Monday, April 24, 2017

"The Last Judgment" St. Lazare, Autun Cathedral, France West Portal, sculpted by Gislebertus c1130CE (AP and Survey Art History)

  • 315-750 (1300) CE Early Christian/Byzantine (some sources say the Byzantine style survived all the way to 1450) 
  • 800-1150  Romanesque 
  • 1150-1350 Gothic 

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The Romanesque style, according to Stokstad, means "in the Roman manner." In essence, it merely refers to the fact that many of the cathedrals built in this time period had the appearance of Roman architecture.
  • Tympanum: the surface enclosed by the arch and lintel of an arched doorway, frequently carved with relief sculptures.
  • Archivolt: the molding fram an arch. In Romanesque and Gothic architecture, each one of a series of arches framing the tympanum of a portal.
  • Lintel: a horizontal beam spanning an openings, as over a window or door, or between two posts.
  • Trumeau: doorpost supporting lintel.
  • Jamb: the side of a doorway or window frame. The jambs of the portals of Romanesque and Gothic churches are frequently decorated with figure sculpture.

St. Lazare, Autun Cathedral, Burgundy France 
West Portal, sculpted by Gislebertus c1130CE

Form: St. Lazare Cathedral. Romanesque.  This is a large relief carving that was originally painted.  The composition is symmetrical and organized using hieratic scale.  The picture plane is also organized according to horizontal bands each filled with figures that are pushed up against the front of the picture plane.  There is no creation of deep space in this relief sculpture.

According to the Brittanica,

Typically, the figure of Christ appears in the centre of the composition, dominant in size and usually enclosed in a mandorla (an oval, nimbus-like form). At his right and left are the four Evangelists, sometimes represented or accompanied by their animal symbols. To the sides, smaller figures of angels and demons weigh sins of the resurrected dead, who are ranked along the lowest and smallest section of the tympanum, directly above the lintel.

Iconography: What makes St. Lazare an interesting example of Romanesque architecture and art is the fact that the west portal, which depicts  a "sermon in stone," was originally painted. It is exceedingly well organized and stylized. This means that the figures represented in the relief sculpture are non naturalistic, this is akin to what one would see in Byzantine art. The figures relative size is based not on reality, but  on their spiritual importance. 

Jesus, as the central figure is shown impossibly huge the figures around him are depicting judgment, heaven and hell, and good and evil. The organization of the composition is designed so that all of the other figures relate in some way to the central figure of Jesus.  Figures who are to the right of Christ are literally on his good side while the figures to his left are not.  Likewise there is a hierarchy according to placement in the three bands.  The correlation between left and right (good and evil) does not exist in the topmost band.  Anything placed in the uppermost register of the composition is "good" or heavenly.

Around this interior depiction of a sermon one can see the various signs of the zodiac, which brings forth one of the main differences between the Romanesque and the Gothic style of art within a cathedral, in a Romanesque cathedral one can easily find depiction's of events and symbols that are not necessarily related to what is found in the bible. In a Gothic cathedral, by contrast, the emphasis is put mainly on biblical scenes, and scenes with Jesus in particular.

Context: In Romanesque art, the emphasis to the followers was teaching. The scenes shown in almost all of the artwork found at St. Lazare are intended to teach a morality lesson, tell a story, or establish a sort of religious iconography of good and evil. For example, almost everything in this piece is representative of something else. The arch above Jesus and the scene surrounding him is representative of heaven. The sinners are always found to the left of Jesus, and the believers to the right. Everything in Romanesque art and architecture is highly organized and made to to make it easy for the followers to read the meaning and the message that the church intends.

