What did you come up with? In response to our last post, let’s think about your group discussion questions in depth.
1. What is the purpose of art? That is, how is art used? Be sure to come up with at least three examples.
Anthropologists suggest that art first appeared because man had capabilities for great intelligence and needed to create. It started with looking at his surroundings and seeing art within them. (Think about how as a kid you saw pictures in the clouds.) Keep in mind, however, that art always has a purpose, even if it’s something as simple as being entertaining or providing an outlet for the artist.
In any case, art adapted for various functions. It was, and still is, used as a teaching tool. Consider the early Christian cathedrals and their stained glass windows. They depicted scenes from Christ’s life and suffering, since most of the population couldn’t read. It illustrated the Bible.
Art also functions as a warning. For example, early Romans used to depict scenes of Roman soldiers trampling “barbarians.” Such images often appeared on triumphal arches and faced the outskirts of the Roman empire. It served as a warning for foreigners who were entering Rome to be on their best behavior.
Art also existed to commemorate important events. (This was the only way prior to photography.) Such works included coronations of kings, royal marriages, and success in battle. These types of works are referred to as history paintings. It seems significant to note that such paintings proved the most expensive and, therefore, further functioned by displaying one’s wealth and status.
Dissemination of information exists as another function of art. Think of early prints. Prints were cheaply made and became available to a broad audience. Political cartoons and the like often appeared as prints and made the populace aware of political issues and abuses.
These are just a few of art’s many functions. It can also be used to entertain, used as therapy (that’s how Jackson Pollock started), and used to advertise. What answers did you come up with?
2. Think of all the formal elements that create meaning within an artwork. List at least three examples, and address various media.
Art includes many formal elements, including line, color, texture, use of shading, symmetry or asymmetry, use of positive or negative space, and choice of media. Speaking of media, their differences also render unique formal elements. Consider sculpture, for example. Placement of the work and use of space (is it in a crowded foyer or alone in a corner?) all create meaning. Size also becomes an important element. Did your answers coincide, or did you think of different examples?
3. Think how famous art from the past has become in-grained within our popular culture. Where do some images from the old masters appear? (You might want to think about Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Monet, to name a few.) Give at least three examples.
Images from the old masters bombard our current culture. We see Rembrandt’s portrait grace everything from packages of Dutch cheese to whitening toothpaste. (Too bad the real Rembrandt had rotting teeth back in the day; not exactly the poster child for toothpaste.) We also see famous art in modern movies. (Did anyone watch Girl with a Pearl Earring?) Their works also appear on t-shirts, handbags, jewelry, mugs, and screensavers. Monet proves particularly popular in the accessory department with his water lilies.
4. Do you think this incorporation of past art into our popular culture is corrupting or modernizing? Why?
There are various camps to consider with this response. Some feel that incorporating works from the old masters into common everyday items demean their original intention. Keep in mind, their works were designed for a particular function relevant to their context. One wonders if Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello would mind being ninja turtles now. However, many argue that incorporation of the old masters’ works into our modern culture help them retain relevancy. It’s better to be aware of their works, even if it’s on a coffee mug, than to be ignorant of them. Where did you stand on this issue?