Joseph Mallord William Turner
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
muted colors such as black, white and brown paint, aggressively splattered and interlaced throughout an unpainted
canvas background. Pollock originally titled the painting Number 30, believing that titles affected how viewers
perceived paintings, but it was later retitled Autumn Rhythm.
Hans Namuth's photographs of Pollock, which culminated in his 1980 book Pollock Painting, included images of Pollock
painting Autumn Rhythm, which revealed that the painting was largely painted right-to-left. Researchers looking at
the underlying fractal geometry of Pollock's work have estimated the fractal dimension of the drip patterns in
Autumn Rhythm at 1.67. wikipedia
Pollock had created his first "drip" painting in 1947, the product of a radical new approach to paint handling. With
Autumn Rhythm, made in 1950, the artist is at the height of his powers. In this nonrepresentational picture, thinned
paint was applied to unprimed, unstretched canvas that lay flat on the floor rather than propped on an easel. Poured,
dripped, dribbled, scumbled, flicked, and splattered, the pigment was applied in the most unorthodox means. The artist
also used sticks, trowels, anything but the traditional painter's implements - to build up dense, lyrical compositions
comprised of intricate skeins of line. There's no central point of focus, no hierarchy of elements in this all-over
composition in which every bit of the surface is equally significant. The artist worked with the canvas flat on the floor,
constantly moving all around it while applying the paint and working from all four sides.
Size is significant: Autumn Rhythm is 207 inches wide. It assumes the scale of an environment, enveloping both for the
artist as he created it and for viewers who confront it. The work is a record of its process of coming-into-being. Its
dynamic visual rhythms and sensations-buoyant, heavy, graceful, arching, swirling, pooling lines of color are direct
evidence of the very physical choreography of applying the paint with the artist's new methods. Spontaneity was a
critical element. But lack of premeditation should not be confused with ceding control; as Pollock stated, "I can
control the flow of paint: there is no accident."
For Pollock, as for the Abstract Expressionists in general, art had to convey significant or revelatory content. He had
arrived at abstraction having studied with Thomas Hart Benton, worked briefly with the Mexican muralists,
confronted the methods and philosophy of the Surrealists, and immersed himself in a study of myth, archetype, and
ancient and "primitive" art. And the divide between abstraction and figuration was more nuanced - there was a back-and-
forth at various moments in his career. Toward the end of his life (he died in a car accident in 1956), he said, "I'm very
representational some of the time, and a little all of the time. But when you're working out of your unconscious, figures
are bound to emerge. … Painting is a state of being. … Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."
Heilbrunn, Timeline of Art History
The Artist Project: Robert Longo from The Met on YouTube.
National Gallery, London
depict the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, presumably in their home in the Flemish city of
Bruges. It is considered one of the most original and complex paintings in Western art, because of its beauty, complex
iconography, geometric orthogonal perspective, and expansion of the picture space with the use of a mirror.
According to Ernst Gombrich "in its own way it was as new and revolutionary as Masaccio's work in Italy. A simple corner
of the real world had suddenly been fixed on to a panel as if by magic. For the first time in history the artist became the
perfect eye-witness in the truest sense of the term". The portrait has been considered by Erwin Panofsky and some other
art historians as a unique form of marriage contract, recorded as a painting. The couple are shown in an upstairs room
with a chest and a bed in it during early summer as indicated by the fruit on the cherry tree outside the window. The
room probably functioned as a reception room, as it was the fashion in France and Burgundy where beds in reception
rooms were used as seating.
The two figures are very richly dressed; despite the season both their outer garments, his tabard and her dress, are
trimmed and fully lined with fur. The furs may be the especially expensive sable for him and ermine or miniver for her.
He wears a hat of plaited straw dyed black, as often worn in the summer at the time. Her dress has elaborate dagging
(cloth folded and sewn together, then cut and frayed decoratively) on the sleeves, and a long train. Her blue underdress
is also trimmed with white fur.
The interior of the room has other signs of wealth; the brass chandelier is large and elaborate by contemporary
standards, and would have been very expensive. The convex mirror at the back, in a wooden frame with scenes of The
Passion painted behind glass, is shown larger than such mirrors could actually be made at this date. Further signs of
luxury are the elaborate bed-hangings and the carvings on the chair and bench against the back wall, also the small
Oriental carpet on the floor by the bed; many owners of such expensive objects placed them on tables, as they still do in
the Netherlands. The dog is an early form of the breed now known as the Brussels griffon.
