Defining art can be one of the most difficult yet enjoyable tasks that any person can ever undertake. There are so many factors to consider, and so many different methods of artistic thought. Some say that art is an expression, but not everyone agrees that an expression is art 1. However, really, is not art really all in the eye of the beholder? Who is to say that one train of thought it more important or correct than another does when regarding what art is. One person may think that a particular object or expression may be artistic, whilst another thinks that it is simply garbage. Then we must ask ourselves, can art truly be defined? Alternatively, is it all just a mere passing thought?
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Before we can determine whether art can truly be defined, we must stop and ask ourselves, what is art? Is art simply using various media and placing them on mediums for looks? Alternatively, does it hold a truly deeper meaning? Although we can never truly define what art really is, we can give some basic guidelines about what is and is not art.
Generally, the human race considers art as something that is pleasing to the eye or invokes certain emotions when viewed. In addition, what many artists consider art is something, which you can do, enjoy, and in the end, produce something that gives a feeling of success? There are many different ways to express you using the concept called art. The most common style of art, which most people think of when they think of art, is the painting. The painting is usually just some form of paint media, whether oil or watercolor or whichever style it is, and the paint is then placed on some form of canvas.
There are, however, literally hundreds of styles of art within the world. They range from the painting, which although never simple, is not necessarily the most complex way to express you. Art can even be considered in simple writing, usually in the form of poetry. The spoken word can have a more profound effect than physical art. A simple poem can invoke a range of emotions rather quickly. If a poem refers to someone who is close to the author, the author may feel overwhelmed when viewing his or her own artistic expression. However, a painting can just as easily invoke the same feelings as a written piece of art. In addition, a simple sketch has the chance of being just as profound. (Dollard, 198).
However, for those out there who cannot read or feel something in a work of art, there is the most complex art form of all, the song. There are thousands and thousands of genres and methods of song, from classical to modern day styles. Some studies have shown that listening to music which you like can have a profound effect on reducing blood pressure and stress 2, suggesting that music can carry healing properties with it. Although still unconfirmed as a scientific theory, it still exists in possible theory.
Art could even be considered something as simple as an action someone has done for a cause or for somebody. If someone holds the door for somebody else, it could be his or her art to be generous and courteous. Even acts of crime can be considered forms of art. In many thieving circles, the method of breaking and entering or robbing places is merely called the “Art of Theft”. Therefore, you see, you can never really limit art to one thing. Rather, it is a wide arrangement of things. In addition, you can never truly crack down and say that something is only artistic if it is of some particular kind of medium, because somebody else will disagree.
Art is anything that anyone does which has a profound effect on somebody or something else. From a simple act of kindness to a masterpiece painting which took years out of somebody’s life? Some art can be considered more complex, and some art can be considered simpler in contrast. However, the fact of the matter is, in the eye of the beholder, art could be anything. So is it possible for us to define what art is or can we really set any realistic guidelines as to what is art and what is not art? It is always possible to create guidelines, but it is often considered an art form in itself to break said guidelines. (Fletcher, 445).
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For instance, if you wanted to create a painting to give off an aesthetic feeling of hope, you probably would not use an over abundance of dark colors. Dark colors are often used to show calmness or even more commonly, something sad and depressing. In addition, when painting, if you use wider and more circular strokes with a lighter press on your brush, you will give off more depressing tones and colors. Therefore, it would be more advisable to use lighter colors and more agile handling of the brush. Lighter colors often give off a feeling of warmth and happiness, which is something that you would like to be doing if you would like to create something hopeful.
However, to truly create something that gives off a strong aesthetic presence, you usually must feel some sort of emotional attachment to whatever it is you are working on three. You must have a feeling for whatever it is you are working on. Only then will you truly pour out everything from your heart and mind. When you can accomplish this, you can create something with true aesthetic value. If you can describe your emotions in your artwork, it becomes easier for others to understand what you were trying to do, and more often, give them a stronger emotional sense. In a way, this creates a bond between the artist and the observer, allowing true aesthetic value to be created within a work of art. (Kar, 78).
The first painting is by Francisco Goya, (“The Third Of May 1808”) painted in 1814. The provincial government of Spain commissioned this painting and the focal point was to represent the dead as martyrs. It should be stated that the artist was extremely successful in revealing the agony of the assassinated people and the cold rigidity of the assassins. The soldiers are placed on the right hand part of the painting and are represented in dark and grey shades. On the other hand the people being assassinated are painted in comparatively vibrant colors with the central figure, trying to escape death, in white. There is a touch of red, representing blood, on the ground on the central left part and the viewer’s concentration is immediately guided towards this part.
