THE HUMANITIES THROUGH THE ARTS
T e n t h E d i t i o n
Lee A. Jacobus Professor of English Emeritus
University of Connecticut
F. David Martin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
©Universal History Archive/Getty Images
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THE HUMANITIES THROUGH THE ARTS, TENTH EDITION
Published by McGraw-Hill Education, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Copyright © 2019 by McGraw-Hill Education. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions © 2015, 2011, and 2008. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of McGraw-Hill Education, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Martin, F. David, 1920- author. | Jacobus, Lee A., author. The humanities through the arts/F. David Martin, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Bucknell University; Lee A. Jacobus, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Connecticut. Tenth edition. | New York : McGraw-Hill Education, 2018. | Includes index. LCCN 2017051530 | ISBN 9781259916878 (alk. paper) LCSH: Arts–Psychological aspects. | Art appreciation. LCC NX165 .M37 2018 | DDC 701/.18–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017051530
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lee A. Jacobus (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) taught at Western Con- necticut State University and then at the University of Connecticut (Storrs) until he retired in 2001. He held a Danforth Teachers Grant while earning his doctor- ate. His publications include Shakespeare and the Dialectic of Certainty (St. Martin’s Press, 1992); Sudden Apprehension: Aspects of Knowledge in Paradise Lost (Mouton, 1976); John Cleveland: A Critical Study (G. K. Hall, 1975); Aesthetics and the Arts (McGraw-Hill, 1968); The Bedford Introduction to Drama (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018); and A World of Ideas (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017).
F. David Martin (PhD, University of Chicago) taught at the University of Chicago and then at Bucknell University until his retirement in 1983. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar in Florence and Rome from 1957 through 1959 and received seven other major research grants during his career, as well as the Christian Lind- back Award for Distinguished Teaching. Dr. Martin’s publications include Art and the Religious Experience (Associated University Presses, 1972); Sculpture and the En- livened Space (The University Press of Kentucky, 1981); and Facing Death: Theme and Variations (Associated University Presses, 2006). Professor Martin died in 2014.
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We dedicate this study to teachers and students of the humanities.
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Part 1 FUNDAMENTALS
1 The Humanities: An Introduction 1 2 What Is a Work of Art? 17
3 Being a Critic of the Arts 42
Part 2 THE ARTS
4 Painting 58 5 Sculpture 91
6 Architecture 121 7 Literature 163 8 Theater 196 9 Music 224
10 Dance 254 11 Photography 276
12 Cinema 299 13 Television and Video Art 330
Part 3 INTERRELATIONSHIPS
14 Is It Art or Something Like It? 352 15 The Interrelationships of the Arts 378
16 The Interrelationships of the Humanities 397
Source: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979/The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Subject Matter and Content 34
EXPERIENCING: Interpretations of the Female Nude 40
Further Thoughts on Artistic Form 41 Summary 41
3 Being a Critic of the Arts 42 You Are Already an Art Critic 42 Participation and Criticism 43 Three Kinds of Criticism 43 Descriptive Criticism 44 Interpretive Criticism 48 Evaluative Criticism 52
EXPERIENCING: The Polish Rider 55 Summary 56
Part 2 THE ARTS
4 Painting 58 Our Visual Powers 58 The Media of Painting 59 Tempera 59 Fresco 61 Oil 62 Watercolor 64 Acrylic 64 Other Media and Mixed Media 65
Elements of Painting 68
Part 1 FUNDAMENTALS
1 The Humanities: An Introduction 1
The Humanities: A Study of Values 1 Art, Commerce, and Taste 4 Responses to Art 5
EXPERIENCING: The Mona Lisa 9
Structure and Artistic Form 10 Perception 11
Abstract Ideas and Concrete Images 12 Summary 16
2 What Is a Work of Art? 17 Identifying Art Conceptually 18 Identifying Art Perceptually 18 Artistic Form 19 Participation 23 Participation and Artistic Form 25 Content 26 Subject Matter 28 Subject Matter and Artistic Form 28 Participation, Artistic Form, and Content 29 Artistic Form: Examples 30
Photo: Kira Perov. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
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6 Architecture 121 Centered Space 121 Space and Architecture 122 Chartres 123 Living Space 125 Four Necessities of Architecture 126 Technical Requirements of Architecture 126 Functional Requirements of Architecture 127 Spatial Requirements of Architecture 131 Revelatory Requirements of Architecture 131
Earth-Rooted Architecture 132 Site 132 Gravity 133 Raw Materials 134 Centrality 136
Sky-Oriented Architecture 138 Axis Mundi 141 Defiance of Gravity 142 Integration of Light 143
Earth-Resting Architecture 144 Earth-Dominating Architecture 145 Combinations of Types 146 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and The Taj Mahal 147
EXPERIENCING: The Taj Mahal 149
High-Rises and Skyscrapers 150
FOCUS ON: The Alhambra 155
Urban Planning 157 Summary 161
7 Literature 163 Spoken Language and Literature 163 Literary Structures 167 The Narrative and the Narrator 167 The Episodic Narrative 169 The Organic Narrative 171 The Quest Narrative 176 The Lyric 177
EXPERIENCING: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” 182
Line 68 Color 72 Texture 73 Composition 73
The Clarity of Painting 75 The “All-at-Onceness” of Painting 77 Abstract Painting 78 Intensity and Restfulness in Abstract Painting 80 Representational Painting 81 Comparison of Five Impressionist Paintings 81
FOCUS ON: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 86
Frames 88 EXPERIENCING: Frames 89
5 Sculpture 91 Sensory Interconnections 92 Sculpture and Painting Compared 92 Sculpture and Space 94 Sunken-Relief Sculpture 94 Low-Relief Sculpture 95 High-Relief Sculpture 96 Sculpture in the Round 97 Sculpture and Architecture Compared 98 Sensory Space 99 Sculpture and the Human Body 99 Sculpture in the Round and the
Human Body 101 EXPERIENCING: Sculpture and Physical Size 103
Contemporary Sculpture 104 Truth to Materials 104 Protest against Technology 108 Accommodation with Technology 110 Machine Sculpture 112 Earth Sculpture 113
FOCUS ON: African Sculpture 114
Sculpture in Public Places 117 Summary 120
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Literary Details 183 Image 184 Metaphor 185 Symbol 187 Irony 189 Diction 190
FOCUS ON: Po Chü’i, Poet of the T’ang Dynasty 191 Summary 194
8 Theater 196 Aristotle and the Elements of Drama 197 Dialogue and Soliloquy 198
Archetypal Patterns 200 Genres of Drama: Tragedy 201 The Tragic Stage 202 Stage Scenery and Costumes 202 Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet 206
Comedy: Old and New 209 Tragicomedy: The Mixed Genre 211 A Play for Study: Riders to the Sea 211
EXPERIENCING: Riders to the Sea 218
FOCUS ON: Musical Theater: Hamilton 218
Experimental Drama 221 Summary 222
9 Music 224 Hearing and Listening 224 The Elements of Music 225 Tone 225 Consonance 226 Dissonance 226 Rhythm 227 Tempo 227 Melodic Material: Melody, Theme, and Motive 227 Counterpoint 228 Harmony 228 Dynamics 229 Contrast 229
The Subject Matter of Music 229 Feelings 230
EXPERIENCING: Chopin’s Prelude 7 in A Major 231
Two Theories: Formalism and Expressionism 233 Sound 233 Tonal Center 234 Musical Structures 236 Theme and Variations 236 Rondo 236 Fugue 237 Sonata Form 237 Symphony 238
FOCUS ON: Beethoven’s Symphony in E♭ Major, No. 3, Eroica 243
Blues and Jazz: Popular American Music 248 Rock and Roll and Rap 251 Summary 253
10 Dance 254 Subject Matter of Dance 254
EXPERIENCING: Feeling and Dance 256
Form 257 Dance and Ritual 258 Ritual Dance 258 Social Dance 259 The Court Dance 259
Ballet 260 Swan Lake 262
Modern Dance 265 Alvin Ailey’s Revelations 267 Martha Graham 269 Batsheva Dance Company 270 Pilobolus and Momix Dance Companies 271 Mark Morris Dance Group 272
FOCUS ON: Theater Dance 272
Popular Dance 274 Summary 275
11 Photography 276 Photography and Painting 276
EXPERIENCING: Photography and Art 280
Photography and Painting: The Pictorialists 281
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Straight Photography 283 The f/64 Group 284
The Documentarists 286 The Modern Eye 292
FOCUS ON: Digital Photography 296 Summary 298
12 Cinema 299 The Subject Matter of Film 299 Directing and Editing 300 The Participative Experience and Film 303 The Film Image 305
EXPERIENCING: Still Frames and Photography 305
Camera Point of View 308 Violence and Film 310 Sound 312 Image and Action 313 Cinematic Structure 315 Cinematic Details 317 The Context of Film History 318 Two Great Films: The Godfather and
Casablanca 319 The Narrative Structure of The Godfather Films 320 Coppola’s Images 321 Coppola’s Use of Sound 321 The Power of The Godfather 322
FOCUS ON: Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca 323
Experimentation 326 Animated Film 327 Summary 329
13 Television and Video Art 330 The Evolution of Television 330 The Subject Matter of Television and
Video Art 331 Commercial Television 332 The Television Series 333 The Structure of the Self-Contained Episode 334
The Television Serial 335 Three Emmy Winners 339
FOCUS ON: The Americans 342
Video Art 344 EXPERIENCING: Jacopo Pontormo and Bill Viola: The
Visitation 348 Summary 351
Part 3 INTERRELATIONSHIPS
14 Is It Art or Something Like It? 352
Art and Artlike 352 Illustration 354 Realism 354 Folk Art 355 Popular Art 357 Propaganda 362
EXPERIENCING: Propaganda Art 362
FOCUS ON: Kitsch 363
Decoration 365 Idea Art 370 Dada 370 Duchamp and His Legacy 371 Conceptual Art 372
Performance Art 374 Virtual Art 376 Summary 377
15 The Interrelationships of the Arts 378
Appropriation 378 Interpretation 379 Film Interprets Literature: Howards End 380 Music Interprets Drama: The Marriage of Figaro 382 Painting Interprets Poetry: The Starry Night 385 Sculpture Interprets Poetry: Apollo and Daphne 387
EXPERIENCING: Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne and Ovid’s The Metamorphoses 389
Drama Interprets Painting 390
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EXPERIENCING: The Humanities and Students of Medicine 399
Values 400 FOCUS ON: The Arts and History, the Arts and Philosophy,
the Arts and Theology 402 Summary 406
FOCUS ON: Photography Interprets Fiction 391
Architecture Interprets Dance: National Nederlanden Building 392 Painting Interprets Dance and Music: The Dance and Music 392
EXPERIENCING: Death in Venice: Three Versions 395 Summary 396
16 The Interrelationships of the Humanities 397
The Humanities and the Sciences 397 The Arts and the Other Humanities 398
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The Humanities through the Arts, tenth edition, explores the humanities with an em- phasis on the arts. Examining the relationship of the humanities to values, objects, and events important to people is central to this book. We make a distinction between artists and other humanists: Artists reveal values, while other humanists examine or reflect on values. We study how values are revealed in the arts while keeping in mind a basic question: “What is art?” Judging by the existence of ancient artifacts, we see that artistic expression is one of the most fundamental human activities. It binds us together as a people by revealing the most important values of our culture.
Our genre-based approach offers students the opportunity to understand the relationship of the arts to human values by examining, in-depth, each of the major artistic media. Subject matter, form, and content in each of the arts supply the framework for careful analysis. Painting and photography focus our eyes on the visual appearance of things. Sculpture reveals the textures, densities, and shapes of things. Architecture sharpens our perception of spatial relationships, both in- side and out. Literature, theater, cinema, and video explore values and make us more aware of the human condition. Our understanding of feelings is deepened by music. Our sensitivity to movement, especially of the human body, is enhanced by dance. The wide range of opportunities for criticism and analysis helps the reader synthesize the complexities of the arts and their interaction with values of many kinds. All of this is achieved with an exceptionally vivid and complete illustration program alongside detailed discussion and interactive responses to the problems inherent in a close study of the arts and values of our time.
This edition, as with previous editions, is organized into three parts, offering con- siderable flexibility in the classroom:
Part 1, “Fundamentals,” includes the first three introductory chapters. In Chapter 1, The Humanities: An Introduction, we distinguish the humanities from the sciences, and the arts from other humanities. In Chapter 2, What Is a Work of Art?, we raise the question of definition in art and the ways in which we distinguish art from other objects and experiences. Chapter 3, Being a Critic of the Arts, introduces the vital role of criticism in art appreciation and evaluation.
©ArenaPal/Topham/The Image Works
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Part 2, “The Arts,” includes individual chapters on each of the basic arts. The structure of this section permits complete flexibility: The chapters may be used in their present order or in any order one wishes. We begin with the individual chapters Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture; follow with Literature, Theater, Music, and Dance; and continue with Photography, Cinema, and Television and Video Art. Instructors may reorder or omit chapters as needed. The chapter Pho- tography logically precedes the chapters Cinema and Television and Video Art for the convenience of instructors who prefer to teach the chapters in the order presented.
Part 3, “Interrelationships,” begins with Chapter 14, Is It Art or Something Like It? We study illustration, folk art, propaganda, and kitsch while raising the question “What is art?” We also examine the avant-garde as it pushes us to the edge of defi- nition. Chapter 15, The Interrelationships of the Arts, explores the ways in which the arts work together, as in how a film interprets E. M. Forster’s novel Howards End, how literature and a musical interpretation of a Beaumarchais play result in Mo- zart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, how Walt Whitman’s poetry inspires van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night, how a passage from Ovid’s epic poem “The Metamorpho- ses” inspires the Bernini sculpture Apollo and Daphne, and more. Chapter 16, The Interrelationships of the Humanities, addresses the ways in which the arts reveal val- ues shared by the other humanities—particularly history, philosophy, and theology.
Key Changes in the tenth editiOn
NEW Expanded Connect course with SmartBook. Connect is a highly reliable, easy-to-use homework and learning management solution that embeds learning science and award-winning adaptive tools to improve student results.
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LearnSmart is an adaptive learning program designed to help students learn faster, study smarter, and retain more knowledge for greater success. Distinguishing what students know from what they don’t, and focusing on concepts they are most likely to forget, LearnSmart continuously adapts to each student’s needs by building a personalized learning path. An intelligent adaptive study tool, LearnSmart is proven to strengthen memory recall, keep students in class, and boost grades.
