notations for chapter 5
Chapter 5 begins with a discussion of evaluation of "quality" in art, and gives as the first 2 examples a
self-portrait of Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, and a painting by a self-taught artist called "Shy Glance." The
latter is in a museum called "The Museum of Bad Art," and shows little knowledge of anatomy and the
use of light and shadow.
Vigee-Lebrun, on the other hand, was an accomplished portrait painter in the last quarter of the
eighteenth century, and was most famous as the court painter of Marie Antionette, wife of Louis XVI of
France. Her style could be classified as "Rococo," as she is best known for (literally hundreds) of
paintings of the rich and famous of the courts of Europe. After the French Revolution, she had to flee
France, and she went to the Imperial courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg.
Another work presented in Chapter 5 is a Pieta by Titian, a Venetian Renaissance artist. He lived a long
time, and had a long and successful career, becoming the most sought-after portrait painter after the
death of Raphael. The Pieta is a late work, done in Titian's old age, and shows a loose brushwork that
wasn't seen in his earlier works, which may be a result of loss of manual dexterity (arthritis?) or failing
eyesight. The social context of the Pieta is that it was painted during one of Venice's many bouts of the
plague, and be a plea in paint for the Virgin to intercede and save the city from the ravages of the
plague. Or, as the textbook suggests, it may be offered as a solace to some of the people who have lost
loved ones to the plague, reminding them of the expectation of resurrection to believers.
"Umar Slays a Dragon" is a book illustration painted for an illiterate ruler who liked to have tales
illustrated as they were read to him. Ni Zan's "Six Gentlemen (Six Trees)," suggests the isolation of an
artist who refused to work for foreign masters. In each case, we have a reference to a political
environment for each artist.
The three basic types of criticism are:
Formal - a description of how a work is made, such as the artist's use of line, color, space, and other
elements of art, as well as how the work relates to earlier styles
Sociocultural - explores the economic, cultural, and political influences at the time
(who is in power, is the artist in favor of or against the ruling party; is the artist expressing sympathy for
the downtrodden; is there some current or recent disaster referred to in the artwork, like a plague, fire, or
Expressive - involves the skill level, personal intent, mental state, gender, or mindset of the artist. Could
refer to an "old age style," of an artist near death, or to a feminist sensibility as seen in the work of
Notations for Chapter 5 and STYLE