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Art and Artist Interpretation, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The Wedding Feast at Cana.

Paolo Caliari (also known as Veronese). 1562-63.

The Louvre, Paris.

This painting is an example of Italian Renaissance art, as evidenced by its composition, depiction of the human body, and realistic approach to perspective.  Based on a biblical story, the painting depicts a grand and opulent wedding feast while remaining religious.  This is seen, primarily, in the overall composition.  Christ is a central figure as, despite the chaos of the scene, the viewer’s eye is drawn to him.  This is due, partially, to the horizontal lines of the balustrade and the vertical lines of the floor tiles and columns, which direct the eye towards the Christ figure.  Additionally, he is the only figure in the painting who looks directly at the viewer, which gives him greater importance within the piece.  Caliari’s portrayal of the human figure is realistic and unexaggerated with an emphasis on natural movements and gestures.  As well, the artist achieves realism through his use of three-dimensional perspective.  This is seen in the way he uses multiple levels such as those found at the dining table, on the balustrade, and with the sky background.  This is also achieved with the proportion of the columns which enclose the painting on both sides, thus drawing the eye vertically through the scene.  The Wedding Feast at Cana exemplifies the interests of Italian artists of the Renaissance primarily by its emphasis on the realism of its figures and its use of a non-linear plane.  Caliari employs religious iconography and themes to appeal to the interests of his audience, while also putting his own creative interpretation into play by imbuing the scene with a rich and opulent tone.

Grrrrrrrrr!!

Roy Lichtenstein. 1965

The Guggenheim, New York.

This painting is an example of Pop Art, offering a modern interpretation of the collision between fine art and comics.  In  Grrrrrrrrrr!!, Lichtenstein uses heavy black lines to give dominance to the dog which is the painting’s central image.  The stark lines of the dog and the manner in which he stares directly at the viewer is an acknowledgement of both advertising art and propaganda art, both of which seek to manipulate the viewer through uncluttered images, strong slogans, and emotionally-laden imagery of dominance and power.  Lichtenstein’s piece also borrows heavily from comic book art, which demonstrates his interest in playing with artistic conventions and the historical separation between high and low art forms.  In keeping with this comic motif, he uses an onomatopoeia as both his title and a caption within the painting.  The viewer’s eye is drawn to the word by the use of bright yellow (the sole bright color within the piece) across the bottom of the painting.  Lichtenstein works to create a sense of hyper-realism by using dots across the background of his piece to mimic the appearance of a cheap photocopy (such as might have been found with comic book art of the era).  This plays with the idea that one of the defining features of fine art is its originality by making an original art piece appear to be a reproduction.  Lichtenstein’s Grrrrrrrrrr!! demonstrates that the definition of fine art is malleable, and that there can be successful crossover between high and low art forms.  His work typifies the Pop Art movement’s fascination with various art forms and modes of production, illustrating how some artists of this period were attempting to break away from restrictive formal conventions and expectations.

Black Cross, New Mexico

Georgia O’Keeffe, 1929

The Art Institute of Chicago

Black Cross, New Mexico is an example of abstract American art from the early 20th Century.  O’Keefee’s work is significant because she carved out an artistic niche for herself as a female artist in a period dominated by men.  This landscape is typical of her work in that the cross is magnified to an extreme degree, robbing it somewhat of its identifying features and rendering it abstract.  This is a departure from earlier American and European approaches to landscape in that one small detail becomes the entire landscape, which speaks to O’Keefee’s unique choice of subject matter.  O’Keeffe traps the horizon line between the bottom horizontal line of the cross and the curved stretch of rolling hills, drawing the viewer’s eye from the dominant feature (the cross) to the smaller details in the bottom quadrant of the piece.  O’Keeffe also gives her piece a unique sense of place by capturing the colors and landscape of the American southwest, which separates her artwork from both modernist paintings of the European school and American works from other regions.  There is a symbolic quality to Black Cross, New Mexico demonstrated by the two hills that are colored red; their shape evokes female breasts and their color evokes both the setting sun and an earth-like quality sometimes associated with womanhood.

A Corridor in the Asylum

Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This painting by Vincent van Gogh is an example of post-Impressionist French art, as evidenced by its use of heavy brushstrokes and natural light, realism in its subject matter, and the use of distorted geometry for emotional effect.  The painting depicts a corridor in the asylum to which van Gogh was confined towards the end of his life, and the tilted walls and receding perspective both speak to the artist’s attempt to convey his own state of mind.  Although post-Impressionist painters often use vivid color, as did van Gogh himself in other works, this particular piece is somewhat muted and washed-out.  This may be an attempt by the artist to illustrate his own personal emotional turmoil.  The artist uses shades of mustard, yellow, white, and gray to give the sense that the hallway is filled with natural light.  As well, the columns and arches draw the eye into and through the painting, encouraging the viewer to look down the long hallway until it disappears from view.  The curves and horizontal lines that enclose the painting contrast against the uneven and fragmented horizontal lines of the floor.  This creates visual interest while also again speaking to the mental upheaval that van Gogh was known to have experienced for most of his life.  A Corridor in the Asylum demonstrates the manner in which reality and unreality coexisted in post-Impressionist art, and helped to pave the way for more modernist and abstract works to come.

Female Head

Pablo Picasso, 1940.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

This pencil on paper drawing uses strong lines to convey a bold portrayal of its subject matter–a woman distorted until she is almost unrecognizable.  The absence of any true straight lines gives the piece vibrancy and a sense of motion so that this disassembled woman, with her nose, an eye, an ear, and a breast all akimbo, appears to be in a state of flux.  Picasso’s work exemplifies surrealism due to his treatment of the familiar in a strange and new manner.  For example, the woman’s head is turned in profile, with her eye and mouth in the expected position.  Her ear and nose, however, have become lost in the lines that comprise her hair, a deconstruction that is a primary feature of surrealist art.  Given the time period when this piece was created, Picasso’s fragmentary woman could symbolize the fragmentation that occurred with the advent of the mechanical/industrial age.  The overall tone of this piece is one of powerlessness–although the woman has a mouth, it looks to be open in a cry of pain rather than a shout of triumph.  Her own body parts have been taken away from her and reassembled, demonstrating both Picasso’s fascination with surrealism and, perhaps, a desire to express the disassociation of modern man (or woman).

Works Cited

Caliari, Paolo. The Wedding Feast at Cana. 1562-63. The Louvre, Paris. Web. 18 August 2011.

Lichtenstein, Roy. Grrrrrrrrrr!!. 1965. The Guggenheim, New York. Web. 18 August 2011.

O’Keeffe, Georgia. Black Cross, New Mexico. 1929. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. Web 18. August 2011.

Picasso, Pablo. Female Head. 1940. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Web. 18 August 2011

van Gogh, Vincent. A Corridor in the Asylum. 1889. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Web. 18 August 2011.

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