The Humanities Through the Arts now offers two reading experiences for students and instructors: SmartBook and eBook. Fueled by LearnSmart, SmartBook is the first and only adaptive reading experience currently available. SmartBook™ creates a personalized reading experience by highlighting the most impactful concepts a student needs to learn at that moment in time. The reading experience continu- ously adapts by highlighting content based on what the student knows and doesn’t know. Real-time reports quickly identify the concepts that require more attention from individual students—or the entire class. eBook provides a simple, elegant read- ing experience, available for offline reading.
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Updated illustration program and contextual discussions. More than 30 percent of the images in this edition are new or have been updated to include fresh classic and contemporary works. New discussions of these works appear near the illustrations. The 200-plus images throughout the book have been carefully chosen and reproduced in full color when possible, resulting in a beautifully illustrated text. Newly added visual artists represented include painters Arte- misia Gentileschi, Diego Velasquez, Frederic Lord Leighton, Amedeo Modigliani, Winslow Homer, Morris Louis, Hokusai, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Honore Frag- onard, Arshile Gorky, Henry Wallis, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Arthur Hughes, William Holman Hunt, and John Waterhouse; sculptors Edgar Degas, Kara Walker, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Naum Gabo; photographers Berenice Abbott, Nan Goldin, Paul Strand, Bruce Davidson, Carrie Mae Weems, Tina Barney, Wang Quinsong, and Bill Gekas; and video artists Pipilotti Riist and Bill Viola. Newly added film and television stills represent Michael Curtiz’s classic film Casablanca, the popular television shows Game of Thrones and The Americans, Orson Wells’s The Lady from Shanghai, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant, and more.
Along with the many new illustrations and contextual discussions of the visual arts, film, and television, new works and images in the literary, dance, theatrical, and musical arts have been added and contextualized. These include works by Robert Herrick, John Masefield, Amy Lowell, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Donne, Wang Chang-Ling, Po Chu’i, John Millington Synge, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Frederic Chopin, Tupac Shakur, and the Batsheva Dance Company.
Increased focus on non-Western art and art by minority and female artists. This edition contains numerous new examples, including paintings (Artemesia Gentileschi’s Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting and Hokusai’s The Wave), sculpture (Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Bronze Crowd), architecture (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt), literature (Amy Lowell’s “Venus Transiens” and Po Chu’i’s T’ang dynasty poetry), theater (Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton), dance (the Batsheva Dance Company), photography (Berenice Abbott, Nan Goldin, Carrie Mae Weems, Tina Barney, and Wang Quinsong), film (The Revenant), and television and video art (Pipilotti Riist).
Four major pedagogical boxed features enhance student understanding of the genres and of individual works within the genres: Perception Key, Conception Key, Experiencing, and Focus On.
• The Perception Key boxes are designed to sharpen readers’ responses to the arts. These boxes raise important questions about specific works of art in a way that respects the complexities of the works and of our responses to them. The questions raised are usually open-ended and thereby avoid any doctrinaire views or dogmatic opinions. The emphasis is on perception and
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awareness, and how a heightened awareness will produce a fuller and more meaningful understanding of the work at hand. In a few cases our own in- terpretations and analyses follow the keys and are offered not as the way to perceive a given work of art but, rather, as one possible way. Our primary interest is in exciting our readers to perceive the splendid singularity of the work of art in question.
PERCEPTION KEY Chartres Cathedral 1. Form and function usually work together in classic architecture. What visible ex-
terior architectural details indicate that Chartres Cathedral functions as a church? Are there any visible details that conflict with its function as a church?
2. The two spires of the church were built at different times. Should they have been made symmetrical? What might be some reasons for their not being symmetrical?
3. What seem to be the primary values revealed by the rose window of Chartres? 4. How did the builders satisfy the fourth requirement of architecture: that the build-
ing be revelatory? What values does the exterior of the building reveal? 5. What is implied by the fact that the cathedral dwarfs all the buildings near it?
• We use Conception Key boxes, rather than Perception Key boxes, in certain instances throughout the book where we focus on thought and conception rather than observation and perception. Again, these are open-ended questions that involve reflection and understanding. There is no single way of responding to these keys, just as there is no simple way to answer the questions.
CONCEPTION KEY Theories Our theory of art as revelatory, as giving insight into values, may appear to be mired in a tradition that cannot account for the amazing developments of the avant-garde. Is the theory inadequate? As you proceed with this chapter, ask your- self whether the distinction between art and artlike is valid. How about useful? If not, what theory would you propose? Or would you be inclined to dismiss theories altogether?
• Each chapter provides an Experiencing box that gives the reader the opportunity to approach a specific work of art in more detail than the Perception Key boxes. Analysis of the work begins by answering a few preliminary questions to make it accessible to students. Follow-up questions ask students to think critically about the work and guide them to their own interpretations. In every case we raise major issues concerning the genre of the work, the background of the work, and the artistic issues that make the work demanding and important.
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• In each chapter of “The Arts” and “Interrelationships” sections of the book, we include a Focus On box, which provides an opportunity to deal in-depth with a group of artworks in context, the work of a single artist, or a single work of art. Many of the Focus On boxes are new to this edition, including those discuss- ing the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the Alhambra, Chinese poet Po Chu’i, the popular musical play Hamilton, the classic film Casablanca, and the critically ac- claimed television series The Americans. Each of these opportunities encourages in-depth and comparative study.
FOCUS ON The Alhambra The Alhambra (Figure 6-33) is one of the world’s most dazzling works of architecture. Its beginnings in the Middle Ages were modest, a fortress on a hilly flatland above Granada built by Arab invaders— Moors—who controlled much of Spain. In time, the fortress was added to, and by the fourteenth century the Nasrid dynasty demanded a sumptuous palace and King Yusuf I (1333–1352) began con- struction. After his death it was continued by his son Muhammad V (1353–1391).
While the needs of a fortress were still evident, in- cluding the plain massive exterior walls, the Nasrids wanted the interior to be luxurious, magnificent, and beautiful. The Alhambra is one of the world’s most astounding examples of beautifully decorated architecture. The builders created a structure that was different from any that had been built in Islam. But at the same time, they depended on many historical traditions for interior decoration, such as the Seljuk, Mughal, and Fatimid styles. Because Islam for- bade the reproduction in art of the human form, we see representations of flowers, plants, vines, and other natural objects in the midst of elaborate designs, including Arabic script.
The aerial view (Figure 6-34) reveals the siting of the Alhambra rising above trees surrounding it. The large square structure was added much later by Charles V, after the Nasrid dynasty collapsed and the Moors were driven from Spain.
FIGURE 6-33 The Alhambra, Granada, Spain. Circa 1370–1380. “Alhambra” may be translated as red, possibly a reference to the color of the bricks of its outer walls. It sits on high ground above the town.
©Daniel Viñé Garcia/Getty Images RF
EXPERIENCING Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne and Ovid’s The Metamorphoses
1. If you had not read Ovid’s The Metamorphoses, what would you believe to be the subject matter of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne? Do you believe it is a less interesting work if you do not know Ovid?
One obvious issue in looking at this sculpture and considering Ovid’s treatment of Apollo and Daphne is that today very few people will have read Ovid before seeing the sculpture. In the era in which Bernini created the work, he expected it to be seen pri- marily by well-educated people, and in the seventeenth century, most educated people would have been steeped in Ovid from a young age. Consequently, Bernini worked in a classical tradition that he could easily rely on to inform his audience.
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Instructors can access a database of images from select McGraw-Hill Education art and humanities titles, including The Humanities through the Arts. Connect Image Bank includes all images for which McGraw-Hill Education has secured electronic permissions. Instructors can access a text’s images by browsing its chapters, style/ period, medium, and culture or by searching on key terms.
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The Humanities through the Arts, tenth edition, includes a number of resources to assist instructors with planning and teaching their courses: an instructor’s manual, which offers learning objectives, chapter outlines, possible discussion and lecture topics, and more; a test bank with multiple-choice and essay questions; and a chapter-by-chapter PowerPoint presentation.
This book is indebted to more people than we can truly credit. We are deeply grate- ful to the following survey respondents for their help on this edition:
Micheal Jay Adamek, Ozarks Technical Community College; Larry Atkins, Ozarks Technical Community College; Michael Bajuk, Western Washington University; Michael Berberich, Galveston College; Bill Burrows, Lane Community College; Aaron
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Butler, Warner Pacific College Adult Degree Program; Linda Carpenter, Coastline Community College; Jordan Chilton, Ozarks Technical Community College; Patricia Dodd, Houston Community College; Laura Early, Highland Community College; Kristin Edford, Amarillo College; Jeremy R. Franklin, Colorado Mesa University; Diane Gaston, Cuyahoga Community College; Donna Graham, Ozarks Technical Community College; Daniel Hieber, Ozarks Technical Community College; Jennifer Keefe, Valencia College; Donny Leveston, Houston Community College; Susanna Lundgren, Warner Pacific College; Jimidene Murphey, Wharton County Junior College; Sven Pearsall, Alpena Community College; Debbi Richard, Dallas Baptist University; Matthew Scott, Ozarks Technical Community College; Timothy Soulis, Transylvania University; Peter C. Surace, Cuyahoga Community College; Normand Theriault, Houston Community College; Peter Utgaard, Cuyamaca College; Dawn Hamm Walsh, Dallas Baptist University; and Adrian S. Windsor, Coastline Community College
We also thank the following reviewers for their help shaping previous editions:
Addell Austin Anderson, Wayne County Community College District; David Avalos, California State University San Marcos; Bruce Bellingham, University of Connecticut; Eugene Bender, Richard J. Daley College; Michael Berberich, Galveston College; Barbara Brickman, Howard Community College; Peggy Brown, Collin County Community College; Lance Brunner, University of Kentucky; Alexandra Burns, Bay Path College; Bill Burrows, Lane Community College; Glen Bush, Heartland Community College; Sara Cardona, Richland College; Brandon Cesmat, California State University San Marcos; Selma Jean Cohen, editor of Dance Perspectives; Karen Conn, Valencia Community College; Harrison Davis, Brigham Young University; Jim Doan, Nova University; Jill Domoney, Johnson County Community College; Gerald Eager, Bucknell University; Kristin Edford, Amarillo College; D. Layne Ehlers, Bacone College; Jane Ferencz, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater; Roberta Ferrell, SUNY Empire State; Michael Flanagan, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater; Kathy Ford, Lake Land College; Andy Friedlander, Skagit Valley College; Harry Garvin, Bucknell University; Susan K. de Ghizee, University of Denver; Amber Gillis, El Camino College–Compton Center; Michael Gos, Lee College; M. Scott Grabau, Irvine Valley College; Lee Hartman, Howard Community College; Jeffrey T. Hopper, Harding University; James Housefield, Texas State University–San Marcos; Stephen Husarik, University of Arkansas–Fort Smith; Ramona Ilea, Pacific University Oregon; Joanna Jacobus, choreographer; Lee Jones, Georgia Perimeter College–Lawrenceville; Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice; Nadene A. Keene, Indiana University–Kokomo; Marsha Keller, Oklahoma City University; Paul Kessel, Mohave Community College; Edward Kies,College of DuPage; John Kinkade, Centre College; Gordon Lee, Lee College; Tracy L. McAfee, North Central State College; L. Timothy Myers, Butler Community College; Marceau Myers, North Texas State University; Martha Myers, Connecticut College; William E. Parker, University of Connecticut; Seamus Pender, Franklin Pierce College; Ellen Rosewall, University of Wisconsin–Green Bay; Susan Shmeling, Vincennes University; Ed Simone, St. Bonaventure University; C. Edward Spann, Dallas Baptist University; Mark Stewart, San Joaquin Delta College; Robert Streeter, University of Chicago; Peter C. Surace, Cuyahoga Community College; Robert Tynes, University of North Carolina at Asheville; Walter Wehner, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and Keith West, Butler Community College.
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We want to thank the editorial team at McGraw-Hill for their smart and gener- ous support for this edition. Lead Product Developer Beth Tripmacher, along with Brand Manager Sarah Remington, oversaw the revision from inception through production. Product Developer Bruce Cantley guided us carefully through the pro- cess of establishing a revision plan and incorporating new material into the text. In all things he was a major sounding board as we thought about how to improve the book. We also owe thanks to Lead Content Project Manager Mary Powers, who oversaw the book smoothly through the production process; Tara McDermott, who oversaw the interior design in both the print and online versions of the text as well as the cover; Deb DeBord, who was an exceptionally good copyeditor; Content Licensing Specialist Carrie Burger, who oversaw the permissions process, along with Julie De Adder and Danny Meldung, who did a wonderful job researching and obtaining reprint rights for images; and Isabel Saraiva, who likewise did excellent work researching and clearing the rights for text reprints. All the wonderful people who worked on this book made our job easier and helped make this book distinc- tive and artistic.
a nOte FrOm the authOrs
Our own commitment to the arts and the humanities has been lifelong. One pur- pose of this book is to help instill a love of all the arts in its readers. We have faced many of the issues and problems that are considered in this book and, to an extent, we are still undecided about certain important questions concerning the arts and their relationship to the humanities. Clearly, we grow and change our thinking as we grow. Our engagement with the arts at any age will reflect our own abilities and commitments. But as we grow, we deepen our understanding of the arts we love as well as deepen our understanding of our own nature, our inner selves. We be- lieve that the arts and the humanities function together to make life more intense, more significant, and more wonderful. A lifetime of work unrelieved by a deep commitment to the arts would be stultifying and perhaps destructive to one’s soul. The arts and humanities make us one with our fellow human beings. They help us understand each other, just as they help us admire the beauty that is the product of the human imagination. As the philosopher Susanne K. Langer once said, the arts are the primary avenues to the education of our emotional lives. By our efforts in understanding the arts, we are indelibly enriched.
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C h a p t e r 1
THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
The humaniTies: a sTudy of Values Today we think of the humanities as those broad areas of human creativity and study, such as philosophy, history, social sciences, the arts, and literature, that are distinct from mathematics and the “hard” sciences, mainly because in the human- ities, strictly objective or scientific standards are not usually dominant.
The current separation between the humanities and the sciences reveals itself in a number of contemporary controversies. For example, the cloning of animals has been greeted by many people as a possible benefit for domestic livestock farmers. Genetically altered wheat, soybeans, and other cereals have been her- alded by many scientists as a breakthrough that will produce disease-resistant crops and therefore permit us to continue to increase the world food supply. On the other hand, some people resist such modifications and purchase food identified as not being genetically altered. Scientific research into the human
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genome has identified certain genes for inherited diseases, such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, that could be modified to protect individuals or their off- spring. Genetic research also suggests that in a few years individuals may be able to “design” their children’s intelligence, body shape, height, general appearance, and physical ability.