According to a former student, Maureen Lara, 
From first glance, one could already see the hierarchy established through the use of three separate levels as well as the scale involved in placing the relatively large sculpture of Jesus in the center enclosed in a glorifying mandorla.    (The topmost level is an exception in the hierarchy since it represents the heavens; the entire band consists of "good" people.  )  The symmetry of the art, to my perspective, expresses the way the world and one's fate after death revolves around how well one learns from and lives their lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

The art overall exhibits no deep space and is stylized rather than naturalistic.   Interestingly, the art is organized in such a way that the figures considered good and worthy of the kingdom of God are to Jesus' right and those who fail the last judgment because of sinfulness are to His left.   The smaller size of the figures in the bottom-most band indicates those who await their judgment before the Lord.   The sizes of the figures as well as their placement in the hierarchy are done in accordance to their religious importance.   This can be scene in St. Peter, who is said to be the gatekeeper of Heaven; he is larger in size than the other believers as well as the angels.   The main storyline of the scenes is centered around the battle between good and evil and triumph of one or the other during the weighing of souls after death.   The consequences of being good are illustrated, for instance, by the faithful children joyfully playing with angels to Jesus' right.   The rewards of goodness are also expressed by the graceful appearance of the angels, a persuasive element in the art that urges people to be righteous.

According to the Brittanica, 
Christianity, further developing the concept of the Last Judgment, teaches that it will occur at the Parousia (the Second Coming, or Second Advent, of Christ in glory), when all men will stand before a judging God. In early Christian art the scene is one of Christ the judge, the resurrection of the dead, the weighing of souls, the separation of the saved and the damned, and representations of paradise and hell. Romanesque artists produced a more terrible vision of the Last Judgment: Christ is shown as a stern judge, sometimes carrying a sword and surrounded by the four mystical beasts--eagle, lion, ox, and winged man--of the apocalypse; the contrast between paradise and hell is between the awesome and the ferocious. In the gentler, more humanistic art of the Gothic period, a beautiful Christ is shown as the Redeemer, his right side undraped to reveal the wound of the lance, and both wounded hands raised high in a gesture that emphasizes his sacrifice. He is surrounded by the instruments of his Passion--cross, nails, lance, and crown of thorns. The intercessors are restored, and the scene of the Judgment is treated with optimism. In the 16th century, Michelangelo produced a radically different version of the Last Judgment in his fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1533-41): a vengeful Christ, nude like a pagan god, gestures menacingly toward the damned.

The "elect" rising. 
According to Gardener's, "Art History" the figure at the bottom far right has a bag ornamented with a cross and a shell,  
symbols of pilgrims who have journeyed to Jerusalem  
and Santiago de Compostela. The iconography found on select parts of the tympanum clearly show what happens to the 'good' believers. The smaller figures beneath represent the righteous and the faithful, which includes the children, seen playing with an angel. The Angels are always depicted as elegant, benevolent, beautiful, and kind. This was to give the impression that heaven was a wonderful place, and would inspire the believers into being good and faithful servants of the church.
Peter and the elect

Here, on the right side of Jesus is St. Peter with the faithful. Note again how he depicted as larger than the followers, and even larger than the angels. This shows his relative importance in the spiritual hierarchy.

Pulled to judgment.

Though at first one would think this was a depiction of suffering, in truth its meant to show that after the death of this believer, the hands of an angel reach down to pull him heavenward, assuring that his soul has been saved.

The Judgment 
The Damned and the weighing of the souls

On the left side of Jesus is Evil, the Devil and his minions who are participating in the weighing of the souls. In this judgment scene, one can see the Devil and the Archangel Michael both taking part in the judgment. While it appears that the Devil is trying to pull the scale downward in order to be able to claim another soul, Michael appears to be attempting to lift the soul upward, in order to claim the soul for heaven. Though it is a small vignette, it illustrate rather succinctly the struggle of good and evil in the souls of mankind. Note how in contrast to the angel Michael, the Devil is portrayed as emaciated, grotesque, and as terrifying as the stone masons could portray. This was to remind the members of the church how awful hell was, and frighten them into submission. 

Paul makes a last attempt

Here, though it is technically the left, or 'bad' side of Jesus, We see St. Paul and the Angel make a last attempt to pull the damned souls to redemption. Hoping that through the call of the heavenly trumpet, man will be swayed to the side of God. 

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Sleeping Magi

A Young Turk from the Otter-Man Empire, oil on canvas panel 11x14 inches by Kenney Mencher $169.99

A Young Turk from the Otter-Man Empire, oil on canvas panel 11x14 inches by Kenney Mencher

Robert Mapplethorpe - Two Men Dancing, 1984

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

What are the characteristics of a work of art?

