><li>Half the world’s religions began with the patriarch Abraham </li></ul><ul><li>Who formed the root of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam </li></ul><ul><li>This symbology, too, is art </li></ul>
  10. 10. What Goes into Humanities: Religion II <ul><li>Many are derived from the East with the doctrine of samsara (illusion), karma (consequences of past acts), and nirvana (liberation from samsara): Hinduism and Buddhism </li></ul><ul><li>Includes the question: where do we go after we die—the fundamental question of mortality </li></ul><ul><li>Including—what else—The Judgment (left) </li></ul>
  11. 11. What Goes into Humanities: Philosophy <ul><li>Philosophy means “Love of Knowledge.” </li></ul><ul><li>It asks who we are, what and how we know </li></ul><ul><li>The Greeks, especially Plato and Aristotle, founded and developed philosophy </li></ul><ul><li>Above: Scene at the Lyceum, school begun by Aristotle </li></ul>
  12. 12. What goes into Humanities: The Visual Arts <ul><li>Sculpture </li></ul><ul><li>Greek and Roman sculpture of the human form </li></ul><ul><li>Drawings, from sketches to hatching to use of pastels (upper left, Escher’s Drawing Hands ) </li></ul><ul><li>Paintings, involving the application of </li></ul><ul><li>a pigment within a medium and binder (glue) </li></ul><ul><li>on a surface: </li></ul><ul><li>(lower left Mona Lisa by Da Vinci) </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Music is the interpretation of sound combined into melody and harmony </li></ul><ul><li>(Such as the nine symphonies of Beethoven, above) </li></ul><ul><li>Drama: the imitation of life on stage </li></ul><ul><li>(Below: Shakespeare included many historical re-enactments on stage— </li></ul><ul><li>Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello) </li></ul><ul><li>Both composer and dramatist portrayed in artists’ conceptions </li></ul>What Goes into Humanities: Performing Arts I
  14. 14. What Goes into Humanities <ul><li>Dance: An expression of human movement on stage performance </li></ul><ul><li>Such as this ballet scene from Swan Lake </li></ul><ul><li>Or sometimes in a spiritual setting </li></ul><ul><li>Such as the Whirling Dervishes of the Sufis founded by Rumi </li></ul><ul><li>In a reaction against Muslim worldliness </li></ul>
  15. 15. What is Art For? <ul><li>We have seen ways that art fits into the humanities </li></ul><ul><li>But is there arts for art’s sake </li></ul><ul><li>The answer: it depends </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes art can be very useful for that which is not art </li></ul>
  16. 16. Records of an Unwritten Past <ul><li>Upper Paleolithic Themes </li></ul><ul><li>Animals, such as the caves of Lascaux, depict concerns of hunting </li></ul><ul><li>Women, depict erotic themes or themes of fertility </li></ul><ul><li>Left to right: Venuses of Dolni Vestonice, Czech Rep.; Willendorf, Austria, and Lespugne France, </li></ul><ul><li>Required much inference </li></ul>
  17. 17. Archaeology Plays a Major Role <ul><li>Archaeological Dating techniques: </li></ul><ul><li>Stratigraphy: identifying relative age by comparing layers </li></ul><ul><li>The lower the layer, the older its contents </li></ul><ul><li>Seriation: identifying relative age by art styles, such as pottery </li></ul><ul><li>Absolute dating: dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating, others </li></ul>
  18. 18. Art as Window of Human Thought and Emotion <ul><li>One can reconstruct thought and emotion </li></ul><ul><li>Van Gogh’s self-portrait gives some clues </li></ul><ul><li>Is it a self-portrait he’s painting? </li></ul><ul><li>Clues: colors on palate, intense orange in center (color of beard), and name (Visconti) and date (’88) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Art Refers to Three Types: Painting, Sculpture <ul><li>Paintings: two-dimensional images of people or things or events </li></ul><ul><li>Derived from Latin: pingo, “I paint.” </li></ul><ul><li>Sculptures: three-dimensional images of people, things, or events </li></ul><ul><li>Derived from Latin sculpere, “to carve” </li></ul><ul><li>Both concern images (Latin imago or “likeness”) </li></ul>
