Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Understanding the Artist's Intent

Dear Humanities Students,

If you missed class today, we completed the following:

1. JOURNAL #2 entitled "Artist's Intent"
PART 1: Refer to your annotations/notations that were due today. Identify two orange annotations and two green annotations. Why did you find that particular text interesting and insightful?
Consider the following two pieces of art. The first is entitled "Guenica" by Pablo Picasso. The second is entitled "Myra" by  British artist Marcus Harvey. Indicate which piece you prefer. Why do you prefer one over the other? Please include specifics in your response.

"Guernica" by Pablo Picasso

"Myra" by Marcus Harvey

Now that you've told me which one you prefer, let me give you some schema on both pieces of art. "Guernica" is an anti war piece pertaining to the Spanish civil war. Picasso painted it as an indication of the suffering to all living creatures caused by war. The following images portray the devastation Picasso was attempting to mimic.

Myra Hindley was convicted of murdering five children from 1963 to 1968 in Manchester, England. The image above of Miss Hendley was created from the hand prints of children.

Now that I have given you some schema on "Guernica" and "Myra", does your perspective change?
 Return to your journal entry, and discuss the change in perspective now that you have more understanding regarding the two pieces of art.

HOMEWORK: Complete the following writing assignment in association with your chosen image from above. The assignment is due on Tuesday, September 7th.


What is the Artist’s Intent? How does the “intent” change your perspective?

Introduction: The artist’s intention has always been to convey his thoughts, ideas or creativity through his work. Sometimes the intention is to depict an important historical scene, so that it is documented for later generations. Sometimes the intention in the artwork is to be educational as well as figurative; nonetheless the artist wants to be understood. The problem lies in the fact that the audience, in most instances, does not perceive, nor understand the artist’s intent. They simply decide that they don’t like a piece of art without considering what might have been affecting the artist at the time the work was developed and completed.

All perception requires transformations: when we see, we filter out noise, fill in gaps, connect dots, rotate, stretch, and juxtapose. Perception is creative. Basically, different minds interpret similar input differently. Perception is learned. Infants cannot see much until they learn to see. The eye’s signals must be processed and infants learn to filter out noise, fill in gaps, and integrate with their other senses, etc. until the output correlates with pre-existing patterns. One can not interpret simply by perceiving. In order for an audience to interpret without prejudice, they must consider ALL of the components surrounding the artist’s intent. In many instances, perception is not reality.

1. What was taking place historically and politically during the time the work was created?

2. What was happening with the artist on a personal level when the piece was created?
Assignment Explanation: Each of you will have the opportunity to learn more about a specific piece of art, that when initially perceived, is misunderstood, simply because the audience fails to realize the artist’s intent. The audience looks at the work, without considering the outside effects imposed upon the artist.

1. Your assignment requires some research; the Internet will suffice as your primary source. Three Internet sources are required. WIKIPEDIA SHOULD NEVER BE USED AS A RELIABLE SOURCE. Have fun learning more about your artist and their controversial work.

2. A “Works Cited” page is compulsory, and it is a separate page from your assignment. The following citation example is used for Internet sources:

Gombrich, E.H., Why Art Matters? 2005, 7 August, 2009

(Author’s name, title of the website, publication date, date of access, and the URL in angle brackets on the second line indented five spaces)

3. Please research the following:

a. Begin your response by explaining your initial reaction to the piece. How the piece makes you feel. Do you like or dislike the work? Explain your response. Now begin your research by discovering the initial reaction to the piece by the public. How was the piece received by the public? What has happened to the work since its original introduction into society? What was taking place when the piece of work was created? Does the historical background affect the piece of art work? Was the artist attempting to convey a message about what was taking place in their personal life? What was the artist attempting to convey through the piece? Has your perspective regarding the work changed now that you have a greater understanding regarding the artist’s intent?
4. Please include an image of the work on your assignment.

Previous student example for above assignment. NOTE: the image would not copy to the blog, so look up "Madame X" on your own.
A Different Perspective regarding Madame X
An individual living in the 21st century may regard Madame X, by John Sargent, as rather dull and mundane. My initial perspective involved no great excitement. I neither liked nor disliked this particular piece. The female is attractive, but not stunning. Her dress appears drab, and without must excitement. The artist has used darker hues for every aspect of the piece expect for the lady's skin tone. I wonder if this was an intentional contrast? In addition, her gaze is focused on something or someone that the audience can not see. Is she looking at her husband, or rather a more scandalous idea, her lover? Why is the piece entitle Madame X? Did the artist not know his model? I am curious as to why this piece was so controversial for its time period? I hope my perspective will change once I learn more.