From the artist’s point of view, it can be stated that there was a dilemma of creating dramatic patriotism and maintaining the realist philosophy at the same time. Being a master of his work Goya maintained both the elements with great balance. The upheld arms of the central figure in white indicate the fear and pain of the character and induce minimum dramatic essence in the painting however, on closer look, the agony in the eyes reflects the true representation of real life. Thus, this painting evokes the pain of death of martyrs in accordance to the point of view of the artist but still sticks to the fundamental of the realist beliefs of the artist. (Sayre, 355).
The basic style of the painting incorporates dramatization of death and assassination as the fundamental need of the painting demanded such elements. This is because the subject of the painting was formulated to evoke patriotic feelings and it had to be mixed with the fundamentals of the realist beliefs. The juxtaposition of these two modes of approach makes the painting an absolute piece of great artistry. The use of realism in a dramatic mode sustaining the elements of day-to-day subjects like rifle, military boots and costume makes the painting one of the highest order of imagination and one of the greatest manifestation of the idealism of realism.
The second painting is Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, painted in 1830. This is also a dramatic painting as it clearly depicts a violent battle scene. However, the nature of dramatization is more poetic than the previous painting. Here the artist personified the motherland or liberty as a woman who is seen carrying the French tricolor to victory. He later narrated his point of view in a letter that since he was unable to fight it was a great satisfaction to draw this painting. In a way, the artist firmly believed in the subject he was painting. Thus, though it appears to be too dramatic or poetic with thespian character imagination it should be mentioned that the basic vibe of realism existed all over the painting with men carrying muskets wearing top hat accompanying woman of almost Hellenic nature. (King, 367).
The third painting selected is Ernest Meissonier’s “Memory of Civil War” (The Barricade, rue de la Mortellerie). This painting is a masterpiece of the artist’s belief in the demolition as well as in realist form of painting. The painting shows that corpses are tattered among rubbles that were once a barricade of resistance. There are old houses in the background and the cobblestones are on the Paris road. The style truly represents the essence of realism with almost photographic accuracy of objects. He observes the minute details of the destruction and represents it with details. As per the imagery and philosophy of realism, there is no pompous rhetoric or allegory presented in the painting. In this regard, in style and context, this is the most representative work of realism and is completely devoid of any sort of emotion or dramatization as in the case of the other two paints by Eugene Delacroix and Francisco Goya.
From the point of view of Ernest Meissonier, it can be stated that he represented the National Guard and supported the stand taken by the government in destruction of the workers’ riot and movements. Being a Captain of the government’s National Guard it is logical to believe that there was no emotion involved with rioting mob. As a result, the destruction of the barricade erected in front of the Town Hall hardly makes him feel agonized for the rioters. He looks at the entire scenario from the point of view of a soldier and thus represents the destruction of the barricade with clinical propositions with little and dramatization of the incident. (Lamb, 224).
The fourth painting is Paul Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five painted in 1947. This perception of this painting Full Fathom Five appears to be formulated by a number of aspects of the modern era along with its complexities and the basic ideology was based on the progression of art where basic issue was represented as life should reflect the inner self of the human mind. It could well be stated that the progression of colors in the painting represent the darker aspects of the human mind. It can also be mentioned that this progression is not independent in any sense because art in the ultimate context has been following the traditional values of the society whether by following it or contradicting it. Here we find the artist reflecting his idea of the urban self complexities.
This is an extremely relevant point because the interesting proposition of this art is the man woman representation or manifestation, as it is part of the urbane livelihood, and is no matter structural in nature as no relation of the modern times can be regarded as simple. This is because the basic philosophy intends to focus on the relationship rather than the outward expression. However, there are different approaches to this where one tries to incorporate every aspect in one gesture and Pollock makes his statement in his own mode. Nevertheless, it should be considered that at present we have moved a long way from realism through the realm of postmodern era and at this point of time such comments cannot be appended or appreciated as structuralism is no longer considered as inseparable aspect of an art form. (Sayre, 267).
In conclusion, it should be stated that all four of the artists painted in the form of social message and they believed that art should focus on social events and the manifestation of society should reflect on the canvas and the entire subject matter should be about different aspects of daily life. They also believed that historical events, such as French revolution, Spanish resistance or French Civil War or the modern complexities, should be narrated in the most believable manner. They said that there was nothing greater or more than in a picture but what was seen. All paintings represent accurate observation and represent the subject in the most social nature possible.
Dollard, John; Art of Europe. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2006).
Fletcher, R; Realism: Beliefs and Knowledge; Believing and Knowing. (Mangalore: Howard & Price. 2006).
Kar, P; History of Realism (Kolkata: Dasgupta & Chatterjee 2005).
King, H; Realism: Biographies (Dunedin: HBT & Brooks Ltd. 2005).
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Lamb, Davis; Cult to Culture: The Development of Civilization on the Strategic Strata. (Wellington: National Book Trust. 2004).
Sayre, Henry, M; A World Of Art; Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall; 2006.