ARTH 115, spring 2015

Students in ARTH 115, spring 2015: Please respond to the following question. Refer to at least one work of art from any chapter in Janson in your response.

What is art? What does your example offer as support for your response?

7 thoughts on “ARTH 115, spring 2015

  1. Dave Hansen

    Art is one person or group’s creative work developed based on socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, religious, or political beliefs or norms of their time, and of either the artist’s or their benefactor’s. Created with the intent to documenting history, creating a visual or oral depiction, or otherwise conveying a concept to the viewer with the intent of capturing the attention of the viewer and evoking a response or causing the viewer to contemplate the meaning of the piece. Not all creations are grounded in reality but can be creations of fantasy or faith.

    The artist Augustine Rodin in his creation of “The Gates of Hell”, image provided in the eighth edition of Janson’s History of Art, part 4, chapter 26, page 925, provides evidence of this definition of art. In commissioning this work, the museum intended to create an inviting gateway for its facility. Having faith in the artist’s ability, the benefactor gave Rodin full artistic control of the design. Augustine chose to use a literary work, based on a 14th century epic poem “Dante’s Inferno”, which was itself based on a religious concept known as hell. Rodin chose to base his design on the authors depiction of the second circle of hell and the punishment of the lustful.

    When viewing the piece the observer might not find the subject matter appealing or inviting. However, in the artist’s composition, the depiction of identifiable characters from the literary work, and the size and visual weight of the various figures in the piece forces the viewer to take note of the creator’s artistic ability, and contemplate the concept of hell, the possible punishment that awaits the lustful flesh. Over the centuries, this work has been viewed by members of varying religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. This piece evokes very different reaction but given some understanding of the background one might contemplate the visual artwork, the basis of its design, Dante’s Inferno, the religious concepts of hell and judgment, and one’s own mortality. However, no matter whom is viewing the work, contemplation is unavoidable. It is not known what the viewer will think but all are captivated by its artistic beauty and compelled to think about what the artist has done.

  2. Maya Baumgartner

    Art is the way humans expressive themselves through their creative imaginations. It comes in many forms, both visual and performing. The visual arts are typically paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but, especially in more modern art, it can use any type of media or substance. More importantly, art can be used to connect the artist with the people, the viewers. Art is not a one-way street with a dead end. Art involves both the artist and the viewers. True, making art serves the artist’s need to create, but art in its finished form also needs spectators, it needs someone to view and critique it before—some say—it’s even “complete.”

    Gianlorenzo Bernini’s David (from Chapter 19, page 685 of Janson) is a fine example of what art can be. It is a life-size marble sculpture of the biblical story “David and Goliath,” showing David dramatically pulling back, taking aim at Goliath. David is also placed directly opposite the entrance to the room, facing anyone who walks through the door. This doesn’t just get a reaction from its viewers, but makes them part of the work, makes them Goliath. This means that Bernini’s David takes up more space than it physically does, because it includes the space between the viewer and David. In this specific piece of art, the viewers’ participation completes the work, because what’s a “David” without a “Goliath”?

  3. Hope Neuling

    Art is the product of an individual’s / group’s imagination which is influenced by the cultural, political, and religious factors of the time the work is created. An art piece is also influenced by personal beliefs and ideas of the artist and / or his / her patron. Art can come in all mediums though it commonly comes in the form of paintings, sculpture, photography, and architecture. Art can serve a wide range of purposes from financial to political to “art for art’s sake”. Over the course of history, art pieces have expressed moral / religious values, told stories, depicted myths, depicted historical events, depicted contemporary events, portrayed landscapes, portrayed people, and have portrayed the emotional and political values of the artist. Art portrays the passing time based on how culture of an era a work was created affects the subject and style of the art piece.
    I believe an art piece that exemplifies the meaning of art is Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, “Virgin on the Rocks” (page 561, Janson’s History of Art: The Renaissance through the Rococo). The subjects of the painting are Jesus, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and an angel. The painting depicts John the Baptist and Jesus meeting as young children. This work represents the religious (Catholic) values of the artist, patron, and most Europeans of the time, it represents current interests (many people were intrigued on the “human” side of Jesus and of his youth), and it depicts historical figures and the imagination of the artist simultaneously (Leonardo da Vinci does not know if or how Jesus and John the Baptist met, but does represent three real historical figures). The work defines art because it represents the cultural and religious values of not only Leonardo da Vinci, but also the time period he lived and the work was created in.

