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Module 1. | What is Art? Washington Green Fine Art Qualification Art History Diploma 2014

Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

What Is Art? 1. Introduction 2. In The Beginning 3. Art As Propaganda 4. Religious Art 5. Ideological Art 6. Art As Cultural Expression 7. Art And The Use Of Symbol And Allegory 8. Colour 9. Iconography 10. Aesthetics 11. Appreciating The Formal Qualities Of Art 12. From Conceptual To Contemporary


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

1.

Introduction / Welcome!

This course has been designed to provide a bespoke staff training modules introducing the history of art.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Training Aims

This course has been designed to provide a bespoke staff training modules introducing the history of art. This twelve-week course will provide a thorough foundation in the history of western art and artistic practices. Drawing on key examples

of art objects and artists’ biographies, the course will explore questions of style and subject matter to engender knowledge and proficiency in understanding the history of art.

Learning Outcomes By the end of the training module staff should be able to:

Additional Outcomes:

• Recognise the characteristics of several forms of artistic expression within western art from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

• An improved familiarity with artists working with Castle Galleries/Washington Green (WG), which will be acquired through an understanding of how artworks have been informed by previous artistic practice.

• Identify art genres and types of subject matter of the same period. • Make stylistic distinctions through visual analysis of art objects.

Delivery

One hour per week, followed by a short multiplechoice test, for twelve weeks. In addition to the above, during the course you will notice some hyperlinks on artists names. Clicking on these will take you straight to a website with more information about that artist and their work. Weeks one to three of the training module are intended to provide a broad introduction to the history of art. From week four onwards, working on a key theme, examples of art objects from western

Note:

• Increased confidence in customer relations through the acquisition of art-historical knowledge.

art history will be introduced and discussed in relation to relevant biographical data about artists and important historical contexts. This will allow staff to build up a picture of the range of historical and cultural contexts against which artworks can be set. Having established the art-historical background, the same artworks will then be juxtaposed with selected examples by Castle/WG artists in order to promote familiarity and facilitate an understanding of the importance of art history and the influence of previous artistic practice on present day art.

During the module you will be presented with a series of images of art objects denoted as (Fig. + number), please take a minute or two to study each one.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

2.

In The Beginning

Fig. 1

The earliest examples of art date from about 40,000 BC and are found in the form of cave paintings. These paintings usually feature images of animals or hand prints. (Fig 1) These images were made by early peoples and are likely to have a magical function to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits. The 9 great ancient civilisations (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, China, Greece, the Celtic

peoples and the Maya) were very different in many ways but they had much in common in the use of art objects. People couldn’t read, so visual images were used to show a link between power structures and religion. One great example of this is the images of Pharoah in ancient Egypt – Pharoah was thought to be a living God whose power was communicated by the use of his imagery on temples and large statues. (Fig 2)


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig. 2


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

3.

Art As Propaganda

(DEF: Propaganda: information used to promote a cause/person/certain point of view)


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

4.

Religous Art

Fig.3

Fig.4

As suggested by the example of ancient Egypt, throughout history art has been used for propaganda purposes. Western civilisation was largely based on the values of ancient Greece and Rome, so we find that many of the values contained in ancient Roman and Greek art have influenced many art works in western culture. In ancient Greece and Rome art objects such as statues in temples (Fig 3) and mythological figures on everyday items such as pottery (Fig 4) were used spread ideas around religion, status and power. Following this example much of the art in the West up to around 1400 is dominated by Christian images. These then fall into 2 main categories: These then fall into 2 main categories: • Building and decorating churches and cathedrals (Fig 5) – used directly by the Catholic church to spread and uphold the Christian religion • Commissioning chapels, including furnishings and devotional objects such as altar pieces (Fig 6). Many of these were funded by wealthy donors who wanted to preserve their souls after death through such generous piety, and the more money spent the greater their reward in heaven. They often ensure that images of themselves were included in the work they had commissioned. Many of the material used were expensive and long lasting, like jewels, stone and previous metals. The use of these means that much surviving art from this period is religious material used were expensive and long lasting, like jewels, stone and previous metals. The use of these means that much surviving art from this period is religious.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.5

Fig.6


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.7


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

5.