Scientists provide the tools for these choices. Their values are centered in science in that they value the nature of their research and their capacity to make it work in a positive way. However, the impact on humanity of such a series of dramatic changes to life brings to the fore values that clash with one another. For example, is it a positive social value for couples to decide the sex of their offspring rather than following nature’s own direction? In this case who should decide if “designing” one’s offspring is a positive value, the scientist or the humanist?
Even more profound is the question of cloning a human being. Once a sheep had been cloned successfully, it was clear that this science would lead directly to the possibility of a cloned human being. Some proponents of cloning support the process because we could clone a child who has died in infancy or clone a ge- nius who has given great gifts to the world. For these people, cloning is a positive value. For others, the very thought of cloning a person is repugnant on the basis of religious belief. For still others, the idea of human cloning is objectionable be- cause it echoes the creation of an unnatural monster, and for them it is a negative value. Because this is a worldwide problem, local laws will have limited effect on establishing a clear position on the value of cloning of all sorts. The question of how we decide on such a controversial issue is at the heart of the humanities, and some observers have pointed to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s famous novel Fran- kenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus, which in some ways enacts the conflict among these values.
These examples demonstrate that the discoveries of scientists often have tre- mendous impact on the values of society. Yet some scientists have declared that they merely make the discoveries and that others—presumably politicians—must decide how the discoveries are to be used. It is this last statement that brings us closest to the importance of the humanities. If many scientists believe they cannot judge how their discoveries are to be used, then we must try to under- stand why they give that responsibility to others. This is not to say that scientists uniformly turn such decisions over to others, for many of them are humanists as well as scientists. But the fact remains that many governments have made use of great scientific achievements without pausing to ask the “achievers” if they approved of the way their discoveries were being used. The questions are, Who decides how to use such discoveries? On what grounds should their judgments be based?
Studying the behavior of neutrinos or string theory will not help us get closer to the answer. Such study is not related to the nature of humankind but to the nature of nature. What we need is a study that will get us closer to ourselves. It should be a study that explores the reaches of human feeling in relation to values—not only our own individual feelings and values but also the feelings and values of others. We need a study that will increase our sensitivity to ourselves, others, and the values in our world. To be sensitive is to perceive with insight. To be sensitive is also to feel and believe that things make a difference. Furthermore,
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THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
it involves an awareness of those aspects of values that cannot be measured by objective standards. To be sensitive is to respect the humanities, because, among other reasons, they help develop our sensitivity to values, to what is important to us as individuals.
There are numerous ways to approach the humanities. The way we have chosen here is the way of the arts. One of the contentions of this book is that values are clar- ified in enduring ways in the arts. Human beings have had the impulse to express their values since the earliest times. Ancient tools recovered from the most recent Ice Age, for example, have features designed to express an affection for beauty as well as to provide utility.
The concept of progress in the arts is problematic. Who is to say whether the cave paintings (Figure 1-1) of 30,000 years ago that were discovered in present-day France are less excellent than the work of Picasso (Figure 1-4)? Cave paintings were probably not made as works of art to be contemplated. Getting to them in the caves is almost always difficult, and they are very hard to see. They seem to have been made for a practical purpose, such as improving the prospects for the hunt. Yet the work reveals something about the power, grace, and beauty of all the animals it portrayed. These cave paintings function now as works of art. From the beginning, our species instinctively had an interest in making revealing forms.
Among the numerous ways to approach the humanities, we have chosen the way of the arts because, as we shall try to elucidate, the arts clarify or reveal values. As we deepen our understanding of the arts, we necessarily deepen our understanding of values. We will study our experience with works of art as well as the values others
FIGURE 1-1 Cave painting from Chauvet Caves, France. Discovered in 1994, the Chauvet Caves have yielded some of the most astonishing examples of prehistoric art the world has seen. These aurochs may have lived as many as 35,000 years ago, while the painting itself seems as modern as a contemporary work.
©Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Source
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associate with them, and in this process we will also educate ourselves about our own values.
Because a value is something that matters, engagement with art—the illumina- tion of values—enriches the quality of our lives significantly. Moreover, the subject matter of art—what it is about—is not limited to the beautiful and the pleasant, the bright sides of life. Art may also include and help us understand the dark sides—the ugly, the painful, and the tragic. And when it does and when we get it, we are better able to come to grips with those dark sides of life.
Art brings us into direct communication with others. As Carlos Fuentes wrote in The Buried Mirror, “People and their cultures perish in isolation, but they are born or reborn in contact with other men and women of another culture, another creed, another race. If we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves.” Art reveals the essence of our existence.
arT, CommerCe, and TasTe When the great paintings of the Italian Renaissance were being made, their ulti- mate value hinged on how good they were, how fully they expressed the values— usually religious but sometimes political—that the culture expected. Michelangelo’s great, heroic-sized statue of David in Florence was admired for its representation of the values of self-government by the small city-state as well as for its simple beauty of proportion. No dollar figure was attached to the great works of this pe- riod—except for the price paid to the artists. Once these works were in place, no one expressed admiration for them because they would cost a great deal in the marketplace.
Today the art world has changed profoundly and is sometimes thought to be art of an essentially commercial enterprise. Great paintings today change hands for tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, the taste of the public shifts constantly. Mov- ies, for example, survive or fail on the basis of the number of people they appeal to. Therefore, a film is often thought good only if it makes money. As a result, film producers make every effort to cash in on current popular tastes, often by making sequels until the public’s taste changes—for example, the Batman series (1989 to 2017). The Star Wars series (1977 to 2019 [projected]) cashed in on the needs of science-fiction fans whose taste in films is excited by the futuristic details and the narrative of danger and excitement of space travel. These are good films despite the emphasis on commercial success. But in some ways they are also limited by the demands of the marketplace.
Our study of the humanities emphasizes that commercial success is not the most important guide to excellence in the arts. The long-term success of works of art depends on their ability to interpret human experience at a level of complex- ity that warrants examination and reexamination. Many commercially successful works give us what we think we want rather than what we really need with refer- ence to insight and understanding. By satisfying us in an immediate and superfi- cial way, commercial art can dull us to the possibilities of complex, more deeply satisfying art.
Everyone has limitations as a perceiver of art. Sometimes we assume that we have developed our taste and that any effort to change it is bad form. The saying “Matters
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THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
of taste are not disputable” can be credited with making many of us feel righteous about our own taste. What the saying means is that there is no accounting for what people like in the arts, for beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, there is no use in trying to educate anyone about the arts. Obviously we disagree. We believe that all of us can and should be educated about the arts and should learn to respond to as wide a variety of the arts as possible: from jazz to string quartets, from Charlie Chaplin to Steven Spielberg, from Lewis Carroll to T. S. Eliot, from folk art to Picasso. Most of us defend our taste because anyone who challenges it challenges our deep feelings. Anyone who tries to change our responses to art is really trying to get inside our minds. If we fail to understand its purpose, this kind of persuasion naturally arouses resistance.
For us, the study of the arts penetrates beyond facts to the values that evoke our feelings—the way a succession of Eric Clapton’s guitar chords playing the blues can be electrifying, or the way song lyrics can give us a chill. In other words, we want to go beyond the facts about a work of art and get to the values revealed in the work. How many times have we found ourselves liking something that, months or years before, we could not stand? And how often do we find ourselves now disliking what we previously judged a masterpiece? Generally we can say the work of art remains the same. It is we who change. We learn to recognize the values illuminated in such works as well as to understand the ways they are expressed. Such development is the meaning of “education” in the sense in which we have been using the term.
responses To arT Our responses to art usually involve processes so complex that they can never be fully tracked down or analyzed. At first they can only be hinted at when we talk about them. However, further education in the arts permits us to observe more closely and thereby respond more intensely to the content of the work. This is true, we believe, even with “easy” art, such as exceptionally beautiful works—for exam- ple, those by Giorgione (Figure 2-9), Cézanne (Figure 2-4), and O’Keeffe (Figure 4-12). Such gorgeous works generally are responded to with immediate satisfac- tion. What more needs to be done? If art were only of the beautiful, textbooks such as this would never find many users. But we think more needs to be done, even with the beautiful. We will begin, however, with three works that obviously are not beautiful.
The Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros’s Echo of a Scream (Figure 1-2) is a highly emotional painting, in the sense that the work seems to demand a strong emotional response. What we see is the huge head of a baby crying and, then, as if issuing from its own mouth, the baby himself. What kinds of emotions do you find stirring in yourself as you look at this painting? What kinds of emotions do you feel are expressed in the painting? Your own emotional responses—such as shock; pity for the child; irritation at a destructive, mechanical society; or any other nameable emotion—do not sum up the painting. However, they are an important starting point, since Siqueiros paints in such a way as to evoke emotion, and our understanding of the painting increases as we examine the means by which this evocation is achieved.
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FIGURE 1-2 David Alfaro Siqueiros, Mexican, 1896–1974, Echo of a Scream. 1937. Enamel on wood, 48 × 36 inches (121.9 × 91.4 cm). Gift of Edward M. M. Warburg. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Siqueiros, a famous Mexican muralist, fought during the Mexican Revolution and possessed a powerful political sensibility, much of which found its way into his art. He painted some of his works in prison, held there for his political convictions. In the 1930s he centered his attention on the Spanish Civil War, represented here.
©2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOMAAP, Mexico City. Photo: ©The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY
PERCEPTION KEY Echo of a Scream 1. What are the important distortions in the painting? 2. What effect does the distortion of the baby’s head have on you? 3. Why is the scream described as an echo? 4. What are the objects on the ground around the baby? How do they relate to the baby? 5. How does the red cloth on the baby intensify your emotional response to the painting?
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THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
Study another work, very close in temperament to Siqueiros’s painting: The Eternal City by the American painter Peter Blume (Figure 1-3). After attending carefully to the kinds of responses awakened by The Eternal City, take note of some background infor- mation about the painting that you may not know. The year of this painting is the same as that of Echo of a Scream: 1937. The Eternal City is a name reserved for only one city in the world—Rome. In 1937 the world was on the verge of world war: Fascists were in power in Italy and the Nazis in Germany. In the center of the painting is the Roman Forum, close to where Julius Caesar, the alleged tyrant, was murdered by Brutus. But here we see fascist Blackshirts, the modern tyrants, beating people. In a niche at the left is a figure of Christ, and beneath him (hard to see) is a crippled beggar woman. Near her are ruins of Roman statuary. The enlarged and distorted head, wriggling out like a jack-in-the-box, is that of Mussolini, the man who invented fascism and the Black- shirts. Study the painting closely again. Has your response to the painting changed?
FIGURE 1-3 Peter Blume, 1906–1992, The Eternal City. 1934–1937. Dated on painting 1937. Oil on composition board, 34 × 47⅞ inches. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Born in Russia, Blume came to America when he was six. His paintings are marked by a strong interest in what is now known as magic realism, interleaving time and place and the dead and the living in an emotional space that confronts the viewer as a challenge. He condemned the tyrant dictators of the first half of the twentieth century.
Art ©The Education Alliance, Inc./Estate of Peter Blume/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: ©The Museum of Modern Art/ Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY
PERCEPTION KEY Siqueiros and Blume 1. What common ingredients do you find in the Blume and Siqueiros paintings? 2. Is your reaction to the Blume similar to or distinct from your reaction to the
Siqueiros? 3. Is the effect of the distortions similar or different? 4. How are colors used in each painting? Are the colors those of the natural world, or
do they suggest an artificial environment? Are they distorted for effect? 5. With reference to the objects and events represented in each painting, do you
think the paintings are comparable? If so, in what ways? 6. With the Blume, are there any natural objects in the painting that suggest the
vitality of the Eternal City? 7. What political values are revealed in these two paintings?
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Before going on to the next painting, which is quite different in character, we will make some observations about what we have said, however briefly, about the Blume. With added knowledge about its cultural and political implications—what we shall call the background of the painting—your responses to The Eternal City may have changed. Ideally they should have become more focused, intense, and certain. Why? The painting is surely the same physical object you looked at originally. Noth- ing has changed in that object. Therefore, something has changed because some- thing has been added to you, information that the general viewer of the painting in 1937 would have known and would have responded to more emotionally than viewers do now. Consider how a Fascist, on the one hand, or an Italian humanist and lover of Roman culture, on the other hand, would have reacted to this painting in 1937.
A full experience of this painting is not unidimensional but multidimensional. Moreover, “knowledge about” a work of art can lead to “knowledge of ” the work of art, which implies a richer experience. This is important as a basic principle, since it means that we can be educated about what is in a work of art, such as its shapes, objects, and structure, as well as what is external to a work, such as its political references. It means we can learn to respond more completely. It also means that artists such as Blume sometimes produce works that demand background informa- tion if we are to appreciate them fully. This is particularly true of art that refers to historical circumstances and personages. Sometimes we may find ourselves unable to respond successfully to a work of art because we lack the background knowledge the artist presupposes.
Picasso’s Guernica (Figure 1-4), one of the most famous paintings of the twentieth century, is also dated 1937. Its title comes from the name of an old Spanish town that was bombed during the Spanish Civil War—the first aerial bombing of noncom- batant civilians in modern warfare. Examine this painting carefully.
FIGURE 1-4 Pablo Picasso, Guernica. 1937. Oil on canvas, 11 feet 6 inches × 25 feet 8 inches. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain. Ordinarily Picasso was not a political painter. During World War II he was a citizen of Spain, a neutral country. But the Spanish Civil War excited him to create one of the world’s greatest modern paintings, a record of the German bombing of a small Spanish town, Guernica. When a Nazi officer saw the painting he said to Picasso, “Did you do this?” Picasso answered scornfully, “No, you did.”
©2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: ©Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY
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PERCEPTION KEY Guernica 1. Distortion is powerfully evident in this painting. How does its function differ from
that of the distortion in Blume’s The Eternal City or Siqueiros’s Echo of a Scream? 2. What are the most prominent objects in the painting? What seems to be the rela-
tionship of the animals to the humans? 3. The figures in the painting are organized by underlying geometric forms. What are
they and how do they focus your attention? Is the formal organization strong or weak?
4. How does your eye move across the painting? Do you begin at the left, the right, or the middle? This is a gigantic painting, over twenty-five feet long. How must one view it to take it all in? Why is it so large?
