Chapter Three: The Themes of Art
CHAPTER OVERVIEW • • • • • • Representing Nature Representing Everyday Life Making Things and Creating Space Representing the Spiritual Representing the Mind Representing the Beautiful
Works in Progress Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon The Critical Process Thinking about the Themes of Art: Robert Mapplethorpe’s Parrot Tulip CHAPTER OBJECTIVES This Chapter Will: • • • • • provide an overview of the varied themes in art, from genre to fantasy discuss the human desire to find pleasure in the representation of everything – from the mundane scenes of everyday life, to images that attempt to capture the spiritual and the sublime specify the difference between objective and subjective representation introduce the conceptual and philosophical concerns of aesthetics present how artists represent the world to preserve that which is transient, or to isolate and/or amplify that which they find beautiful
KEY TERMS aesthetic; aesthetics genre painting, subjective objective, Surrealism Impressionism vanitas
LECTURE AND DISCUSSION TOPICS 1. Themes in Art are Themes in Life This chapter introduces students to some of the basic terms of the language of art, the various themes of art, and issues debating the definition of art as it is known by Western cultures. Open the discussion by having students name people, places, and things. Arrange their answers in lists to provide some of the themes in art. For example: kings and queens (court portraits); presidents (political portraits); farm workers (genre) and so on. This association will emphasize how artists make art about life. Pose questions such as: Why do artists usually work in one theme? What theme would you choose to represent? 2. Realism and Reality: Representing the Mind Claude Monet’s The Regatta at Argenteuil (fig. 39) is a classic example of the Impressionist style. Discuss the art movement of Impressionism as both psychological and physical states of interpretation. Emphasize to students that Impressionist artists were concerned with capturing their personal interpretations of a scene, a psychological interpretation, and were also interested in the optical illusions of color, a physical interpretation. Introduce the concept that one’s understanding of reality is subjective because one’s perception is subjective. 3. The Reality of Imitation Segue into a discussion of realism, as an imitation of reality and note its Western heritage. Using Thomas Cole’s The Course of the Empire (figs. 40-44) further the analysis of realism to include the human desire to understand the world we live in. The various states in the Course of the Empire are detailed representations of the power of nature and the human condition. 4. Representing Nature The desire to represent nature perhaps derives from the tension between the natural world’s transience and the relative permanence of the work of art. Claude Monet’s Grainstack series, referenced in Chapter 2, documents this change while Durer’s The Large Turf (fig. 47) documents the fertile density of a summer pasture in a manner that is more scientifically objective than subjective. Discuss the role the visual arts has played in recording events, people, places, and things…like a lump of grass. 5. Representing Everyday Life If life is a fleeting event, daily experiences in life are even more so. A traditional theme of art is capturing these experiences, especially the more pleasant ones in a form of painting called genre painting. Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party (fig. 57) depicts an afternoon gathering on a restaurant terrace. Ask students to think about how they document the pleasantries of their life with snapshots or video footage. 6. The Aesthetics of Art in Non-Western Cultures: Making Things and Creating Space
Utilitarian objects created by Native American, African, Oceanic and Asian cultures represent the basic human desire to make the mundane beautiful and pleasing to the eye. Yet, in...
Links: for this chapter include: CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS: Jorn Utzon is featured at an extraordinary site called Great Buildings Online—" a gateway to architecture from around the world and across history. Great Buildings Online documents hundreds of buildings and leading architects with 3D models, photographic images and architectural drawings, plus commentaries, bibliographies, and web links, for famous designers and structures of all kinds." Jorn Utzon is cited in your book for his remarkable Sydney Opera House (fig. 63). At this site, you 'll be able to see a larger detail of the opera house, as well as other Utzon buildings. GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS: Picasso 's Homepage is worth a visit. In addition to informative text and biographical materials, you can view an extensive collection of images painted throughout his career. Viewing the work of this prolific artist, one begins to understand how Picasso helped to shape the direction of all twentieth century art.
Other Suggested Websites: Claude Monet’s art and life are showcased at www.giverny.org. Kane Kwei’s fantasy coffins are on view at www.artsonthepoint.com/fantasy_coffins/creators.html. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, America 's first art museum dedicated to the work of a woman artist of international stature showcases the work, including themes of nature at www.tfaoi.com/okeefe/okeefe.htm Visit Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at www.moma.org/collection/paintsculpt/picasso.demoiselles.html and other works of art located in numerous exhibitions at artcyclopedia at www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/picasso_pablo.html Beauty information and all its cultural ramifications is provided at http://www.beautyworlds.com/ or http://www.cichon.de/ideal-beauty/ Vanitas and the contemporary interpretations of this theme is presented at www.vmfa.state.va.us/vanitas.html Suggested Videos: Videos and other resources are available for purchase through any of the distributors listed in the Resources section of this manual. Wild Wheels: Art Cars (aesthetics and the creative process) America’s Weirdest Homes (aesthetics and the creative process) Pieces of the Past (the authentication of ancient art by archaeologists and art historians) Sandpainting: Navajo (non-western aesthetics) African Art (non-western aesthetics) Claude Monet: Portrait of an Artist Impressionists on the Seine (Monet, Pissarro, Manet, Renoir) Norman Rockwell, Painting America (genre) The Definitive Dali (Surrealism) John James Audubon (nature/birds) Mary Cassatt (genre; Impressionism) Pablo Picasso: A Primitive Soul (biography) They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of WWII (genre/politics)
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