It is thought that the couple is already married because of the woman's headdress. A non-married woman would have her
hair down, according to Margaret Carroll. The placement of the two figures suggests conventional 15th century views
of marriage and gender roles – the woman stands near the bed and well into the room, symbolic of her role as the
caretaker of the house, whereas Giovanni stands near the open window, symbolic of his role in the outside world.
Arnolfini looks directly out at the viewer, his wife gazes obediently at her husband. His hand is vertically raised,
representing his commanding position of authority, whilst she has her hand in a lower, horizontal, more submissive pose.
However, her gaze at her husband can also show her equality to him because she is not looking down at the floor as
lower class women would. They are part of the Burgundian court life and in that system she is his equal, not his
subordinate. Although many viewers assume the wife to be pregnant, this is not believed to be so. Art historians point to
numerous paintings of female virgin saints similarly dressed, and believe that this look was fashionable for women's
dresses at the time. Fashion would have been important to Arnolfini, especially since he was a cloth merchant. There is a
carved figure as a finial on the bedpost, probably of Saint Margaret, patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth, or
possibly representing Saint Martha, the patroness of housewives. wikipedia
Van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait on Khan Academy
Pen and ink on paper (c. 1508)
Albertina Museum, Vienna
Praying Hands, also known as Study of the Hands of an Apostle, is a sketch (study) for an apostles' hand who was
planned to be in the center panel of the triptych for the Heller Altar, which was destroyed by a fire in 1729. On the
same paper is a sketch of the apostle's head, but the sheet has been divided from it. The image depicts probably the
master's own hands. wikipedia
one of the greatest draftsmen in the history of Western art, but it has also taken on a pop-culture life of its own,
all over the world. It is found on posters, dishes, washcloths, urns, aprons, coffee mugs, cellphone cases and
pocketknives - and tattooed onto Justin Bieber's leg. Its likeness appears on Andy Warhol's tombstone. Of the many
tattoo takes on the image, one of the more exotic is that of pro basketball player Stephen Jackson, of the San Antonio
Spurs, who has on his torso a rendering of Praying Hands - holding a handgun.
drawings at the Albertina Museum. And one of the most appropriated. The sketch of unadorned hands clasped in
prayer was originally a study for a painted altarpiece commissioned for a church in Frankfurt. In the finished
painting, the hands belonged to an apostle gazing up at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven.
Though the altarpiece was destroyed in a 1729 fire, the sketch has lived on in pop culture, inspiring countless
reproductions and lending itself to a famous, if unproven, narrative about its origin. It cuts across denominations
and sends a simple religious message. The sketch of unadorned hands clasped in prayer on a blue-washed paper
background was originally a study for a painted altarpiece commissioned for a church in Frankfurt. In the finished
painting, the hands belonged to an apostle gazing up at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven.
Part of the appeal of Praying Hands is the abstract quality of the image. "They've come to stand for a kind of
religious piety, especially in the context of ordinary, working people, because the hands are rough," says Mr. Robison.
"There are no gloves on, no rings, no jewelry, no bracelets. The cuffs of the shirt are very plain. I think that's what's
made them so famous, that they resonate with the sense of an ordinary person." The Wall Street Journal
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
The School of Athens was painted as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze
di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be
decorated, and The School of Athens, representing Philosophy, was probably the second painting to be finished
there, after La Disputa (Theology) on the opposite wall, and the Parnassus (Literature). The picture has long been
seen as Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the Renaissance.
The School of Athens is one of a group of four main frescoes on the walls of the Stanza (those on either side
centrally interrupted by windows) that depict distinct branches of knowledge. Each theme is identified above by a
separate tondo containing a majestic female figure seated in the clouds, with putti bearing the phrases: "Seek
Knowledge of Causes," "Divine Inspiration," "Knowledge of Things Divine", "To Each What Is Due." Accordingly, the
figures on the walls below exemplify Philosophy, Poetry (including Music), Theology, and Law. The traditional title
is not Raphael's.
