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Humanities LibreTexts

1.1: What Is Art Appreciation?

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  • Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin
  • Evergreen Valley College via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

An abstract painting consisting of colorful circles on a multi-colored lined background.

What Is Art Appreciation?

Appreciation of the visual arts goes beyond staring at a painting hanging on the wall of a museum—art is in everything and everywhere you look. Opening your eyes to the world of art is essential in understanding the world around you. Art is more than pretentious museums; only a few enter and comprehend. Instead, art appreciation is:

  • Gaining the knowledge to understand the art.
  • Acquire the art methods and materials to discuss art verbally or by the written word.
  • Ability to identify the movements from ancient cultures to today's contemporary art.

Learning how to appreciate art is a necessary cultural foundation enabling people to critically analyze art, art forms, and how cultures used art. All it takes to understand the art is just to look!

Art appreciation centers on the ability to view art throughout history, focusing on the cultures and the people, and how art developed in the specific periods. It is difficult to understand art without understanding the culture, their use of materials, and a sense of beauty. Art is conveyed by the simple act of creating art for art's sake. Every person is born with the innate desire to create art, and similar to other professions, training is essential in honing skills to produce art. Art education broadens a person's comprehension, development, and visions of art. Art brings an understanding of diversity, how people lived in the past, and connects the issues concerning contemporary life and art today.

The history of the world is similarly the history of art, continually intertwined. For millions of years, as humans roamed the earth, evolution, and environment shaped many different cultures depending on location, weather, natural resources, and food. These cultures formed the foundation of all art today. Art appreciation analyzes art using the methods and materials, allowing people to make connections to the context of art and the interactions of societies.

It is difficult to understand the art without understanding the culture.

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Art Appreciation, Essay Example

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Works of visual art that are of different styles and even different mediums still maintain a commonality in basic elements and principles. The basic elements and principles of art are often referred to as aesthetics. The following examination of the way that basic aesthetics extend across individual themes and styles involves examination of three works of art, each distinct in theme and type from the other. The three works are: “Autumn Aglow” by James Scoppertone, “Freestyle” by Anton Arkhipov, and “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by Gib Singleton. The three paintings represent three separate styles, as well as three separate themes. That said, each of the works relies on the use fundamental elements of composition and on similar fundamentals of the theory and practice of the visual arts.

To begin to compare the three works in regard to both differences of style and theme and similarity of fundamentals, a definition of elements and principles is needed. The following examination will proceed with a survey of the artistic elements elements of each work. A survey of the principles of art that underlie the three works will follow. Five elements of art will be discussed and five principles of art will be discussed after which the three works will be compared with one another and the common elements and principles. The examination of the three works in regard to the elements of art begins by defining the following five elements, as suggested by Herberholz: “line, color, shape/form, texture and value” (Herberholz). These elements are present in all three of the works under discussion no matter how varied the three works may prove to be in technique, theme, or medium.

The first work under examination is “Autumn Aglow” by James Scoppertone. This work is a 48 x 36 painting created with oil on canvas and is currently on display at the Galerie Zuger in Dallas Texas. In this painting the elements of art are brought into common function under the general guidelines of Impressionism. Because Impressionism moves away from a strictly realistic depiction of subjects, Scoppertone’s vision of a wooded lane in autumn uses line, color, and shape in an expressive rather than realistic way. In Impressionism, as in Abstract art, “the sheer amount of reflection devoted to color sometimes far exceeds the attention devoted to line and composition” (Barasch 320). However, the most important elements in the painting are value and texture. The interplay of light and color in the leaves and in the foreground road distinguish this work as Impressionistic. The shadings of color (value) combine with the texture of the brushstrokes and interplay of color to create the feeling of the outdoors.

By contrast, in “Freestyle” by Anton Arkhipov, the use of the elements of art is directed at creating a surrealistic, rather than Impressionistic image. This work is a 65 x 45 oil on canvas currently on display at the Summit Galerie in Breckenridge, Colorado. In this painting, the use of line is more important in some ways than the use of value or texture. Color in the painting is expressive rather than realistic, but the primary agent of emotion and feeling in the work is the use of line. The two skiers are so awkwardly close and intertwined that the contrast between the idea of balance and chaos is expressed in a powerful way. The shapes that are present in and around the figures are expressive in an abstract, geometrical way, just as the overall form of the painting is to pit the idea of geometrical perfection against human clumsiness. This contrast, expressed by form, line, color, texture, and value indicates a theme of humanity’s estrangement from the harmony of nature and the longing to return to balance.

Extending a similar theme of disharmony, Gib Singelton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” is a Biblically themed bronze sculpture exhibited at the Masters Gallery in Vail Colorado. This work depicts a scene from the Book of Revelations. As such, it is the most realistic work even though it depicts a mythological theme. The use of line in this work is used to create a sense of motion and speed, while color is muted to earth tones of muted bronze and orange. The texture of the pace is very important because it is three-dimensional, heavy, and solid as befits a prophesy of doom. The value of the colors is significant because they are lowered to the level of gloom. The shape and form of the work expresses the interconnectedness between the four symbols of destruction and the earth they are sent to destroy. The theme of this work is, obviously, much darker than the two paintings under discussion, but its tone and expression rests on the same shared set of expressive elements.

Just as each of the three works shares basic elements of expression, they also share a set of principles. The principles that are common to the works are “balance, emphasis, proportion, movement [….] and unity” (Herberholz). These principles help to define each of the three works despite their obvious differences in medium, technique, and theme. In other words, just as the elements of expression were shown to be commonly held in each of the works, the basic principles are also present.

For example, in Scoppertone’s “Autumn Aglow,” the sense of balance is harmonious. The trees are in an almost dance-like relation on either side of a smooth and easy road that flows through the painting’s center. The emphasis in the image is placed on the road which invited the viewer to “enter” the balance depicted in the nature-image of the Fall forest. The proportions of the painting are almost natural, but smoothed over to seem more dream-like. The sense of motion in the image is conveyed through the Impressionistic brushstrokes that make all that is show seem in motion with scattered leaves in the air and on the lane. These elements all coalesce in an essential unity of all the aspects of the painting, but especially that which unites the various principles to the theme of the painting which is: nature.

Unity is also present in Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” where the sense of motion and exaggerated proportions of the work are used to convey an overall sense of imbalance. This sense is contrasted against the essential unity of nature for ironic impact. The irony of the painting is the primary way in which the work’s theme is presented. In other words, it is the imbalance and disproportion of the human figures on skis as contrasted with the balanced, natural valley below them that creates the tension and meaning of the work. The contrast between the human world and nature results in a unified expression of theme and image.

Similarly, in Singelton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” a sense of irony is also generated through the use of the principles of composition. In this work, balance is present and is contrasted fro dramatic effect with the sense of motion that is conveyed through the figures. At the same time, the overall unity of the work is conveyed despite its theme of chaos and destruction. This reinforces the unchanging nature of Biblical prophecy and so, the emphasis of the work is on the simultaneous expression of heaviness and speed. It is as though the horsemen are about to trample the observer.

Although the viewer is invited to participate in each of the three works, a comparison of the works shows that the themes imparted to the viewer are vastly different in each of the three. In each case, there is a connection between technique, medium, and theme that allows the underlying elements and principles to be used for various effects. “Autumn Aglow” by Scoppertone is an affirmative vision of nature and the potential of man’s harmonious relationship with natural world. It is suitably painted with an Impressionistic technique which lends it a depth of unity in theme and image. The way that the elements of composition are used in this painting is to emphasize the role of light and color and the influence of value and texture while letting the “constrictive” elements of form and line be diminished. This also ties to athematic statement made in the painting regarding nature: that it is based not on restrictive line and form but on feeling and freedom and on the interaction between colors and light.

