The Evolution of Realism Art History 161-001 Yolanda Berry 11/30/2011
The Evolution of Realism The gothic style influences of the dark ages created a rebirth of self- expressionduring the Renaissance period of the 16th century. A new art form emerged which wasa new age in art history which birthed advancements in new techniques and art content. Rome was the center of a civilized world. Spain and England started to colonizeand became a cultural dominant super power. It was a period of transformation inliterature, religion, architecture and the arts. The evolution of art expression createdstrong influences in how we relate and visually communicate in our world today. The use of iconography was a dominant factor in the Renaissance period. Artistbegan to move away from symbolic-based origins, fantasy, mythological and religioussubject matter. They began to create more realistic paintings that portrayed the lifestyleand culture of the time. The advancement of materials was converted from frescoes to larger canvases.They also used oil-based paint instead of tempura. Artist developed technical skills toexpress stronger and more realistic images in relation to human proportions, scale,harmony, balance and order. The evolution of realism focused on an artistic technique called chiaroscurowhich was the development of using light and dark shadow effects. The use of sfumatowas used during the 16th century where artist would use muted tones to create naturalenvironments including hazy backgrounds instead of harsh lines and crisp shadows.Also, the content of artwork changed from portrait images to landscape and scenicviews. Overall, the composition became a well-organized piece of subject matter. The use of iconographic images led me to analyze and examine nudes. Whilestudying art history, I’ve noticed the transition of nudes from the dark ages to theRenaissance period carries several symbolic messages, versions and replicas ofVenus. The woman “Venus” was symbolic of a Goddess of Love or Mother Goddess.She was often painted as nude. The contrasting meaning of a nude often implicatesbalance, prosperous and confidence. However, the term naked representedvulnerability, sexuality, a sense of embarrassment, erotic, sinful, shameful or guilt filledemotions. When I visited the art museum, my first impression of the paintings was largerthan expected. It was interesting to view the broad range of techniques used during the
same periods of time. Most paintings were very flat and darkly shaded while otherswhere vibrant and used strong color to emphasize the paintings. The early version of Titian’s, “Venus and the Lute Player,” which was created in1560, displayed a reclining woman being crowned by Cupid. My eyes were drawn to herstomach because her body was not painted as a sensual or exotic image of a woman.Her belly was the focal point because the shape was very natural and realistic. Thestomach often was symbolic of fertility and procreation. Her facial expression seemed tobe aloft or drifting which appeared that she may have been thinking. Her hair waspinned back which I believe the artist did not want the image to appear feminine orsensual but more sophisticated which is also implied by using the draped pearls aroundher neck. Also, the artwork has a combination of muted tones. However, thebackground of the trees and the natural environment was accentuated by using brightercolors which allowed the viewer to have a 3-dimensional perspective similar to peepingin a window effect. The overall composition is well balanced and has order. The painting of Alexandre Cabanel’s, “The Birth of Venus“, created in 1875, waseye-captivating when I saw it across the room. I was quickly drawn like a magnet. Thescale of the woman was emphasized by painting a larger than life image of the womanfloating on top of the ocean which was illuminated and life-like. The painting usedvibrant colors and was saturated but did not use a lot of bright colors. The flesh toneswere very realistic and natural as well as the proportions of her body. The subject had movement. Her long locks of reddish, curly hair floated on top aswell as beneath the surface of the rushing waves. The ocean created a 3-dimensionalillusion because of the depth and use of shading. The artist captured the viewer’sattention by using scale and proportion which was emphasized in the piece of artwork.All elements were integrated and well organized. There were five Cupids flying aboveVenus which was going in different directions which added interest. The large canvasused to paint the image also implied the monumental image of the Goddess. The artistcaptured the viewer’s attention by using scale and proportion as well as color. The perspective was a horizontal line which allowed your eyes to move acrossthe whole scope of the painting. It was a very smooth surface and well blended whichillustrated the artist’s technical skills in a highly finished piece of artwork. I concentrated on the hair and waves which had such detail and rhythm. Theartist emphasized the meaning of power, strength and beauty within the scale of thefemale body. She also seemed to be peaceful and relaxed. In contrast, the ocean wasactive, harsh and rough with crashing waves. The underlying message that I receivedwas of a woman resting in peace in the midst of a storm.
The transition between periods has vividly shown the advancement in artisticskills and technique. The evolution of realism displays the cross-cultural perspectivesand analytical qualities used to critique a piece of art work in today’s art community. Theimpact of art history has been an influential part of a continuous cycle that will continueto enfold new developments on how we express ourselves and communicate in ourvisual world.