Function of Art Rulers and governments use art to celebrate andspread their earthly power. Art is also used inwar, either in creating weapons and armor for it or inmaking images that promote it. It also gives usimages of peacemaking and monuments for peace. Art can be an equally strong voice of protestagainst a government or against a social practice.People who are not in power can use art to art toaffirm their ideas and to protest againstwarfare, oppression, or political policy.
POWER, POLITICS, ANDGLORY Throughout human history, a vast amount of artworkhas promoted, popularized or propagandizedgovernments as well as those who lead them. Art has depicted war and helped shape our reactionto war. Art has also celebrated peace. Artists use devices for this function.
THE GLORY OF THERULERArtistic Devices The idealized image: the ruler’s face and/orbody are depictedwithout flaw and oftenincludes a wise ordignified demeanor.
THE GLORY OF THERULERArtistic Devices Symbols: details are included thatindicateomnipotence, authority, or divine blessing: somesymbols show military orreligious power
THE GLORY OF THERULERArtistic Devices Compositional devices: the ruler often occupiesthe center of a pictureand may be shownlarger than attendants orother figures; the ruler’sclothing may attractattention
Seats of Government In 1836 England’s oldHouses of Parliamentburned. ArchitectCharles Barry designedthe Gothic Revivalstyle of the buildingwhile A.W.N. Pugin wasresponsible forornamentation.
Seats of Government On one side stands theVictoria Tower and theother end is the famousclock tower with BigBen.
Seats of Government The building resemblesa medieval church or acastle-fortress, visuallyhousing Parliament in ametaphor of thechurch’s strength andthe government’spower.
Seats of Government Inspirations for theHouses of Parliamentinclude ChartresCathedral and theChapel of Henry VII inWestminster Abby. Gothic Style: flyingbuttresses
WARWar is part of thehistory of mostcivilizations andcultures, and it is partof the story ofpower, politics, andglory.War Scenes Art can present war as amemorable, evenglorious, action-filledevent. Or art candocument battles fromvarious points of view.Finally art can emphasizethe horrors of war.
War Scenes20th Century Images ofWar After the revolution of1917 inRussia, Communist leaderVladimir Lenin saw theadvantages of film as anew medium. Sergei M. Eisenstein wascommissioned to glorifythe collective heroism andmartyrdom of the Sovietpeople in his masterpiecefilm, The BattleshipPotemkin, made in 1925.
War Scenes Eisenstein’sstrength, however, washis editing. He used arapid form of montagethat allowed viewers topiece together thenarrative from fleetingimages. The Odessa StepsMassacre sequenceshows the horrendousconclusion of a failed1905 uprising. Thequick-cut imagescapture the feeling ofterror, panic, and chaos.
War Scenes Pablo Picasso’s painting, Guernica, dramatizes the 1937destruction of the capital during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso blended the nightmarish aspects of Surrealismwith his own style of Cubism.
War Scenes The bull representsFascist Spain, doomed tobe tortured and suffer aslow inevitable death. The gored, dying horse isthe Spanish Republic,while the fallen soldierholding the broken swordrepresents the spirit ofresistance against tyranny.
War Scenes The electric light bulbshaped like an eyesuggests that the worldis being shown itsinhumanity. “Painting is not doneto decorateapartments. It is aninstrument of war forattack and defenseagainst the enemy.”
War MemorialsAn entire book could bedevoted to monumentalart dedicated to warvictories, battles, andthe dying. Maya Lin designed theVietnam VeteransMemorial in 1982. Names of the 58,000 menand women who died inthe war are carved on theblack granite surface.
War Memorials Its polished surfacereflects the faces of theliving and superimposesthem on the names ofthe dead, which forcesa personal connectionbetween the two. Visitors mediate ormourn rather thancelebrate.
War Memorials This lack of glory madethe memorial verycontroversial, sosculptures of heroicsoldiers and nurseswere added later nearthe site.
War Memorials The long, V-shapedmemorial is set into theground with one endpointing to theWashingtonMonument, a symbol ofnational unity, and theother end pointing tothe LincolnMemorial, rememberinga nation divided by civilwar.