Ideological Art

(DEF: Ideology: a set of beliefs, especially the political beliefs on which people, parties, or countries base their actions.)

Fig.8

Fig.9

In addition to being used to promote religious ideas, examples of statues and portrait busts from ancient Rome are designed to show the power of the Emperor and the State that they represent. This is supported by using enduring materials such as marble or bronze.

At the same time artworks have been used to spread protest or views that oppose the norm. For example the Disaster of War series of prints (18101820) by Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746-1828) which were produced in response to the violence during the Dos de Mayo Uprising (1808) and the Peninsular War (1808). Meanwhile posters such as those placed on advertising billboards in New York by a group of female artists calling themselves the Guerilla Girls were used to highlight the gender imbalance within the art world that existed up until the end of the late twentieth Century.

This model of spreading ideology or reinforcing government policies has been used throughout history up to the present day. Examples of this are the posters produced by the British Government during WW1 to encourage men to sign up or posters produced to promote the Soviet statein Russia during the 1920s and 1930s (Fig 8, Fig 9).


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

6.

Art As Cultural Expression

Today, in the twenty-first century art history ‘is not concerned exclusively – or even primarily – with what is often popularly understood as art, with a capital ‘A.’ That is to say that ‘art’ does not only address so-called ‘high’ culture or fine art and its traditionally associated forms of cultural expression – painting, drawing and sculpture. Instead, the study of the history of art draws upon a wide variety

Fig.10

of forms of cultural expression produced throughout human history. The aim of this first training session is, therefore, to introduce the study of art history by tracing the different forms taken by art objects, the diverse types of media used and the ways in which artworks are employed to construct meanings and values.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.11


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

7.

Art And The Use Of Symbol And Allegory

(DEF: Allegory: something that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning)

We have seen how artworks had been used to promote religious ideas, individual power as well as political ideas. In addition to using precious materials to show individual status, the art can do this by the use of symbol and allegory. An example of this is Artemisia Gentileschi’s (1593 – c1656) Self Portrait as ‘La Pittura’ of c1630 (Fig 12). The picture depicts the artist as the female allegory of painting, complete with medallion, in order to establish the female artist’s professional status. Meanwhile the placing of Emperor Charles V in control of a charging horse in a painting of 1548 by Titian (c14881576) is designed to show the Emperor’s consummate power and control over his Empire. In Beate Beatrix (Fig 14) of c 1862-70 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) a red dove holding in its beak a wedding ring and white poppy is used to symbolise not only that the painting represents Elizabeth Siddell, Rossetti’s dead wife, but also that opium from poppies was the cause of her death. Fig.12


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.13

Fig.14


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

8. 9.

Colour & Iconography

Colour In addition to being used to represent nature, colour is often used with symbolic intent by artists. Examples of this are use of the colour red, which was associated with the arid desert by the ancient Egyptians and used in images of the goddess Sekhmet to symbolize her role as god of disease and pestilence (Fig. 15). In western art perhaps the best example of such use is that of the colour blue. The colour blue, made from expensive pigment sourced from the precious mineral Lapis-Lazuli, was frequently used in Medieval and Renaissance art (Fig. 16) for the colour of the robes of the Virgin Mary. Through training many artists have been made aware that the colour blue can be used to symbolize the Virgin. Iconography Another way in which the subject of an artwork can be identified is through iconography; that is the identification of art subjects from either reference to attributes mentioned in textual sources, such as the nailing of Christ on a cross in the New Testament Gospels or common use in other artworks, for example the use of blue robes to identify the Virgin.

Fig.15

What is Art? Today we are used to a wide variety of objects being considered as ‘art’. The Turner prize has been won recently by artworks ranging from pottery (Fig. 17) by Grayson Perry (b.1960) to the video Does A Bear (2007, Fig. 18) by Mark Wallinger (b.1959).