  20. 20. And Architecture <ul><li>Architecture “High ( archi ) buiding ( tecture ) </li></ul><ul><li>Classic example: Parthenon dedicated to Athena, </li></ul><ul><li>Goddess of wisdom and war </li></ul>
  21. 21. Art Methodologies: Formalism <ul><li>Formalism: “Art for Art’s sake” </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis: Ideal of beauty (Plato) or of texture </li></ul><ul><li>Variation: modern art Bird by Brancusi </li></ul><ul><li>Or Furry Cup by Oppenheim </li></ul><ul><li>Both satirical formalism in reverse </li></ul>
  22. 22. Art Methodologies: Iconography <ul><li>Art for content’s sake </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Bruegel’s Tower of Babel </li></ul><ul><li>Visualizes God’s fear that men would reach heaven by this ziggurat (temple designed as tower) </li></ul><ul><li>Cloud heightens this tension </li></ul>
  23. 23. Iconology: Group of Works <ul><li>Definition: Rationale behind or interpretation of a group of works. </li></ul><ul><li>Program refers to this group </li></ul><ul><li>In Chartres Cathedral, the structure and its contents form a system of subjects within it </li></ul><ul><li>This will be illustrated in the context of Medieval architecture </li></ul>
  24. 24. Art Methodologies: Marxism <ul><li>The method applies class analysis to artistic interpretation </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasizes role of class exploitation in art </li></ul><ul><li>Again, Bruegel’s Tower portrays builders as Proletarian, God as bourgeoisie </li></ul><ul><li>Nebuchadnezzar as ruler—straw boss </li></ul>
  25. 25. Art Methodologies: Feminism <ul><li>History of art is history of patriarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Female artists not represented before the 1970 </li></ul><ul><li>Most nude themes are of women, starting with Willendorf Venus </li></ul><ul><li>Fur-covered cup is by a woman, Meret Oppenheim </li></ul><ul><li>Cup emphasizes domesticity </li></ul>
  26. 26. Art Methodologies: Autobiography and Biography <ul><li>Self-portraits are dominant; Van Gogh or Albrecht D ü rer (ca 1515) </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes family members are portrayed (Whistler’s Mother) </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of biographical portraits are infinite: check your dollar bills of any denomination </li></ul>
  27. 27. Other Methodologies <ul><li>Semiology: The study of signs </li></ul><ul><li>Structuralism: Binary opposites based on linguistics (Levi-Strauss) </li></ul><ul><li>Deconstruction: Reconstruction of meaning from symbols (text) </li></ul><ul><li>Psychoanalysis: Especially derived from Freud and the Oedipus complex </li></ul>
  28. 28. Techniques of Art: Composition <ul><li>Overall plan or structure of art </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship between the component parts is emphasized. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasizes the arrangement of the formal elements </li></ul><ul><li>Composition is distinct from content, theme, or subject matter </li></ul><ul><li>It comprises plane, balance, line, shape, color, and texture </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to pp. 18-24 of Adams text for illustrations of these principles </li></ul>
  29. 29. Plane <ul><li>Plane: a flat surface direction in space </li></ul><ul><li>Picture plane: all paintings are on a flat surface: stone wall to canvas </li></ul><ul><li>Plane of relief: surface of a relief sculpture in which an image is raised from a flat surface—stone or masonry </li></ul>
  30. 30. Balance <ul><li>There is some equilibrium in the image </li></ul><ul><li>Symmetry (bilateral symmetry): exact correspondence on either side of image (Taj Mahal, upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Asymmetrical balance; an equilibrium between two sides that are different (God as Architect, lower left) </li></ul>