The feeling for nature that is present in Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” is slightly darker and is presented in a stylized technique that emphasizes form, proportion, and imbalance to create an ironic them about man’s disharmony with nature. Color is expressive and form and line are used to create contrast in this work. Essentially the painting aims to gently criticize the modern world with a reminder that human folly is often a consequence of trying to master the natural world. Singleton’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” extends this disharmony to overwhelmingly dark and tragic proportions. The way that the disharmony is shown is to diminish the role of color and decrease the value of expressive color to only those which indicate sadness and gloom. Furthermore, motion is contrasted with the heaviness of the figures to suggest immovable fate. A sense of dramatic urgency is created by the sculptures proportions which are realistic but stylized to an almost mythical level. The impact of the sculpture is to personify a Biblical symbolism in one of the least expected ways: cast in bronze to achieve a feeling of revelation that mirrors the theme of the work.

Taken together, the three works show a “degenration” of the harmony between human imagination and the natural world. In my opinion, Scoppertone’s work lives up to its billing of being “infused with an intensely dramatic sense of color” (Scoppertone). Arkhipov’s “Freestyle” seemed to me to be refreshingly ironic and “free of any political or popular trends” (Arkhipov). The sculpture of “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” was my least favorite of the pieces. This was due to the fact that the realistic depiction of Biblical symbols simply seemed to be a weak combination . That said, I do agree that “Singleton lends a very human vulnerability to his otherwise divine subjects” (Singleton). This is something that any artist should attempt to do, although it is not as easily quantified as the elements and principles just examined.

Works Cited

Adelstein,Edie. Review: Gib Singleton and Earl Biss at the FAC. 8-12-2010; Colorado Springs Independant Online ; accessed 3-14-12;

Arkhipov, Anton. “Bio”; access 3-13-12 ;

Barasch, Moshe. Modern Theories of Art . New York: New York University Press, 1990. .

Herberholz, Barbara. “. When We Review the Principles of Art.” Arts & Activities Nov. 2010: 15+.

Singleton, Gib. “About.”; accessed 3-15-12;

Scoppertone, James. “An American Impressionist”; accessed 3-15-12;

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essay for art appreciation

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  • Art Appreciation Essays

Art Appreciation Essays (Examples)

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Art appreciation title of exhibition.

4. Pablo Picasso (Oct. 25, 1881 - Apr. 8, 1973) Our first non-French artist, Pablo Picasso was born in Spain to an artist father. From an early age, Picasso demonstrated remarkable talent and zeal. After moving to Paris his art career exploded when he created the "Cubist" movement using shapes and dull colors to represent the subjects. Later he experimented with "Neo-Classicism" and "Surrealism." Picasso was not only a painter of great renown, but he was also a sculpture in his own right with Chicago's Daley Plaza home to one of his sculptures. No art exhibit could be complete without something from Picasso. Like our other artists, he too developed his own style: "Cubism," and like our other artists, he was not limited to the canvas. Influenced by many different sources, one can see his father's influence, as well as the great masters like Velaquez, Delacroix, and Manet. Picasso's Bullfighting Scene (1901) should….

Works Cited

Courthion, Pierre. Georges Seurat. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1988. Print.

Cowling, Elizabeth. Matisse, Picasso. London: Tate Publishing, 2002. Print.

Frank, Elizabeth. Jackson Pollack. New York: Abbeville, 1983. Print.

Palau, I. Fabre, Josep. Picasso. New York: Rizzoli, 1985. Print.

Art Appreciation Dorothea Lange's Migrant

Upon the altar of which this piece would have been a part, the priests of the medieval age would have offered the sacrifice of the Mass -- in which the Body and Blood of the Christ would be offered in an unbloody manner through an act called Transubstantiation. This was a central portion of the Mass and was part of the belief system of the "age of faith" in estern civilization. The altarpiece depicts various figures from the Christian mythology, such as Christ, the Blessed Virgin, St. Anthony and St. Sebastian. The central image, however, is the one upon which the entire mythology of the Middle Ages is based -- the Incarnation of God and His death upon the cross. hat this says about the civilization of Europe in the Middle Ages is that it had a strong desire to see their faith as both realistic and mythical. The images and….

"Buddhist Studies." BuddhaNet. Web. 12 Aug 2011.

Martinez, Eugenia Soledad. "Crossing Cultures: Afro-Portuguese Ivories of 15th and

16th Century Sierra Leone." Web. 12 Aug 2011.

Michelle of Nah Tah Wahsh PSA. "Pomo Basket." Web. 12 Aug 2011.

Art Appreciation

sculpture of artist Henry Moore. Specifically, it will look at his art style and how events in his life affected his work Henry Moore was an influential English abstract sculptor who lived from 1898 too 1986. His modernistic works appear in museums and collections around the world. He was intensely preoccupied with two forms of sculpture above all others, the "reclining figure," which he reproduced dozens of times. Each one was different, but followed the same basic premise of a figure lying down. The other is the "mother and child," which he reproduced countless times in countless ways. Moore's artistic talent was discovered early, when an art teacher took interest in his work while he was still in secondary school. His family did not encourage him in his artistic pursuits, and so he began his career as a teacher, and then went into the army. In 1919, he received a grant….

Editors. "Henry Moore on the Internet." ArtCyclopedia. 20 July 2002. 24 Oct. 2002. 

Grohmann, Will. The Art of Henry Moore. New York H.N. Abrams, 1960.

Kramer, Hilton. "After All These Years, Henry Moore Is Great." New York Observer. 12 Nov. 01,-page 18.

George Durrie was an American painter who lived and worked during the 19th century (George). Durrie was a northerner who supported abolition and professed a concern over rampant industrialization which he believed diminished the natural landscape. Currie was most famous for his paintings of pastoral landscapes and country images which were later reprinted and sold as lithographs for the popular Currier and Ives Company, particularly his winter scenes which became popular on Christmas cards even up to the present moment. Although perhaps not the most recognized American painter, nor the most productive, it can be easily argued that George Durrie made a lasting contribution to the American artistic tradition and to the subsequent understanding that creative people had the ability and the audience to include social commentary into even the most apparently innocuous of their works. This particular painting by Durrie, entitled "inter in the Country," was created in 1857….

Works Cited:

"George Henry Durrie (1820-1863)." 2012. Web. April 2012. 

Hutson, Martha et. al George Henry Durrie, 1820-1863. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara

Museum of Art. 1977. Print.

Art Appreciation Theme of Love and Sex

Art Appreciation Research Paper This paper focuses on artistic work that concentrates on the themes of love and sex. Although the two seem to be in tandem, at least in terms of application, the dominant theme is love. It refers to different arts and several artists who give their diverse opinions in support and against love. It is essential to highlight the deductions made in this paper reflect the thoughts of associated artists. However, the author has introduced some customized ideas that help create harmony in various authors' opinions. Some sections of the paper juxtapose different artwork sections to illustrate the fundamental differences in the theme of love. The differences make the piece more realistic and appreciated. The Theme of Love and Sex The theme of love has dominated the lives of artists for centuries. In the Italian Renaissance, love was the core theme and demanded a political and philosophical ideal from the….

Art Museum Case Study This Case Study

Art Museum: Case Study This case study involves a campus art museum that for many years had a competent director, but a relatively staid presence on campus. The last director had a far more populist orientation. He tried to bring schoolchildren into the museum on a regular basis, and bring in traveling art exhibitions that were of interest to the larger public. But he seemed more interested in advancing a radical political agenda than truly supporting art. Because the art museum is seen as connected to the graduate school, there is a great deal of anger amongst faculty members, who believe that the museum should serve the interests of the school, specifically the graduate students studying for PhDs. In the future, the evaluation committee must have a more systematic process for evaluating candidates. The mission of the art museum must be clearly defined. And the past qualifications, necessary skills, and goals….