  4. John Bradican

    Art is a social concept, one that requires an ‘artist’ and a viewer. The range of concepts (as well as the range of mediums for conveying concepts) which the artist can seek to convey is limited only by their imagination. Art has had a wide appeal throughout human history and has therefore found itself inextricably linked to most human activities such as government, religion, and activism. Whether used as a tool to prop up or criticize such activities, art relies on the ability of the artist to make a connection with the viewer. Therefore, when art from centuries past has been preserved we are offered a conversation with someone long gone.
    Jean-Francois Millet’s The Sower (Janson’s History of Art, Eight Edition, Volume II: pg. 863) exemplifies how malleable the purpose of art can be. Prior to the time of the Realists, the peasant was considered by many who appreciated fine art to be an unconventional and shocking subject. Millet thus exposed many people to the moods and colors of his impression of peasant life, and is successful in conveying a proud image of the farm laborer. This shows how art can be used to transcend borders and bias between people, often by appealing directly to emotion or logic.

  5. Caitlin Kelly

    The definition of art and its purpose has changed over the course of human history. In the Medieval Ages, art was used to convey a religious message, often serving as a tool to educate the often illiterate masses on the Bible and inspire awe and devotion. For example, the “Maesta” we discussed in class would have preformed all of these tasks. However, this has obviously changed over time. If one looked at a collection of contemporary pieces, not only would one be unlikely to piece together a history of Jesus’ life or the reason a particular saint is so venerable, but the artwork itself would probably have been considered blasphemous or just downright confusing in times as recent as pre-World War One. Nonetheless, the art of the Medieval Ages and contemporary art are still be labeled and identified as “art,” despite the clear differences. This is because art is anything that attempts to communicate a complex idea and/or emotion in an indirect way through the use of a medium.

    One of the most famous examples of this would be the prehistoric Lascaux cave paintings (Page 4, Chapter One of Janson). Historians know almost nothing of the people who painted these cave paintings; purely theoretically, they could have been painted with no artistic intent at all. However, even without context, they are still clearly art. Even a kindergartner would identify the painting as such. This is because despite our complete inability to understand what these artists lives were like, or why they painted, we can recognize that they were trying to communicate indirectly.
    Another example would be the later artwork of Kandinsky, such as his “compositions.” In his art, he sought to convey what he called his “internal necessity” (“Kandinsky,” MOMA) though increasingly abstract painting, culminating in “Concentric Circles,” which remains his most famous and important painting today despite the fact it displays the least amount of obvious technical skill. Both of these works of art, despite their vast difference in time period, are trying to communicate through their medium and obviously succeed to some degree, as evidenced by the reaction of people upon experiencing them. (Of course, as with any other form of communication, some people gravitate towards certain types of art while others are completely unable to understand others.)

  6. Khadijah Johnson

    Art is an expression of life itself. Before there were movies, we had art. In many ways that was the only way people were able to express themselves. Sometimes I find myself sketching when I’m not in the mood to do anything else. I also feel that people used art to express their mood by using a certain color scheme. For instance using colors like purple or blue can represent sadness. In contrast people can use pink or red to represent happiness. People also used the opportunity to depict their version of God and spirits.
    One piece of art that caught my attention was the Galatea painting (Janson, pg. 582). The painting celebrates the sensuality of the pagan spirit as if it were a living force (Janson pg. 582). The painting included bright colors which symbolized happiness. Unlike many painting at the time, it seemed as if Raphael involved a little movement to his work. The nude lady in the middle of the painting looked like she was in a twisting movement. It seems like the people surrounding her were in a spiral movement around her as well. So to me art can capture emotion and depict a special event.

  7. Gunner Hasting

    I agree with the aforementioned comments, specifically Miss Johnson’s, that art is a way to express one’s self. Different components shed light on the artist’s moods, thoughts, ideas, and morals. Colors can convey a message of how the artist was feeling at that particular moment, or different objects symbolizing components with larger meaning. Alluding to Thomas Cole’s Voyage of light, he uses tumultuous waters and sharp rocks to symbolize the imminent hardships of one’s life. The colors, weather, position, and age of the small subject show the allegory of life, expressing the artist’s idea of what life is like.


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