The subject of the "School" is actually "Philosophy," or at least ancient Greek philosophy, and its overhead tondo-
label, "Causarum Cognitio", tells us what kind, as it appears to echo Aristotle's emphasis on wisdom as knowing why,
hence knowing the causes, in Metaphysics Book I and Physics Book II. Indeed, Plato and Aristotle appear to be the
central figures in the scene. However, all the philosophers depicted sought knowledge of first causes. Many lived
before Plato and Aristotle, and hardly a third were Athenians. The architecture contains Roman elements, but the
general semi-circular setting having Plato and Aristotle at its centre might be alluding to Pythagoras'
Commentators have suggested that nearly every great ancient Greek philosopher can be found in the painting, but
determining which are depicted is difficult, since Raphael made no designations outside possible likenesses, and no
contemporary documents explain the painting. Compounding the problem, Raphael had to invent a system of
iconography to allude to various figures for whom there were no traditional visual types. For example, while the
Socrates figure is immediately recognizable from Classical busts, the alleged Epicurus is far removed from his
The popular idea that the rhetorical gestures of Plato and Aristotle are kinds of pointing (to the heavens, and
down to earth) is very likely. But Plato's Timaeus – which is the book Raphael places in his hand – was a sophisticated
treatment of space, time, and change, including the Earth, which guided mathematical sciences for over a
millennium. Aristotle, with his four-elements theory, held that all change on Earth was owing to motions of the
heavens. In the painting Aristotle carries his Ethics, which he denied could be reduced to a mathematical science.
It is not certain how much the young Raphael knew of ancient philosophy, what guidance he might have had from
people such as Bramante, or whether a detailed program was dictated by his sponsor, Pope Julius II. Nevertheless, the
fresco has even recently been interpreted as an exhortation to philosophy and, in a deeper way, as a visual
representation of the role of Love in elevating people toward upper knowledge, largely in consonance with
contemporary theories of neo-Platonic thinkers linked to Raphael. wikipedia
The School of Athens by Raphael: Description, Figures & Analysis on Study.com
The Third of May 1808
Oil on canvass (1814)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
The 1808 invasion of Spain by Napoleon’s army and the succeeding French occupation, which lasted until 1814, had a
profound impact on Francisco Goya. He had explored themes of irrationality, folly, and corruption in earlier works
including the satiric Los Caprichos, but images he created during and after the war with France were much darker,
both emotionally and visually, than anything he had done previously.
In the gruesome Disasters of War series begun in 1808, but published decades later, Goya created images that were
unambiguously anti-war. Rather than taking sides in these prints, Goya focused on how war brings out the basest
human instincts. In two monumental paintings from 1814, Goya presented a more politically charged perspective.
Created for a public audience, the two paintings - The Second of May, 1808 and The Third of May, 1808 -
commemorate events from the beginning of the war. The first image represents a bloody encounter that took place
between the French army and the people of Madrid who rose up against them. The second depicts the execution of
the rebels by the French on the following day.
With The Third of May, 1808, Goya has made an image of actual historical events, but enhanced them for maximum
dramatic effect. The condemned men stand before a firing squad on the hill Príncipe Pío, one of several locations
where such executions took place. The recognizable architecture of the city in the background lends immediacy to
the scene. But it is the figures to the left of the composition that demand the viewer’s attention. The main figure,
dressed in white, practically glows. Holding out his arms in an unmistakable reference to the crucified Christ, he
appears as a heroic martyr. While the faceless French soldiers on the opposite side are rendered almost inhuman,
the ill-fated Spanish rebels elicit both sympathy for their suffering and respect for their sacrifice. Annenberg Learner
The painting is structurally and thematically tied to traditions of martyrdom in Christian art, as exemplified in
the dramatic use of chiaroscuro, and the appeal to life juxtaposed with the inevitability of imminent execution.
However, Goya's painting departs from this tradition. Works that depicted violence, such as those by Jusepe de
Ribera, feature an artful technique and harmonious composition which anticipate the "crown of martyrdom" for
In The Third of May the man with raised arms at the focal point of the composition has often been compared to a
crucified Christ, and a similar pose is sometimes seen in depictions of Christ's nocturnal Agony in the Garden of
Gethsemane. Goya's figure displays stigmata-like marks on his right hand, while the lantern at the center of the
canvas references a traditional attribute of the Roman soldiers who arrested Christ in the garden. Not only is he
posed as if in crucifixion, he wears yellow and white: the heraldic colors of the papacy. In painting, however, there is
no attempt to find transcendence, and no sense that the sacrifice of life will lead to salvation. wikipedia
Francisco Goya, The Third of May by Jameel Rawls on YouTube
Oil on canvass (1907)
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon portrays five nude female prostitutes from a brothel on Carrer d'Avinyó (Avinyó Street)
in Barcelona. Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally
feminine. The women appear as slightly menacing and rendered with angular and disjointed body shapes. Three
figures on the left exhibit facial features in the Iberian style of Picasso's native Spain, while the two on the right
are shown with African mask-like features. The racial primitivism evoked in these masks, according to Picasso, moved
him to "liberate an utterly original artistic style of compelling, even savage force." wikipedia
At the beginning of 1907, Picasso began a painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, that would become arguably the most
important of the century. The painting began as a narrative brothel scene, with five prostitutes and two men – a
medical student and a sailor. But the painting metamorphosed as he worked on it; Picasso painted over the clients,
leaving the five women to gaze out at the viewer, their faces terrifyingly bold and solicitous. There is a strong
undercurrent of sexual anxiety.
