Latin American Exhibit: The Unique Vision and Art of Two Latin Aritists

Fernando Botero's
Fernando Botero’s “Woman Smoking a Cigarette” Bronze sculpture

It is interesting to step away from the art of Europe and the United States to focus on other amazing artists from other parts of the world.  This exhibit focuses on two Latin American artists Fernando Botero and Fernando Chamarelli.  Both have amazing talent and completely different visions when it comes to art.  The contrast is beyond intriguing.

First up is Fernando Botero born in Medellin Colombia in 1932.  He is a Figurative artist and sculpture who is known for creating an artistic style with very bloated and over-sized depictions of people, animals and objects found in the natural environment known as “Boterismo”.(1)  He first exhibited his work at the age of 16 years old.  Through his early years as an artist he was inspired by pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial art and the very political paintings of Mexican artist Diego Rivera.  In the 1950’s he studied painting in Madrid.  When Botero became Internationally recognized he moved to Paris in 1973 to study sculpting.  The early 2000’s brought a change of vision for Botero who began painting images and scenes containing violence and the horrific acts of the Colombian drug cartel.  In 2005 he released a series of paintings called “Abu Ghraib” which depicted the horrible treatment of prisoners by the American Military during the Iraq War.

The Artist Fernando Botero
The Artist Fernando Botero
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Botero’s “Mona Lisa”, oil on canvas
“Abu Ghraib” series, oil on canvas, Botero
“Abu Ghraib” series, oil on canvas, Botero

Botero uses colors that are bold and flat.  I am so curious as to why Botero paints and sculpts such bloated figures?  He even includes self-images in his paintings as a bloated figure.  With the “Mona Lisa” is he poking fun at the works and artists of the past?  I could almost be offended at how he depicts women so large and bloated almost as if they could float off into the sky and disappear!  The “Abu Ghraib” series is dark, graphic and violent.  We will never realize the extent of the atrocities that took place behind this prison’s walls but the blood, cuts, bruises, the rope cutting into the man’s ankle and the vicious teeth of the dogs enlightens us.  There were many paintings that I could have displayed from this series for this exhibit but, they were so graphic.  The face of the blindfolded man who seems to be crying blood is painted with such anguish.  Who knows how this man was abused but, I don’t really want to know.

Fernando Chamarelli is another talented Latin American artist who lives and works in Bauru, Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He has a degree in graphic design and illustration and originally began by drawing cartoons, realistic portraits and caricatures.  As he observed the multi-cultural aspects of Brazil where he was born and raised his art took a turn expanding into street and tattoo art.  There is a lot of geometric shapes and bold coloring to his work that also includes softer pastels.  His work has been exhibited all over the world including Latin America, the United States, Canada and Europe.  He paints with acrylics on canvas and his paintings tell capture “mosaic, geometric elements, organic forms, and harmonic lines. His visual imagery connects symbols, legends, philosophies, religions, and customs of ancient and modern civilizations.”(2)   Here is what he had to say about his painting “Flauta de Paxiuba” displayed below, “Flauta de Paxiúba” is based on a legend. Fernando, who resides in Brazil, translated the story for us saying, “The legend is about a boy Indian named Milomaqui, who lived in the tribe Kamaiurá. He sang so beautifully that all in the village stopped working to listen to his songs. When the cacique knew what was happening, he was furious. He ordered the arrest of the little Indian and forbade him from singing. If he disobeyed, the cacique would order, “Take out his shadow”.  Later Milomaqui was released, and soon after his release the young Indian escaped to the forest. He found a beautiful girl there and sang to her, and without explaining anything to the Indian girl he slept. Milomaqui was eventually captured by the cacique who served the promise to take out his shadow and buried it in a place with soft earth where there rose a slender tree, the paxiúba. With this tree the Indians make the flutes that only may sound to men: they say that the songs of Milomaqui survives within them.” (3)

“Flauta de Paxiuba” by Fernando Chamarelli, 60 x 90cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2009
The Artist Fernando Chamarelli
The Artist Fernando Chamarelli
“Dabaran” 2013 Chamarelli

Both Latin artists are very talented in their own way.  Each artist tells a story in their own way.  This is one of the amazing aspects of artists and their art they tell stories beautiful and horrific that we may have never known if it weren’t for their paintings.  The ancient stories depicted in Chamarelli’s art may have been lost to the youth of Brazil if it weren’t for his talented depictions of the tales.

Citations:

(1)     “Fernando Botero.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Botero

          “Fernando Botero.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015. http://www.biography.com/people/fernando-botero-241190

(2)     https://www.codyseekins.com/news/fernando-chamarelli-art/

(3)     “Fernando Chamarelli — Daily Art Fixx – a Little Art, Every Day.” Daily Art Fixx – a Little Art, Every Day — Visual Arts Blog, Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Illustration and More!. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.      http://www.dailyartfixx.com/tag/fernando-chamarelli/

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Post Modernism Art Exhibit: Diversity in Materials Through the Vision of Two Female Artists

“Venus Light” Kate MacDowell

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” – C.S. Lewis.(1)

Many new ideas and innovations developed during the Post Modern Art period (1960-2000).  There was the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s movement during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  There were new innovations in technology in electronics, computers including software and computerized studio equipment.   We could travel to different parts of the world more easily and mass marketing connected the west to the east introducing new religions and beliefs to America including Buddhism and Taoism.  The diversity was tremendous and this was also reflected in the art during this era.  Up until this period in history the art world was male dominated but now women and people of different ethnic backgrounds were finding their voice and expressing it through art.  Post Modern art broke away from the modern styles there were so prominent during the first part of the 20th century.  Breaking a way from tradition and focusing on individualism was the new vogue during this era.  Post Modern art has been defined as:

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In this art exhibit we will focus on artists that use diverse materials to express themselves and their talent.  Specifically, we will observe the beautiful and a bit horrific environmental sculptures of conceptual artist Kate MacDowell and the amazing glass work of Kate E. Black two tremendously talented artists from the current Post Modern Art world.

First up is Kate MacDowell who is a conceptual and ceramic sculpture from Portland, Oregon.  She has lived and worked in many different environments and cultures in the world including Italy, Greece, Nepal, Thailand and India.  Her works have been shown throughout the United States, Japan and Europe.  MacDowell began studying ceramics in 2004 when she returned from abroad.  She studied at the Art Center in Carrboro, North Carolina and at Portland Community College.  She has also studied flame-worked glass. Her sculptures are beautiful in delicacy and detail but a bit macabre in their subject matter.  In the artist’s own words, “In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.” (3)

Kate MacDowell at work creating in her studio.
Kate MacDowell at work creating in her studio.
kate-macdowell-icarus
“Icarus” Kate MacDowell
“Catch” Kate MacDowell
“Change” Kate MacDowell
“Invasive Flora” Kate MacDowell

Each piece is beautiful but grotesque telling the story of how humans are affecting the environment. From the Oxford Dictionary Icarus “…is the son of Daedalus, who escaped from Crete using wings made by his father but was killed when he flew too near the sun and the wax attaching his wings melted.”(4)  Maybe this is a reference to global warming?  In “Catch” I feel that the artist is trying to convey how the fish we eat have become toxic from the waste in our waters.  The fish have breasts on them depicting an unnatural hormonal change.  In “Change” the frog has six legs instead of four it has become deformed by the environment.  Is this what the future holds for our children?  My favorite sculpture is “Invasive Flora” where beauty in the end succumbs to death but, yet brings life again.  MacDowell’s sculptures are exquisite in their detail and I love the purity of the white porcelain that each sculpture is so intricately carved in.

Next, we have the Post Modern glass fusion artist Kate E. Black who also works with acrylics on wood and canvas from Sonoma County, California.  Kate is the daughter of an art historian and physician which influenced her career choices.  She is a practicing Anesthesiologist who balances this career with her love of art.  Her influences are Jazz music which she listens to as she creates her pieces and German Expressionism.  Her pieces are bright and eclectic.  This is what she has to say when creating her art, “I cannot work without Jazz in the background.  I want people to experience the rhythm in my art work…My work is very cathartic and when I do not go to my studio for a while, I get tweaked,” she says.  “I never plan a piece or a painting.  They are fluid and take their own shape as I go along.  They also name themselves, usually while I am creating them, and that is fun in the process.”(5)

Artist Kate E. Black
Artist Kate E. Black
“Stick and Stones” Kate E. Black
“Winter at the lake” Kate E. Black
“Purple Vessel” Kate E. Black
“Snake Dance” Kate E. Black

Kate E. Black’s glass pieces are from her Black Fusion collection where the glass pieces are framed with black steel.  The colors in each glass piece are just brilliant and bright.  I can see why the first piece “Sticks and Stones” got its name with the literal sticks and the white shapes of glass as stones.  I am intrigued by the materials that she adds to her glass and how they tell a story.  “Winter at the Lake” reminds me of walking near a frozen lake or pond and the natural pieces one would find lying around such as sticks, stones, pieces of ice.  The colors are cool creating a crisp winter’s day.  The vase “Purple Vessel” has such a simplistic name but the colors are truly remarkable.  The dark purple of the vase is so dark that it looks black.  The shots of color throughout burst through vividly.  I love how it shimmers and  I wonder what this dark vessel would hold the water of the god’s or liquid gold?  The last piece is an acrylic on wood and canvas and even though it reminds me of an Abstract Expressionism piece which I am not usually drawn to this piece does.  The dots and stripes of color are reminiscent of colorful snakes dancing in long waving grass.  I think that is why I am drawn to it because I actually get it!  The dark background makes the stunning mustard yellows and orange/reds pop.

Each piece of art presented in this exhibit is beautiful and each piece tells a story.  In Kate MacDowell’s work we can see the struggle between the environment and the human race and wonder which one will win in the end?  In Kate E. Black’s work we can see notes of Jazz almost floating through each piece of glass as she creates her story of rhythm and movement that brings her interesting choice of subjects to life.