  31. 31. Lines: Straight Lines <ul><li>Shortest distance between two points </li></ul><ul><li>Vertical: “Stands at attention” </li></ul><ul><li>Horizontal: Lies down </li></ul><ul><li>Diagonal: Falling over </li></ul><ul><li>Zigzag: Aggressive quality </li></ul><ul><li>Wavy and cured line; more like a human body </li></ul>
  32. 32. Line: Interpretations <ul><li>Parallel lines are harmonious </li></ul><ul><li>Perpendicular, converging, and intersecting lines: sense of force and counterforce </li></ul><ul><li>Thick lines: aggressive, forceful </li></ul><ul><li>Thin lines: delicate, even weak </li></ul><ul><li>Undulating lines: calmness, as a calm sea </li></ul><ul><li>Irregular wave imply choppiness, unsteadiness </li></ul>
  33. 33. Lines: Expressive Qualities <ul><li>Straight line: implied a sense of purpose—but also rigidity </li></ul><ul><li>Circle and curves imply facial expression: upward curves signal happiness, downward implies sadness </li></ul><ul><li>Calder’s Cat combines lines with image </li></ul>
  34. 34. Shape <ul><li>Regular shapes are geometric and have names </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: square, circle, rectangle, oval, triangle, trapezoid, polygon </li></ul><ul><li>Irregular shapes are biomorphic, or shaped like life itself </li></ul><ul><li>Associations: square implied solidity, reliability—and overconservatism </li></ul><ul><li>Circle is considered a divine shape </li></ul>
  35. 35. Open versus Closed Shape <ul><li>Open shape implies openness to new ideas or new content </li></ul><ul><li>Closed shape implies shutting off new influences or ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Navajo: Sand paintings never close a circle and always includes an imperfection: only the divine is perfect </li></ul>
  36. 36. Shape and Dimensionality <ul><li>Portraying three dimensions on a flat surface </li></ul><ul><li>Example: hatching or cross-hatching create an illusion of mass or volume </li></ul><ul><li>Shading: gradual transition from light to dark </li></ul>
  37. 37. Light and Color <ul><li>The physics: color is produced by different wavelengths striking the retina of the eye (left) </li></ul><ul><li>These vary from white to a spectrum to black </li></ul><ul><li>Projecting white light through a prism breaks it down to its constituent hues (right) </li></ul>
  38. 38. Color Wheel: Primary and Secondary Colors <ul><li>Definition: Colors that cannot be produced by mixing any other colors </li></ul><ul><li>Red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary Colors: Colors created by combination of two primary colors </li></ul><ul><li>Green: yellow and green </li></ul><ul><li>Orange: yellow and red </li></ul><ul><li>Purple: blue and red </li></ul>
  39. 39. Color Wheel: Tertiary Colors <ul><li>Tertiary color mixes a primary with a secondary color </li></ul><ul><li>A color wheel places the primary colors equidistant among the colors </li></ul><ul><li>Complementary colors are those with the greatest contrast among the pairs </li></ul><ul><li>Value: relative brightness or darkness </li></ul><ul><li>Intensity (Saturation): relative brightness or dullness </li></ul>
  40. 40. Expressive Qualities of Color <ul><li>Bright or warm colors convey feelings of gaiety or happiness: these are red, orange, and yellow </li></ul><ul><li>Cool colors: blue, green-blue, green, since they convey the quality of water or sky </li></ul><ul><li>They often convey sadness or pessimism </li></ul><ul><li>Symbolic significance: </li></ul><ul><li>Red: danger, extravagant welcome, exciting event </li></ul><ul><li>Green: envy; yellow: cowardice; purple: rage </li></ul>
  41. 41. Texture <ul><li>Quality of surface </li></ul><ul><li>Actual surface: Oppenheim’s furry cup </li></ul><ul><li>Mary’s Crown in Virgin in a Church, is simulated </li></ul>
  42. 42. Conclusion <ul><li>There are three media of art: visual media, sculpture, and architecture </li></ul><ul><li>Art may be regarded as a quality in itself </li></ul><ul><li>It may also represent a content, a person, or a theme that is not art in and of itself </li></ul><ul><li>Methods vary in analyzing art </li></ul><ul><li>Techniques serve to evoke a particular emotion or value </li></ul>

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