Art and Politics Light Being the Very

Art and Politics "Light being the very essence of our existence, a work of art that is not concerned with light has no right to exist." (Rosso 23) The eye takes in and processes a world of information all at once. We do not even fully recognize all of the inputs that the brain processes. In fact, the brain is still more sophisticated than the world's most powerful computer. These facts have deep implications for art and art appreciation since the "impression" of the art is important in the sense that it attempts to recreate a reality. For an artist to try to recreate reality they must pay particular attention to light and color. However, all of this assumes an artist wants to "recreate" something natural and the feeling that accompanies it during the first impression. This is not always the case. Other artists and architects have focused more on the functionality of….

Art The Abuse of Beauty

He advocates a greater openness and acceptance of other determinations and views about art. For example, the way the art of "disgust" and harsh realism have entered into the mainstream of art should be seen in the context of this reappraisal and reassessment of 'beauty'. Central to this important debate is the fundamental realization that the meaning and even existence of art is at issue as never before. This is referred to by Danto as a form of "conceptual erasure" which is related to the present state of pluralism in art. y pluralism, Danto means that there are many and not one single view of what art is or should be. He refers to pop art in this regard and extends his argument to the way in which modern forms of art have become conceptual and do not even need to produce an object or work of art. As a result….


Danto, Arthur C. 2002. "The Abuse of Beauty." Daedalus 131, no. 4-35+. ; (Accessed November 11, 2007).

Danto Arthur C. 1964. "The Artworld," Journal of Philosophy, 61, no. 19: 571-584;

Puolakka Kalle. Interrupting Danto's Farewell Party Arrangements: Comments for Grigoriev. : (Accessed November 11, 2007).

Danto Arthur C. 1964. "The Artworld," Journal of Philosophy, 61, no. 19: 571-584; (Accessed November 11, 2007).

Art of Colonial Latin America

Admittedly, these two teams were faced with a daunting challenge in acquiring and interpreting those works of art that were most appropriate for their exhibition goals, and interpretive efforts must use some framework in which to present the resources in a fashion that can be understood and appreciated by the targeted audiences. Nevertheless, there is little or no discussion concerning the fusion of artistic styles in the two catalogs, with a preference for a neat and orderly, date by date, presentation of representative works that typify the points being made by the exhibition. Despite these shortcomings, both catalogs were shown to be authoritative references that were supported by relevant citations and imagery. Likewise, both catalogs provide useful overviews of the materials that are being presented preparatory to their interpretation, helping place the information in its historical context. Conclusion The research showed that interest and appreciation in colonial Latin American art has experienced….

Bailey, Gauvin Alexander. Introduction in Art of Colonial Latin America. New York: Phaidon

Press, 2005.

Paz, Octavio. Metropolitan Museum of Art: Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries. Los Angeles: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierce, Donna, Gomar, Rogelio R. And Bargellini, Clara. Painting a New World: Mexican Art

Art During Renaissance the Evolution of Art

Art During Renaissance The Evolution of Art During the Renaissance The Renaissance period is defined as a cultural movement that spanned approximately from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe (rotton 2006, p. 6). This period in the history of art included the painting, decorative arts and sculpture of the period and for many was considered a reawakening or rebirth of historic and ancient traditions based on the classical antiquity and the inclusion of more recent developments by applications of contemporary scientific knowledge. The Renaissance was seen as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the modern era. The period also marked a cognitive shift from religious perspectives to a more intellectual and social focus. Classical texts previously lost to European scholars became readily available and included science, drama, poetry, prose, philosophy, and new considerations regarding Christian theology.….

Acidini, Luchinat Cristina. The Medici, Michelangelo, & the Art of Late Renaissance Florence. New Haven: Yale UP in Association with the Detroit Institute of Arts, 2002. Print.

Adams, Laurie. Italian Renaissance Art. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2001. Print.

Barter, James. Artists of the Renaissance. San Diego, CA: Lucent, 1999. Print.

Bartlett, Kenneth. The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance. Toronto D.C.

Art Impressionism in Art Developed in the

Art Impressionism in art developed in the 19th century. Impressionist paintings were characterized by visible brush strokes, and subject was drawn from ordinary life and outdoors, rather than being confined to still life, or portraits and landscapes drawn in studios. Emphasis was laid on the effect of light changing its qualities as well as movement. These characteristics of impression can be well observed in the works of art by Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet in their paintings Paris: A ainy Day, The Absinthe Drinker and The Bar at the Folies Bergere respectively. Paris: A ainy Day is an oil painting drawn in 1877 encompasses the Impressionist use of landscape scene. The curator of the Art Institute of Chicago was quoted describing the painting by Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times (December 12, 1995) as "the great picture of urban life in the late 19th century." The masterpiece gives of view….


1. Gaustave Caillebotte, Paris Street: A Rainy Day, retrieved on July 9, 2012 from 

2. L' Absinthe-Degas, retrieved on July 9, 2012 from 

3. Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, retrieved on July 9, 2012 from

Art Can Come in Many Shapes Sizes

Art can come in many shapes, sizes, and mediums, yet one thing that all art has in common is its ability to connect to individuals and enable them to experience catharsis, that is illicit an emotional response. Some of the most awe-inspiring works of art are architectural such as the Lincoln Memorial, which bookmarks the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Memorial is impressive and its sheer magnitude and size was unexpected. Walking up to the memorial, I realized that it was much larger than I had anticipated and that much like a temple, the actual memorial is located at the top of a series of steps. It was nothing like looking at the back of a penny or a five-dollar bill. The Lincoln Memorial successfully combining the concepts of form and function through its structure (Pearson Publication, Inc., 2009, p. 164). The memorial itself was designed by Henry acon,….

National Parks Service. (2012). Lincoln Memorial design individuals. Accessed 21 August 2012,

from .

Pearson Publications Inc. (2009). Chapter 5: Art. The Art of Being Human: The Humanities As A

Technique For Living, pp. 114-169.

Art Along With Georges Braque Fernand Leger

Art Along with Georges Braque, Fernand Leger and Pablo Picasso were firmly at the forefront of the cubist movement in modern art. Cubism sprouted from Picasso's experimentations with collage, along with Braque, but later morphed into an interpretive and expressive style of painting that heralded many related movements in abstract modern art including futurism. As Fitz puts it, Picasso used the cubist style to express the things he could not see, but which he knew were there; the things that everybody is "certain of seeing," but which are not depicted on a traditional canvas (228). As a result, Picasso reinvented painting, and reinterpreted what the function of painting was. Leger deserves credit also, for he too pursued the " quest for a means by which to accurately describe three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional canvas," (Spector). Leger and Picasso developed totally unique and distinct brands of cubism, even if their formative influences….

Dickerman, Leah. Inventing Abstraction. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2013.

Fitz, L.T. "Gertrude Stein and Picasso: The Language of Surfaces." American Literature. Vol. 45, No. 2. May 1973.

Lanchner, Carolyn, Leger, Fernand, Hauptman, Jody, Afron, Matthew, and Erikson, Kristen. Fernand Leger. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. 1998.

Spector, Nancy. "Fernand Leger." Guggenheim. Retrieved online:

Art Historical Throughout the History

A good example of this can be seen with Sistine Chapel in the Last Supper. In this piece, he is using color and his imagination to understand what is happening. The use of bright and dark colors added to the sense of realism by giving the appearance as if these events were happening at the moment. In the future, this technique would be utilized by artists to create a sense of appreciation and underscore the emotions of the work itself. Furthermore, the article that was written by Oremaland (1980), is discussing how pieta has often been used throughout many different building projects in the world (with the original at St. Peter's Cathedral). Since that time, various churches have used this dome like structure to create designs that mirror those of Michael Angelo. These different elements are important, because they are showing how this technique was continually embraced by various contractors….