This painting, created by John Sargent, was first exhibited in the Salon Gallery, Paris, France in 1884. The subject's name, Madame Gautreau, a French beauty, was well known for her infidelities. This information gave insight into the painting's name, Madame X. If she remains nameless, then her immorality is more easily hidden. The painting is 7 feet tall, so it appears threatening to the viewer. I also found this interesting. If a spouse has an affair, then the other partner feels self conscious, inferior and “small” in comparison to the lover. In addition, her pose and exposed skin, suggested for the time period, that she possessed lose morals. Female clothing was form fitting, but the revealing of any skin was considered inappropriate. The low neckline indicated an “open invitation” to the audience that she was “selling herself.” Her fair skin tone draws the viewer's eye to her breast, which, of course, added to the sexual suggestiveness of the painting. Basically, the audience felt that John Sargent had openly accepted and was promoting her “profession.”

Through researching this work, I learned that John Sargent, a lonely, quiet man,who never married, had developed a strong fascination for Madame Gautreau. He wrote, “ I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think she would allow it and is waiting for someone to propose this homage to her beauty.” She willing accepted his invitation, and they began working together; their work progressed to a love affair. A friend commented regarding Sargent, “He seems to have blossomed as an artist and as a man due to his painting of Madame X.”

Although I don't agree with his relationship with the subject, understanding more about his association with her helped me to understand his artistic intent and view the painting with a different perspective. His relationship with her gave him a confidence that he had previously not possessed. He wanted to share her beauty and the effect it had on him with others, not in a demeaning or inappropriate fashion, but in a way that expressed his passion for her. The choice to paint her profile also suggests that he wanted to keep some of her to himself; that he did not want to reveal of her to his audience. Her scandalous reputation did not work well with his chosen pose, nor with her bare skin, but at the same time, I believe he captured the woman that he loved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

1. Please read "What are the Arts," included below, and include 4-8 annotations on each page. If you were not in class, then copy this to a Word document and then print it off. Please place it in the "Handout" section of your notebook.
NOTE:  You were introduced to the color coding regarding your annotating and notating. Each type of notation correlates to a specific color. Please see the color key below.

  • If you  find a section of text confusing then you would underline it using BROWN.
  • If you are able to make a connection to your own life then you would underline that section of text using your PURPLE.
  • Another way to annotate is by asking QUESTIONS about the text. RED is the color you will use for this annotation.
  • If you come across a VOCABULARY word that you don't know use YELLOW!
  • If a piece of text touches you emotionally, then BLUE is the color for that annotation.
  • If a piece of writing is poetic to you, then use BLACK!
  • If text gives you a different perspective then GREEN is your annotation color.
  • ORANGE is the color you will use if you come across text that you find interesting.

          There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists. One must understand that the word “art” may mean different things in different times and places. No wrong reason exists for liking a piece of art. Someone may like a landscape painting because it reminds him of home, or a portrait because it reminds him of a friend. There is nothing wrong with that. All of us, when we see a painting are bound to be reminded of a hundred-and-one things which influence our likes and dislikes. As long as these memories help us to enjoy what we see, we need not worry. It is only when some irrelevant memory makes us prejudice, when we instinctively turn away from a magnificent picture of an alpine scene because we dislike climbing, that we search our minds for the reason for the aversion which spoils a pleasure we might otherwise have had. In fact, the beauty of a picture does not really lie in the beauty of its subject matter.

The trouble with beauty is that tastes and standards of what is beautiful vary so much. For example, Figs. 1 and 2 were both painted in the fifteenth century, and both represent angels playing a lute. Many prefer the Italian work by Melosso D Forli (Fig. 1), with its appealing grace and charm, to that of his northern contemporary Hans Memling (Fig. 2). It may take a little longer to discover the intrinsic beauty of Memling’s angel, but once we are no longer disturbed by his faint awkwardness we find him quite lovable.
         What is true of beauty is also true of expression. In fact, it is often the expression of a figure in the painting which makes us like or loathe the work. Some people like an expression which they can easily understand, and which therefore moves them profoundly. When the Italian seventeenth-century painter Guido Reni painted the head of Christ on the cross (Fig. 3), he intended, no doubt, that the beholder should find in this face all the agony and all the glory of Christ’s suffering. But even if this intense expression of feeling appeals to us we should not, for that reason, turn away from works whose expression is perhaps less easy to understand. The Italian painter of the Middle Ages who painted the crucifix (Fig. 4) surely felt as sincerely about this event as Reni.
       Most people like to see in pictures what they would also like to see in reality. This is quite a natural preference. We all like beauty in nature, and are grateful to the artists who have preserved it in their works. For example, when the Flemish painter Rubens made a drawing of his little son (Fig. 5), he was quite proud of his cherubic appearance. He wanted us to admire the child. But this bias for the attractive and engaging subject is likely to become a stumbling-block if it leads us to reject works which represent a less appealing subject. The great German painter Albrecht Durer certainly drew his mother (Fig. 6) with as much devotion and love as Rubens felt for his chubby child. His truthful study of careworn old age may give us a shock which makes us turn away from it, and yet, if we fight against our first repugnance we may be richly rewarded, for Druer’s drawing in it tremendous sincerity is a great work.