5. Some viewers have considered the organization of the images to be chaotic. Do you agree? If so, what would be the function of chaos in this painting?
6. We know from history that Guernica memorializes the Nazi bombing of the town of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. What is the subject matter of Guernica—what the work is about: War? Death? Horror? Suffering? Fascism? Or something else?
7. Which of these paintings by Blume, Siqueiros, and Picasso makes the most power- ful statement about the human condition?
The next painting (Figure 1-5), featured in “Experiencing: The Mona Lisa,” is by Leonardo da Vinci, arguably one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renais- sance. Da Vinci is a household name in part because of this painting. Despite the lack of a political or historically relevant subject matter, the Mona Lisa, with its tense pose and enigmatic expression, has become possibly the most famous work of art in the West.
EXPERIENCING The Mona Lisa
1. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the history of art. What, in your opinion, makes this painting noteworthy?
2. Because this painting is so familiar, it has sometimes been treated as if it were a cliché, an overworked image. In several cases it has been treated with satirical scorn. Why would any artist want to make fun of this painting? Is it a cliché, or are you able to look at it as if for the first time?
3. Unlike the works of Siqueiros, Blume, and Picasso, this painting has no obvious con- nections to historical circumstances that might intrude on your responses to its for- mal qualities. How does a lack of context affect your understanding of the painting?
4. It has been pointed out that the landscape on the left and the landscape on the right are totally different. If that judgment is correct, why do you think Leonardo made such a decision? What moods do the landscapes suggest?
5. The woman portrayed may be Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the wife of a local busi- nessman, and the painting has long been known in Italy as La Gioconda. Is it necessary to our sense of participation that we know who the sitter is, or that we know that Leonardo kept this painting with him throughout his life and took it wherever he went?
THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
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Structure and Artistic Form
Your responses to the Mona Lisa are probably different from those you have when viewing the other paintings in this chapter, but why? You might reply that the Mona Lisa is hypnotizing, a carefully structured painting depending on a subtle but basic geometric form, the triangle. Such structures, while operating subconsciously, are
Experiencing a painting as frequently reproduced as Mona Lisa, which is visited by millions of people every year at the Louvre in Paris, takes most of us some special effort. Unless we study the painting as if it were new to us, we will simply see it as an icon of high culture rather than as a painting with a formal power and a lasting value. Because it is used in advertisements and on mouse pads, playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, and a host of other banal locations, we might see this as a cliché.
However, we are also fortunate in that we see the paint- ing as itself, apart from any social or historical events, and in a location that is almost magical or mythical. The landscape may be unreal, fantastic, and suggestive of a world of mystical opportunity. Certainly it emphasizes mystery. Whoever this woman is, she is concentrating in an unusual fashion on the viewer, whether we imagine it is us or it is Leonardo whom she contemplates. A study of her expression reminds us that for generations the “Gioconda smile” has teased authors and crit- ics with its mystery. Is she making an erotic suggestion in that smile, or is it a smile of self-satisfaction? Or is it a smile of tol- erance, suggesting that she is just waiting for this sitting to be done? Her expression has been the most intriguing of virtually any portrait subject in any museum in the world. It is no sur- prise, then, that Leonardo kept this for himself, although we must wonder whether he was commissioned for the painting and for some reason did not want to deliver it.
The arresting quality of the painting is in part because of the enigmatic expression on Mona Lisa’s face, but the form of the painting is also arresting. Leonardo has posed her so that her head is the top of an isosceles triangle in which her face glows in contrast with her dark clothing. Her hands, expressive and radi- ant, create a strong diagonal, leading to the base of the triangle. Her shoulders are turned at a significant angle so that her pose is not really comfortable, not easy to maintain for a long time. However, her position is visually arresting because it imparts a tension to the entire painting that contributes to our response to it as a powerful object.
The most savage satirical treatment of this painting is the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (see Figure 14-15). By
parodying this work, Duchamp thumbed his nose at high culture in 1919, after World War I, and after the Mona Lisa had assumed its role as an epitome of high art. His work was an expression of disgust at the middle and upper classes, which had gone so enthu- siastically into a war of attrition that brought Europe to the verge of self-destruction.
FIGURE 1-5 Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa. Circa 1503–1506. Oil on panel, 30¼ × 21 inches. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Leonardo’s most personal picture has sometimes been hailed as a psychologically powerful painting because of the power of Mona Lisa’s gaze, which virtually rivets the viewer to the spot. The painting is now protected under glass and, while always surrounded by a crowd of viewers, its small size proportional to its reputation has sometimes disappointed viewers because it is so hard to see. And in a crowd it is impossible to contemplate.
©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY
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PERCEPTION KEY The Eternal City 1. Sketch the basic geometric shapes of the painting. 2. Do these shapes relate to one another in such a way as to help reveal the obscenity
of fascism? If so, how?
obvious on analysis. Like all structural elements of the artistic form of a painting, they affect us deeply even when we are not aware of them. We have the capacity to respond to pure form even in paintings in which objects and events are por- trayed. Thus, responding to The Eternal City will involve responding not just to an interpretation of fascism taking hold in Italy but also to the sensuous surface of the painting. This is certainly true of Echo of a Scream; if you look again at that painting, you will see not only that its sensuous surface is interesting intrinsically but also that it deepens your response to what is represented. Because we often respond to artistic form without being conscious that it is affecting us, the painter must make the structure interesting. Consider the contrast between the simplicity of the struc- ture of the Mona Lisa and the urgent complexity of the structures of the Siqueiros and the Blume.
The composition of any painting can be analyzed because any painting has to be organized: Parts have to be interrelated. Moreover, it is important to think carefully about the composition of individual paintings. This is particularly true of paintings one does not respond to immediately—of “difficult” or apparently uninteresting paintings. Often the analysis of structure can help us gain access to such paintings so that they become genuinely exciting.
Artistic form is a composition or structure that makes something—a subject matter—more meaningful. The Siqueiros, Blume, and Picasso reveal something about the horrors of war and fascism. But what does the Mona Lisa reveal? Perhaps just the form and structure? For us, structures or forms that do not give us insight are not artistic forms. Some critics will argue the point. This major question will be pursued throughout the text.
We are not likely to respond sensitively to a work of art that we do not perceive properly. What is less obvious is what we referred to previously—the fact that we can often give our attention to a work of art and still not perceive very much. The reason for this should be clear from our previous discussion. Frequently we need to know something about the background of a work of art that would aid our per- ception. Anyone who did not know something about the history of Rome, or who Christ was, or what fascism was, or what Mussolini meant to the world would have a difficult time making sense of The Eternal City. But it is also true that anyone who could not perceive Blume’s composition might have a completely superficial re- sponse to the painting. Such a person could indeed know all about the background and understand the symbolic statements made by the painting, but that is only part
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of the painting. From seeing what da Vinci can do with form, structure, pose, and expression, you can understand that the formal qualities of a painting are neither accidental nor unimportant. In Blume’s painting, the form focuses attention and organizes our perceptions by establishing the relationships between the parts.
absTraCT ideas and ConCreTe images Composition is basic in all the arts. Artistic form is essential to the success of any art object. To perceive any work of art adequately, we must perceive its structure. Ex- amine the following poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) and consider the purpose of its shape. This is one of many shaped poems designed to have a visual formal structure that somehow illuminates its subject matter.
THE PILLAR OF FAME
Fame’s pillar here at last we set, Out-during marble, brass or jet; Charmed and enchanted so As to withstand the blow Of overthrow; Nor shall the seas, O r O u t r a g e s Of storms, o’erbear W h a t w e u p r e a r ; Tho’ Kingdoms fall, T h i s p i l l a r n e v e r s h a l l Decline or waste at all; But stand forever by his own Firm and well-fixed foundation.
PERCEPTION KEY “The Pillar of Fame” 1. What is a pillar and in what art form are pillars used? 2. In what sense is fame the subject matter of the poem? 3. Herrick is using a number of metaphors in this poem. How many can you identify?
What seems to be their purpose? 4. In what sense is the shape of the poem a metaphor? 5. To whom does the word “his” in the last line refer? 6. The poem includes abstract ideas and concrete things. What is abstract here? And
what is the function of the concrete references?
Robert Herrick, a seventeenth-century poet, valued both honor and fame. During the English Civil War he lost his job as a clergyman because he honored his faith and refused to abandon his king. He hoped to achieve fame as a poet, in imitation of the great Roman poets. His “outrages” and “storms” refer to the war and the decade following, in which he stayed in self-exile after the “overthrow” of King Charles I. He portrayed fame as a pillar because pillars hold up buildings, and when the buildings become ruins pillars often survive as testimony to greatness. Herrick hoped his poem
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THE HUMANITIES: AN INTRODUCTION
would endure longer than physical objects, such as marble, brass, and jet (a black pre- cious jewel made of coal), because fame is an abstraction and cannot wear or erode. Shaping the poem to resemble a pillar with a capital and a stylobate (foundation) is an example of wit. When he wrote poetry, one of Herrick’s greatest achievements was the expression of wit, a poetic expression of intelligence and understanding. This poem achieves the blending of ideas and objects, of the abstract and the concrete, through its structure. The poem is a concrete expression of an abstract idea.
In Paradise Lost, John Milton describes hell as a place with “Rocks, Caves, Lakes, Fens, Bogs, Dens, and shades of death.” Now, neither you nor the poet has ever seen “shades of death,” although the idea is in Psalm 23, “the valley of the shadow of death.” Milton gets away with describing hell this way because he has linked the abstract idea of shades of death to so many concrete images in this single line. He is giving us images that suggest the mood of hell just as much as they describe the landscape, and we realize that he gives us so many topographic details in order to get us ready for the last detail—the abstract idea of shades of death.
There is much more to be said about poetry, of course, but on a preliminary level poetry worked in much the same way in the seventeenth-century England of Milton as it does in contemporary America. The same principles are at work: Described objects or events are used as a means of bringing abstract ideas to life. The descriptions take on a wider and deeper significance—wider in the sense that the descriptions are connected with the larger scope of abstract ideas, deeper in the sense that because of these descriptions the abstract ideas become vividly focused and more meaningful.
The following poem is highly complex: the memory of an older culture (simplic- ity, in this poem) and the consideration of a newer culture (complexity). It is an African poem by the contemporary Nigerian poet Gabriel Okara; and knowing that it is African, we can begin to appreciate the extreme complexity of Okara’s feelings about the clash of the old and new cultures. He symbolizes the clash in terms of music, and he opposes two musical instruments: the drum and the piano. They stand, respectively, for the African and the European cultures. But even beyond the musical images that abound in this poem, look closely at the images of nature, the pictures of the panther and leopard, and see how Okara imagines them.
PIANO AND DRUMS
When at break of day at a riverside I hear jungle drums telegraphing the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw like bleeding flesh, speaking of primal youth and the beginning, I see the panther ready to pounce, the leopard snarling about to leap and the hunters crouch with spears poised; And my blood ripples, turns torrent, topples the years and at once I’m in my mother’s lap a suckling; at once I’m walking simple paths with no innovations, rugged, fashioned with the naked warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts
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in green leaves and wild flowers pulsing. Then I hear a wailing piano solo speaking of complex ways in tear-furrowed concerto; of far-away lands and new horizons with coaxing diminuendo, counterpoint, crescendo. But lost in the labyrinth of its complexities, it ends in the middle of a phrase at a daggerpoint. And I lost in the morning mist of an age at a riverside keep wandering in the mystic rhythm of jungle drums and the concerto.
Reproduced from Gabriel Okara: Collected Poems, edited by Brenda Marie Osbey, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copy- right 2016 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
PERCEPTION KEY “Piano and Drums” 1. What are the most important physical objects in the poem? What cultural signifi-
cance do they have? 2. Why do you think Okara chose the drum and the piano to help reveal the clash
between the two cultures? Where are his allegiances?
Such a poem speaks directly to legions of the current generation of Africans. But consider some points in light of what we have said earlier. In order to perceive the kind of emotional struggle that Okara talks about—the subject matter of the poem—we need to know something about Africa and the struggle African nations have in modernizing themselves along the lines of more technologically advanced nations. We also need to know something of the history of Africa and the fact that European nations, such as Britain in the case of Nigeria, once controlled much of Africa. Knowing these things, we know, then, that there is no thought of the “I” of the poem accepting the “complex ways” of the new culture without qualification. The “I” does not think of the culture of the piano as manifestly superior to the cul- ture of the drum. That is why the labyrinth of complexities ends at a “daggerpoint.” The new culture is a mixed blessing.
We have argued that the perception of a work of art is aided by background infor- mation and that sensitive perception must be aware of form, at least implicitly. But we believe there is much more to sensitive perception. Somehow the form of a work of art is an artistic form that clarifies or reveals values, and our response is intensified by our awareness of those revealed values. But how does artistic form do this? And how does this awareness come to us? In the next chapter we shall consider these ques- tions, and in doing so we will also raise that most important question, What is a work of art? Once we have examined each of the arts, it will be clear, we hope, that the principles developed in these opening chapters are equally applicable to all the arts.
Participate, analyze, and participate again with Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning (Figure 1-6).
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FIGURE 1-6 Edward Hopper, Early Sunday Morning. 1930. Oil on canvas, 35 × 60 inches. When the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased Early Sunday Morning in 1930, it was their most expensive acquisition. Hopper’s work, centered in New York’s Greenwich Village, revealed the character of city life. His colors— vibrant, intense—and the early morning light—strong and unyielding—created indelible images of the city during the Great Depression.
©Whitney Museum of American Art/akg-images
PERCEPTION KEY Early Sunday Morning 1. If you did not know the title of the painting, what emotions might it excite in you? 2. How does Hopper’s title, Early Sunday Morning, direct or enrich your emotional
response? 3. What are the concrete objects represented in the painting? Which are most obvi-
ous and visually demanding? Which provide you with the most information about the scene?
4. What abstract ideas are suggested by the painting? 5. Is this an urban or rural scene? Why is no one present in the painting? 6. Would the painting be any different if it were titled Early Wednesday Morning? 7. What is the subject matter of the painting?