Eknoyan, Garabed. "Michael Angelo," Kidney International, no. 57 (2000): 1190 -- 1201.

Lavoy, Michael. "The Digital Michael Angelo Project," Modern Art, no. 10 (1999): 2 -11.

Oremaland, Jerome. "Mourning and its Effect on Michael Angelo," Annual of Psychoanalysis, no. 8 (1980): 317 -- 351.

Chicago Format.

Art Critique of Surreal and Post-Impressionist Works

Art Critique Critique of Surreal and Post-Impressionist Works of Art Dali's Autumn Cannibalism (1936) Salvador Dali is one of the great and mercurial figures in art history. The surrealistic Spanish painter was influenced heavily by the tumultuous period of history in which he lived and by the haunting images in his own psyche. Both are on dramatic display in the 1936 piece, "Autumn Cannibalism." Here, Dali paints a depiction of the military conflict tearing his motherland apart from within, offering us this terrifying rendering of civil war as seen through the eyes of one consumed by it. In the confrontation between the social commentary and the internal reflection that comprise this piece, Dali creates a piece that is decidedly representative of the surrealist movement both in aesthetic and motif. In spite of Dali's incredible influence, surrealism was ultimately a short-lived movement, leaving its impression on the art world through a peak lasting from….


Art  (general)

4. Pablo Picasso (Oct. 25, 1881 - Apr. 8, 1973) Our first non-French artist, Pablo Picasso was born in Spain to an artist father. From an early age, Picasso demonstrated…

Mythology - Religion

Upon the altar of which this piece would have been a part, the priests of the medieval age would have offered the sacrifice of the Mass -- in…

sculpture of artist Henry Moore. Specifically, it will look at his art style and how events in his life affected his work Henry Moore was an influential English abstract…

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What is art appreciation important standards for art.

Art appreciation aims to identify different qualities or aspects in the work that one likes or appreciates. Appreciation of the arts is not restricted to any one medium or school of thought; it can extend to any and all forms of creative expression. The purpose of art appreciation is to help people develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship to the art world through increased knowledge, appreciation, and participation in the visual arts.

Observing, analyzing, and criticizing works of art are all great ways to develop an appreciation for art, as are going to museums and galleries, taking art appreciation courses, studying art history, and reading art criticism.

What Is Art Appreciation?

Art appreciation is engaging with visual art to gain insight into its significance. Gaining knowledge about an artist's work through art appreciation can benefit both artists and viewers; artists may use this knowledge for future works, and viewers may use it to decide whether they want to purchase artwork from an artist. Art appreciation is also beneficial for viewers in that it has been shown to increase aesthetic sensitivity and emotional intelligence. Art appreciation is typically taught in art history courses, which may focus on visual art from a particular historical period, such as the Italian Renaissance, or art from a specific geographical region, such as Western Europe. Art appreciation courses are often required for those wishing to take advanced classes in art history. Art appreciation can also be taught outside of the context of a formal course. This may take place through lectures or gallery visits led by an expert or through an individual's study of artwork on their own time. There are numerous books available on the subject, and many of these books contain exercises that can be completed at home. Art appreciation is generally a two-step process. First, one must engage with the work of art; this may entail looking closely at the work, reading about it, or researching a particular aspect. The viewer may then identify different qualities or aspects of the artwork that they like or appreciate and those they dislike or do not appreciate. This decision will be based on what was both liked and disliked about the piece.

Important Standards for Appreciating Art

The following are some of the standards that a professional might use to evaluate if a piece is great.

"Form" refers to the artwork's line, shape, color, texture, and space, as well as the artwork's composition.

Subject matter and symbolic or thematic material (including any messages or meanings) conveyed by a piece of art.


The extent to which an artistic work is novel in some way, whether in terms of form, subject matter, or execution.

Background information on the artist, the time period, and the cultural currents that influenced the creation of the work of art is all part of the context.

Brushwork, medium, and procedure are all examples of the artist's technique.


What makes a work of art timeless is its potential to continue to speak to and inspire new audiences over time.

The artist's level of technical competence and aesthetic discernment is what we mean by "quality."

Artist Biography

Learning about the artist's personal history might shed light on how the artist's experiences shaped the work they produced. Art appreciation allows viewers to investigate and contemplate their emotional responses to a work of art.

Art Appreciation Courses

Courses in art appreciation offer a broad introduction to the visual arts with the goal of fostering a more informed and critical relationship to the works of art students encounter.

These classes are aimed at a non-artist audience and include a wide range of topics, from painting and sculpture to photography and graphic design. Topics typically covered in art appreciation classes include:

Art history

What we call "art history" is essentially a historical overview of significant artistic developments, artists, and art movements.

Elements of art

Analysis of the visual elements—color, line, texture, and form—that compose a piece of art.

Art techniques

Artistic processes and materials, such as oil painting, printmaking, and digital media, are examined in this section.

Art critique

The term "critique" refers to an in-depth examination of a piece of art, including a discussion of the artist's intentions and the audience's reaction to the work.

Art in context

Contextual analysis of art is the study of the historical, political, cultural, and social conditions under which individual works of art emerged and had their effect on the world. These programs can be taken in the traditional classroom setting, online, or at the student's own pace through a variety of institutions such as colleges, art schools, community centers, and museums.

Art Appreciation Techniques

Techniques for appreciating art are the tools we use to examine, understand, and value visual creations.

You can build a more considered and genuine reaction to a piece of art by using these techniques to analyze its visual components, content, and context. The following are some of the most often-used techniques for appreciating works of art:

Formal analysis

An artwork's line, color, texture, shape, and space are all factors that can be dissected through a formal analysis.


Iconography refers to the study of the meanings of symbols and pictures inside a work of art.

Emotional response

An emotional response might be anything from happiness to sadness to amazement to quiet reflection after viewing a work of art.

Contextual analysis

Analyzing the artwork within its historical and cultural context entails learning about the artist's upbringing, their inspirations, and the social and political climate of the time.

Multisensory engagement

The term "multisensory engagement" refers to the practice of including more than one sense in a single viewing experience.

The study of the cultural and historical importance of the signs and symbols utilized in an artistic work is known as semiotics. Each of these techniques can be used independently or in tandem to better comprehend and appreciate artistic creations.

The Importance of Art Appreciation

The ability to appreciate art is crucial because it leads to a more informed and personal connection with works of art, as well as a greater appreciation of the artist. Among the many advantages of appreciating art are:

Cultural enrichment

Understanding the world and appreciating its great diversity can be enhanced by viewing works of art from a variety of cultures and time periods.

Improved critical thinking skills

Skills in analysis, reflection, and problem-solving can be honed by close examination of works of art and thoughtful consideration of their significance, context, and meaning.

Emotional growth

Engaging with works of art can elicit a range of feelings, all of which contribute to a person's development in areas such as self-awareness, empathy, and EQ.

Enhanced creativity

Improved inventiveness and artistic expression can result from exposure to and appreciation of the arts.

Stress relief

Engaging with art has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by providing a welcome diversion from the pressures of daily living.

In Conclusion

Appreciating art has the potential to enrich lives and strengthen bonds between individuals and their communities. Art appreciation also affects educators, who can develop a better level of awareness concerning various aspects of the visual arts, such as color, design, composition, and more. Similarly, art appreciation can also positively affect those who work in museums or other places that require working with visual media to fulfill the job requirements. Likewise, those planning on going into museum management or education may find it helpful to take an art appreciation course before entering their career.

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Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings Compare & Contrast Essay

Renaissance paintings.

In the middle age period between thirteenth and sixteenth century, Renaissance paintings dominated the art scene. These paintings reflected themes of religious inspiration and quest to understand God. The environment, saints, and heaven were visualized in religious, law, and medicine themes.