         Most new-comers to art are often brought up against another difficulty. They want to admire the artist’s skill in representing the things they see. What they like best are paintings which “look real.” This is an important consideration. The patience and skill which go into the faithful rendering of the visible world are indeed admirable. Great artists of the past have devoted much labor to works in which every detail is carefully recorded. Durer’s watercolor study of a hare (Fig. 7) is one of the most famous examples of this loving patience. But who would say that Rembrandt’s drawing of an elephant (Fig. 8) is less skillful because it shows fewer details? Indeed Rembrandt was such a wizard that he gave us the feel of the elephant’s wrinkly skin with a few lines of his chalk.
       Finally, it is not sketchiness that mainly offends people who like their pictures to look “real,” but that they are repelled by works which they consider to be incorrectly drawn, particularly when they belong to a more modern period when the artist “ought to have known better.” As a matter of fact, there is no mystery about these distortions of nature about which we still hear complaints in discussions on modern art. Everyone who has ever seen a Disney film or a comic strip knows all about it. We know that it is sometimes correct to draw things otherwise than they look, to change and distort them in one way or another. Those who enter Disney’s enchanted world do not go to his shows armed with the same prejudices they like to take with them when going to an exhibition of modern painting. But if a modern artist draws something in his own way, he is apt to be thought a bungler who can do no better. Whatever we may think of modern artists, we may safely credit them with enough knowledge to draw “correctly.” For example, Fig. 9 shows a sketch by the famous modern painter Pablo Picasso. Surely no one could find fault with his charming representation of a mother hen and her fluffy chickens. But in drawing a cock (Fig. 10), Picasso was not content with giving a mere rendering of the bird’s appearance. He wanted to bring out its aggressiveness, its cheek and its stupidity. In other words, he resorted to a caricature. But what a convincing caricature it is!

          There are two reasons, therefore, which we should always ask ourselves if we find fault with the accuracy of a picture. One is whether the artist may not have had his reasons for changing the appearance of what he saw. The other is that we should never condemn a work for being incorrectly drawn unless we have made quite sure that we are right and the painter is wrong. We are all inclined to be quick with the verdict that “things do not look like that.” We have a curious habit of thinking that nature must always look like the pictures we are accustomed to. It is easy to illustrate this by an astonishing discovery which was made not long ago. Generations have watched horses gallop, have attended horse-races and hunts, have enjoyed paintings and sporting prints showing horses charging into battle or running after hounds. Pictures and sporting prints usually showed them with outstretched legs in full flight through the air. The French nineteenth-century painter Gericault painted them in a famous representation of the races at Epsom (Fig. 11). About fifty years later, when the photographic camera had been sufficiently perfected for snapshots of horses in rapid motion, these snapshots proved that both the painters and their public had been wrong all the while. No galloping horse ever moved in the way which seems so ‘natural’ to us. As the legs come off the ground they are moved in turn for the next kick-off (Fig. 12). If we reflect for a moment we shall realize that the movement could happen no other way. And yet, when painters began to apply this new discovery, and painted horses moving as they actually do, everyone complained that their pictures looked wrong.
        Admittedly, taste in art is something infinitely more complex than taste in food and drink. It is not only a matter of discovering various subtle flavors; it is something more serious and more important. After all, the great masters have given their all in these works, they have suffered for them, sweated blood over them, and they have the right to ask us to understand what they wanted to do. One never finishes learning about art. There are always new things to discover. Great works of art seem to look different every time one stands before them. They seem to be as inexhaustible and unpredictable as real human beings. It is an exciting world of its own with its own strange laws and it own adventures. Nobody should think that he knows all about it for nobody does. Nothing, perhaps, is more important than this: that to enjoy these works we must have a fresh mind, one which is ready to catch every hint and respond to every hidden harmony; a mind, most of all, that is willing to discard habits and prejudices.

Gombrich, E.H. The Story of Art. Prentice Hall Publishing. Englewood Cliffs:CA. 1972.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome Back! Tuesday, August 21st

Hello, Humanities Students!

I welcome you to an exciting semester! I am thrilled that you have chosen to take this class. Humanities is a senior English credit, designed to give you a broad understanding of the many facets that affect human perspective. Our focus will pertain to art, literature, drama, music, philosophy, religion and architecture concerning the Classical to the Renaissance time periods.

HOMEWORK for Thursday, August. 23rd
Please remember the following:

1. Your signed Disclosure Document.
2. Your notebook organized and set-up with the following tabs ("homework, handouts, notes, vocab./mechanics and journal)
3. Your assignment entitled "What are the Humanities? Why is studying the Humanities important?" 
As you consider these questions, remember the story shared with you in class today regarding the blind men and the elephant, specifically in relationship to the second questions.

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday..