• Category Archives Art History
  • The Transformative Power of Art

    What Makes Art Special?

    In my last post I expounded on how decor and art, while they overlap sometimes, are not automatically the same thing.  Today, I am going to look at a few quotes that seem to expound on what makes art special as compared to a scarf or a piece of wallpaper that was put in frame, and looks quite visually appealing, but is not art.


    Art Changes Us

    “What makes people the world over stand in line for Van Gogh is not that they will see beautiful pictures but that in an indefinable way they will come away feeling better human beings. And that is exactly what Van Gogh hoped for.” John Russell

    While a pretty scarf from your local department store may look beautiful in a frame, may catch the eye, and complement the rest of your decor perfectly it isn’t going to dramatically improve your understanding of the human condition, or move you with sympathy for the downtrodden, or open your eyes to the oppressive nature of some powers-that-be,  Much art, on the other hand, does do these things.

    While a piece of wallpaper wrapped around a canvas might accent your carpet and furnishings perfectly, and look stylish and chic, it isn’t likely to make you stand in awe at the beauty of nature and contemplate its origins, or impress you with thoughts of the vastness of the universe and the smallness of humankind. Van Gogh’s Starry Night has been known to elicit these responses in many though.

    That is also what I meant when I said that the statement that Duchamp made with his “Fountaine” was more artistic than the piece itself.  He sat out to make a statement about the art establishment, he wanted us to ask the question, “What is art?” by showing us something that definitely was NOT, but that was presented as such.  At that he succeeded.  He showed us non-art presented as if it was art, and therefore forced the art world to examine its definition of art.


    Art is (At Least somewhat) Unique

    “Someone who copies a Van Gogh does not therefore become Van Gogh, and the same would go for Mozart or anyone else who contributed something that was original.” Daniel Tammet

    Art will have some uniqueness to it.That isn’t to say of course that art is always completely original, almost all art is a remix of previously used styles or concepts, but it is at least a unique remix, rather than a facsimile. Even if it is inspired by another’s work, and even if it borrows some theme or element of style from an earlier artist, it will show some unique interpretation of that work.  Van Gogh painted many works that were based on the work of other artists, but never did he try to do an exact copy, he always brought his own unique vision and style of brushstroke to it.

    In a similar way, I sometimes borrow elements of a style or composition from Van Gogh, but I inject my own elements, subject matter, and style to it as well. While I could probably produce a decent reproduction of Starry Night, if I did so I would only offer it as a reproduction, I’d never try to claim it as wholly my own art.

    Can someone learn to reproduce almost exactly the work of another? Yes, but that is, in my opinion, not true art. It can be a good skill building exercise, but it never reaches the same level as a unique piece will. Reproductions have their place, as learning tools, and as decor, but they have a different status from true, original compositions, from true art.

    Art is Driven by Passion

    “I love what Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Jesus all said – that love is really the driving principle of the creative act. In fact, they would say that great art is always inspired by love.” Erwin McManus

    Art is driven by passion, the quote above says it is love, and perhaps in a sense that is true.  It may be driven by anger, by frustration, by sadness, or by joy, but what, other than love elicits all these emotions so passionately?  When one is angry it is usually because something that person loves and values has been in some way violated.  It may be their love of justice or humankind or the environment, the same could be said of frustration or sadness, even these negative emotions are usually brought about because something or someone we love has either been violated or has let us down in some way.

    Regardless, all art is driven by passion, while framing a scarf is probably driven more by a sense of style.

    Van Gogh quote on love.
    While all art is motivated by passion or love for something, perhaps love for other people is the most noble driving force behind creating art. In fact, according to Van Gogh, the act of loving people is itself artistic.


    So, art goes beyond just looking pretty and moves into the realm of passion, originality, and transformation… and that is why is transcends simple decor.

    Art transcends decor, art is passion, originality, and transformation. Click To Tweet
  • My Favorite Styles of Art

    I Love Almost All Art

    First off, I want to say that I really do love almost all art.  There are exceptions, of course.  I’m not a huge fan of Marcel Duchamp, for example, but most visual art styles I do like.  I may not like every piece in that style, as sometimes subject matter can be off putting, but I see something in almost every style that is admirable.

    Of course, I do have my favorites though.

    Post Impressionism In the Lead

    While it is difficult to nail down a specific style that is my favorite, I’d have to say that post impressionism is definitely in the lead.  I like impressionism too, but most impressionists had very soft, natural looking colors in the art, and tended to paint very nice, quaint, pretty subjects, such as children playing in a grassy field, or women holding flowers. While they used brighter colors than those before them, they used very normal looking colors, impressionism still clung to many constraints of realism, just with a softer look.  Nothing wrong with that, and it is very nice looking, but it doesn’t quite grab me the way the brighter and often arbitrary colors and bold brush strokes of the post impressionists did.

    Of course, one of the most famous post impressionists was Van Gogh, and as anyone who reads this blog often knows, Van Gogh is my favorite painter of all time.

    If I made a list of my favorite styles in order of most favorite to least, I think it would go like this.

    1. Post impressionism, an art movement that took place after the last impressionist exhibit and until the birth of Fauvism.  Roughly from around 1886 to around 1905.  Expressionism overlapped Post impressionism, and many works such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night, are considered both Post impressionistic and expressionists.

    Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Vincent Van Gogh was one of the leaders of the post impressionist movement. Other leaders of this movement were Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Paul Gauguin.