Generally, the interest of these artists was to paint astronomy, biology, natural world and science in the most captivating ways possible. Thus, this research paper attempts to evaluate symbolism, styles, material used, meaning, and aesthetic values of two outstanding paintings as a comparison and contrast of another. In addition, the treatise classifies these paintings into their respective classes, dimensionality, nature, message, and traditional functions.

The paintings identified for this analysis are the Madonna and Child in Glory by Jacopa di Cione in the period between 1360 and 1365, and the Adoration of the Shepherds by Giovanni Agostino da Lori in 1510. The Madonna and child in Glory panting is a landscape painting.

Jacopa has successfully painted this picture of the mother in a three dimensional form. Within its frame, it is clear that the saints are standing before Madonna, and the angels behind her. With the available mathematical formulas, Jacopa uses this tool to represent a convincing three dimensional space giving an impression of the painting frame being a window frame.

Interestingly, the first impression on looking into the painting is the same as that of gazing through a window (Catholic Museum, 2009). Since Madonna and Child in Glory painting was done in the 13 th century when egg tempera was the most common material, Jacopa’s painting consists of egg tempera on a golden panel (The Guardian, 2009).

The egg tempera is casted on golden panel. The colors used include blue, yellow, gold, orange, cream, grey, and red mixed. The central image is that of Madonna holding her baby and is larger than the saints standing at Madonna’s feet or the angels on the upper edges.

Specifically, Jacopa made Madonna and her child the centre of attraction to enable viewers understand her significance and importance above others. The rough texture is properly merged with an array of soft and vibrant colors to make the final product look very real.

The rough texture is as a result of the quick drying nature of egg tempera. The subject matter of this painting is revelation of the religious significance of Madonna giving birth of Messiah. Madonna is surrounded by gold background symbolizing atmospheric value of heaven and beauty.

This art is representational of religious beliefs of the Catholic community who lived in this period. The hieratic painting conforms to Catholics ways of representing heavenly beings as larger than the ordinary men. Madonna’s rank is higher than that of the saints and angels (Sammuel, 2000). This painting displays the heavenly beauty in a rich atmosphere.

On the other hand, Adoration of the Shepherds painting by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi is also a three dimensional realistic painting done with more skills than the Madonna. The material used in this painting is oil spread on panel.

Unlike Jacopa’s piece of art, Agostina manages to present finer details of the images in his painting. The images are clear and the characters similar in size apart from the little baby. The technique of brush painting with a mixture of colors reveals an active aspect of imagery and inartistic realism.

A blend of soft and vibrant colors gives this painting a soft texture and refined composition. The translucent oil paint often dries slowly. This gave Agostina ample time to work on each layer of colors. In the end, the product appears deep and of greater dimension. A blend of green, yellow, grey, red, violet, and creamy colors makes the picture very attractive (Robin, 2007).

With the emergence of humanist ideology, Agostina is influenced to adopt the earthy theme of a green natural background as opposed to Jacopa’s heavenly golden background. The landscape and background of this painting presents an impression of forest, green gardens, and dwelling places of ordinary men (Michael, 2010).

This piece of art depicts two shepherds and an angel together with baby Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph. The angel is busy playing a lute in a natural green environment.

The green landscape is symbolic of these figures in the physical being and not heavenly world. The mood of this painting is happiness. Thus, this symbolizes the possibilities of living happy and full life on earth before transitional link to heaven. The perspective used in creating this painting presents a chronological sequence of color pigmentation on a specific landscape.

Agostina and Jacopa lived in the renaissance era. Their painting styles are more or less the same. This was later adopted by the modern academic arts (Adrian, 2000). These paintings present the relationship between humanity, universe and God. Simultaneously, classical precedent architecture has facilitated acceptance of these masterpieces and study.

These paintings are of extra ordinary quality representing the Catholic Church’s doctrines and beliefs. In conclusion, these paintings intrinsically influence views and nature of life in the world and heaven. Besides, posterity and simple oil and tempera on panel paintings communicates different artistic impressions within the same theme.

Madonna and Child in Glory by Jacopa di Cione

a.1 Madonna and Child in Glory by Jacopa di Cione (1360-1365).

Adoration of the Shepherds by Giovanni Agostino da Lori

a.2 Adoration of the Shepherds by Giovanni Agostino da Lori (1510).

Adrian, F. (2000). Artist of the Italian Renaissance. In Chronology part one(500-1350). Web.

Michael, D. (2010). Madonna and Child. In Artlex art dictionary modules. Web.

Robin, N. (2007). Key Innovations and Artists of the Italian Renaissance. In Eyecon Art. Web.

Sammuel, K. (2000). Humanism in the Renaissance. In the Renaissnce Connection . Web.

The Guardian. (2009). Why can’t scientists date the Portland Vase? In The Guardian(newspaper). Web.

Vatican Museum. (2009). Borghase Gallary. In Vatican Museum. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2022, February 22). Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings.

"Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings." IvyPanda , 22 Feb. 2022,

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings'. 22 February.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings." February 22, 2022.

1. IvyPanda . "Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings." February 22, 2022.


IvyPanda . "Art Appreciation on Renaissance Paintings." February 22, 2022.

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The Importance of Art Appreciation

The term art encompasses a large variety of works, from paintings to sculptures, architecture to design, and in modern times, digital art. Everyone can appreciate and marvel at art, and being subjective in nature, different art forms appeal to different people. Art appreciation, however, refers to the exploration and analysis of the art forms that we are exposed to. It can be highly subjective, depending on an individuals personal tastes and preferences, or can be done on the basis of several grounds such as elements of design and mastery displayed in the piece. Art appreciation also involves a deeper look into the setting and historical implication and background of the piece, a study of its origins.

Art Appreciation, Jennard Galleries

Art appreciation is extremely relevant for multiple reasons. It is a good way to understand the history behind the work, and the period from which the piece originated. Artists often reflect the problems that they face, and the issues of the society in their work. By analyzing and putting ourselves in the mind of the artist, we can better study how differently society functioned then, compared to now. We can empathize and relate to the problems they faced on a personal level.

Art is meant to stimulate thought and conversation between its viewers. By reflecting on a piece of art, we delve into our own experiences and nostalgia, thus a piece of art means something different to every person that comes across it. Art appreciation helps open up the mindset of the people, by listening to different perspective es and views as well as interpretations of the art, it encourages thoughtful conversation and the understanding that there is more than one approach to everything.

For many people, art is meant to express something that we ourselves feel unable to express or convey. Through its visual medium it evokes feelings of joy, sadness, anger and pain. That is why art appreciation is so important in bringing that one final element to complete the work, and that is our interpretation. Our perspective brings the artwork to life as it changes for every person around it.

It is important to foster art appreciation and analysis, as it helps us value the art in how it appeals to us and what it means to each person. It delves into the history and the story behind the art, as well as a look into the lives of the artists. It enables one to critically analyze a work, along lines of design, mastery and techniques. Most importantly, however, art appreciation stimulates though and analysis, provokes an individual to look past what meets the eye and open our mind to the views of others.

The author is Narendra Desirazu , Director of Jennard Galleries , that hosts art appreciation programs for students.

Also read: The Importance of Art Education in Schools

EducationWorld February 2024

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Essay on Art

500 words essay on art.

Each morning we see the sunshine outside and relax while some draw it to feel relaxed. Thus, you see that art is everywhere and anywhere if we look closely. In other words, everything in life is artwork. The essay on art will help us go through the importance of art and its meaning for a better understanding.

essay on art

What is Art?

For as long as humanity has existed, art has been part of our lives. For many years, people have been creating and enjoying art.  It expresses emotions or expression of life. It is one such creation that enables interpretation of any kind.

It is a skill that applies to music, painting, poetry, dance and more. Moreover, nature is no less than art. For instance, if nature creates something unique, it is also art. Artists use their artwork for passing along their feelings.

Thus, art and artists bring value to society and have been doing so throughout history. Art gives us an innovative way to view the world or society around us. Most important thing is that it lets us interpret it on our own individual experiences and associations.

Art is similar to live which has many definitions and examples. What is constant is that art is not perfect or does not revolve around perfection. It is something that continues growing and developing to express emotions, thoughts and human capacities.

Importance of Art

Art comes in many different forms which include audios, visuals and more. Audios comprise songs, music, poems and more whereas visuals include painting, photography, movies and more.

You will notice that we consume a lot of audio art in the form of music, songs and more. It is because they help us to relax our mind. Moreover, it also has the ability to change our mood and brighten it up.

After that, it also motivates us and strengthens our emotions. Poetries are audio arts that help the author express their feelings in writings. We also have music that requires musical instruments to create a piece of art.

Other than that, visual arts help artists communicate with the viewer. It also allows the viewer to interpret the art in their own way. Thus, it invokes a variety of emotions among us. Thus, you see how essential art is for humankind.

Without art, the world would be a dull place. Take the recent pandemic, for example, it was not the sports or news which kept us entertained but the artists. Their work of arts in the form of shows, songs, music and more added meaning to our boring lives.

Therefore, art adds happiness and colours to our lives and save us from the boring monotony of daily life.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Conclusion of the Essay on Art

All in all, art is universal and can be found everywhere. It is not only for people who exercise work art but for those who consume it. If there were no art, we wouldn’t have been able to see the beauty in things. In other words, art helps us feel relaxed and forget about our problems.

FAQ of Essay on Art

Question 1: How can art help us?

Answer 1: Art can help us in a lot of ways. It can stimulate the release of dopamine in your bodies. This will in turn lower the feelings of depression and increase the feeling of confidence. Moreover, it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Question 2: What is the importance of art?

Answer 2: Art is essential as it covers all the developmental domains in child development. Moreover, it helps in physical development and enhancing gross and motor skills. For example, playing with dough can fine-tune your muscle control in your fingers.

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The multi-layered stories behind Anna Perach's new edition

By Will Fenstermaker

June 14, 2017

The 10 Essays That Changed Art Criticism Forever

There has never been a time when art critics held more power than during the second half of the twentieth century. Following the Second World War, with the relocation of the world’s artistic epicenter from Paris to New York, a different kind of war was waged in the pages of magazines across the country. As part of the larger “culture wars” of the mid-century, art critics began to take on greater influence than they’d ever held before. For a time, two critics in particular—who began as friends, and remained in the same social circles for much of their lives—set the stakes of the debates surrounding the maturation of American art that would continue for decades. The ideas about art outlined by Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg are still debated today, and the extent to which they were debated in the past has shaped entire movements of the arts. Below are ten works of criticism through which one can trace the mainstreaming of Clement Greenberg’s formalist theory, and how its dismantling led us into institutional critique and conceptual art today.

The American Action Painters

Harold Rosenberg

One: Number 31

Harold Rosenberg, a poet who came to art through his involvement with the Artist’s Union and the WPA, was introduced to Jean-Paul Sartre as the “first American existentialist.” Soon, Rosenberg became a contributor to Sartre’s publication in France, for which he first drafted his influential essay. However, when Sartre supported Soviet aggression against Korea, Rosenberg brought his essay to Elaine de Kooning , then the editor of ARTnews , who ran “The American Action Painters” in December, 1952.

RELATED: What Did Harold Rosenberg Do? An Introduction to the Champion of “Action Painting”

Rosenberg’s essay on the emerging school of American Painters omitted particular names—because they’d have been unfamiliar to its original French audience—but it was nonetheless extraordinarily influential for the burgeoning scene of post-WWII American artists. Jackson Pollock claimed to be the influence of “action painting,” despite Rosenberg’s rumored lack of respect for the artist because Pollock wasn’t particularly well-read. Influenced by Marxist theory and French existentialism, Rosenberg conceives of a painting as an “arena,” in which the artist acts upon, wrestles, or otherwise engages with the canvas, in what ultimately amounts to an expressive record of a struggle. “What was to go on the canvas,” Rosenberg wrote, “was not a picture but an event.”

Notable Quote

Weak mysticism, the “Christian Science” side of the new movement, tends … toward easy painting—never so many unearned masterpieces! Works of this sort lack the dialectical tension of a genuine act, associated with risk and will. When a tube of paint is squeezed by the Absolute, the result can only be a Success. The painter need keep himself on hand solely to collect the benefits of an endless series of strokes of luck. His gesture completes itself without arousing either an opposing movement within itself nor the desire in the artist to make the act more fully his own. Satisfied with wonders that remain safely inside the canvas, the artist accepts the permanence of the commonplace and decorates it with his own daily annihilation. The result is an apocalyptic wallpaper.

‘American-Type’ Painting

Clement Greenberg

Frank Stella

Throughout the preceding decade, Clement Greenberg, also a former poet, had established a reputation as a leftist critic through his writings with The Partisan Review —a publication run by the John Reed Club, a New York City-centered organization affiliated with the American Communist Party—and his time as an art critic with The Nation . In 1955, The Partisan Review published Greenberg’s “‘American-Type’ Painting,” in which the critic defined the now-ubiquitous term “abstract expressionism.”

RELATED: What Did Clement Greenberg Do? A Primer on the Powerful AbEx Theorist’s Key Ideas

In contrast to Rosenberg’s conception of painting as a performative act, Greenberg’s theory, influenced by Clive Bell and T. S. Eliot, was essentially a formal one—in fact, it eventually evolved into what would be called “formalism.” Greenberg argued that the evolution of painting was one of historical determinacy—that ever since the Renaissance, pictures moved toward flatness, and the painted line moved away from representation. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were two of the landmarks of this view. Pollock, who exhibited his drip paintings in 1951, freeing the line from figuration, was for Greenberg the pinnacle of American Modernism, the most important artist since Picasso. (Pollock’s paintings exhibited in 1954, with which he returned to semi-representational form, were regarded by Greenberg as a regression. This lead him to adopt Barnett Newman as his new poster-boy, despite the artist’s possessing vastly different ideas on the nature of painting. For one, Greenberg mostly ignored the Biblical titles of Newman’s paintings.)

Greenberg’s formalist theories were immensely influential over the subsequent decades. Artforum in particular grew into a locus for formalist discourse, which had the early effect of providing an aesthetic toolkit divorced from politic. Certain curators of the Museum of Modern Art, particularly William Rubin, Kirk Varnedoe, and to an extent Alfred Barr are credited for steering the museum in an essentially formalist direction. Some painters, such as Frank Stella , Helen Frankenthaler , and Kenneth Noland, had even been accused of illustrating Greenberg’s theories (and those of Michael Fried, a prominent Greenbergian disciple) in attempt to embody the theory, which was restrictive in its failure to account for narrative content, figuration, identity, politics, and more. In addition, Greenberg’s theories proved well-suited for a burgeoning art market, which found connoisseurship an easy sell. (As the writer Mary McCarthy said, “You can’t hang an event on your wall.”) In fact, the dominance of the term “abstract expressionism” over “action painting,” which seemed more applicable to Pollock and Willem de Kooning than any other members of the New York School, is emblematic of the influence of formalist discourse.

The justification for the term, “abstract expressionist,” lies in the fact that most of the painters covered by it took their lead from German, Russian, or Jewish expressionism in breaking away from late Cubist abstract art. But they all started from French painting, for their fundamental sense of style from it, and still maintain some sort of continuity with it. Not least of all, they got from it their most vivid notion of an ambitious, major art, and of the general direction in which it had to go in their time.