War Memorials Magazine and newspapercoverage had brought theblunt realities of the warinto U.S. homes, asevident in BrigadierGeneral Nguyen NgocLoan summarily executingthe suspected leader of aVietcong commandounit, a war photographfrom 1968 by EddieAdams. Its harshnesscontrast severely withromanticized images ofwar.
PEACEWinged allegoricalfigures, doves, women,and pastorallandscapes havesymbolized peace inWestern art.Gardens, bells, andtemples serve asmonuments to peace inAsia, Europe, and theAmericas.
Art about Peace Edward Hick’sThe PeaceableKingdom, paintedbetween 1830and 1840, isbased on thebiblical passageof Isaiah 11.
SOCIALPROTEST/AFFIRMATION Many artists protest injustice with their artwork. They identify villains, honor heroes, and promotecauses with emotional and visual impact unequaledby the written word. Protest art is a form of affirmation, because it isbased on respect for human dignity and the beliefthat change is possible.
PROTESTS AGAINSTMILITARY ACTION Francisco Goya’s TheExecutions of May3, 1808, from 1814 isbased on his sketchesof the actual event in1808. The citizens on the leftside unsuccessfullyrose up againstNapoleon Bonaparte’sarmy.
PROTESTS AGAINSTMILITARY ACTION The rioters werecaptured and executedoutside the city. Thecitizen in white is posedlike a crucified Jesus. The soldiers aredehumanized, like warmachines.
PROTESTS AGAINSTMILITARY ACTION George Grosz’ 1918pen-and-ink drawing, Fitfor ActiveService, depicts theirony of well-fed doctorsand officers sendingelderly, sick, or veryyoung men to the frontlines to fight forGermany at the end ofWorld War I.
FIGHTING FOR THEOPPRESSEDArtists who fight for therights and affirm thevalues of economicallyor politically repressedpeoples use severalstrategies to make theirpoints more forcefully.These includebeauty, illustration, narrative, humor andshock. Most socialprotest works aredesigned generally toaffect publicconsciousness, ratherthan to prescribespecific changes.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionBeauty Beauty and excitementcan be very effectiveelements. In Eugène Delacroix’sLiberty Leading thePeople, Liberty has beenpersonified and made likea Greek goddess in herprofile and her idealizedbody.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionBeauty Delacroix’s painting mixesrealistic, idealistic, andromantic elements. The faces of the men, thedetails ofclothing, weapons, andthe Paris skyline arerealistic.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionBeauty The glowing goddess-likefigure of Liberty, and thebelief that revolution willlead to a better way of lifeare idealistic elements. The painting is alsoromantic in its portrayal offighting asthrilling, dangerous, andliberating.
EUGÈNE DELACROIX LibertyLeading the People, 1830.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionIllustration Lewis Hine’s 1910photograph, Leo, 48Inches High, 8 YearsOld, Picks Up Bobbins at15¢ a Day, illustrated theinjustice of child labor.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionNarrative Ben Shahn’s The Passionof Sacco and Vanzetti, is anarration of an unjust trialthat ended in theexecution of two men.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionShock Cildo Meireles’ Insertionsinto Ideological Circuits:Coca-Cola Project in 1970was a shocking piece thatprotested the Braziliangovernment.
Strategies for ProtestingOppressionHumor Ester Hernandez’ SunMad is an example ofhumor.
Affirming the Values of theOppressedWhen a group of peopleis oppressed, their wayof life tends to bediscounted or ridiculed.Art is an especiallyeffective tool foraffirming the lifestylesand values of downtrodden groups. In 1533, Hans Holbein theYounger painted theportraits of Jean deDinteville and Georges deSelve (“TheAmbassadors”). DeDinteville was a politicalleader and de Selve areligious leader, but bothwere examples ofauthority which affirmedall things can be studiedunderstood andclassified (faith isfoolish).
HANS HOLBEIN.The Ambassadors, 1533.PoliticalReligious