On one level the subject matter is a city street scene. Packed human habitation is portrayed, but no human being is in sight (incidentally but noteworthy, a human figure originally placed behind one of the windows was painted out). We seem to be at the scene alone on New York’s Seventh Avenue. We seem to be strangely located across the street at about the level of the second-story windows. We see storefronts,
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concrete examples of business activity. But above the storefronts are windows, some with curtains, some open, some closed, implying the presence of people in their homes. The barber pole suggests a particular neighborhood. What is missing is people to make the street active. Are they at church? Or is the painting portraying loneliness of the kind that is sometimes associated with living in a city? Loneliness is usually accompanied by anxiety. And anxiety is expressed by the silent windows, especially the ominous dark storefronts, the mysterious translucent lighting, and the strange dark rectangle (what is it?) on the upper right. The street and buildings, despite their rectilinear format, seem to lean slightly downhill to the left, pushed by the shadows, especially the unexplainable, weird, flaglike one wrapping over the second window on the left of the second story. Even the bright barber pole is tilted to the left, the tilt accentuated by the uprightness of the door and window frames in the background and the wonderfully painted, toadlike fire hydrant. These subtle oddities of the scene accent our separateness.
summary Unlike scientists, humanists generally do not use strictly objective standards. The arts reveal values; other humanities study values. “Artistic form” refers to the struc- ture or organization of a work of art. Values are clarified or revealed by a work of art. Judging from the most ancient efforts to make things, we can assert that the arts represent one of the most basic human activities. They satisfy a need to explore and express the values that link us together. By observing our responses to a work of art and examining the means by which the artist evokes those responses, we can deepen our understanding of art. Our approach to the humanities is through the arts, and our taste in art connects with our deep feelings. Yet our taste is continually improved by experience and education. Background information about a work of art and increased sensitivity to its artistic form intensify our responses.
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©Fine Art Images/Superstock
C h a p t e r 2
WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
No definition for a work of art seems completely adequate, and none is universally accepted. We shall not propose a definition here, therefore, but rather attempt to clarify some criteria or distinctions that can help us identify works of art. Since the term “work of art” implies the concept of “making” in two of its words—“work” and “art” (short for “artifice”)—a work of art is usually said to be something made by a person. Hence, sunsets, beautiful trees, “found” natural ob- jects such as grained driftwood, “paintings” by insects or songs by birds, and a host of other natural phenomena are not considered works of art, despite their beauty. You may not wish to accept the proposal that a work of art must be of human origin, but if you do accept it, consider the construction shown in Figure 2-1, Jim Dine’s Shovel.
Shovel is part of a valuable collection and was first shown at an art gallery in New York City. Furthermore, Dine is considered an important American art- ist. However, he did not make the shovel himself. Like most shovels, the one in his construction, although designed by a person, was mass-produced. Dine mounted the shovel in front of a painted panel and presented this construc- tion for serious consideration. The construction is described as “mixed media,” meaning it consists of several materials: paint, wood, a cord, and metal. Is Shovel a work of art?
We can hardly discredit the construction as a work of art simply because Dine did not make the shovel; after all, we often accept objects manufactured to spec- ification by factories as genuine works of sculpture (see the Calder construction,
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Figure 5-10). Collages by picasso and Braque, which include objects such as paper and nails mounted on a panel, are generally accepted as works of art. Museums have even accepted objects such as a signed urinal by Marcel Duchamp, one of the Dadaist artists of the early twentieth century, which in many ways antici- pated the works of Dine, Warhol, and others in the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
IdentIfyIng Art ConCeptuAlly Three criteria for determining whether something is a work of art are that (1) the object or event is made by an artist, (2) the object or event is intended to be a work of art by its maker, and (3) recognized experts agree that it is a work of art. Unfortunately, one cannot always determine whether a work meets these criteria only by perceiving it. In many cases, for instance, we may confront an object such as Shovel (Figure 2-1) and not know whether Dine constructed the shovel, thus not satisfying the first criterion that the object be made by an artist; or whether Dine intended it to be a work of art; or whether experts agree that it is a work of art. In fact, Dine did not make this particular shovel, but because this fact cannot be estab- lished by perception, one has to be told.
Identifying art conceptually seems to us as not very useful. Because someone intends to make a work of art tells us little. It is the made rather than the making that counts. The third criterion—the judgment of experts—is important but debatable.
IdentIfyIng Art perCeptuAlly Perception, what we can observe, and conception, what we know or think we know, are closely related. We often recognize an object because it conforms to our concep- tion of it. For example, in architecture we recognize churches and office buildings as distinct because of our conception of what churches and office buildings are sup- posed to look like. The ways of identifying a work of art mentioned in the previous
FIGURE 2-1 Jim Dine, Shovel. 1962. Mixed media. Using off- the-shelf products, Dine makes a statement about the possibilities of art.
©2017 Jim Dine/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. photo: Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery
PERCEPTION KEY Identifying a Work of Art 1. Why not simply identify a work of art as what an artist makes? 2. If Dine actually made the shovel, would Shovel then unquestionably be a work of
art? 3. Suppose Dine made the shovel, and it was absolutely perfect in the sense that it
could not be readily distinguished from a mass-produced shovel. Would that kind of perfection make the piece more a work of art or less a work of art? Suppose Dine did not make the shovel but did make the panel and the box. Then would it seem easier to identify Shovel as a work of art?
4. Find people who hold opposing views about whether Shovel is a work of art. Ask them to point out what it is about the object itself that qualifies it for or disqualifies it from being identified as a work of art.
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
section depend on the conceptions of the artist and experts on art and not enough on our perceptions of the work itself.
We suggest an approach here that is simple and flexible and that depends largely on perception. The distinctions of this approach will not lead us necessarily to a definition of art, but they will offer us a way to examine objects and events with reference to whether they possess artistically perceivable qualities. And in some cases at least, it should bring us to reasonable grounds for distinguishing certain objects or events as art. We will consider four basic terms related primarily to the perceptual nature of a work of art:
“Artistic form”: the organization of a medium that results in clarifying some sub- ject matter “participation”: sustained attention and loss of self-awareness “Subject matter”: some value expressed in the work of art “Content”: the interpretation of subject matter
Understanding any one of these terms requires an understanding of the others. Thus, we will follow what may appear to be an illogical order: artistic form; partic- ipation; participation and artistic form; content; subject matter; subject matter and artistic form; and, finally, participation, artistic form, and content.
ArtIstIC form All objects and events have form. They are bounded by limits of time and space, and they have parts with distinguishable relationships to one another. Form is the inter- relationships of part to part and part to whole. To say that some object or event has form means it has some degree of perceptible unity. To say that something has artis- tic form, however, usually implies a strong degree of perceptible unity. It is artistic form that distinguishes a work of art from objects or events that are not works of art.
Artistic form implies that the parts we perceive—for example, line, color, texture, shape, and space in a painting—have been unified for the most profound effect pos- sible. That effect is revelatory. Artistic form reveals, clarifies, enlightens, and gives fresh meaning to something valuable in life, some subject matter. A form that lacks a significant degree of unity is unlikely to accomplish this. Our daily experiences usually are characterized more by disunity than by unity. Consider, for instance, the order of your experiences during a typical day or even a segment of that day. Compare that order with the order most novelists give to the experiences of their characters. One impulse for reading novels is to experience the tight unity that artistic form usually imposes, a unity almost none of us comes close to achieving in our daily lives. Much the same is true of music. Noises and random tones in every- day experience lack the order that most composers impose.
Since strong, perceptible unity appears so infrequently in nature, we tend to value the perceptible unity of artistic form. Works of art differ in the power of their unity. If that power is weak, then the question arises: Is this a work of art? Consider Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie (Figure 4-10) with reference to its artistic form. If its parts were not carefully proportioned in the overall structure of the paint- ing, the tight balance that produces a strong unity would be lost. Mondrian was so
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concerned with this balance that he often measured the areas of lines and rectan- gles in his works to be sure they had a clear, almost mathematical, relationship to the totality. Of course, disunity or playing against expectations of unity can also be artistically useful at times. Some artists realize how strong the impulse toward unity is in those who have perceived many works of art. For some people, the contempo- rary attitude toward the loose organization of formal elements is a norm, and the highly unified work of art is thought of as old-fashioned. However, it seems that the effects achieved by a lesser degree of unity succeed only because we recognize them as departures from our well-known, highly organized forms.
Artistic form, we have suggested, is likely to involve a high degree of perceptible unity. But how do we determine what is a high degree? And if we cannot be clear about this, how can this distinction be helpful in distinguishing works of art from things that are not works of art? A very strong unity does not necessarily identify a work of art. That formal unity must give us insight into something important.
Consider the news photograph—taken on one of the main streets of Saigon in Feb- ruary 1968 by eddie Adams, an Associated press photographer—showing Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, then South Vietnam’s national police chief, killing a Vietcong captive (Figure 2-2). Adams stated that his picture was an accident, that his hand moved the camera reflexively as he saw the general raise the revolver. The lens of the camera was set in such a way that the background was thrown out of focus. The blurring of the background helped bring out the drama of the foreground scene. Does this photograph have a high degree of perceptible unity? Certainly the experi- ence of the photographer is evident. Not many amateur photographers would have had enough skill to catch such a fleeting event with such stark clarity. If an amateur
FIGURE 2-2 Eddie Adams, Execution in Saigon. 1968. Silver halide. Adams captured General Loan’s execution of a Vietcong captive. He said later, “The general killed the Vietcong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.”
©eddie Adams/Ap photo
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
had accomplished this, we would be inclined to believe that it was more luck than skill. Adams’s skill in catching the scene is even more evident, and he risked his life to get it. But do we admire this work the way we admire Siqueiros’s Echo of a Scream (Figure 1-2)? Do we experience these two works in the same basic way?
Compare a painting of a somewhat similar subject matter—Goya’s May 3, 1808 (Figure 2-3). Goya chose the most terrible moment, that split second before the crash of the guns. There is no doubt that the executions will go on. The desolate mountain pushing down from the left blocks escape, while from the right the firing squad relentlessly hunches forward. The soldiers’ thick legs—planted wide apart and parallel—support like sturdy pillars the blind, pressing wall formed by their backs. These are men of a military machine. Their rifles, flashing in the bleak light of the ghastly lantern, thrust out as if they belonged to their bodies. It is unimag- inable that any of these men would defy the command of their superiors. In the dead of night, the doomed are backed up against the mountain like animals ready for slaughter. One man flings up his arms in a gesture of utter despair—or is it de- fiance? The uncertainty increases the intensity of our attention. Most of the rest of the men bury their faces, while a few, with eyes staring out of their sockets, glance out at what they cannot help seeing—the sprawling dead smeared in blood.
With the photograph of the execution in Vietnam, despite its immediate and pow- erful attraction, it takes only a glance or two to grasp what is presented. Undivided attention, perhaps, is necessary to become aware of the significance of the event, but not sustained attention. In fact, to take careful notice of all the details—such as the
FIGURE 2-3 Francisco Goya, May 3, 1808. 1814– 1815. Oil on canvas, 8 feet 9 inches × 13 feet 4 inches. The Prado, Madrid. Goya’s painting of Napoleonic soldiers executing Spanish guerrillas the day after the Madrid insurrection portrays the faces of the victims, but not of the killers.
©Copyright of the image Museo Nacional del prado/Art Resource, NY
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patterns on the prisoner’s shirt—does not add to our awareness of the significance of the photograph. If anything, our awareness will be sharper and more productive if we avoid such detailed examination. Is such the case with the Goya? We believe not. Indeed, without sustained attention to the details of this work, we would miss most of what is revealed. For example, block out everything but the dark shadow at the bottom right. Note how different that shadow appears when it is isolated. We must see the details individually and collectively, as they work together. Unless we are aware of their collaboration, we are not going to grasp fully the total form.
Close examination of the Adams photograph reveals several efforts to increase the unity and thus the power of the print. For example, the flak jacket of General Loan has been darkened so as to remove distracting details. The buildings in the background have been “dodged out” (held back in printing so that they are not fully visible). The shadows of trees on the road have been softened so as to lead the eye inexorably to the hand that holds the gun. The space around the head of the victim is also dodged out so that it appears that something like a halo surrounds the head. All this has been done in the act of printing sometime after the picture was taken. Careful printing helps achieve the photograph’s artistic formal unity.
Yet we are suggesting that the Goya has a higher degree of perceptible unity than Adams’s photograph, that perhaps only the Goya has artistic form. We base these conclusions on what is given for us to perceive: the fact that the part-to-part and the part-to-whole relationships are much stronger in the Goya. Now, of course, you may disagree. No judgment about such matters is indisputable. Indeed, that is part of the fun of talking about whether something is or is not a work of art—we can learn how to perceive from one another.
PERCEPTION KEY Adams and Goya 1. How is the painting different from Adams’s photograph in the way the details
work together? 2. Could any detail in the painting be changed or removed without weakening the
unity of the total design? What about the photograph? 3. Does the photograph or the painting more powerfully reveal human barbarity? 4. Do you find yourself participating more with the Adams photograph or the Goya
painting? 5. How does blurring out the buildings in the background of the photograph im-
prove its visual impact? Compare the effect of the looming architecture in the painting.
6. What do the shadows on the street add to the significance of the photograph? Compare the shadows on the ground in the painting.
7. Does it make any significant difference that the Vietcong prisoner’s shirt is checkered? Compare the white shirt on the gesturing man in the painting.
8. Is the expression on the soldier’s face, along the left edge of the photograph, appropriate to the situation? Compare the facial expressions in the painting.
9. Can these works be fairly compared when one is in black and white and the other is in full color? Why or why not?
10. What are some basic differences between viewing a photograph of a real man being killed and viewing a painting of such an event? Does that distinction alone qualify or disqualify either work as a work of art?
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
pArtICIpAtIon Both Adams’s photograph (Figure 2-2) and the Goya (Figure 2-3) tend to grasp our attention. Initially for most of us, probably, the photograph has more pulling power than the painting, especially as the two works are illustrated here. In its setting in the prado in Madrid, however, the great size of the Goya and its powerful lighting and color draw the eye like a magnet. But the term “participate” is more accurately descriptive of what we are likely to be doing in our experience of the painting. With the Goya, we must not only give but also sustain our undivided attention so that we lose our self-consciousness—our sense of being separate, of standing apart from the painting. We participate. And only by means of participation can we come close to a full awareness of what the painting is about.
Works of art are created, exhibited, and preserved for us to perceive with not only undivided but also sustained attention. Artists, critics, and philosophers of art (aestheticians) generally are in agreement about this. Thus, if a work requires our participation in order to understand and appreciate it fully, we have an indication that the work is art. Therefore—unless our analyses have been incorrect, and you should satisfy yourself about this—the Goya would seem to be a work of art. Con- versely, the photograph is not as obviously a work of art as the painting, and this is the case despite the fascinating impact of the photograph. Yet these are highly tentative judgments. We are far from being clear about why the Goya requires our participation and the photograph may not. Until we are clear about these “whys,” the grounds for these judgments remain shaky.