    2. Fauvism.  Fauvism is what followed post impressionism, and some see it as a specific kind of post impressionism.  Brighter colors, painterly brush strokes, even more deviation from realism and into abstraction.  Expressionism also overlapped into this movement, and many works of the fauvists are also considered to be expressionist.

    André Derain, is one of favorite Fauvists, this is his painting "Charing Cross Bridge"
    André Derain, is one of my favorite Fauvists, this is his painting “Charing Cross Bridge”.

    After the Fauvists, I guess my favorites would go back in time a bit to the impressionists, then leap forward again to the surrealists, abstract expressionists and cubists.  But I won’t get into all of that, I’ve listed here my top two favorite styles, and with that I’ll sign off.  I’m sure if you browse through my work, you’ll see the influence of these art styles in my use of bright colors, my willingness to sometimes depart from realism, my imaginative fantasy based work, and my use of art to express feeling.

    Do you have a favorite style of art? Click To Tweet

    Do you have a favorite style of art? If so, comment and let me know what it is.

  • On this Day (In Art History)

    July 18th in Art History

    So as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I am supposed to write an “on this day” post.  Well, not all of the blogs taking part in this challenge are art blogs, so I’m sure a lot of them will posting information information about FDR’s nomination for a third term, or about John Paul Jone’s Death, or if any are racing fans, about Juan Manuel Fangio making his debut in Formula 1.  Some might be posting about some significant American Civil War events… others might have gotten more personal and looked into the History of their own families.

    My blog of course, is going to look into Art History, in order to have a little more to share, I’ll include “the arts” in general, including musical theater, and even film, not just visual art.

    Caravaggio’s Death

    On July 18, 1610,  Caravaggio died at age 38 in Porto Ercole, Italy.  The Circumstances around his death were uncertain, he had a death sentence on his head, but was reportedly on his way to being pardoned.  If you are unfamiliar with him, he was a very talented artist who really was ahead of his time, painting in a style that was not to become popular with other artists for many years.

    He was successful as an artist during his life, rarely lacking in people wanting him to do commissions or people wanting to buy his work, but his personal life was a different story.  He was reportedly often drunk, and got in frequent brawls, one of which resulted in the death of his opponent, which is why he was condemned to death by the Pope.

    Like many painters of his time, Caravaggio’s art focused mostly on classical themes, biblical events, or mythological characters, it differed though in the style in which it was painted.  He painted with a deep and dramatic contrast between the source of light and the shadow, with very little work done in between the two extremes.  So people were often painted with one side of their face brightly lit, and the other in such deep shadow that few details could be seen, with no gradual shading in between.  This was something that was seen in later modern pieces, but Caravaggio was doing it first.  His work even heavily influenced Rembrandt, and in fact, he mastered the use of what later became known as “Rembrandt lighting” before Rembrandt ever picked up a paint brush.

    Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath
    Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath


    Musical History

    The art of Music also had a significant event today, The Liberty Song,  America’s first patriotic song was published on this day 1768 in the Boston Gazette.

    The Liberty Song

    Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
    And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;
    No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
    Or stain with dishonor America’s name.

    In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
    Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
    Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

    Our worthy forefathers, let’s give them a cheer,
    To climates unknown did courageously steer;
    Thro’ oceans to deserts for Freedom they came,
    And dying, bequeath’d us their freedom and fame.


    Their generous bosoms all dangers despis’d,
    So highly, so wisely, their Birthrights they priz’d;
    We’ll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,
    Nor frustrate their toils on the land and the deep.


    The tree their own hands had to Liberty rear’d;
    They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
    With transport they cried, “Now our wishes we gain,
    For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.”


    Swarms of placemen and pensioners soon will appear
    Like locusts deforming the charms of the year;
    Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,
    If we are to drudge for what others shall defend.


    Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
    By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
    In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
    For heaven approves of each generous deed.


    All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
    Of the courage we’ll show in support of our Laws;
    To die we can bear, but to serve we disdain.
    For shame is to Freedom more dreadful than pain.


    This bumper I crown for our Sovereign’s health,
    And this for Britannia’s glory and wealth;
    That wealth and that glory immortal may be,
    If She is but Just, and if we are but Free.


    Theatrical History

    In theatrical arts, on July 18th 1907, Florenz Ziefeld’s “Follies of 1907” premiered in New York City, this was theatrical performance somewhere between what you’d see on true Broadway shows and Vaudeville.


    Follies of 1907 Poster
    Follies of 1907 Poster


    A photograph of the Ziegfeld follies.
    A photograph of the Ziegfeld follies.


    Film History

    On this day in Los Angeles in 1959, the film version Kathryn Hulme’s The Nun’s Story, starring Audrey Hepburnpremiered.


    The Nun's Story, with Aubrey Hepburn
    The Nun’s Story, with Aubrey Hepburn


    Art Materials Manufacture History

    Last of all, on this day in 1994, Crayola announced the introduction of scented crayons, unfortunately, they had to do away with some of the scents a very short time later after a hoard of complaints came from parents saying that they couldn’t stop their children from eating the crayons if they smelled like candy!

    Crayola's Scented Crayons, unfortunately, most children thought they smelled good enough to eat!
    Crayola’s Scented Crayons, unfortunately, most children thought they smelled good enough to eat!

    So that concludes what took place in art history on July 18th, unless of course you know of something I don’t?