Citations:

(1),(3)     “Kate MacDowell Fine Art Ceramic Sculpture.” Kate MacDowell Fine Art Ceramic  Sculpture. Web. 31 July 2015.  http://www.patrajdas.com/artists/MacDowellK/macdowell.html

(2)      http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/15273983.png

“Kate MacDowell – Med in Art.” Med in Art. Web. 31 July 2015.        http://www.medinart.eu/works/kate-macdowell/

(4)     “Bing.” Definition of Icarus -. Web. 31 July 2015.  http://www.bing.com/search?q=Definition+of+Icarus&form=PRHPCS&pc=HPDTDFJS&mkt=en-us&refig=5e8b3afe02a345b38b0818188c4417de&pq=definition+of+icarus&sc=3-20&sp=-1&qs=n&sk=&cvid=5e8b3afe02a345b38b0818188c4417de

(5)     “About Kate Black.” Black Fusion Glass. Web. 31 July 2015.  http://blackfusionglass.com/biography/

Early Modern Blog: The Influence of The Great Depression (1900-1939)

“Rust Red Hills,” from 1930 Georgia O’Keeffe

The Great Depression is a great epoch in American history.  It was a period in time where the economy in the United States, Europe and other industrialized countries in the world collapsed.  It started in 1929 when the stock market crashed in the United States and lasted until about 1939.  After World War I the United States aided many countries financially to help recover from the war and when the stock market crashed millions of people lost their savings and became unemployed.  The Great Depression lead to the election of a Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.  President Roosevelt developed programs with the intentions of helping boost the American economy and decrease the high unemployment rate and in some ways he was successful.  Roosevelt implemented what was called the “New Deal” where several jobs were created to help people find jobs.  One of the many programs created in the New Deal was the cultural projects.  Many artists were given jobs to paint murals and take photographs to help record this period in American history.  Many movements in art developed during this period and one of them was American Modernism.  American Modernism continues with the fad of breaking away from traditional techniques and visions in painting from the art of the Renaissance, etc.  It finds its home between WWI and WWII and continues into the 21st century.

One of the American Modernist artists that painted during this time was Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986).  Georgia O’Keeffe is known for her beautiful, exotic and somewhat erotic paintings of flowers, New York Skyscrapers and New Mexico landscapes.  A few of her paintings are displayed below.  Her paintings are really beautiful.  I love the use of color, in particular how she blends the colors to create her voluptuously detailed flowers.

"Bella Donna" Georgia O'Keefe 1939
“Bella Donna” Georgia O’Keeffe 1939
"A Sunflower from Maggie" Georgia O'Keefe 1937 oil on canvas
“A Sunflower from Maggie” Georgia O’Keeffe 1937 oil on canvas

“Donna Bella” is just lovely with the flowing white petals and the perfect shading of purple.  I find “A Sunflower from Maggie” just quaint in its depiction of a radiant sunflower.

Georgia O’Keeffe is also known for using animal bones in her paintings such as this painting, “Ram’s Head with Hollyhock” 1935.  I am not sure why but, I am really drawn to this painting.  I love the stormy clouds in the background and the detail in the skull.  The skull is hard while the hollyhock is soft right next too it.  Very interesting scene for a painting I think.  “Radiator Building” is such a huge contrast to her natural paintings of flowers and landscapes.  If I had seen this painting amongst a display of her works I would not have guessed it as a piece that she had done.  That is what is so fascinating about art!  The variety and far reaches that artists can delve into.

"Ram's Head with Hollyhock" Georgia O'Keefe 1935
“Ram’s Head with Hollyhock” Georgia O’Keeffe 1935
"Radiator Building", Georgia O'Keeffe 1927
“Radiator Building”, Georgia O’Keeffe 1927

Below is a video from Khan Academy where Georgia O’Keeffe’s earlier work “The Lawrence Tree” 1929 oil on canvas is discussed.  I find this painting very bizarre to look at.  At first glance it does look like an octopus with several legs floating in a cloud of ink in the starry night sky.  A second look shows what the artist intended a beautiful tall tree that one looks up to an into as it reaches into the starry night.  Very interesting painting to say the least.  The colors she used are really only three, red, black and blue and the piece is dark and not extremely detailed.

O’Keeffe, The Lawrence Tree: Georgia O’Keeffe, The Lawrence Tree, 1929, oil on canvas, 31 x 40 inches (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford) Painted in the summer of 1929 while visiting D.H. Lawrence at his Kiowa Ranch during O’Keeffe’s first trip to New Mexico, the tree stands in front of the house. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
https://www.khanacademy.org/embed_video?v=wQq2xOs2BYU

Photography during this period not only represented art but also a form of journalism and political statement.  One photographer that used his photography in such a way was American photographer Edward Curtis (1868-1952).  In 1906 Curtis received a grant to document Native Americans. As part of the North American Indian Project the intentions were this, “In the early years of the 20th century, Curtis embarked on a thirty-year mission which he described as an effort “to form a comprehensive and permanent record of all the important tribes of the United States and Alaska that still retain to a considerable degree their…customs and traditions.” Along with most scholars of this period, he believed that indigenous communities would inevitably be absorbed into white society, losing their unique cultural identities. He wanted to create a scholarly and artistic work that would document the ceremonies, beliefs, customs, daily life, and leaders of these groups before they ‘vanished.'”(1)

Portrait of American Photographer Edward Curtis
Portrait of American Photographer Edward Curtis
"Three Horses" Edward Curtis
“Three Horses” Edward Curtis
"Inuit Woman" Edward Curtis
“Inuit Woman” Edward Curtis
"Nez Perce baby"  Edward S. Curtis, 1911
“Nez Perce baby”
Edward S. Curtis, 1911

The photographs that Edward Curtis took during this era are amazing and really stunning!  The detail of expression that he has managed to capture in his photos is truly remarkable.  The expression of “Three Horses” in particular is very captivating the way he is staring at the camera as his picture is being taken really makes you wonder what he is thinking? The photograph of the “Inuit Woman” is so amazing!  I love the look of joy on her face! These captured portraits of Native Americans during this period in history is really special and so important.  I would hate to think what we would be able to see and know about this culture if these photos did not exist.

Resources/Citations

(1)     “Curtis (Edward S.) Collection.” – Edward Curtis and the Background of the Collection – Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/ecur/background.html

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_modernism

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wi<i>Wikipedia</i>. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.ki/Georgia_O%27Keeffe

“O’Keeffe, The Lawrence Tree.” Khan Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/art-between-wars/american-art-wwII/v/georgia-o-keeffe-the-lawrence-tree-1929

Impressionism: Love it? Hate it? Or, Somewhere in Between?

“Mercie Cutting Flowers” Edmund Tarbell Painter, 1912

When it comes to Impressionism and art I fall somewhere in between of loving it and hating it.  After seeing all of the beautiful pieces from the Italian Renaissance, Baroque era, and the Classical era etc.  I have a difficult time understanding the artistic value of many Impressionistic pieces that I have observed.  When it comes to loving it, I adore the piece displayed above, “Mercie Cutting Flowers” by Edmund Tarbell, 1912.  It is beautiful in so many ways with the pair of silver scissors she is holding in her left hand to delicately trim the flower, to the silver bracelet on her right wrist and the beautiful feminine hairstyle and dress she is wearing.  She is so sweet and peaceful sitting along a path surrounded by beautiful flowers with a beautiful architectural building in the background.  Why can’t more Impressionistic pieces be like this?  From my understanding of what Impressionism is, it was the artist’s opportunity to capture enchantment of as special and fleeting moment.  They did this by trying to capture flickering rays of light shining on the water or, with clouds bursting into rain capturing the changing weather, etc.  The artists were heavy with the paint using thick amounts in their brushstrokes and usually applied more before the first layer had dried.  The artists used short brushstrokes to focus on the moment in the art instead of the finer details.  They also used paint in such a way as to capture a play on light in the scene.   I can appreciate the attempt to capture fleeting moments in life that will be gone in an instant and I can definitely see the beauty in that but, what I don’t understand and appreciate is the lack of detail.  The painting below is an example of this.

“Young Woman Knitting”, ca. 1883 Berthe Morisot

In this painting a woman is sitting in a chair knitting.  I couldn’t even decipher what she was doing at first.  I dislike the lack of detail in her face!  Behind her I think there is a brown dog roaming amongst the rose bushes.  I found this interesting definition of Impressionism which gives the art form more clarity, “The paintings of Neoclassical and Romantic artists had a finished appearance. The Impressionists’ completed works looked like sketches, fast and preliminary ‘impressions’ that artists would dash off to preserve an idea of what to paint more carefully at a later date. Normally, an artist’s “impressions” were not meant to be sold, but were meant to be aids for the memory—to take these ideas back to the studio for the masterpiece on canvas. The critics thought it was absurd to sell paintings that looked like slap-dash impressions and to present these paintings as finished works.” (1)  Art from the Impressionism era had a new spin on creating color, light and depictions of landscape but, I miss the fine details, the rich colors and ambiance that we observed from the Classical Era especially found in the Rococo style.

“Diana Leaving Her Bath” 1742 Francois Boucher

In “Diana Leaving Her Bath” by Francois Boucher we observe so many wonderful and fine details.  The beautiful design of the female nude is stunning in the flesh tones used and the definition of the female body.  The Goddess Diana is sitting on her clothes that are painted in such a way that you can almost feel the silkiness and crispness of them.  The game that she has hunted is very fine in its detail of feathers and anatomy.  The landscape in the background is lush and green.  The hunting dogs are painted with smooth brown fur and their musculature is well-defined.  This painting contains so many details that Impressionism art lacks.  This is a quote by Louis Leroy who was a critic and humorist for the newspaper Le Charivari had this to say about the works and artists of Impressionism, “Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.” (2)

Back to loving Impressionism, I really love this piece

“Paris in Autumn” 1938, Guy Dessapt, French

French Painter Guy Dessapt did a beautiful job painting this gorgeous fall scene in Paris!  The warm glow of orange, yellow and red from the building windows and street lights is illuminating but, soft.  It is raining and the sheen on the sidewalk and road is truly realistic.  Even though the people walking along on this day aren’t very detailed there are brilliant pops of colors from blues, red, greens, etc. that make them stand out.  The flower cart in the center of the painting is just really lovely!  The Impressionism found in this painting is truly remarkable and brings me closer to loving it.

Impressionism played a role in art from the end of the 18th century into the 19th century and beyond.  I discovered some artists from today that have created some interesting painting delving into Impressionism.  The first one is by Brazilian artist, Claudia Thomaz and was done in 2015.  It is called the “Encounter” and depicts a young lady walking along a path caught up in the peaceful moment oblivious to the fact that her lover is gaining on her on his bike in the background.

p221172_2a_400

The colors in this painting are brilliant with the hues of deep yellow, orange and green.  The detail of the leaves on the bike path are delicate and the woman’s dress is simple, white with a blue sash but stands out from the painting.  At first glance I honestly didn’t notice the bike rider in the background.  It wasn’t until I read the description of the painting and took a second look that I discovered it.  Overall, I feel this piece is really stunning and very romantic!  The next one I don not feel quite the same way.  It is “Pretty Phase” by Agyarko Kotoko who is a West African artist that completed the painting in 2014.  I just don’t get it!  Lots of heavy brushstrokes of green upon green, upon green.  What is the point?  There is a tree there somewhere?  The different shades of yellow, green, brown and a teal blue are really pretty but, the tree seems so lost to me.

“Pretty Phase” 2014 Agyarko Kotoko West Africa

In conclusion, I am not a huge fan of Impressionism.  It is difficult to appreciate the aesthetics of the art with such a lack of detail.  I have grown to love the amazing detail discovered in so many pieces prior to the Impressionism movement.  Not all pieces can be called art just for the sake of art can they?

(1)     “Khan Academy.” <i>Khan Academy</i>. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2015. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france/impressionism/a/a-beginners-guide-to-impressionism

(2)     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism

“Currier Museum Online Curriculum.” Currier Museum Online Curriculum. Web. 13 July 2015.  http://curriculum.currier.org/nh_artists/impressionist.html
“‘Encounter'” Romantic Impressionist Brazilian Fine Art. Web. 13 July 2015.  http://www.novica.com/itemdetail/?pid=221172
“‘Pretty Phase’ (2014).” Tree Painting with Textures African Signed Fine Arts. Web. 13 July 2015.  http://www.novica.com/itemdetail/?pid=241885

The American Revolution and Art-1700’s

“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, 17 June 1775”, c.1786 John Trumbull

The American Revolution, the ultimate standoff between the British and the American Colonists was an amazing time in American history.  The  Americans won their freedom from the tyranny of Britain and this was portrayed in the art created at the time during the 18th century.  Some of the many artists of the time included John Trumbull (1756-1843), Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) and John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) to name a few.  These artists incorporated the Classical style into their work ranging from Rococo to Neoclassicism.  Many American artists during this period learned their trade in Great Britain and after spending time perfecting their technique returned to America.  They practiced realism in their portraits and re-creations of battle scenes.  The above painting, “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, 17 June 1775” by artist John Trumbull is in the Neoclassical style and was commissioned by the Warren family from Massachusetts. (1)  It depicts the actual battle scene that Trumbull witnessed from afar looking through field glasses.  Many artists during this time frame used their art to not only express the history taking place at the time but, to also express their political views and opinions.  Trumbull was greatly influenced by the onset of American independence and this can be seen in how he glorifies American subject matter as a History Painter.  In this painting the focus is on Warren’s body in white and British Major John Small and there are several soldiers from both sides of the battle holding onto several flags.  Trumbull was very patriotic to the Colonial cause and when asked why the emphasis was placed on the British Major he replied that he, “…was equally distinguished by acts of humanity and kindness to his enemies, as by bravery and fidelity to the cause he served.”(2)  One detail that I noticed in this painting is how the dark clouds in the upper right of the painting seem to overshadow the British while there is more of a light shining down on the colonists.  A case for good vs. evil perhaps?

“George Washington”, c.1975 Gilbert Stuart
“The Lansdowne Portrait” c. 1797, Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart was a student of Benjamin West (another popular American painter from this era who resided in Europe) and an admirer of John Singleton Copley.  Stuart was a Portraitist whose dream commission was the opportunity to paint George Washington.  He painted several portraits of George Washington focusing on the, “differing image, quality and purpose” each time. (3)  “The Lansdowne Portrait” is an oil on canvas that was commissioned by Senator William Bingham of Pennsylvania 1796.  In the painting George Washington is 64 years old and is surrounded by symbolism of both American and Ancient Rome in design.  George Washington is dressed plainly in a black velvet suit with his hand outstretched having a manner that is, “…commanding and stern yet open and inclusive.” (4)  There are Doric columns in the background, and instead of holding a battle sword, George Washington is holding a decorative sword which symbolizes, “…a democratic form of government, rather than a monarchy or military dictatorship.” (5)  If you focus on the top circular section of the chair the colors, stars and stripes of the American flag are depicted.  The clouds on the left side of the painting and the rainbow on the right symbolize the American Revolutionary War changing to peace in the United States after the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. (6)  There are many other aspects of symbolism in the painting I just mentioned a few.  I really appreciate Stuart’s use of flesh tones especially in the first painting of George Washington and the detail of his eyes and mouth are truly remarkable.

John Singleton Copley was famous American born artist known for his portraits.  He was particularly fond of painting portraits of the middle-class in Colonial New England.  Copley was known for incorporating the Rococo style through “…poses, compositions and themes.  He imitated loose hair, stylized features and shimmering textiles.” (7)  He was considered to be a “pioneer American pastellist.”(8)  This can be seen in one of my favorite paintings of his, “Mrs. Daniel Denison Rogers” with the pastel colors in the sky and in the shimmering of her dress.  Really stunning!  The details in the lace of her hat, her facial features and the use of flesh tones are all traits that Copley was known for and they are truly incredible.

“John Singleton Copley, American (Boston, MA 1738 – 1815 London, England) “

The American Revolution was a moment in time that not only created great American  artists but some great music as well that we still revere to this day.  “Singing a song in Revolutionary America was not necessarily an innocent act. At the time, almost everyone sang in public on occasion, either for entertainment, for worship, or as part of their work. However, songs were also important instruments of satire and mockery. People used them to make fun of public figures, to pass ugly rumors, or to playfully insult their enemies—and sometimes their friends.”(9)  The tune of “Yankee Doodle” was initially a British joke towards the Colonists but after the Colonists won the war they decided to make it one of their theme songs and would make British prisoners dance to it.  “Chester” by the popular William Billings wrote the song to encourage Colonists to be strong against their British foe. (10)

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I really appreciate the artists, their art and  their music during the American Revolution.  The historical paintings and portraits depicting the people and battle scenes during that time period are an important part of our American History and that is one of the reasons that I chose this theme to discuss.  I enjoyed both the Neoclassicism and Rococo style that represents the Classical era during this time period.  So much focus has been placed on European artists thus far that it is nice to focus on some American ones as well.

Citations

(1)     “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775 ◄ Prev Next ►.” The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775. Web. 2 July 2015.http://www.wikiart.org/en/john-trumbull/the-death-of-general-warren-at-the-battle-of-bunker-s-hill-june-17-1775-1786

(2)    Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 2 July 2015.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_General_Warren_at_the_Battle_of_Bunker%27s_Hill,_June_17,_1775

(3)    “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828). Web. 2 July 2015.  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/stua/hd_stua.htm

(4),(5),(6)    Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 2 July 2015.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lansdowne_portrait

(7)    “Early American Paintings.” Early American Paintings. Web. 2 July 2015. http://www.worcesterart.org/collection/Early_American/Artists/copley/biography/

(8)      “John Singleton Copley Biography.” John Singleton Copley Biography. Web. 2 July 2015.  http://www.johnsingletoncopley.org/biography.html

(9)    “Yankee Doodle Historical Period: The American Revolution, 1763-1783.” Yankee Doodle. Web. 2 July 2015.  http://www.loc.gov/teachers/lyrical/songs/yankee_doodle.html

(10)      “Official U.S. Constitution Website – Learn About the United States (U.S.) Constitution & More | Constitution Facts.” Official U.S. Constitution Website – Learn About the United States (U.S.) Constitution & More | Constitution Facts. Web. 2 July 2015. http://www.constitutionfacts.com/founders-library/music-of-the-american-revolution/

“The Taking of Christ: The Lost Caravaggio”

“The Taking of Christ” by Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio 1602 oil on canvas, Italian

“The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”~Judas, Mark 14:44 NIV

     Caravaggio’s painting “The Taking of Christ” was commissioned by the Roman Marquis Ciriaco Mattei in 1602.  The painting is an Italian Baroque and one of Caravaggio’s best works.  There are so many amazing details taking place in this painting.   The familiar scene is from one of the passions of Christ where Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and it fills the entire painting showing us that this is what the artist wishes us to focus on.  There isn’t any background in the painting, no architecture or gardens just darkness.  Judas is seen holding onto Jesus in a gripping embrace almost seeming that in his betrayal he doesn’t truly want to let him go.  The face of Judas to me seems anguished in his actions not displaying relief or haughtiness in the deceiving action taking place.  Jesus has a forlorn look upon his face accepting his fate with his hands clasped not putting up a fight.  He accepts the hug and kiss from Judas but with great sorrow, “Christ accepts his fate with humility, his hands clasped in a gesture of faith, while the soldiers move in to capture him…He offers no resistance, but gives in to his persecutors’ harsh and unjust treatment, his anguished conveyed by his furrowed brow and down-turned eyes.” (1)  The three guards in the scene have their faces completely or partially hidden.   Fleeing from the left side of the painting is a very fearful and distraught St. John, his dark crimson cloak is being held onto by the middle guard shrouding the heads of Jesus and Judas together in this deceitful moment.  Does the dark crimson symbolize the blood of Jesus soon to be spilled?  There is another light shining in the darkness.  On the far right of the painting we see a man holding up a Chinese lantern which doesn’t seem to aid in shining light upon the betrayal of Jesus but instead it shines upon the man revealing to us that it is a self-portrait of Carvaggio himself.  This self-portrait of Caravaggio was done when the painter was 31 years old.  Why is Caravaggio holding a lantern that is shining upon himself revealing how he looks upon the scene in curiosity and awe?  Some feel that he is, “…representing St. Peter, who would first betray Jesus by denying him, and then go on to bring the light of Christ to the world.”(2)

    Caravaggio is infamous for using the technique of chiaroscuro which is where the artist uses strong contrasts of light and dark and this can definitely be observed here.  We can see the artist’s use of chiaroscuro where the light, considered to be moonlight, shines upon the scene with its focus on the faces of St. John, Jesus, Judas and St. Peter (Caravaggio).  Light also enhances the hands of these same men especially of the clasped hands of Jesus and Caravaggio holding the Chinese lantern.  The reflection of light upon the front guards armor is something to take notice of as well.  The guard in the forefront looks to be reaching for the throat of Jesus and his armor has a strong moon beam of light reflecting from it.  Some believe this to symbolize us, as spectators, reflecting upon ourselves and our own sin.  The technique of tenebrism is also observed in this painting as in many of Caravaggio’s paintings where the scene is dark and gloomy usually with a ray of light penetrating the scene in some way which ties in with the chiaroscuro technique that was used.

     Caravaggio was an extremely talented artist who had an intense way of depicting the biblical stories from the Gospels.  He painted during the time of Counter Reformation in Italy where the Catholic Church was trying to entice followers back to the church that had strayed during the Protestant Reformation.  “…the Catholic Church set out to reform itself and strengthen its position in the face of the rise of Protestantism in Northern Europe.” (3) The Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563 gathered to discuss this reformation and the role of religious imagery in art.  There were two sides to the coin for the Catholic Church who seemed to despise art that could be seen as secular and demoralizing to the Church but at the same time they could see how art could help their cause.  This is what was being debated at the Council of Trent.  In the end they decided to commission art depicting stories from the bible using realism enticing passion from its viewers in hopes of  touching  their souls and igniting a passion that would bring them back to the Church.  “Artists were encouraged to represent religious subjects in an accessible way, with clarity and immediacy, in order to engage viewers directly with the sacred subject.” (4)

After the kiss of Judas and the forlorn look of the face of Jesus
After the kiss of Judas and the forlorn look of the face of Jesus
Caravaggio as St. Peter gazing upon the scene
Caravaggio as St. Peter gazing upon the scene

         There are many other paintings that portray Jesus being taken or arrested especially during the early Renaissance era.  One example of this is The Capture of Christ by Dieric Bouts a Flemish painter during the Northern Renaissance.  This is a religious painting which was still the rage during this era.  The Northern Renaissance celebrated the human form and depictions of biblical scenes from the life of Christ which encouraged artists to take on this subject.  Dieric Bouts was one of the first artists to utilize the technique of vanishing points which became popular during this era.  One can observe the vanishing point in this painting by focusing on the crowd in the front of the painting and following behind the scene back to the distant rolling hills and shrubs in the background.  The scene takes place in the evening so it is quite dark.  Here we have a crowd surrounding the main scene of Judas kissing Jesus betraying him to the Roman soldiers.  There are a lot of blues, red, and greens used in the painting and there is a focus on realism with the many fine details found in the architecture, background setting and in the people setting the scene.  There is also a focus on humanism which was very popular during the Renaissance period.  There is a lot of emotion and violence displayed in the painting which adds to the realism of the story.  When compared to Caravaggio’s work it pales in comparison as far as detail, richness in color, emotion and story.  Carvaggio’s work draws you into the story as more than a spectator.  You almost feel like you are betraying Jesus by letting this scene take place.  In Bout’s portrayal, though beautiful in its own way, falls flat in this detail.

“The Capture of Christ” by Dieric Bouts 1485-1500

     There is an interesting story that follows The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio and it is one of the reasons I chose his painting to discuss.  For hundreds of years no one knew where the painting was.  It was initially commissioned and owned by the Mettei family.  Many years later they sold the painting thinking it a copy painted by Caravaggio’s understudy Gerard van Honthorst  in 1802 to a man in Scotland where it stayed until 1921.  It was next sold to an Irish pediatrician who purchased it for around $1000!  Later she donated it to the Jesuits in Dublin, Ireland.  It was discovered there sixty years later in 1990 by Sergio Benedetti who deemed it an original and the painting that they thought had been lost!  It is now worth millions!  What really draws me to this painting is the technique of chiaroscuro being used and how the light captures the face and hands of Jesus.  The look on Jesus’ face is truly tragic and sad and wrenches at my heart.  He knew that he would be betrayed by Judas but even still his sorrow at the official outcome of his friend and disciple’s deceitfulness wounded him deeply.  The Baroque era is very intriguing with its beautiful, dark and gloomy art and how it brings one into the scene and makes you feel like part of the story, part of history and it is amazing!

Citations:

(1)     “National Gallery of Art.” National Gallery of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015. www.nga.gov/exhibitions/caravbr-2.htm

(2)     “The Taking of Christ (Caravaggio).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 June 2015.  www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Taking_of_Christ_(Caravaggio)

(3), (4)     “Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ Saints and Sinners in Baroque Painting: The Counter-Reformation.” Exhibitions. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015.www.nga.gov/exhibitions/caravbr-.shtm

     “Met Audio Guide Online.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015.  http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/hd/crvg/hd_crvg.htm

     “The Irish Letter.” Caravaggio Painting Found : Home :. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015.  www.irishletter.com/caravaggio-taking-of-christ-ireland

  “Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ Saints and Sinners in Baroque Painting: The Counter-Reformation.” Exhibitions. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieric_Bouts

Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment”: Painted by a Man Deemed to have a “Tortured Soul”

Michelangelos-Last-Judgment

(Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment”)

On Michelangelo:  “the great Ruler of Heaven looked down and…resolved…to send to earth a genius universal in each art…He further endowed him with true moral philosophy and a sweet poet spirit, so that the world should marvel at the singular eminence of his life and works and all his actions seeming rather divine than earthy.” ~Vasari

     Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was one of the brilliant artists from the era of the Italian Renaissance.  Not only was he a Painter but, he was an Architect, Poet and Sculptor.  He was commissioned to paint “The Last Judgment” by Pope Paul III in Rome in 1535 and scaffolding went up to begin the work in 1536.  Michelangelo completed his controversial masterpiece in 1541.  This work was influenced by the Sack of Rome and Reformation periods that took place just prior to Michelangelo beginning this piece.  “The Last Judgment” was the absolute definition of “Mannerism” which involved art taking on a more artificial appearance than the naturalistic style that dominated during the Italian Renaissance.   Mannerism has also been defined as an “over-elaborate distortion, imbalance and a neurosis.”

     As mentioned above the “The Last Judgment” was considered a very controversial piece for several reasons.  Even though this piece followed with the common theme found in church art it was far from common.  After it was unveiled the Vatican’s Master of Ceremonies, Biagio de Cesena exclaimed, “it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there would have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was not work for a papal chapel but rather for the public bars and taverns.”   The piece displayed very muscular figures originally in the nude which stems from Michelangelo’s brilliance as a sculptor.  These figures were painted in the nude to symbolize their secular ranks of Earthliness being stripped away.  There isn’t anywhere one can hide from either their salvation or damnation in this painting!  It also depicts violence and the salvation and damnation of souls.  The upper zone of the painting represents an ascension to paradise while the bottom area displays descending into hell a clear reference to Dante’s “Paradiso” and “Inferno”.  Humans are being escorted into hell by “Charon” a well known character of Greek and Roman Mythology.  Another controversial aspect of this painting is where it is hung in the Sistine Chapel.  The “Cave of Hell” is positioned directly over the altar.  The actual positioning of “The Last Judgment” is very significant, “While most churches possessed an East-West orientation with the altar in the East, there had long been a traditional tendency for the “The Last Judgment” to be positioned on the interior of the west wall of a church because of the association between the Last Judgment, or the end of the world, and the setting of the sun in the west.”  Being placed in this way is a “disciplinary” reminder for the  church congregation as they exited the chapel.

last_judgement13[1]    Unknown-1[1]

(Ascension into Heaven and descending into Hell.)

     Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” was painted in the “fresco” style where the paint was applied to wet plaster bonding with it as it dried.  Plaster dried quickly so, it was a tricky process getting the timing just right.  Michelangelo used pigments derived from plants, minerals and clays to mix his paint.  In this piece the colors are very striking considered to be “monochromatic” including very vivid “flesh” tones, blues, oranges, greens, and yellows.  Initially, all of the figures were painted nude but, shortly after Michelangelo’s death his former pupil Daniele da Volterra was commissioned to paint loincloths and mantels over the groin areas of the painting’s subjects.  In the center of the painting stands Jesus with Mary by his side.  There are also several Saints and Biblical figures represented in the painting as well.  St. Bartholomew is also depicted holding his flayed skin that contains a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself.  Many feel that this depiction and self-portrait reflects Michelangelo’s tortured soul.

christ-the-judge-michelange[1]  michelangelo_sistinechapellastjudgmentdetail13[1]

(Jesus with Mary beside him and St. Bartholomew holding his flayed skin with Michelangelo’s self-portrait)

     Michelangelo was such an amazing artist.  I am so fascinated by every single piece that he created!  I chose this piece the “Last Judgment” to discuss because I really appreciated how Michelangelo expressed his talent as a Sculptor by painting very muscular, tortured and distorted figures in the painting.  I have seen several depictions of Jesus Christ in art work and Michelangelo’s depiction is very unique with Jesus appearing very muscular and wearing a short loincloth over his groin area.  The colors in the painting are truly amazing!  They are so vivid and the painting is so colorful, so unlike his previous works.  Below I included a video about the “Last Judgment” that shares even more great information about this great work of art.   I would like to close with a poem written by Michelangelo for he was also known as a Poet:

“On the Brink of Death”

Now hath my life across a stormy sea Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall Of good and evil for eternity. Now know I well how that fond phantasy Which made my soul the worshiper and thrall Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal Is that which all men seek unwillingly. Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed, What are they when the double death is nigh? The one I know for sure, the other dread. Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest My soul that turns to His great love on high, Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

Video:

   https://www.khanacademy.org/embed_video?v=c2MuTvQM61Y

Citations:

www.jstor.org

www.artinthepicture.com/paintings/Michelangelo/The-Last-Judgment/

www.smarthistory.khanacademy.org

www.tandfonline.com

www.museuminflorence.com

www.michelangelo-gallery.com

www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/high-ren-florence-rome/michelangelo/a/michelangelo-sculptor-painter-architect-and-poet

www.michelangelo-gallery.com/poems.aspx