I think that there are three major themes that a work of art can be analyzed.
The physical or tangible, or formal characteristics which are in physical properties. This includes size, color, texture, what it is made of. In general formal analysis is how it looks and feels.
The second characteristic has to do with the work’s meaning and what it represents. This has to do with the story it tells and how people interpret the meaning of the painting. Some times this is referred to as iconography.
The third category or characteristic has to do with a history, geography, and how it was produced. Who bought it or asked for it to be made? Where was it sold? What was the city or culture like that made it? When in history was it made? The context that surrounds the work.
Formal Analysis
(1) : orderly method of arrangement (as in the presentation of ideas) : manner of coordinating elements (as of an artistic production or course of reasoning)
(2) : a particular kind or instance of such arrangement
c : the structural element, plan, or design of a work of art -- visible and measurable unit defined by a contour : a bounded surface or volume
(3) The literal shape and mass of an object or figure.
(4) More general, the materials used to make a work of art, the ways in which these materials are used utilized in terms of the formal elements (medium, texture, rhythm, tempo, dynamic contrast, melody, line, light/contrast/value structure, color, texture, size and composition.)
Form consists of the physical properties of the work. Whether we look at a sculpture's size, mass, color, and texture or a poem's order of elements and composition, all are part of the work's form. When you are doing a formal analysis, you describe the way that the work looks, feels, and is organized. The next passage is a formal analysis of a work of art; the Augustus of Primaporta is a statue from the first century BCE.
The statue stands six feet eight inches tall and is made of white marble. It depicts a male figure wearing armor and some drapery, with his right arm raised. The figure carries a bronze spear or staff in his left hand. The texture of the hair and skin mimic the texture of real hair and skin. Augustus stands in contrapposto, appearing to be stepping forward with most of his weight resting on his right hip. Attached to his right leg is a small dolphin with a winged baby on its back.
One of the more important elements concerning form is the idea of composition. Composition can include how things are laid out in two dimensional space or how the picture plane is organized.
For example, the top two images in this illustration are asymmetrical. The blue circles are not evenly distributed through out each rectangle.
The bottom two most images are symmetrical. There are balancing elements on each side of the blue sphere in the lower left hand image. Even though one of the objects is a square and the other a circle, they take up about the same amount of space and have the same visual weight.
The boxes on either side of the tall white rectangle are mirror images of each other and this can be referred to as symmetrical too. Since you could draw a vertical line down the center of the center rectangle and on each side of this imaginary line it would be a mirror image, this is called bilateral symmetry.
The "Whirling Logs" textile on the left is arranged in a bilaterally symmetrical fashion because we could draw cut the design in half and the left and right sides are nearly a mirror image of each other. Nevertheless, for all its symmetry, this textile appears kind of flat looking.
Composition also has to do with the creation of the illusion of space. When we look at pictures (as opposed to sculptures as the Augustus above) we often think of the picture as an imaginary window. The front of the window, or the glass, is the picture plane that we look through.
In order to create space artists conceive of the picture plane as having three planes that recede back. In order to create space in the picture plane and the appearance of a foreground, middleground and background we can overlap objects to give this illusion. If there is nothing overlapped then we can say that there is no real illusion of space in the picture.
These two pictures demonstrate this idea. If you look at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window. While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense of space.
These two sculptural friezes demonstrate these ideas in a three dimensional form. If you look at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window. While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense of space.
Here is an example of a formal analysis of the Greek tragedy The Bacchae written by Euripides in 406 BCE. You can use a similar format of analysis when examining a work of art.
The Bacchae is play written in a chant form called dithyramb. Musical instruments, especially the drum, were used to keep time in the performance of the play. Approximately eighty percent of the play is dialogue while only a small portion is devoted to action on the stage. The order of the narrative is predictable and therefore symmetrical because there is a continuous cycle of basic components that are repeated throughout the play. These components are known as the prologos, parados, episode, stasimon, and exodos. The repeated sections are the three central components of the parados, episode, and stasimon, which are retold in predictable form as many as five times in the typical Greek tragedy.
Another look at schema and correction:
Summary of Gombrich
Renown art historian Ernst Gombrich developed a theory to explain these adaptations and changes and refered to it as schema and correction. If we were to look at the Archaic period's art and architecture as the plan or schema, we can see how the later Classic period might have taken the archaic art as its schema and updated it in order to make the designs more pleasing according to the later tastes. These changes are referred to as the correction.
The next update or correction occurs when the same pose and musculature from the Doryphoros were adopted and adapted for use by the Romans in the portrait of Augustus.
To understand his theory called "schema and naturalization," or "schema and correction." To understand it you basically just need to know the definitions of three words.
  • Schema is the cultural code through which individuals raised in a culture perceive the world. For example, we recognize stick figures to be humans.
  • Correction is where you take that schema and you compare it to what your senses tell you about the world and then you make it more accurate.
  • Mimesis is the process of correcting your schema.
Gombrich's idea can be expanded to looking how later groups can take the earlier work of art and mimic it (mimesis). This is a kind of Darwinian theory kind of like Darwin's theory of the "survival of the fitest."
Read some more stuff by Gombrich if it interests you!
Some interesting ideas that might help you to understand the terms "civilization" and "period" occur when studying the concept of "schema and correction." Both of these works of art come from the Ancient Greek civilization. Even though we use the term "ancient" what we are saying is that the Greek civilization occurred a long time ago. Within the Ancient Greek civilization, is tied to the region of land we now call Greece. The civilization lasted between circa (approximately) 1000 BCE to about 100 BCE but we divide the Greek civilization into various periods that are defined by the style of art they produced. For example, the Kouros from Attica, comes from a period we refer to as the Archaic period, which lasted from around 600-480 BCE. The style associated with this Archaic period is that the sculpture is a bit unrealistic and slightly stylized in a geometric way. This means that the style of the Archaic period was to make the sculptures look kind of "blocky" and unrealistic. A later period that occurred during the Ancient Greek civilization is the "Classic Period" which lasted from circa 500 BCE -350 BCE. The main characteristics are that the sculptures look lifelike or realistic. So both the "periods" belong to the Ancient Greek Civilization. The main difference between period and civilization is that period is a kind of style that is a subset of a civilization. Civilizations go through many periods of development and a civilization is located in one geographic region and spans a longer time.
The next passage is a contextual analysis of the Augustus of Primaporta.
The portrait of Augustus of Primaporta is work of political propaganda. Augustus waged an extremely profitable series of wars and was able to extend the Roman Empire's borders. His ability to control the Senate maintained his status of unchallenged power within the Roman city as well. The unnaturally tall height of the statue is symbolic of the god-like status of Augustus because the average height was around five feet. The statue of Augustus is a correction of an even earlier sculpture called the Aulus Metellus.
Augustus's raised right arm symbolic of his abilities as a master orator and refers and builds on the iconography of Etruscan portrayals of great statesman such as depicted by the Aulus Metellus. The raised arm, a symbol of rhetorical power as a speaker is combined with the bronze staff and armor are references to the abilities that any Roman leader should possess. In some ways, this is the originating idea of our conception of the "Renaissance Man" of the 1500's. The references to the Aulus Metellus statue, the contrapposto pose (invented by the classical Greek culture) and the Cupid (representing Augustus as a descendent of the gods) grant both the Augustus Primaporta, and Augustus himself, an authority based in time honored traditions.
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Sofia, oil on canvas panel 9x12 inches by Kenney Mencher $129.99

Sofia, oil on canvas panel 9x12 inches by Kenney Mencher

Thomas Anshutz (American, 1851-1912), Portrait of a seated nude male figure

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How to paint the sphere and cone in black and white oil paint

 The finished painting in
Lamp Black and white oil paint.  8"x10" on canvas

Before you do this you may want to learn how to draw the sphere first.  

Use this link:
 The photo of the basic shapes I'm working from.

 Linseed oil in a squeeze bottle.

 Rag with Lamp Black oil paint

 Turpenoid Odorless Paint Thinner on the rag

 Drawing aids, compass with charcoal pencil, t square, ellipse guide.  
Really it's okay to use them!

 Using a rag with a bit of thinner to wipe out the lights.

 Work background to front.  It will give you nicer edges.

 Mixing the middle tones on the glass palette.