Barbara Rose

Galvanized Iron

Like many critics in the 1950s and 60s, Barbara Rose had clearly staked her allegiance to one camp or the other. She was, firmly, a formalist, and along with Fried and Rosalind Krauss is largely credited with expanding the theory beyond abstract expressionist painting. By 1965, however, Rose recognized a limitation of the theory as outlined by Greenberg—that it was reductionist and only capable of account for a certain style of painting, and not much at all in other mediums.

RELATED: The Intellectual Origins Of Minimalism

In “ABC Art,” published in Art in America where Rose was a contributing editor, Rose opens up formalism to encompass sculpture, which Greenberg was largely unable to account for. The simple idea that art moves toward flatness and abstraction leads, for Rose, into Minimalism, and “ABC Art” is often considered the first landmark essay on Minimalist art. By linking the Minimalist sculptures of artists like Donald Judd to the Russian supremacist paintings of Kasimir Malevich and readymades of Duchamp, she extends the determinist history that formalism relies on into sculpture and movements beyond abstract expressionism.

I do not agree with critic Michael Fried’s view that Duchamp, at any rate, was a failed Cubist. Rather, the inevitability of a logical evolution toward a reductive art was obvious to them already. For Malevich, the poetic Slav, this realization forced a turning inward toward an inspirational mysticism, whereas for Duchamp, the rational Frenchman, it meant a fatigue so enervating that finally the wish to paint at all was killed. Both the yearnings of Malevich’s Slavic soul and the deductions of Duchamp’s rationalist mind led both men ultimately to reject and exclude from their work many of the most cherished premises of Western art in favor of an art stripped to its bare, irreducible minimum.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Philip Leider

Double Negative

Despite the rhetorical tendency to suggest the social upheaval of the '60s ended with the actual decade, 1970 remained a year of unrest. And Artforum was still the locus of formalist criticism, which was proving increasingly unable to account for art that contributed to larger cultural movements, like Civil Rights, women’s liberation, anti-war protests, and more. (Tellingly, The Partisan Review , which birthed formalism, had by then distanced itself from its communist associations and, as an editorial body, was supportive of American Interventionism in Vietnam. Greenberg was a vocal hawk.) Subtitled “Art and Politics in Nevada, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Utah,” the editor’s note to the September 1970 issue of Artforum , written by Philip Leider, ostensibly recounts a road trip undertaken with Richard Serra and Abbie Hoffman to see Michael Heizer’s Double Negative in the Nevada desert.

RELATED: A City of Art in the Desert: Behind Michael Heizer’s Monumental Visions for Nevada

However, the essay is also an account of an onsetting disillusion with formalism, which Leider found left him woefully unequipped to process the protests that had erupted surrounding an exhibition of prints by Paul Wunderlich at the Phoenix Gallery in Berkeley. Wunderlich’s depictions of nude women were shown concurrently to an exhibition of drawings sold to raise money for Vietnamese orphans. The juxtaposition of a canonical, patriarchal form of representation and liberal posturing, to which the protestors objected, showcased the limitations of a methodology that placed the aesthetic elements of a picture plane far above the actual world in which it existed. Less than a year later, Leider stepped down as editor-in-chief and Artforum began to lose its emphasis on late Modernism.

I thought the women were probably with me—if they were, I was with them. I thought the women were picketing the show because it was reactionary art. To the women, [Piet] Mondrian must be a great revolutionary artist. Abstract art broke all of those chains thirty years ago! What is a Movement gallery showing dumb stuff like this for? But if it were just a matter of reactionary art , why would the women picket it? Why not? Women care as much about art as men do—maybe more. The question is, why weren’t the men right there with them?

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Linda Nochlin

Linda Nochlin

While Artforum , in its early history, had established a reputation as a generator for formalist theory, ARTnews had followed a decidedly more Rosenberg-ian course, emphasizing art as a practice for investigating the world. The January 1971 issue of the magazine was dedicated to “Women’s Liberation, Woman Artists, and Art History” and included an iconoclastic essay by Linda Nochlin titled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

RELATED: An Introduction to Feminist Art

Nochlin notes that it’s tempting to answer the question “why have there been no great women artists?” by listing examples of those overlooked by critical and institutional organizations (a labor that Nochlin admits has great merit). However, she notes, “by attempting to answer it, they tacitly reinforce its negative implications,” namely that women are intrinsically less capable of achieving artistic merit than men. Instead, Nochlin’s essay functions as a critique of art institutions, beginning with European salons, which were structured in such a way as to deter women from rising to the highest echelons. Nochlin’s essay is considered the beginning of modern feminist art history and a textbook example of institutional critique.

There are no women equivalents for Michelangelo or Rembrandt, Delacroix or Cézanne, Picasso or Matisse, or even in very recent times, for de Kooning or Warhol, any more than there are black American equivalents for the same. If there actually were large numbers of “hidden” great women artists, or if there really should be different standards for women’s art as opposed to men’s—and one can’t have it both ways—then what are feminists fighting for? If women have in fact achieved the same status as men in the arts, then the status quo is fine as it is. But in actuality, as we all know, things as they are and as they have been, in the arts as in a hundred other areas, are stultifying, oppressive, and discouraging to all those, women among them, who did not have the good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and above all, male. The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education.

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief

Thomas McEvilley

Tribal Modern

One of the many extrapolations of Nochlin’s essay is that contemporary museum institutions continue to reflect the gendered and racist biases of preceding centuries by reinforcing the supremacy of specific master artists. In a 1984 Artforum review, Thomas McEvilley, a classicist new to the world of contemporary art, made the case that the Museum of Modern Art in New York served as an exclusionary temple to certain high-minded Modernists—namely, Picasso, Matisse, and Pollock—who, in fact, took many of their innovations from native cultures.

RELATED: MoMA Curator Laura Hoptman on How to Tell a Good Painting From a “Bogus” Painting

In 1984, MoMA organized a blockbuster exhibition. Curated by William Rubin and Kirk Varnedoe, both of whom were avowed formalists, “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” collected works by European painters like Paul Gaugin and Picasso with cultural artifacts from Zaire, arctic communities, and elsewhere. McEvilley takes aim at the “the absolutist view of formalist Modernism” in which MoMA is rooted. He argues that the removal tribal artifacts from their contexts (for example, many were ritual items intended for ceremonies, not display) and placement of them, unattributed, near works by European artists, censors the cultural contributions of non-Western civilizations in deference to an idealized European genius.

The fact that the primitive “looks like” the Modern is interpreted as validating the Modern by showing that its values are universal, while at the same time projecting it—and with it MoMA—into the future as a permanent canon. A counter view is possible: that primitivism on the contrary invalidates Modernism by showing it to be derivative and subject to external causation. At one level this show undertakes precisely to coopt that question by answering it before it has really been asked, and by burying it under a mass of information.

Please Wait By the Coatroom

The Jungle

Not content to let MoMA and the last vestiges of formalism off the hook yet, John Yau wrote in 1988 an essay on Wifredo Lam, a Cuban painter who lived and worked in Paris among Picasso, Matisse, Georges Braque, and others. Noting Lam’s many influences—his Afro-Cuban mother, Chinese father, and Yoruba godmother—Yau laments the placement of Lam’s The Jungle near the coatroom in the Museum of Modern Art, as opposed to within the Modernist galleries several floors above. The painting was accompanied by a brief entry written by former curator William Rubin, who, Yau argues, adopted Greenberg’s theories because they endowed him with “a connoisseur’s lens with which one can scan all art.”

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Here, as with with McEvilley’s essay, Yau illustrates how formalism, as adapted by museum institutions, became a (perhaps unintentional) method for reinforcing the exclusionary framework that Nochlin argued excluded women and black artists for centuries.

Rubin sees in Lam only what is in his own eyes: colorless or white artists. For Lam to have achieved the status of unique individual, he would have had to successfully adapt to the conditions of imprisonment (the aesthetic standards of a fixed tradition) Rubin and others both construct and watch over. To enter this prison, which takes the alluring form of museums, art history textbooks, galleries, and magazines, an individual must suppress his cultural differences and become a colorless ghost. The bind every hybrid American artist finds themselves in is this: should they try and deal with the constantly changing polymorphous conditions effecting identity, tradition, and reality? Or should they assimilate into the mainstream art world by focusing on approved-of aesthetic issues? Lam’s response to this bind sets an important precedent. Instead of assimilating, Lam infiltrates the syntactical rules of “the exploiters” with his own specific language. He becomes, as he says, “a Trojan horse.”

Black Culture and Postmodernism

Cornel West

Cornel West

The opening up of cultural discourse did not mean that it immediately made room for voices of all dimensions. Cornel West notes as much in his 1989 essay “Black Culture and Postmodernism,” in which he argues that postmodernism, much like Modernism before it, remains primarily ahistorical, which makes it difficult for “oppressed peoples to exercise their opposition to hierarchies of power.” West’s position is that the proliferation of theory and criticism that accompanied the rise of postmodernism provided mechanisms by which black culture could “be conversant with and, to a degree, participants in the debate.” Without their voices, postmodernism would remain yet another exclusionary movements.

RELATED: Kerry James Marshall on Painting Blackness as a Noun Vs. Verb

As the consumption cycle of advanced multinational corporate capitalism was sped up in order to sustain the production of luxury goods, cultural production became more and more mass-commodity production. The stress here is not simply on the new and fashionable but also on the exotic and primitive. Black cultural products have historically served as a major source for European and Euro-American exotic interests—interests that issue from a healthy critique of the mechanistic, puritanical, utilitarian, and productivity aspects of modern life.

Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power

Anna C. Chave

Tilted Arc

In recent years, formalist analysis has been deployed as a single tool within a more varied approach to art. Its methodology—that of analyzing a picture as an isolated phenomena—remains prevalent, and has its uses. Yet, many of the works and movements that rose to prominence under formalist critics and curators, in no small part because of their institutional acceptance, have since become part of the rearguard rather than the vanguard.

In a 1990 essay for Arts Magazine , Anna Chave analyzes how Minimalist sculpture possesses a “domineering, sometimes brutal rhetoric” that was aligned with “both the American military in Vietnam, and the police at home in the streets and on university campuses across the country.” In particular, Chave is concerned with the way Minimalist sculptures define themselves through a process of negation. Of particular relevance to Chave’s argument are the massive steel sculptures by Minimalist artist Richard Serra.

Tilted Arc was installed in Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan in 1981. Chave describes the work as a “mammoth, perilously tilted steel arc [that] formed a divisive barrier too tall to see over, and a protracted trip to walk around.” She writes, “it is more often the case with Serra that his work doesn’t simply exemplify aggression or domination, but acts it out.” Tilted Arc was so controversial upon its erecting that the General Services Administration, which commissioned the work, held hearings in response to petitions demanding the work be removed. Worth quoting at length, Chave writes:

A predictable defense of Serra’s work was mounted by critics, curators, dealers, collectors, and some fellow artists…. The principle arguments mustered on Serra’s behalf were old ones concerning the nature and function of the avant-garde…. What Rubin and Serra’s other supporters declined to ask is whether the sculptor really is, in the most meaningful sense of the term, an avant-garde artist. Being avant-garde implies being ahead of, outside, or against the dominant culture; proffering a vision that implicitly stands (at least when it is conceived) as a critique of entrenched forms and structures…. But Serra’s work is securely embedded within the system: when the brouhaha over Arc was at its height, he was enjoying a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art…. [The defense’s] arguments locate Serra not with the vanguard but with the standing army or “status quo.” … More thoughtful, sensible, and eloquent testimony at the hearing came instead from some of the uncouth:
My name is Danny Katz and I work in this building as a clerk. My friend Vito told me this morning that I am a philistine. Despite that I am getting up to speak…. I don’t think this issue should be elevated into a dispute between the forces of ignorance and art, or art versus government. I really blame government less because it has long ago outgrown its human dimension. But from the artists I expected a lot more. I didn’t expect to hear them rely on the tired and dangerous reasoning that the government has made a deal, so let the rabble live with the steel because it’s a deal. That kind of mentality leads to wars. We had a deal with Vietnam. I didn’t expect to hear the arrogant position that art justifies interference with the simple joys of human activity in a plaza. It’s not a great plaza by international standards, but it is a small refuge and place of revival for people who ride to work in steel containers, work in sealed rooms, and breathe recirculated air all day. Is the purpose of art in public places to seal off a route of escape, to stress the absence of joy and hope? I can’t believe this was the artistic intention, yet to my sadness this for me has become the dominant effect of the work, and it’s all the fault of its position and location. I can accept anything in art, but I can’t accept physical assault and complete destruction of pathetic human activity. No work of art created with a contempt for ordinary humanity and without respect for the common element of human experience can be great. It will always lack dimension.
The terms Katz associated with Serra’s project include arrogance and contempt, assault, and destruction; he saw the Minimalist idiom, in other words, as continuous with the master discourse of our imperious and violent technocracy.

The End of Art

Arthur Danto


Like Greenberg, Arthur Danto was an art critic for The Nation . However, Danto was overtly critical of Greenberg’s ideology and the influence he wielded over Modern and contemporary art. Nor was he a follower of Harold Rosenberg, though they shared influences, among them the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Danto’s chief contribution to contemporary art was his advancing of Pop Artists, particularly Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein .

In “The End of Art” Danto argues that society at large determines and accepts art, which no longer progresses linearly, categorized by movements. Instead, viewers each possess a theory or two, which they use to interpret works, and art institutions are largely tasked with developing, testing, and modifying various interpretive methods. In this way, art differs little from philosophy. After decades of infighting regarding the proper way to interpret works of art, Danto essentially sanctioned each approach and the institutions that gave rise to them. He came to call this “pluralism.”

RELATED: What Was the Pictures Generation?

Similarly, in “Painting, Politics, and Post-Historical Art,” Danto makes the case for an armistice between formalism and the various theories that arose in opposition, noting that postmodern critics like Douglas Crimp in the 1980s, who positioned themselves against formalism, nonetheless adopted the same constrictive air, minus the revolutionary beginnings.

Modernist critical practice was out of phase with what was happening in the art world itself in the late 60s and through the 1970s. It remained the basis for most critical practice, especially on the part of the curatoriat, and the art-history professoriat as well, to the degree that it descended to criticism. It became the language of the museum panel, the catalog essay, the article in the art periodical. It was a daunting paradigm, and it was the counterpart in discourse to the “broadening of taste” which reduced art of all cultures and times to its formalist skeleton, and thus, as I phrased it, transformed every museum into a Museum of Modern Art, whatever that museum’s contents. It was the stable of the docent’s gallery talk and the art appreciation course—and it was replaced, not totally but massively, by the postmodernist discourse that was imported from Paris in the late 70s, in the texts of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Lacan, and of the French feminists Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray. That is the discourse [Douglas] Crimp internalizes, and it came to be lingua artspeak everywhere. Like modernist discourse, it applied to everything, so that there was room for deconstructive and “archeological” discussion of art of every period.

Editor’s Note: This list was drawn in part from a 2014 seminar taught by Debra Bricker Balken in the MFA program in Art Writing at the School of Visual Arts titled Critical Strategies: Late Modernism/Postmodernism. Additional sources can be found here , here , here (paywall), and here . Also relevant are reviews of the 2008 exhibition at the Jewish Museum, “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976,” notably those by Roberta Smith , Peter Schjeldahl , and Martha Schwendener .

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The 10 Essays That Changed Art Criticism Forever

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