The features of the three women to the left were inspired by the prehistoric sculpture that had interested him in
the summer; those of the two to the right were based on the masks that Picasso saw in the African and Oceanic
collections in the Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris. While no specific African or Pacific sources have
been identified, Picasso was deeply impressed by what he saw in these collections, and they were to be one of his
primary influences for the next several years. Art historians once classified this phase of Picasso's work as his
French imperialism in Africa and the Pacific was at its high point, and gunboats and trading steamers brought back
ritual carvings and masks as curiosities. While the African carvings, which Picasso owned, had a kind of dignified
aloofness, he, like other Europeans of his time, viewed Africa as the symbol of savagery. Unlike most Europeans,
however, Picasso saw this savagery as a source of vitality and renewal that he wanted to incorporate for himself and
for European painting. His interpretation of African art, in these mask-like faces, was based on this idea of African
savagery; his brush-strokes are hacking, impetuous, and violent.
Les Demoiselles was so shockingly new that Gertrude Stein called it "a veritable cataclysm." She meant this, of
course, as a compliment. Not only did this painting later become a turning point duly remarked upon in every history
of modern art, but Picasso felt at the time that his whole understanding of painting was revised in the course of
this canvas' creation. He called it his "first exorcism picture." Sparknotes
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Picasso) from Spencer's Painting of the Week on YouTube
The Fighting Temeraire
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Oil on canvass (1839)
National Gallery, London
The 98-gun ship HMS Temeraire was one of the last ships to have played a distinguished role in the Battle of
Trafalgar in 1805. The painting depicts HMS Temeraire being towed by a paddle-wheel steam tug towards its final
berth in Rotherhithe in south-east London in 1838 to be broken up for scrap. The painting hangs in the National
Gallery, London, having been bequeathed to the nation by the artist in 1851. In 2005 it was voted the nation's
favourite painting in a poll organised by BBC Radio 4.
When Turner came to paint this picture he was at the height of his career, having exhibited at the Royal Academy
for 40 years. He was renowned for his highly atmospheric paintings in which he explored the subjects of the
weather, the sea and the effects of light. He almost certainly did not witness the actual towing and used
considerable licence in the painting which had a symbolic meaning for him. Turner had been 18 years old when
Britain entered the Napoleonic Wars and "had a strong patriotic streak". The Temeraire was a very well-known
ship from her heroic performance at Trafalgar, and her sale by the Admiralty had attracted considerable press
coverage, which was probably what brought the subject to his attention.
The composition of this painting is unusual in that the most significant object, the old warship, is positioned well to
the left of the painting, where it rises in stately splendour and almost ghostlike colours against a triangle of blue
sky and rising mist that throws it into relief. The beauty of the old ship is in stark contrast to the dirty blackened
tugboat with its tall smokestack, which scurries across the still surface of the river.
On the opposite side of the sun sets above the estuary, its rays extending into the clouds above it, and across the
surface of the water. The flaming red of the clouds is reflected in the river. It exactly repeats the colour of the
smoke which pours from the funnel of the tugboat. The sun setting symbolises the end of an epoch in the history of
the British Royal Navy.
The demise of heroic strength is the subject of the painting, and it has been suggested that the ship stands for the
artist himself, with an accomplished and glorious past but now contemplating his mortality. Turner called the
work his "darling", which may have been due to its beauty, or his identification with the subject. Turner displayed
the painting at the Royal Academy in 1839 accompanied by an altered excerpt from Thomas Campbell's poem
Ye Mariners of England, reading:
The flag which braved the battle and the breeze,
No longer owns her. wikipedia
The Mystery of The Fighting Temeraire posed by David A. Hardy from from phytonspace on YouTube.
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