Goya’s painting tends to draw us on until, ideally, we become aware of all the de- tails and their interrelationships. For example, the long, dark shadow at the bottom right underlines the line of the firing squad, and the line of the firing squad helps bring out the shadow. Moreover, this shadow is the darkest and most opaque part of the painting. It has a forbidding, blind, fateful quality, which in turn reinforces the ominous appearance of the firing squad. The dark shadow on the street just below the forearm of General Loan seems less powerful. Sustained attention or participation cannot be achieved by acts of will. The splendid singularity of what we are attending to must fascinate and control us to the point that we no longer need to will our attention. We can make up our minds to give our undivided attention to something. But if that something lacks the pulling power that grasps our attention, we cannot participate with it.
The ultimate test for recognizing a work of art, then, is how it works in us, what it does to us. Participative experiences of works of art are communions—experiences so full and fruitful that they enrich our lives. Such experiences are life-enhancing not just because of the great satisfaction they may give us at the moment but also because they make more or less permanent contributions to our future lives. Does da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Figure 1-5) heighten your perception of a painting’s under- lying structure, the power of simplicity of form, and the importance of a figure’s pose? Does Robert Herrick’s “The pillar of Fame” (Chapter 1) affect your concept of fame? Do you see shovels differently, perhaps, after experiencing Shovel by Dine (Figure 2-1)? If not, presumably they are not works of art. But this assumes that we have really participated with these works, that we have allowed them to work fully in our experience, so that if the meaning or content were present, it had a chance to reveal itself to our awareness. Of the four basic distinctions—subject matter, artistic
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form, content, and participation—the most fundamental is participation. We must not only understand what it means to participate but also be able to participate. Otherwise, the other basic distinctions, even if they make good theoretical sense, will not be of much practical help in making art more important in our lives. The central importance of participation requires further elaboration.
As participators, we do not think of the work of art with reference to catego- ries applicable to objects—such as what kind of thing it is. We grasp the work of art directly. When, for example, we participate with Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire (Figure 2-4), we are not making geographical or geological observations. We are not thinking of the mountain as an object. If we were, Mont Sainte-Victoire would pale into a mere instance of the appropriate scientific categories. We might judge that the mountain is a certain type. But in that process, the vivid impact of Cézanne’s moun- tain would be lessened as the focus of our attention shifted beyond in the direction of generality. This is the natural thing to do with mountains if you are a geologist.
When we are participators, our thoughts are dominated so much by something that we are unaware of our separation from that something. Thus, the artistic form initiates and controls thought and feeling. We see the Cézanne—name it, identify its maker, classify its style, recall its background information—but this approach will not lead us into the Cézanne as a work of art. Of course, such knowledge can be very helpful, but only when it is under the control of our experience of participating with the painting. Otherwise, the painting will fade away. Its splendid specificity will be sacrificed for some generality. Its content or meaning will be missed.
FIGURE 2-4 Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire. 1886–1887. Oil on canvas, 23½ × 28½ inches. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire in Aix, France, throughout his life. Local legend is that the mountain was home to a god and therefore a holy place.
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
These are strong claims, and they may not be convincing. In any case, before concluding our search for what a work of art is, let us seek further clarification of our other basic distinctions—artistic form, content, and subject matter. even if you disagree with the conclusions, clarification helps understanding. And understand- ing helps appreciation.
pArtICIpAtIon And ArtIstIC form The participative experience—the undivided and sustained attention to an object or event that makes us lose our sense of separation from that object or event—is induced by strong or artistic form. participation is not likely to develop with weak form be- cause weak form tends to allow our attention to wander. Therefore, one indication of a strong form is the fact that participation occurs. Another indication of artistic form is the way it clearly identifies a whole, or totality. In the visual arts, a whole is a visual field limited by boundaries that separate that field from its surroundings.
Both Adams’s photograph (Figure 2-2) and Goya’s painting (Figure 2-3) have visual fields with boundaries. No matter what wall these two pictures are placed on, the Goya will probably stand out more distinctly and sharply from its background. This is partly because the Goya is in vibrant color and on a large scale—eight feet nine inches by thirteen feet four inches—whereas the Adams photograph is nor- mally exhibited as an eight by ten-inch print. However carefully such a photograph is printed, it will probably include some random details. No detail in the Goya, though, fails to play a part in the total structure. To take one further instance, notice how the lines of the soldiers’ sabers and their straps reinforce the ruthless forward push of the firing squad. The photograph, however, has a relatively weak form be- cause a large number of details fail to cooperate with other details. For example, running down the right side of General Loan’s body is a very erratic line that fails to tie in with anything else in the photograph. If this line were smoother, it would connect more closely with the lines formed by the Vietcong prisoner’s body. The connection between killer and killed would be more vividly established.
Artistic form normally is a prerequisite if our attention is to be grasped and held. Artistic form makes our participation possible. Some philosophers of art, such as Clive Bell and Roger Fry, even go so far as to claim that the presence of artistic form—what they call “significant form”—is all that is necessary to identify a work of art. And by “significant form,” in the case of painting, they mean the interrela- tionships of elements: line to line, line to color, color to color, color to shape, shape to shape, shape to texture, and so on. The elements make up the artistic medium, the “stuff” the form organizes. According to Bell and Fry, any reference of these elements and their interrelationships to actual objects or events should be basically irrelevant in our awareness.
According to the proponents of significant form, if we take explicit notice of the executions as an important part of Goya’s painting, then we are not perceiv- ing properly. We are experiencing the painting not as a work of art but rather as an illustration telling a story, thus reducing a painting that is a work of art to the level of commercial communications. When the lines, colors, and the like pull to- gether tightly, independently of any objects or events they may represent, there is a significant form. That is what we should perceive when we are perceiving a
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work of art, not a portrayal of some object or event. Anything that has significant form is a work of art. If you ignore the objects and events represented in the Goya, significant form is evident. All the details depend on one another and jell, creating a strong structure. Therefore, the Goya is a work of art. If you ignore the objects and events represented in the Adams photograph, significant form is not evident. The organization of the parts is too loose, creating a weak structure. Therefore, the photograph, according to Bell and Fry, would not be a work of art. “To appreciate a work of art,” according to Bell, “we need bring with us nothing from life, no knowl- edge of its ideas and affairs, no familiarity with its emotions.”
Does this theory of how to identify a work of art satisfy you? Do you find that in ignoring the representation of objects and events in the Goya, much of what is important in that painting is left out? For example, does the line of the firing squad carry a forbidding quality partly because you recognize that this is a line of men in the process of killing other men? In turn, does the close relationship of that line with the line of the long shadow at the bottom right depend to some degree on that forbidding quality? If you think so, then it follows that the artistic form of this work legitimately and relevantly refers to objects and events. Somehow artistic form goes beyond itself, referring to objects and events from the world beyond the form. Artistic form informs us about things outside itself. These things—as revealed by the artistic form—we shall call the “content” of a work of art. But how does the artistic form do this?
Content Let us begin to try to answer the question posed in the previous section by examining more closely the meanings of the Adams photograph (Figure 2-2) and the Goya paint- ing (Figure 2-3). Both basically, although oversimply, are about the same abstract idea—barbarity. In the case of the photograph, we have an example of this barbarity. Since it is very close to any knowledgeable American’s interests, this instance is likely to set off a lengthy chain of thoughts and feelings. These thoughts and feelings, fur- thermore, may seem to lie “beyond” the photograph. Suppose a debate developed over the meaning of this photograph. The photograph itself would play an important role primarily as a starting point in a discussion of man’s inhumanity to man.
In the debate about the Goya, every detail and its interrelationships with other de- tails become relevant. The meaning of the painting may seem to lie “within” the paint- ing. And yet, paradoxically, this meaning, as in the case of the Adams photograph, involves ideas and feelings that lie beyond the painting. How can this be? Let us first consider some background information. On May 2, 1808, guerrilla warfare had flared up all over Spain. By the following day, Napoleon’s men were completely back in con- trol in Madrid and the surrounding area. Many of the guerrillas were executed. And, according to tradition, Goya portrayed the execution of forty-three of these guerrillas on May 3 near the hill of principe pio just outside Madrid. This background informa- tion is important if we are to understand and appreciate the painting fully.
The execution in Adams’s photograph was of a man who had just murdered one of General Loan’s best friends and had then knifed to death his wife and six children. The general was part of the Vietnamese army fighting with the assistance of the United States, and this photograph was widely disseminated with a caption describing the victim as a suspected terrorist. What shocked Americans who saw
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
the photograph was the summary justice that Loan meted out. It was not until much later that the details of the victim’s crimes were published.
With the Goya, the background information, although very helpful, is not as es- sential. Test this for yourself. Would your interest in Adams’s photograph last very long if you completely lacked background information? In the case of the Goya, the background information helps us understand the where, when, and why of the scene. But even without this information, the painting probably would still grasp and hold the attention of most of us because it would still have significant meaning. We would still have a powerful image of barbarity, and the artistic form would hold us on that image. In the prado Museum in Madrid, Goya’s painting continually draws and holds the attention of innumerable viewers, many of whom know little or nothing about the rebellion of 1808. Adams’s photograph is also a powerful image, of course—and probably initially more powerful than the Goya—but the form of the photograph is not strong enough to hold most of us on that image for very long.
With the Goya, the abstract idea (barbarity) and the concrete image (the firing squad in the process of killing) are tied tightly together because the form of the paint- ing is tight. We see the barbarity in the lines, colors, masses, shapes, groupings, and lights and shadows of the painting itself. The details of the painting keep referring to other details and to the totality. They keep holding our attention. Thus, the ideas and feelings that the details and their organization awaken within us keep merging with the form. We are prevented from separating the meaning or content of the painting from its form because the form is so fascinating. The form constantly intrudes, how- ever unobtrusively. It will not let us ignore it. We see the firing squad killing, and this evokes the idea of barbarity and the feeling of horror. But the lines, colors, mass, shapes, and shadowings of that firing squad form a pattern that keeps exciting and guiding our eyes. And then the pattern leads us to the pattern formed by the victims. Ideas of fatefulness and feelings of pathos are evoked but they, too, are fused with the form. The form of the Goya is like a powerful magnet that allows nothing within its range to escape its pull. Artistic form fuses or embodies its meaning with itself.
In addition to participation and artistic form, then, we have come upon another basic distinction—content. Unless a work has content—meaning that is fused or em- bodied with its form—we shall say that the work is not art. Content is the meaning of artistic form. If we are correct (for our view is by no means universally accepted), artistic form always informs—has meaning, or content. And that content, as we experience it when we participate, is always ingrained in the artistic form. We do not perceive an artistic form and then a content. We perceive them as inseparable. Of course, we can separate them analytically. But when we do so, we are not hav- ing a participative experience. Moreover, when the form is weak—that is, less than artistic—we experience the form and its meaning separately.
PERCEPTION KEY Adams and Goya Revisited We have argued that the painting by Goya is a work of art and the photograph by Adams is questionable. Even if the three basic distinctions we have made so far— artistic form, participation, and content—are useful, we may have misapplied them. Bring out every possible argument against the view that the painting is a work of art and the photograph may not be a work of art.
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subjeCt mAtter The content is the meaning of a work of art. The content is embedded in the artistic form. But what does the content interpret? We shall call it subject matter. Content is the interpretation—by means of an artistic form—of some subject matter. Thus, subject matter is the fourth basic distinction that helps identify a work of art. Since every work of art must have a content, every work of art must have a subject matter, and this may be any aspect of experience that is of human interest. Anything related to a human interest is a value. Some values are positive, such as pleasure and health. Other values are negative, such as pain and ill health. They are values because they are related to human interests. Negative values are the subject matter of both Adams’s photograph (Figure 2-2) and Goya’s painting. But the photograph, unlike the painting, has no con- tent. The less-than-artistic form of the photograph simply presents its subject matter. The form does not transform the subject matter, does not enrich its significance. In comparison, the artistic form of the painting enriches or interprets its subject matter, says something significant about it. In the photograph, the subject matter is directly given. But the subject matter of the painting is not just there in the painting. It has been transformed by the form. What is directly given in the painting is the content.
The meaning, or content, of a work of art is what is revealed about a subject mat- ter. But in that revelation you must infer or imagine the subject matter. If someone had taken a news photograph of the May 3 executions, that would be a record of Goya’s subject matter. The content of the Goya is its interpretation of the barbarity of those executions. Adams’s photograph lacks content because it merely shows us an example of this barbarity. That is not to disparage the photograph, for its pur- pose was news, not art. A similar kind of photograph—that is, one lacking artistic form—of the May 3 executions would also lack content. Now, of course, you may disagree with these conclusions for very good reasons. You may find more trans- formation of the subject matter in Adams’s photograph than in Goya’s painting. For example, you may believe that transforming the visual experience in black and white distances it from reality while intensifying its content. In any case, such dis- agreement can help the perception of both parties, provided the debate is focused. It is hoped that the basic distinctions we are making—subject matter, artistic form, content, and participation—will aid that focusing.
subjeCt mAtter And ArtIstIC form Whereas a subject matter is a value—something of importance—that we may per- ceive before any artistic interpretation, the content is the significantly interpreted subject matter as revealed by the artistic form. Thus, the subject matter is never di- rectly presented in a work of art, for the subject matter has been transformed by the form. Artistic form transforms and, in turn, informs about life. The conscious in- tentions of the artist may include magical, religious, political, economic, and other purposes; the conscious intentions may not include the purpose of clarifying values. Yet underlying the artist’s activity—going back to cavework (Figure 1-1)—is always the creation of a form that illuminates something from life, some subject matter.