Fig.16


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.17

Fig.18


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

10. Aesthetics

(DEF: Aesthetics: a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty).

The concept of aesthetics in art originates in ancient Greece where the human physical form was highly valued. As a result art of the period was adapted to pay attention to musculature, poise, beauty and anatomically correct proportions, thereby implying that, rather than simply having a definite function such as propaganda, art might also be used to convey notions of beauty. Nevertheless, up until the late seventeenth century, within western culture the concept of aesthetics in art remained secondary. For example a Dutch still life (Fig.19) might look beautiful, but the message it conveyed was that, like the fruit depicted, which would wither and rot, life was short. However, in the period between 1700 CE and 1900 CE German

and British philosophers, like Immanuel Kant, began to place emphasis upon beauty and argued that the key component of art was to aim at absolute beauty rather than function. By the second-half of the nineteenth century new developments, such as the invention of the camera, meant that art had to find new directions, other than being documentary or utilitarian. Taking inspiration from such thought, the phrase ‘art-forart’s sake’ (French l’art-pour-l’art) affirmed that art was valuable simply as art. Artistic pursuits were their own justification and, rather than having to have any particular message a work of art could be produced and admired purely as an art object.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.19


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

11.

Appreciating The Formal Qualities Of Art

Fig.20

The concept of art-for-art’s sake, which advocated that an art object could be valued simply for its own merits, has allowed much greater emphasis be placed on the formal (rather than functional and subjective) qualities of artworks. For example we can look at how the media, such as paint or clay, has been handled by the artist. As a result throughout the twentieth century much greater focus was placed upon the art object itself rather than the message or values contained behind the image. Demonstrating this point, the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) can not only be appreciated for subjective meanings and values, but also for how the artist’s expressive use of applying paint very thickly (known as impasto) has contributed to the overall understanding and appreciation of his work (Fig. 20).


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

12.

From Conceptual To Contemporary

Fig.21

Also taking inspiration from the concept of artfor- art’s sake, in 1917 Marcel Duchamp (18871968) submitted a work called Fountain (Fig. 21) for entry into an exhibition held by the Society of Independent Artist in New York. Duchamp was annoyed at the restrictions placed upon what constituted ‘art’ by both the traditional European art establishment, like the Paris Salon and the British Royal Academy of Art, and members of the Parisian artistic avant-garde, Duchamp’s exhibit in

New York comprised of a urinal placed on its side with the signature ‘R. Mutt’ scrawled across. As a ready-made item, which showed little artistic input or relation to existing examples of fine art usually exhibited in galleries, Duchamp’s Fountain was rejected by the selection committee, despite there being a rule that all works would be accepted from artists who paid the entry fee. By paying the fee to enter the Fountain as an art object Duchamp had indicated that literally any item or form of


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.22

cultural expression (provided either artist, viewer or both deemed it so) could be art. Duchamp’s action therefore threw the parameters of art wide open, beyond questions that were simply centred upon issues of function, subject and form. The legacy of Duchamp’s Fountain is that today in the twenty-first century the question ‘what is art?’ is far more complex than ever before. Today, thanks to Duchamp and the many artists who have followed his lead, anything can or might be interpreted

as art, ranging from a tapestry by Grayson Perry (Fig. 22) in this year’s Royal Academy summer show, a Renaissance image of the Virgin Mary in Ghent Cathedral, to a photograph (Fig. 23) by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89) in a commercial art gallery on Bond Street, London, and an advertisement or video on the internet, which has the potential to be seen throughout the world.


Art History Diploma Washington Green Fine Art Qualification

Fig.23


This is the end of the training session for week one. There now follows a short of test of ten multiple-choice questions on this week’s topic, please click on the link below and complete the online form: Module 1: What Is Art? Next week’s session on the topic ‘When Was Art?’ will trace the changing status of western art from 1400 CE to the present day.


WG DIP Module  
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