Artistic form draws from the chaotic state of life, which, as van Gogh describes it, is like “a sketch that didn’t come off ”—a distillation. In our interpretation, a work of art creates an illusion that illuminates reality. Thus, such paradoxical declarations as
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
Delacroix’s are explained: “Those things which are most real are the illusions I create in my paintings.” Or edward Weston’s “The photographer who is an artist reveals the essence of what lies before the lens with such clear insight that the beholder may find the recreated image more real and comprehensible than the actual object.” Camus: “If the world were clear, art would not exist.” Artistic form is an economy that produces a lucidity that enables us better to understand and, in turn, manage our lives. Hence, the informing of a work of art reveals a subject matter with value dimensions that go beyond the artist’s idiosyncrasies and perversities. Whether or not Goya had idiosyncrasies and perversities, he did justice to his subject matter: He revealed it. The art of a period is the revelation of the collective soul of its time.
pArtICIpAtIon, ArtIstIC form, And Content participation is the necessary condition that makes possible our insightful percep- tion of artistic form and content. Unless we participate with the Goya (Figure 2-3), we will fail to see the power of its artistic form. We will fail to see how the details work together to form a totality. We will also fail to grasp the content fully, for artis- tic form and content are inseparable. Thus, we will have failed to gain insight into the subject matter. We will have collected just one more instance of barbarity. The Goya will have basically the same effect on us as Adams’s photograph except that it may be less important to us because it happened long ago. But if, on the contrary, we have participated with the Goya, we probably will never see such things as execu- tions in quite the same way again. The insight that we have gained will tend to refo- cus our vision so that we will see similar subject matters with heightened awareness.
Look, for example, at the photograph by Kevin Carter (Figure 2-5), which was published in the New York Times on March 26, 1993, and which won the pulitzer
FIGURE 2-5 Kevin Carter, Vulture and Child in Sudan. 1993. Silver halide. Carter saved this child but became so depressed by the terrible tragedies he had recorded in Sudan and South Africa that he committed suicide a year after taking this photograph.
©Kevin Carter/Sygma/Getty Images
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prize for photography in 1994. The form isolates two dramatic figures. The closest is a starving Sudanese child making her way to a feeding center. The other is a plump vulture waiting for the child to die. This powerful photograph raised a hue and cry, and the New York Times published a commentary explaining that Carter chased away the vulture and took the child to the feeding center. Carter committed suicide in July 1994.
Artistic Form: Examples
Let us examine artistic form in two examples of work by an anonymous cartoon- ist and Roy Lichtenstein. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lichtenstein became interested in comic strips as subject matter. The story goes that his two young boys asked him to paint a Donald Duck “straight,” without the encumbrances of art. But much more was involved. Born in 1923, Lichtenstein grew up before the invention of television. By the 1930s the comic strip had become one of the most important of the mass media. Adventure, romance, sentimentality, and ter- ror found expression in the stories of Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Superman, Wonder Woman, Steve Roper, Winnie Winkle, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Batman and Robin, and the like.
The purpose of the comic strip for its producers is strictly commercial. And be- cause of the large market, a premium has always been put on making the processes of production as inexpensive as possible. And so generations of mostly unknown commercial artists, going far back into the nineteenth century, developed ways of quick, cheap color printing. They developed a technique that could turn out car- toons like the products of an assembly line. Moreover, because their market in- cluded a large number of children, they developed ways of producing images that were immediately understandable and striking.
Lichtenstein reports that he was attracted to the comic strip by its stark simplicity—the blatant primary colors, the ungainly black lines that encircle the shapes, the balloons that isolate the spoken words or thoughts of the characters.
PERCEPTION KEY Adams, Goya, and Carter 1. How does our discussion of the Adams photograph affect your response to Carter’s
photograph? 2. To what extent does Carter’s photograph have artistic form? 3. Why are your answers to these questions fundamentally important in determining
whether Adams’s photograph, Carter’s photograph, Goya’s painting, or all of them are works of art?
4. Describe your experience regarding your participation with either Adams’s or Carter’s photograph or Goya’s painting. Can you measure the intensity of your participation with each of them? Which work do you reflect upon most when you relax and are not thinking directly on the subject of art?
5. The intensity of your reactions to the Adams and Carter photographs may well be stronger than the intensity of your experience with the Goya. If so, should that back up the assertion that the photographs are works of art?
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
He was struck by the apparent inconsistency between the strong emotions of the stories and the highly impersonal, mechanical style in which they were expressed. Despite the crudity of the comic strip, Lichtenstein saw power in the directness of the medium. Somehow the cartoons mirrored something about ourselves. Lichten- stein set out to clarify what that something was. At first people laughed, as was to be expected.
However, Lichtenstein saw how adaptable the style was for his work. He pro- duced a considerable number of large oil paintings that, in some cases, referred specifically to popular cartoon strips. They were brash in much the same way cartoons are, and they used brilliant primary colors that were sensational and visually overwhelming. Much of his early work in this vein involved war planes, guns, and action scenes. For him the cartoon style permitted him to be serious in what he portrayed.
examine Figures 2-6 and 2-7. Lichtenstein saw artistic potential for the anony- mous cartoon panel with a woman tearing up in reaction to an unknown problem. Because these two representations of a sad woman are detached from the narrative in which the original cartoon appeared, we are left to respond only to the image we see. Lichtenstein did not expect that his painting would relate to any missing nar- rative: It was made to stand alone. However, the anonymous cartoon was created in greater haste partly because its significance would have been understood in a dramatic context.
FIGURE 2-7 Roy Lichenstein, Hopeless. 1963. Magna on canvas.
©estate of Roy Lichtenstein
FIGURE 2-6 Anonymous cartoon panel.
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Hopeless treats an emotional moment that is familiar to everyone who has ever been involved in the breakup of a love affair. Comparing the two panels, it is clear that Lichtenstein has simplified the portrayal of the woman by making her hair light in color, thus changing the focal point of the image. In the cartoon the hair is the darkest form, taking up the most room and attention in the panel. Lichtenstein’s revision shifts the viewer’s attention to the face. By smoothing out the tone of the skin—by removing the mechanical “dots” in the cartoon version— he makes the face more visually prominent. The addition of the fingers gives the viewer the sense that the woman is holding on. By placing the balloon (with the dialogue) close to the woman’s ear and removing the background—very prominent in the cartoon—Lichtenstein gives the woman’s representation much more space in the panel. These are subtle differences, and while both panels treat the same subject matter, it seems to us that the content of the Lichtenstein is greater and more significant because his control of artistic form informs us more fully of the circumstances represented in the painting. Compare our analyses of these works. You may disagree with our view but, if so, make an effort to establish your own assessment of these two examples in terms of artistic form.
examine Figure 2-8, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting.
PERCEPTION KEY Cartoon Panel and Lichtenstein’s Transformation 1. Begin by establishing which formal elements are similar or the same in both works.
Consider the shape of the face and hair, the features of the woman. 2. Then establish what Lichtenstein removed from the original cartoon. What seems
to you the most important omission? Does it strengthen or weaken the overall visual force of the work?
3. The power of the line makes cartoons distinct. Compare the strength of the line in each work. Which is more satisfying? Which is stronger?
4. What has Lichtenstein added to the composition? What has he changed from the original?
5. Is it fair to say one of these is a work of art and the other is not? Or would you say they are both works of art?
6. Is either of these works an example of artistic form? How would you describe ar- tistic form?
7. Discuss with others who have seen these works what you and they think is their subject matter. Do they have the same content?
PERCEPTION KEY Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting
1. Compare the painter’s arms. How effective is their contrast in terms of their movement and their pose?
2. How does the simplicity of the background help clarify the essential form of the painter? What are the most powerful colors in the compostion?
3. What is the figure actually doing? How does Gentileschi make us aware of her action?
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
FIGURE 2-8 Artemisia Gentileschi, Rome 1593– Naples 1652, Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura). Circa 1638–1639.
©Fine Art Images/Superstock
4. Place yourself in the same pose as Gentileschi. How would you paint yourself in that position?
5. What forms in the painting work best to achieve a visual balance? Which forms best express a sense of energy in the painting?
6. How does Gentileschi achieve artistic form? If you think she does not achieve it, explain why.
7. The painting is titled Allegory. Allegory is a special kind of symbol; what is this paint- ing a symbol for? Does it work for you as a symbol?
8. How does answering these questions affect your sense of participating with the painting?
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We feel this is a particularly powerful example of artistic form. For one thing, Gentileschi’s challenge of painting her own portrait likeness in this pose is extraor- dinary. It has been supposed that she may have needed at least two mirrors to permit her to position herself. Or her visual memory may have been unusually powerful. Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most famous female artists of the seventeenth century. This painting was done in england for King Charles I and remains in the Royal Collection. The painting is an allegory, which is to say it represents the classical idea of the painter, which was expressed as female, pittura. Because no male painter could do a self-portrait as pittura, Gentileschi’s painting is singular in many respects. The color of her clothing—silken, radiant—is rich and appropriate to the painter. Her right arm is strong in terms of its being brilliantly lighted as well as strong in reach- ing out dramatically in the act of painting. Her clothing and decolletage emphasize her femininity. Her straggly hair and the necklace containing a mask (a symbol of imitation) were required by the conventional allegorical representations of the time describing pittura. The contrasting browns of the background simplify the visual space and give more power to the figure and the color of her garment. One powerful aspect of the painting is the light source. Gentileschi is looking directly at her paint- ing, and the painting—impossibly—seems to be the source of that light.
The subject matter of the painting seems to be, on one level, the idea of painting. On another level, it is the act of painting by a woman painter. On yet another level, it is the act of Artemisia Gentileschi painting her self-portrait. The content of the painting may be simply painting itself. On the other hand, this was an age in which women rarely achieved professional status as royal painters. The power of the phys- ical expression of the self-portrait implies a content expressing the power of woman, both allegorically and in reality. Artemisia is declaring herself as having achieved what was implied in having the allegory of painting expressed as a female deity.
As in the painting by Goya and the photograph by Adams, the arms are of great significance in this work. Instead of a representation of barbarity, the painting is a representation of art itself, and therefore of cultivated society. The richness of the garment, the beauty of Artemisia, and the vigor of her act of painting imply great beauty, strength, and power. We are virtually transfixed by the light and the urgency of the posture. Some viewers find themselves participating so deeply that they experience a kinesthetic response as they imagine themselves in that pose.
What significance does the artistic form of the painting reveal for you? How would you describe the content of the painting? Would the content of this painting be different for a woman than for a man? Would it be different for a painter than for a non-painter? What content does it have for you?
Subject Matter and Content
While the male nude was a common subject in Western art well into the Renaissance, images of the female body have since predominated. The variety of treatment of the female nude is bewildering, ranging from the Greek idealization of erotic love in the Venus de Milo to the radical reordering of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. A number of female nude studies follow (Figures 2-9 through 2-18). Consider, as you look at them, how the form of the work interprets the female body. Does it reveal it in such a way that you have an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the female body? In other words, does it have content? Also ask yourself whether the content is different in the two paintings by women compared with those by men.
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FIGURE 2-9 Giorgione, Sleeping Venus. 1508– 1510. Oil on canvas, 43 × 69 inches. Gemaldegalerie, Dresden. Giorgione established a Renaissance ideal in his painting of the goddess Venus asleep in the Italian countryside.
FIGURE 2-10 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bather Arranging Her Hair. 1893. Oil on canvas, 363⁄8 × 291⁄8 inches. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Chester Dale Collection. Renoir’s impressionist interpretation of the nude provides a late-nineteenth- century idealization of a real-life figure who is not a goddess.
Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Chester Dale Collection 35
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FIGURE 2-11 Venus de Milo. Greece. Circa 100 BCE. Marble, 5 feet 1⁄2 inch. Louvre, Paris. Since its discovery in 1820 on the island of Cyclades, the Venus de Milo has been thought to represent the Greek ideal in feminine beauty. It was originally decorated with jewelry and may have been polychromed.
©DeA picture Library/Art Resource, NY
FIGURE 2-12 Rokeby Venus. Circa 1647–1651. 48 × 49.7 inches (122 × 177 cm). National Gallery, London. Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus (Toilet of Venus) is an idealized figure of the goddess. Cupid holds a mirror for Venus to admire herself.
©VCG Wilson/Corbis/Getty Images
FIGURE 2-13 Tom Wesselmann, 1931–2004, Study for Great American Nude. 1975. Watercolor and pencil, 19½ × 54 inches. Private collection. Wesselmann’s study leaves the face blank and emphasizes the telephone as a suggestion of this nude’s availability in the modern world.
Art: ©estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. photo: ©Connaught Brown, London/Bridgeman Images
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FIGURE 2-14 Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. 1912. Oil on canvas, 58 × 35 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection. This painting provoked a riot in 1913 and made Duchamp famous as a chief proponent of the distortions of cubism and modern art at that time.
©Association Marcel Duchamp/ADAGp, paris/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2017. photo: ©philadelphia Museum of Art, philadelphia/Art Resource, NY
FIGURE 2-15 Standing Woman. Ivory Coast. Nineteenth or twentieth century. Wood and beads, 203⁄8 × 75⁄8 × 53⁄8 inches. Detroit Institute of Arts. Standing Woman was once owned by Tristan Tzara, a friend of Picasso. Sculpture such as this influenced modern painters and sculptors in France and elsewhere in the early part of the twentieth century. It is marked by a direct simplicity, carefully modeled and polished.
©Detroit Institute of Arts/Bridgeman Images
FIGURE 2-16 Suzanne Valadon, Reclining Nude. 1928. Oil on canvas, 235⁄8 × 3011⁄16 inches. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. Valadon interprets the nude simply, directly. To what extent is the figure idealized?
Source: Robert Lehman Collection, 1975/ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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FIGURE 2-17 Alice Neel, Margaret Evans Pregnant. 1978. Oil on canvas, 57¾ × 38 inches. Collection, John McEnroe Gallery. Neel’s Margaret Evans Pregnant is one of a series of consciously anti-idealized nude portraits of pregnant women.
Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/London. ©The estate of Alice Neel
FIGURE 2-18 Philip Pearlstein, Two Female Models in the Studio. 1967. Oil on canvas, 501⁄8 × 601⁄4 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen B. Booke. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Pearlstein’s attention to anatomy, his even lighting, and his unsensuous surroundings seem to eliminate the erotic content associated with the traditional female nude.
Courtesy of the Artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery. photo: ©The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY
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Most of these works are highly valued—some as masterpieces—because they are powerful interpretations of their subject matter, not just presentations of the human body as erotic objects. Notice how different the interpretations are. Any important subject matter has many different facets. That is why shovels and soup cans have lim- ited utility as subject matter. They have very few facets to offer for interpretation. The female nude, however, is almost limitless. The next artist interprets something about the female nude that had never been interpreted before, because the female nude seems to be inexhaustible as a subject matter, more so perhaps than the male nude.
More precisely, these works all have somewhat different subject matters. All are about the nude, but the painting by Giorgione is about the nude as idealized, as a goddess, as Venus. Now there is a great deal that all of us could say in trying to describe Giorgione’s interpretation. We see not just a nude but an idealization that presents the nude as Venus, the goddess who the Romans felt best expressed the ideal of woman. She represents a form of beautiful perfection that humans can only strive toward. A description of the subject matter can help us perceive the content if we have missed it. In understanding what the form worked on—that is, the subject matter—our perceptive apparatus is better prepared to perceive the form-content, the work of art’s structure and meaning.
The subject matter of Renoir’s painting is the nude more as an earth mother. In the Venus de Milo, the subject matter is the erotic ideal, the goddess of love. In the Du- champ, it is a mechanized dissection of the female form in action. In the Wesselmann, it is the nude as exploited. In the Velazquez, the nude is idealized; however, with Cupid holding the mirror for Venus to admire herself, we sense a bit of coyness, perhaps a touch of narcissism. This painting is the only surviving nude by Velazquez. Because the Spanish Inquisition was in power when he painted, it was dangerous to have and dis- play this work in Spain. In 1813 it was purchased by an english aristocrat and taken to Rokeby park. In all eight paintings by men, the subject matter is the female nude—but qualified in relation to what the artistic form focuses upon and makes lucid.
The two paintings by Suzanne Valadon and Alice Neel treat the female nude somewhat differently than those painted by men. Neel’s painting emphasizes an aspect of femaleness that the men usually ignore—pregnancy. Her painting does not show the alluring female but the female who is beyond allure. Valadon’s nude is more traditional, but a comparison with Renoir and Giorgione should demonstrate that she is far from their ideal.
PERCEPTION KEY Ten Female Nudes 1. Which of these nudes is most clearly idealized? What visual qualities contribute
to that idealization? 2. Which of these nudes seem to be aware of being seen? How does their awareness
affect your interpretation of the form of the nude? 3. Nude Descending a Staircase caused a great uproar when it was exhibited in New
York in 1913. Do you feel it is still a controversial painting? How does it interpret the female nude in comparison with the other paintings in this group? Could the nude be male? Why not? Suppose the title were Male Descending or Body Descend- ing. Isn’t the sense of human movement the essential subject matter? continued
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CHApTeR 2 4. If you were not told that Suzanne Valadon and Alice Neel painted, would you have
known they were painted by women? What are the principal differences in the treatment of the nude figure on the part of all these artists? Does their work sur- prise you?
5. Decide whether Standing Woman is the work of a male artist or a female artist. What criteria do you use in your decision?
EXPERIENCING Interpretations of the Female Nude 1. Is there an obvious difference between the representations of the female nude by
male and female artists? 2. Does distortion of the human figure help distance the viewer from the subject? 3. To what extent does the represented figure become a potential sexual object?
Following are some suggestions for analysis. First, working backward, we can see that the question of the figure being a
sexual object is to a large extent parodied by Tom Wesselmann’s Study for Great American Nude. The style and approach to painting are couched in careful design, including familiar objects—the telephone, the rose, the perfume bottle, the sofa cushions, the partial portrait—all of which imply the boudoir and the commodifi- cation of women and sex. The figure’s face is totally anonymous, implying that this is not a painting of a woman but of the idea of the modern American woman, with her nipple carefully exposed to accommodate advertising’s breast fetish as a means of selling goods.
Even Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus, a painting whose subject is more sensual than ideal, is less a sexual object than Wesselmann’s. For one thing, her body is less revealed than Wesselmann’s, and her face, shown to us in a mirror, is looking at her reflection, sug- gesting that she is in command of herself and is not to be taken lightly. The colors in the painting are sumptuous and sensuous—rich red fabrics, an inviting bed, and a delighted boy-god Cupid. Since Cupid is the archer who causes people to fall in love, could it be that some of the subject matter is Venus loving herself? What does the form of the painting reveal to you in terms of its content?
Then, the question of the distortion of the subject is powerfully handled by Du- champ’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. This painting provoked a riot in 1913 because it seemed to be a contemptuous portrait of the nude at a time when the nude aesthetic was still academic in style. Duchamp was taunting the audience for art while also finding a modern technological representation of the nude on canvas that mimed the cinema of his time. Philip Pearlstein’s study of two nudes moves toward a de-idealization of the nude. He asks us to look at the nudes without desire, yet with careful attention to form and color.
Finally, we may partly answer the question of whether women paint nude females differently by looking at Suzanne Valadon’s and Alice Neel’s paintings. Neel represents Margaret Evans in a manner emphasizing her womanness, not her sexual desirability. Hers is the only pregnant female figure—emphasizing the power of women to create life. Valadon’s nude makes an effort to cover herself while looking at the viewer. She is relaxed yet apprehensive. There is no attempt at commodification of either of these figures, which means we must look at them very differently than the rest of the paint- ings represented here.
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WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
Further Thoughts on Artistic Form
Artistic form is an organized structure, a design, but it is also a window opening on and focusing our world, helping us to perceive and understand what is import- ant. This is the function of artistic form. The artist uses form as a means to un- derstanding some subject matter, and in this process the subject matter exerts its own imperative. A subject matter has, as edmund Husserl puts it, a “structure of determination,” which to some significant degree is independent of the artist. even when the ideas of the artist are the subject matter, they challenge and resist, forcing the artist to discover their significance by discarding irrelevancies.
Subject matter is friendly, for it assists interpretation, but subject matter is also hostile, for it resists interpretation. Otherwise, there would be no fundamental stim- ulus or challenge to the creativity of the artist. Only subject matter with interesting latent or uninterpreted values can challenge the artist, and the artist discovers these values through form. If the maker of a work takes the line of least resistance by ignoring the challenge of the subject matter—pushing the subject matter around for entertaining or escapist effects instead of trying to uncover its significance—the maker functions as a decorator rather than an artist.
Whereas decorative form merely pleases, artistic form informs about subject mat- ter embedded in values that to an overwhelming extent are produced independently of the artist. By revealing those values, the artist helps us understand ourselves and our world, provided we participate with the work and understand the way artistic form produces content. The artist reveals the content in the work—the content is revealed to us through the act of participation and close attention to artistic form.
participation is a flowing experience. One thought, image, or sensation merges into another, and we don’t know where we are going for certain, except that what we are feeling is moving and controlling the flow, and clock time is irrelevant.
participation is often interrupted—someone moves in front of the painting, the telephone call breaks the reading of the poem, someone goes into a coughing fit at the concert—but as long as we keep coming back to the work as dominant over distraction, we have something of the wonder of participation.
summAry A work of art is a form-content. An artistic form is a form-content. An artistic form is more than just an organization of the elements of an artistic medium, such as the lines and colors of painting. The artistic form interprets or clarifies some subject matter. The subject matter, strictly speaking, is not in a work of art. When participating with a work of art, one can only imagine the subject matter, not perceive it. The subject matter is only suggested by the work of art. The interpretation of the subject matter is the content, or meaning, of the work of art. Content is embodied in the form. The content, unlike the subject matter, is in the work of art, fused with the form. We can separate content from form only by analysis. The ultimate justification of any analy- sis is whether it enriches our participation with that work, whether it helps that work “work” in us. Good analysis or criticism does just that. But, conversely, any analysis not based on participation is unlikely to be helpful. participation is the only way to get into direct contact with the form-content, so any analysis that is not based upon a participative experience inevitably misses the work of art. participation and good analysis, although necessarily occurring at different times, end up hand in hand.
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©2017 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: ©Fine Art Images/agefotostock
C h a p t e r 3
BEING A CRITIC OF THE ARTS
The goals of responsible criticism aim for the fullest understanding and par-ticipation possible. Being a responsible critic demands being at the height of awareness while examining a work of art in detail, establishing its context, and clarifying its achievement. It is not to be confused with popular journalism, which can sidetrack the critic into being flashy, negative, and cute. The critic aims at a full understanding of a work of art.
You Are AlreAdY An Art CritiC On a practical level, everyday criticism is an act of choice. You decide to change from one program to another on television because you have made a critical choice. When you find that certain programs please you more than others, that, too, is a matter of expressing choices. If you decide that Albert Inaurrato’s film Revenant is better than John Ford’s film The Searchers, you have made a crit- ical choice. When you stop to admire a powerful piece of architecture while ignoring a nearby building, you have again made a critical choice. You are ac- tive every day in art criticism of one kind or another. Most of the time it is low-level criticism, almost instinctive, establishing your preferences in music, literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, and video art. You have made such judgments since you were young. The question now is how to move on to
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BEING A CRITIC OF THE ARTS
a higher-level criticism that accounts for the subtlest distinctions in the arts and therefore the most-complex choices.
What qualifies us to make critical distinctions when we are young and unin- formed about art? Usually it is a matter of simple pleasure. Art is designed to give us pleasure, and for most children the most pleasurable art is simple: representa- tional painting, lyrical and tuneful melodies, recognizable sculpture, light verse, action stories, and animated videos. It is another thing to move from that pleasur- able beginning to account for what may be higher-level pleasures, such as those in Cézanne’s still lifes, Beethoven’s symphonies, Jean Arp’s sculpture Growth, Amy Lowell’s poem “Venus Transiens,” Sophocles’s tragedy Oedipus Rex, or David Si- mon’s video triumph The Wire. One of the purposes of this chapter is to point to the kinds of critical acts that help us expand our repertoire of responses to the arts.
PArtiCiPAtion And CritiCism Participation with a work of art is complex but also sometimes immediate. Partici- pation is an essential act that makes art significant in our lives. We have described it as a loss of self, by which we mean that when contemplating, or experiencing, a work of art we tend to become one with the experience. As in films such as Citizen Kane, Thelma and Louise, or Dunkirk, we become one with the narrative and lose a sense of our physical space. We can also achieve a sense of participation with paint- ing, music, and the other arts. The question is not so much how we become outside ourselves in relation to the arts, but why we may not achieve that condition in the face of art that we know has great power but does not yet speak to us. Developing critical skills will help bridge that gap and allow participation with art that may not be immediately appealing. In essence, that is the purpose of an education in the arts.
Patience and perception are the keys to beginning high-level criticism. Using painting as an example, it is clear that careful perceptions of color, rhythm, line, form, and balance are useful in understanding the artistic form and its resultant content. Our discussion of Goya’s May 3, 1808 (Figure 2-3) in terms of the empha- sis of the line at the bottom of the painting and the power of the lines formed by the soldiers’ rifles, while in contrast with the white blouse of one of the men being executed, helps us perceive the painting’s artistic form. Coming to such a huge and demanding painting with enough patience to stand and perceive the underly- ing formal structures, while seeing the power of the color and details designed to heighten our awareness of the significance of the action, makes it possible to achieve participation. From there it is possible to go back to the Eddie Adams photograph Execution in Saigon (Figure 2-2) and decide whether the same kind of participation is possible and whether the formal significance of the photograph is comparable. Any decision we make in this context is an act of art criticism.
three Kinds of CritiCism We point to three kinds of criticism that aim toward increasing our ability to partic- ipate with works of art. In Chapter 2, we argued that a work of art is a form-content and that good criticism, which involves careful examination and thoughtful analysis,
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will sharpen our perception and deepen our understanding. Descriptive criticism aims at a careful accounting of the formal elements in the work. As its name implies, this stage of criticism is marked by an examination of the large formal elements as well as the details in the composition. Interpretive criticism focuses on the content of the work, the discovery of which requires reflection on how the formal elements transform the subject matter. Evaluative criticism, on the other hand, is an effort to qualify the relative merits of a work.
Descriptive criticism concentrates on the form of a work of art, describing, some- times exhaustively, the important characteristics of that form in order to improve our understanding of the part-to-part and part-to-whole interrelationships. At first glance this kind of criticism may seem unnecessary. After all, the form is all there, completely given—all we have to do is observe. Yet we can spend time attending to a work we are very much interested in and still not perceive all there is to perceive. We miss things, often things that are right there for us to observe.
Good descriptive critics call our attention to what we otherwise might miss in an artistic form. And more important, they help us learn how to do their work when they are not around. We can, if we carefully attend to descriptive criticism, develop and enhance our own powers of observation. Descriptive criticism, more than any other type, is most likely to improve our participation with a work of art, for such criticism turns us directly to the work itself.
Study Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (Figure 3-1), damaged by repeated res- torations. Leonardo unfortunately experimented with dry fresco, which, as in this case, deteriorates rapidly. Still, even in its present condition, this painting can be overwhelming.
CONCEPTION KEY Kinds of Criticism 1. In Chapter 2, which portions of the discussion of Goya’s May 3, 1808 (Figure 2-3)
and Adams’s Execution in Saigon (Figure 2-2) are descriptive criticism? How do they help you better perceive the formal elements of the works?
2. Comment on the usefulness of the descriptive criticism of Robert Herrick’s poem “The Pillar of Fame” in Chapter 1. When does that discussion become interpretive criticism?
3. “Experiencing: Interpretations of the Female Nude” (Figures 2-9 through 2-18) in- troduces a series of interpretive criticisms of some of the paintings in the chapter. Which of these interpretations, in your opinion, is most successful in sharpening your awareness of the content of the painting? What are the most useful interpre- tive techniques used in the discussion of the paintings of female nudes?
4. Evaluative criticism is used in Chapters 1 and 2. To what extent are you most en- lightened by this form of criticism in our discussion of the Goya painting and the Adams photograph?
5. In what other discussions in this book do you find evaluative criticism? How often do you practice it on your own while examining the works in this book?
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Leonardo planned the fresco so that the perspectival vanishing point would re- side in the head of Jesus, the central figure in the painting (Figure 3-2). He also used the concept of the trinity, in the number 3, as he grouped each of the disciples in threes, two groups on each side of the painting. Were you to diagram them, you would see they form the basis of triangles. The three windows in the back wall also repeat the idea of three. The figure of Jesus is itself a perfect isosceles triangle, while the red and blue garment centers the eye. In some paintings, this kind of archi- tectonic organization might be much too static, but because Leonardo gathers the figures in dramatic poses, with facial expressions that reveal apparent emotions, the viewer is distracted from the formal organization while being subliminally affected by its perfection. It seems that perfection—appropriate to his subject matter—was what Leonardo aimed at in creating the underlying structure of the fresco. Judas, the disciple who will betray Jesus, is the fourth figure from the left, his face in shadow, pulling back in shock.
FIGURE 3-1 Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper. Circa 1495–1498. Oil and tempera on plaster, 15 feet 11⁄8 inches × 28 feet 101⁄2 inches. Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Leonardo’s painting was one of many on this subject, but his is the first to represent recognizably human figures with understandable facial expressions. This is the dramatic moment when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him.
©Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY